Robot’s Useless Reviews – Boas

When I was a kid, the idea of being slowly asphyxiated by a giant snake kept me awake at nights. Never mind that such creatures are not native anywhere I lived (New Jersey, Rhode Island, Alabama). Fear is most often irrational. It captures the imagination viscerally and slowly chokes your will to live, the local herpetology notwithstanding.

More whimsically, the boa is a fashion accessory associated with flamboyant cabaret acts, of which I am a big fan, and ’70s rockstars, for whom the boa made a perfect sartorial choice once they were 9 feet deep in heroin addiction and had arenas full of people pretending they were benevolent space aliens. Boas could be made from ostrich, turkey, marabou or chandelle feathers. A marabou is a stork. A chandelle seems to be a small turkey feather. I don’t know. I’m neither a flamboyant cabaret performer or a ’70s rockstar.

Woman with a black feather boa, c. 1892, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

The problem with wearing a boa on the bike is that it can trail behind you, get caught in your rear wheel and asphyxiate you suddenly, rather like a feathery, insouciant serpent cheerfully choking you out in a trice. That’s no way to go. It’s an Onion headline, if you’re lucky. It’s Jerry of the Day if you’re not.

And that’s all I know about boas, unless you want to talk about the boa-closures that come on many cycling shoes (and others) nowadays. They are the work of BOA Fit Systems who quite wisely came up with an idea, basically terrifying little snakes that hug your foot, and then licensed it to any and everyone who made a shoe/boot/binding, etc. for which such a thing could work. Golf. Golf is one of their big applications, because I guess you want to be fully strapped in when you go carting around the rich-people-death-meadows. I am keenly aware of the hypocrisy of knocking golf for its elitism as I write about cycling, but I’m a complicated character capable of all the self-deception and cognitive dissonance every other human engages in, and I hate golf. Sue me (jk, please don’t).

I’ll be honest with you on this (I know. I know. You’re so used me pulling punches and holding back what I really think), I don’t know why we tie our shoes anymore. Seriously, these BOA people cracked the code. It’s over. We don’t have to do it even one more time.

To wit, a few of the problems with shoelaces: 1) They come untied. Look, the bunny jumped over the log and dove in the hole, but what can I tell you? 2) They come untied and get sucked into your chain, which begets a bit of physical comedy that gets what I’ll call “type 2 laughs,” which are laughs by other people at you. 3) It takes too long. This is the internet age. We’ve got stuff to do and are perpetually behind, probably because we stopped to tie our shoes and indulge our sad human feelings, as if that’s still a thing.

Too chill to bother eating children. Yeah. That’s exactly what they want you to think.

The BOA system allows you to lock your foot down and in place with the simple flick of the wrist. To do that with shoelaces, you gotta take a knee and work at the various pairs of cris-crosses until the whole absurd contraption is evenly tensioned and comfortable. You might as well wear loafers everywhere like a lawyer or an accountant. No offense to all the lawyers and accountants out there.

Yeah. You’re right. Probably too late. Sorry.

I own a few pairs of BOA-equipped shoes, and I just love jamming my foot in, spinning the little click-y wheel, and getting after it, whatever it is, mostly grocery shopping and dog walking. I’m so into BOAs I’d gladly fasten my pants that way (NO MORE BELTS!) and button my shirts at lightning speed (This is, of course, a joke. I don’t where shirts with buttons…but if I did…).

I’m so into BOAs I’d gladly be their not-celebrity spokesmodel. They could change their tagline to something like, “It’ll make your stuff tighter, and even this jerk can figure it out!” I’d be wearing a tightly cinched spacesuit and a pair of SPD road shoes and probably a propeller beanie, because that’s the sort of look that sells things that replace shoelaces.


In addition to our generous subscribers, maybe you’re one of them, The Cycling Independent is also sponsored by Shimano North America, who themselves use BOAs for shoe closing and stuff.

Join the conversation
  1. TominAlbany says

    What about the aglet market? Have you no heart??

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @Tom – You’re right. I had not considered the aglet and aglet-related markets. Although, don’t boas still use aglets to cinch their closures?

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