45NRTH Ragnarok Review: Into Battle
We had a chance to put several hundred miles on a pair of the new 45NRTH Ragnarök shoulder season shoes during the wet and cold of fall in the Appalachian Mountains. Here’s our detailed review…
Most people know 45NRTH for its winter cycling apparel, specifically its well-regarded and often coveted Wolvhammer and Wolfgar boots. Earlier this fall, the Minnesota-based company entered the world of shoulder-season gear and released a new shoe/boot for the transition seasons—when it’s too warm to layer on winter gear, but cold and wet enough that fingers and toes start to ice over during extended rides. 45NRTH’s Ragnarök borrows several characteristics from its winter counterparts, and also wraps a few new ones into a lighter, sleeker, and slimmer package. I took a pair out on several long day rides as well as our recent cold and wet ride on the Appalachian Gravel Growler bikepacking route.
The Ragnarök gets its name from a term in Norse mythology that loosely translates to “a series of future events, including a great battle.” While there might not be any wolf fur or brass armor adorning these boots, I suppose the 45NRTH Ragnarök is made to prepare your feet for inevitable seasonal battles against the forces of cold and wet.
From the bottom up, the Ragnarök does have a pretty burly lugged rubber outsole. For added traction, it has five anti-slip microglass squares and two removable pegged lugs. The rubber compound that makes up its soles is infused with “electrostatically aligned microscopic glass fibers.” According to 45NRTH, this is designed to eliminate slippage on wet wood, metal, and slippery surfaces.
Moving upward, the boots have a fiberglass-injected midsole, resulting in a stiff (but not too stiff) construction. A single BOA IP1 reel on the side offers a pretty simple means of micro-adjustment. The boot’s upper is constructed from microfiber material with an abrasion-resistant “Tec Tuff” toe and heel. The Ragnarök is available in black, as reviewed, or Reflective, which has a light-reactive finish for added visibility. Both are rated down to 25°F (-4°C). The black Ragnarok retails for $195 and the reflective version is $235.
Generally speaking, my first impressions of the 45NRTH Ragnarök shoes (more like boots, really) were very good. They seem extremely well made and durable, light for their build, and feel fairly sleek when compared to a few other shoulder-season boots I’ve tried. One thing I noticed right away is how easy they are to get on and off, which is typically not the case for this type of boot, and something I generally find extremely annoying. The webbing loop on the back of the boot does wonders for the ease of pulling them on.
Although the Ragnarök runs a hair wide for my rather narrow feet, they fit rather well with thick socks (though I think I should have gotten a half-size smaller). Before our Appalachian Gravel Growler trip, I took them on a few day rides to break them in. But they didn’t need breaking in, really. Other than having to tighten the BOA closure a few times on each ride, they didn’t feel stiff or unbroken, as many new cycling shoes often do.
During a few rides in the 40°F range, they performed well and kept my toes warm. I might add that I have an issue with injury-induced nerve damage that makes my toes go cold and numb in normal cycling shoes, even in temps just under 60°F. I’ve used the Ragnaröks in temperatures hovering around freezing now, with zero issues.
I took them into battle on the five-day Appalachian Gravel Growler, if there is such a thing in cycling. Day one consisted of 60 miles and 6,000’ of climbing in pouring rain with temps between 35-45°F. It was fairly miserable. A day when many folks would have called it and postponed their trip, probably. But we didn’t have that luxury. Joe and Daniel had driven down from New York and we were on a tight schedule. It rained nonstop most of the day, but my feet stayed warm. Later that evening when temps dipped into the low 30s, even as the rest of me was shivering, my feet never went numb. That’s saying a lot considering my feet are usually the first to go.
As 45NRTH points out, this shoe is not waterproof, but it is highly water resistant. Either way, it didn’t take long for the shoes to get saturated. I wore Gore-tex rain pants to keep the rain out of the ankles and a thick pair of wool socks underneath to make up for extra room that I have with this pair. At the end of the day they were soaked. It’s hard to say how long they took to get saturated, but I rang a solid half-glass worth of water out of my socks before climbing into the tent. I can’t really speak to how water resistant they are based on the amount of rain we rode through, though I’d estimate that they would typically stay dry from the typical quick storm, a few creek crossings, or general muddy riding. But, they are not a driving-rain-proof shoe.
The following morning, I put them back on with a dry pair of socks. I expected my feet to get cold within minutes since the shoes were still wet, and very cold. That wasn’t the case. My feet generally stayed warm the entire trip. It spat mist throughout the morning and finally “cleared” to a cloudy evening. Once we got to camp on night two, the shoes were pretty much dry-damp. By mid-morning on day three they were completely dry. Considering that it was never sunny or warm during that time period, I’d say that the Ragnarök dries out exceptionally well.
While Out Hiking
The Appalachian Gravel Growler isn’t a majority hike-a-bike laden route, by any means. It does have one steep scramble down a power line cut with a lot of rocks and slippery mud. In addition, I did a fair amount of walking around during our seven brewery tours and photoshoots. I found the Ragnarök to be quite comfortable off the bike for an SPD boot. The lugged soles also seemed to maintain a solid footing when we hiked down the power line cut, which lost around 500 feet of elevation in the form of a rocky scramble. There were a couple of rocky uphill hikes as well. I can’t really qualify how well the anti-slip microglass squares performed, specifically, but overall, the boots seem to keep a solid footing and good grip for an SPD. Uphill, I experienced a little heel slippage, though, I think that’s mostly due to my misjudgment of the sizing, unfortunately. To get the sizing right, I’d definitely recommend trying these on at your local bike shop before buying.
The only real issue I had with the Ragnarök was that they are now missing three of their microglass squares. I’m guessing they delaminated during that rock scramble hike-a-bike. I asked 45NRTH about this and they haven’t seen that problem before, so hopefully it was just a random one-time issue.
- Boots stay fairly warm down to freezing, even when wet (and possibly lower, though I haven’t had the opportunity to test that theory).
- Heavily lugged soles are nice and grippy.
- Comfortable from the get go.
- Light and sleek for the level of protection and support they provide.
- Breathe surprisingly well and dry out quickly.
- Weather resistant, not waterproof.
- Several of the microglass traction squares went missing from the soles.
- BOA cable, can be a little finicky to get the slack out of the lower loops.
- Size Tested 44
- Sizes Available Mens wide 36–50 (no size 49), full sizes only
- Weight as tested (per shoe) 490 grams (with Crankbrothers cleat)
- Place of Manufacture China
- Price $195 ($235 for Reflective version)
- Manufacturer’s Details 45nrth.com
45NRTH claims the Ragnarök “delivers unrivaled weather protection in the wettest and muddiest of conditions.” I’d say this is is a fair statement. As I mentioned, they aren’t waterproof, but nevertheless, they kept my feet warm during a lot of cold rain. And, from my limited, but steep, hike-a-biking experiences, the lugged soles provide a solid footing over wet and mossy rocks, as well as muddy, steep terrain.
Overall, the 45NRTH Ragnarök feels really well built and durable. Other than losing a couple of the microglass squares due to delamination, there were no signs of major wear or abrasion after quite a bit of rugged use. If I were to plan a trip with clipless pedals, on a mountain weather route such as our Tian Shan Traverse, these would be the boots I’d reach for.