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Lake CX146 Winter cycling boots review

Superbly tough and protective shoes for winter’s worst

Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes
(Image: © Robin Wilmott)

Our Verdict

Lake’s new CX146 is a worthy successor to the CX145, with high-quality construction, robust materials, great comfort, and excellent performance and protection.

For

  • - Tough and highly protective
  • - Simple BOA closure is easy to adjust while riding
  • - Great all-round low light visibility

Against

  • - The ankle cuff can feel firm against the lower shin
  • - Putting them on requires a little dexterity
  • - Excellent heel and toe bumpers aren’t replaceable

Founded in Evanston, Illinois in 1982, Lake has been making cycling shoes for 40 years. Its location on the shore of Lake Michigan, north of Chicago, has provided the perfect environment to create the best winter cycling shoes, as the local climate can get very harsh indeed.

The CX146 boot succeeds the CX145, whose unusual waxed canvas and leather uppers were very supple and highly effective. I’ve used the CX145 and its off-road cousin, the MX145, for years, and they’re still going strong, and so far, the durability of these CX146 shoes is proving to be up to the same standards. 

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Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

The microfibre and softshell uppers are supple and well-insulated (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

When secured, the boot feels a lot like a winter hiking boot with its tall, stiff ankle (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

The Lakes are completely lined with warming Thinsulate 200gr insulation (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)

Construction

For the new CX146, Lake has chosen a more conventional approach than with their predecessor. The Clarino microfibre uppers have a leathery appearance, but Lake says this material "offers great durability and the suppleness found in leather, at a significant weight reduction." Lake also recommends retreating the uppers with a suitable DWR spray to supplement the factory-applied coating. Its suggested intervals are one-to-two times per year for moderate conditions up to every two-to-three extreme wet rides for harsh conditions.

Several panels make up the shoe’s complex microfibre design, which includes a central cutout and taller sections to cover each side of the ankle bone. The microfibre is stitched onto a fairly stiff, tough, softshell ankle cuff, that feels like a combination of Cordura and neoprene. A softer integrated softshell tongue is surrounded on two sides by Velcro for the wrap-over front panel to attach to. The top half of that wrap-over front panel has a flexible softshell edge, and it carries the single Mid Power M4 Cartridge Boa dial, fixed centrally. The Boa lace crosses the shoe four times between the toe box and ankle, and its highest outer anchor point comprises a Click-Fit quick release fitting that detaches to allow easier foot entry and exit.

Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

Lake's winter insoles have a waffle pattern base, a heat reflecting layer and felt top layer to retain warmth (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)

Warmth is provided by Thinsulate 200gr insulation throughout, with a waterproof membrane keeping the elements out. Above the Thinsulate is Lake’s winter insole, which has a felt upper surface over a heat reflective layer, resting on a waffle pattern base that's designed to trap insulating air and reduce thermal conductivity.

The outers have an additional microfibre layer at the front to stiffen the toe box and insulate further, plus a slim rubber bumper to guard against scuffing the uppers when walking. Low light visibility is greatly enhanced by a pair of reflective chevrons at the front, a large stripe along most of the boot’s side, and a good-sized heel patch as well. 

Lake’s fibreglass injected Nylon sole has holes for both three-bolt road cleat fitting and two-bolt mountain bike cleats, though don't mistake these for off-road boots. Despite the walking bumpers at each end (which although not replaceable, are angled for maximum grip and stability), the mostly-smooth sole is not going to perform well in off-road hike-a-bike scenarios. 

Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

The Thinsulate lining continues below the winter insoles (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)

Fit

Lake has built a reputation for extremely comfortable cycling shoes, something I have personally found to be true in every pair of road, off-road or winter Lake shoes I’ve used. Their regular width is more generous than typical Italian shoes, and also Specialized and Bontrager among others, having more in common with Shimano shoes. But Lake offers a wide fit as well, which can allow for a reduction in unnecessary shoe length while still giving sufficient width.

The size 45 wide boots on test offer plenty of room for thick winter socks around my mildly wide feet, with absolutely no squeezing anywhere, and no slippage either. Having enough wiggle room is important to maintain good circulation and insulation, as overly tight boots or shoes restrict blood flow and result in colder feet.

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Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

The Boa's Click-Fit quick release clip when ready for tightening (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

Simply tilt and remove the Click-Fit quick release clip for easier foot entry and exit (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)

Unlike some winter-specific cycling shoes, getting the Lake CX146 on and off is a really easy process. It is possible, with some effort, to put the CX146s on without unclipping the Click-Fit lace clip, but it is so much easier to do with it open. With the Boa lace slack, grab the triangular clip and hinge it outwards so that its stepped tongue withdraws from its anchor point. This allows the wrap-over flap to be opened out, so you can grab the tongue and heel tabs and insert your foot. The tongue occasionally folds under, but is easily rescued, and then just wrap the two outer layers across, insert the clip again, and tighten the Boa dial. 

