Fellow ADV Riders,
We have been selling the Gaerne Balance boots for quite some time, and several of The BOMBERS use them. In simple words, they are awesome, one of those products we sell that continually exceed customer expectations. They are super well made, fit great (Gaerne is known for their excellent fit), and durable. This is a fairly long post, but these are one of my personal favorite products, and I want to take the time to explain the construction.
The Balance line was originally intended as a trials boot, thus the name "Balance". Trials boots are a niche, with low production volume. Because it was a niche product, more attention was paid to making it work perfectly than to cutting costs to achieve a particular price point.
The clearest example of this is how the Gaerne Balance leather is cut and the number of pieces. The leather cutting of motorcycle boots is done with dies; and the dies have to be carefully placed on the hide to cut around any flaws in the leather. The more leather pieces, the smaller they are, the easier they are to place on the hide and get a good yield (less waste). Every hide is different, with scars, holes, etc. this is why the cutter job is one of the more skilled.
Most boots use a lot of pieces for this reason, usually 10, 15, 20 or more. The Balance uses as few pieces as possible. The upper of the boot is only 3 pieces of leather, and 7 total. This is really low, not cheap, but makes a more comfortable boot. Look closely, the bulk of the upper is made from only two huge pieces. The result: less seams, better break in, better bend creases, less pinching, more comfort.
This is one of those intangible details of quality that too often gets missed. It is not obvious, does not show up in search, is not commonly known. It goes against current boot design trends, which can be summed up by saying "make it cheaper, somehow". Gaerne obviously does not think that way. They have been sold for several years now, Gaerne gets constant pressure to make the Balance less expensive, but they have kept it the same.
Another detail that makes them a great dual sport boot, but is intangible, is the mid-sole construction. The mid-sole is the area under the footbed, above the outsole. This area defines the stiffness of the sole flex - and the protection. It is also where many boot designers cut corners to save cost. The Balance uses a modified MX boot midsole, it is both supportive, yet moderately flexible to allow feel and the ability to walk.
Many customers ask why this is important, there are multiple reasons. The first is metatarsal (the bones in your foot) protection. A common scenario where this applies: while riding, moving forward, you strike an immobile object like a stump or rock with your toe. In some cases, this happens when your foot is on the pegs and weighted, in other cases you leg is off the peg and down. Your foot stops moving, but either your weight on the peg or the peg itself try to push your foot forward. If your boot has a soft, flexible midsole, it will fold under the ball of your foot, and break the metatarsal bones.
This tends to be less tangible to boot buyers than the ability to walk easily. It is why MX boots are rigid here, and roadracing boots also. A good DS boot needs rigidity here, perhaps more than at the ankle area even. The Balance has a fairly rigid midsole, less than an MX boot, but much, much more than a street or hiking boot.
Another reason these are great boots: DS and ADV riders stand a lot. A rigid midsole also is crucial for people standing on the pegs for a long time. Footpegs are small, and standing on them for long periods with soft footwear...hurts. BTW, no riders stand as much as trials riders, as trials bikes often do not have seats.