Tying laces is a bitch! Those nursery school teachers were wrong: it doesn’t get better with age. Those first fumbling attempts set the tone for the rest of your life, with shoes that are either achingly tight or frustratingly loose. Fortunately, there’s a solution these days, and (unlike at nursery) it doesn’t involve Velcro.

These days it’s rare to see riding shoes without a handy little dial on them. With more than 80 million of the iconic closure systems now on shoes (a figure that’s equivalent to the whole population of Germany!), the Boa System has clearly staked its place in the sports world, and it goes way beyond just being a handy closure for cycling shoes.

How it all began!

Strong wires have always been pretty central to Gary Hammerslag’s career trajectory, but his earliest inventions are still a long way removed from today’s closure systems. Alongside his father, Hammerslag invented a coronary guide wire system for medical purposes, enabling cardiologists to prod around your arteries and widen narrow or blocked sections that could end up resulting in a heart attack. Back in the 1990s, the invention of Hammerslag’s guide wire was a major asset for noninvasive surgery and considered revolutionary for the medical industry, which led to the sale of the invention to a major medical firm.

When Gary’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to invent the Boa System, he’d already moved on from saving lives and just wanted to rid himself of one ball-ache of a problem: closing his snowboard boots evenly. He’d pull the laces and the boots would either dig in, sit too loosely at times, too tightly at others, or just simply wouldn’t fit quite right. But how did that lead back to wire for invasive heart surgery? It all came down to a design that incorporates a mechanical reel and steel cable for even closure.

The usual course of things

From here on, things took a more conventional trajectory as Hammerslag first developed an early prototype and scouted out interested parties. We’re now sixteen years into the story and the Boa System is used on everything from snowboarding boots to golf shoes, military boots to helmets. Ask Hammerslag, and he’ll say there are very few products that wouldn’t benefit from a Boa closure. The wires are still very much at home in the medical industry, and the Boa System has cemented its position on prosthetics and orthopedic shoes too.

Continual development

The fundamentals behind the Boa System haven’t changed much since its conception: it’s a mechanical lacing system that’s built around a reel and a steel cable which tightens with each click of the dial in order to obtain a precise fit, be it on shoes, gloves, or helmets. But comparing the earliest prototype with today’s systems shows there is a world of difference, and Boa have continually refined their products to work optimally in particular scenarios and sports. Their cryptic names like L6, M2, and H3+ Coiler are what assigns them to a certain usage within a sport, whether it be strong designs that are intended to improve the secure fastening of heavy-duty snowboard boots, or others that are as sleek and aerodynamic as they come in order to slice through the air in the pro cycling peloton.

Cryptic acronyms aren’t really of any interest to us as riders, and that’s a good thing – a sound marketing move. Boa don’t just shell out their technology and wipe their hands of it; alongside product manufacturers, they put their heads together and select the most opportune closure that can then be rigorously optimized to suit the product.

Joint route to success

The Boa System essentially becomes one single unit with each shoe it is put on – and not every type of closure would suit a certain shoe, or a discipline within riding. This is where Boa draw from their expertise, which they nurture in their own prototype-creating facilities in Denver, USA and Austria’s Mondsee.

A lifetime guarantee on everything

As soon as the Boa System made it to market it was met with universal acclaim. We have to agree: even after testing Boa closures on umpteen products, we’re still astonished each time by just how intuitive and efficient they are when it comes to even tightening, which makes them so well suited to riding. We’ve yet to encounter any issues or defects, with no torn steel cables nor broken dials. If anything does go amiss, Boa hold their promise of a lifetime guarantee and rapid turnaround of a replacement. The closures are really simple to replace, meaning even the most inept tool-wielder amongst us can manage it – provided you can make a loop. (We hope that was something they taught you at nursery school.)

More info: theboasystem.com

These are the cycling brands that have adopted Boa Technology:

Bont Cycling / Bontrager / Castelli / Catlike / Crono / Diadora / DMT / Five Ten / Fi’zi:k / GAERNE / Garneau / Giant / Giro / Lake / Pearl Izumi / SCOTT / 7iDP / Shimano / SixSixOne / Suplest / Specialized / Spiuk / Uvex / Vaude

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Words: Photos: Christoph Bayer, Boa