Fast Lane boots by Bates Custom Leathers Photo courtesy Batse Custom Leathers
I’d always wanted a pair of custom boots, specifically sized and cut to fit my feet, and my feet alone. Last year, with plans for my first visit to the Isle of Man Classic TT and Manx GP set in motion, I decided it was finally time so I contacted Dawn and Dana Grindle at Bates Custom Leathers in Lakewood, California, suppliers over the years to some of the greatest names in racing including David Aldana, Kenny Roberts and Giacomo Agostini, to name but a few.
After describing my riding style to Dana, we both agreed the Bates Fast Lane Sport Racer was the best fit for my preferred riding, which is sport touring. A classically cut full-leather boot, the Sport Racer features an 11.5-inch cuff and is tailored to go over or under riding pants. I think they fit better under, which fortunately suits my tastes.
My boots were comfortable right out of the box, their soft, supple leather a visual and tactile treat. Frankly, they were so comfortable, I was a little worried how they’d wear. Aren’t hard core boots supposed to be, well, hard core and hard to break in? Outside of plastic inserts on either side of the heel, the Sport Racer boots are devoid of armor. There’s extra padding at the ankles, the toe is reinforced, and there’s added leather on the bridge for shifting — on both sides, making these truly ambidextrous left or right shift boots — and at the outside leading edge of each boot in case of road contact when cornering.
The fit is excellent; tight without compressing my feet, yet with enough room for an extra pair of socks, and the full-height rear zipper makes them easy to put on and take off. I took delivery of my boots in early spring, and by the time I packed them up for my trip to the Isle I’d worn them for several thousand miles. A common problem I find with motorcycle boots is that many of them are uncomfortable off the bike. I understand why people gravitate toward heavily armored riding gear, but in the real world I need gear that can adapt to changing situations, gear that I can wear off the bike as well as on such as at a show or just going into a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. I’m willing to make compromises, but I typically look for utility and performance, and the Fast Lane Sport Racer boots deliver both.
So far they’ve worn like iron, and I like that the fact that if I ever have to, I can get the soles replaced. Comfortable and made to last in the U.S. by people who care about motorcycling, these are quality boots at a price that won’t break the bank. $250 off the shelf; add $70 for custom fitting. — Richard Backus