Performance

Considering the overall length of the BOA lace needed to secure the Lakes, the M4 dial gathers it in surprisingly fast, needing fewer rotations than the Northwave Celcius R Arctic GTX’s SLW2 dial, for instance. Its large, six-sided, rubber-covered dial is positioned high up on the front of the boot, which makes it simple to reach, and easy to operate, even in the thickest gloves. It is less prone to potential crash damage in that position, and for what it’s worth, a little more aerodynamic.

On-the-fly adjustments are very easy, although the only way to reduce tension is to pull the dial-up, releasing it completely, then popping it down again to retighten. In practice, I found that because of the lengthy lace, the tension I set before getting on the bike would only ever need to be increased once pedalling. With relatively small adjustment increments operating across a large area, it’s actually pretty hard to overtighten these boots. 

Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

The single M4 BOA dial is positioned high up on the front of the wrap-over upper, and easy to use, even in gloves (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)

The feel of the Lake CX146 reminded me most of a walking boot, as the top of the boot can feel quite firm where it contacts the shin. It’s not rigid, or uncomfortable by any means, but you can’t fail to be aware of it. The robust nature of the uppers does give the feel of a highly protective boot, which I personally like. Depending on how you adjust your Boa, the gaps between ankle cuff and legwear are minimal, and although water will always find a way to migrate down your legs and into your boots, these Lakes delay the process longer than the competitors. 

After weeks of winter riding in the CX146s, taking in long climbs, sprints, sustained high cadence and long days out, they have been nothing less than excellent. I haven’t once thought they were impeding my pedalling form at all, or hindering my performance. They’ve shrugged off the almost-constant wet weather, and kept my feet oblivious to the sub-zero days, needing just a quick spray and brush off when returning home to make them look clean again.

Lake recommends the CX146 down to temperatures of -4C/25F, but that will always vary from rider to rider and with how you are dressed. I would personally be comfortable riding them in colder weather, although when things get that cold, being on the icy roads may be inadvisable anyway. With thinner autumnal socks on, my feet were a little too warm in ambient temperatures above 10C/50F. Of course, it's rare that you would choose to wear winter shoes in such conditions, but I did find that the Lakes breathe well enough to prevent excessive moisture build-up nonetheless.

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Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

The CX146 soles are fibregalss injected Nylon, and designed for 2-bolt and 3-bolt cleat fitting (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

Practical walking bumpers are the heel and toe are a bonus when off the bike (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)

Within the generally lower performance demands of winter riding, I couldn’t fault the Lake’s sole. It has a great blend of stiffness and vibration absorption. It was hard to detect any significant flex when applying full power, and there were no uncomfortable tingly feelings either. 

Walking is an undervalued aspect of winter riding, and no one wants to skid through a busy, steaming café like Bambi on ice. The Lakes feel more secure than most when off the bike, and their generously sized, textured hard plastic walking bumpers ensure confidence in these scenarios. It’s a shame they’re not replaceable though, as our test pair is already showing a little wear at the heel.

Aside from one tiny abrasion from a missed pedal, and some sole scratching, the CX146s can still be brought back to nearly new condition, and I’m certain they’ll prove to be at least as durable as their predecessors.

Lake CX146 winter cycling shoes

Reflective elements on the front, rear, and outside of each boot ensure excellent low light visibility (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)

Verdict

Lake’s CX146 is a well-built, highly protective winter cycling shoe with a very generous and effective fit, especially for riders with wider feet. They perform at least as well as the competition, and have a well thought out retention system, which is simple to operate on the move. They feel great, provide excellent warmth, and give riding and walking confidence. If their fit suits you, and you’re comfortable with the firmer feel of the ankle cuff, then these Lakes are hard to fault. 

Should I buy the Lake CX146?

Buy it if:

  • You’re looking for a high-quality look and feel 
  • You live somewhere where winter can be harsh
  • Being able to easily adjust your boots while riding is important
  • You appreciate being as visible as possible

Don’t buy it if:

  • You have very narrow feet
  • You’re not keen on the sturdy feel of a walking boot

Tech specs: Lake CX146

  • Price: £191.99 / $259.99 / €229.99
  • Available colours: Black/black reflective
  • Upper: Clarino microfibre, softshell fabric, Thinsulate 200gr insulation, waterproof membrane
  • Outsole: Fibreglass injected Nylon sole
  • Closure: Tongue-mounted Mid Power M4 Cartridge BOA dial
  • Weight: 919g (pair, size 45 wide)
  • Size availability: 36-50 in regular or wide fitting
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