Visiting Altberg, the boot factory in Richmond, has been a dream of mine for a few years. Ever since I replaced my race boots some 5 years ago I have tried to find good waterproof boots with a thicker sole which would reduce the vibrations transferred from the foot pegs. This summer, when travelling up to Scotland, we found ourselves rather close to Richmond so we decided to pop by. The shop is actually in the boot factory and you can see the boots being made there, something rare these days when most things read “made in China”. Another thing that is unique with Altberg is that they measure your feet and can make alterations to the boots if they don’t fit your feet. Being, of necessity, a fan of tall boots I had two versions to choose from and I was trying them both, pacing around the shop (I hate shopping, remember). I wasn’t too keen on the lace up boot since I thought that would be too warm in summer (in Spain especially) but the other model, the police boot, were so uncomfortable. The salesman – actually not a salesman, a bootmaker by his own words “we’re not salesmen, we’re bootmakers, we don’t tell people what to buy we tell them how things are” – patiently explained to me how boots work and listened to my thoughts. As a response to me saying “it feels counterintuitive to buy a boot that is uncomfortable” he simply took my riding boot (the leaking ones I got in Germany in July, as a replacement for the other leaking ones I bought last year) and scrunched it up like a bare foot running shoe and said: “this is why your boots are comfortable, they have no protection”. When Christopher and I had recovered from the shock, I bought the police boots and off we went. One week later the boots were broken in and are now a superb fit, I absolutely love them.
When it comes to safety in gear I’m willing to spend a lot of money for the right stuff. Having said that, I must also point out that the Altberg boots are not any more expensive than other upper-range boots, and will last many years. At least according to my many British friends who wear them and swear by them. Another piece of gear where a perfect fit is an absolute necessity is the helmet. My helmet is 4 years old now and does not need replacement by age and, by washing the interior, I got rid of the smell of wet dog caused by a combination of sweat and rain. However, the view through the visor wasn’t all that good and the helmet wasn’t a snug fit anymore. During an outing to Fowlers in Bristol, I took the opportunity to try on new helmets for fun – I was only planning to buy a new visor and pin lock. The new Shoei model was a perfect fit and I was tempted to simply get it but I told the salesman that I was actually only looking for a new visor and I showed him my helmet while admitting that it did feel a bit large these days. The amazing thing here is that this salesman didn’t jump at the opportunity of selling a customer a well-fitting helmet but instead said that my helmet would have a life length of 5-7 years and that he could see if he had any cheek pads in stock to improve the fit. In addition, he offered to clean my visor and see how damaged it was. Instead of selling me a new visor and pin lock he showed me that the visor was not too bad, if I just got a new pin lock it would be quite ok. He changed the cheek pads, put in the new pin lock and let me try the helmet and decide what I thought. The fit was snug again and I had those nicely puffed up cheeks that a well-fitting helmet gives. In addition, the vision had improved with the replacement of the pin lock. He also put some silicone on the opening mechanism so the visor opens and closes smoothly a ain. All in all, he charged me £50 for that. That is what I call good service! In addition, not only did I save a lot of money by prolonging the life of my present helmet, which is still undamaged and safe, I avoided overconsumption and acted environmentally friendly.
How are you gearing up to keep yourself safe on the road? What is your favourite gear? I’d be happy to know – please coment below, lets share tips and ideas!