It seems like the majority of participants who I meet at the skimo races are much like me. We are amateurs, new to the sport, and like to split our equipment between touring and racing. Most in our un-sponsored legion are not quite prepared to pay $1500-$2500 on a set of DyNA, carbon Aliens, or Stratos Cubes. Hence, our gravitation to the “second-tier” of light-weight, performance, skimo boots…namely the PDG’s, TLT’s, non-carbon Aliens, and now the Syborg.
There have been plenty of reviews of the 1st four on this list, but none on the Syborg’s as these were just released. I am the lucky recipient of a brand new pair, and here are some very initial impressions. Let me add that I have been touring on a pair of TLT5P’s and last year I bought a pair of non-carbon Aliens to tour and race. I will also give the reasons that I bought a new pair of boots given that I have 2 perfectly respectable boots in my arsenal.
I really love the TLT5P’s, the way they tour, the way they fit, the way they ski. Despite the reviews that these are a narrow boot, I feel that my rather wide, but low volume foot fits pretty well. I did need to mold the liner and work the fore-boot when I bought these. I bought the Aliens mainly to race and do light touring. I like these as well. They don’t ski as well as the TLT5P’s, but they are lighter and articulate a bit better. I had to mold the liner and stretch the shell a bit. However, by doing so the plastic warped a bit and I no longer have a tight fit between the shell and the fabric of the Boa system, thus allowing a considerable amount of snow to enter the boot with resultant wet feet and liners even after short tours. This is the area below the rubberized liner cover and below where the Alien gaitor will extend. As well, I have a hard time getting the Boa system to tighten enough to keep my forefoot well secured.
When Jason received the new Syborgs I had a chance to try these on, as well as the PDG’s, and I chose the Syborgs. I immediately did 2x4000 vert ft days in these, so these are my very early impressions.
For my foot the Syborgs fit quite well out of the box. Wider but lower vertical volume compared to the PDG’s. They felt more like a shoe, as the PDG’s and Alien’s felt more like a boot. All have very good articulation, but the Syborg is a step above. Floor flexing the Syborgs felt stiffer than the PDG’s and Aliens, but not as stiff as the TLT5P’s. All have a small amount of lateral bowing on the lower shell where the shell is riveted to the cuff. The Syborgs felt like they come up ever so slightly higher on the shin compared to the PDG’s and Aliens, making flexing more comfortable and confident….at least on the floor.
The liner is thinner and more flexible than the PDG and the Aliens, more like a sock liner. In order to get into the boot it is easier to put the liner on before getting into the shell.
The CavoBike is pretty cool. Of the three, this was definitely the easiest and fastest to engage and disengage, with a very short throw. However, it is also the most complicated with springs, cables, screws which are not as simple, and may be more prone to failure in real life situations of skiing, scrambling, dirt, etc…..speculation, of course.
Now to my touring experience: The walk mode is unreal…these truly feel like running shoes. This was a bit disorienting at first, but in a good way. It is like using a drop-seat on a mtn bike for the first time. Initially you lose your bearings because there is no seat post to inhibit the lean of the bicycle. Same with these boots. They are near frictionless without any restrictions in range of movement.
For a boot this light, this skis very well. I am sure these are not as stiff as the Carbon Aliens or Cubes, but they do well with light skis. I was skiing on Hagan Cirrus skis. They are very stiff laterally, medially, and posteriorly. The forward flex is progressive and “snappy” for lack of a better description. I usually like a fairly aggressive forward lean. The lean is very adjustable, but I kept mine as it came in the box. This is a bit more upright than I am used to, but I ended up liking this, as too much lean may put you over the handlebars given that there is some forward flex.
Surprisingly, one of my favorite features of this boot is the ratching lower buckle. Mico-adjustments are fast and precise. It is easy to loosen this slightly for long climbs and quickly tighten for the descent…I imagine even in race situations. This held my feet down better than the Scarpa Boa or Dynafit buckle.
A few idiosyncrasies: First of all it is really not full coverage like the TLT’s. There is a thin vinyl-like zippered cover which covers the front of the liner. This velcros to the front of the liner. There is opportunity for snow to enter the sides, but I was skiing in powder and the liner stayed more or less dry. The cover is a bit fragile, and I am already noticing some fraying where the cover is riveted to the shell. I hope this holds up. There is a red rubber piece which can be inserted into the heel to block snow. I am afraid this will limit the frictionless articulation. I did not insert this. I was breaking trail in deep powder and noticed only a negligible amount of snow that entered the back of the boot.
My right boot Cavobike has just a small amount of play in the locked/ski mode. I think the tolerances are off a bit, but I am going to play with the cable to see if I can tighten this. This really does not effect the ski mode performance, but there is audible and palpable movement when flexing the boot.
Overall I am quite impressed. I am impressed with all these boots. I think the Syborg’s walking and skiing performance is superior to the non-carbon Aliens, but not by much. For racing, the Cavobike is really fast, but the Dynafit and Aliens are time-tested and trusted. I would choose the boot the fits the best when making this decision. If I were doing a technical mountaineering route, I would choose the Dynafits or Scarpas. I hear these boots fit crampons better than the La Sportiva Spitfires which has a similar shape and curvature to the Syborgs. As well, the Dynafits and Scarpas have simpler walk/ski mechanisms which I imagine could be sturdier and more serviceable in the field…though this is mainly speculation. When I am driving larger skis I am going to stick with the TLT’s, but I think the Syborgs are stiff enough to drive skis up to 100 under foot.
If I have any new impressions or issues after more vertical, I will update this review. In the meantime, my goal is to use and abuse these boots as much as possible.
Thanks to Jason at Skimo.co for making all these awesome options available. His customer service, knowledge, and selection are peerless.
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