Randonnee racers frequently Swiss-cheese their boots with a bunch of speed holes to drop weight. While I don’t really qualify for such modified gear (nor a lycra race suit), it’s fun to play around and see what works. Also, we’ve been known to do a bit of weight reduction on our ski mountaineering boots as well — something I feel much more deserved of as I need all the help I can get.
One thing I learned from automotive work is that making larger speed holes is better than boring a bunch of tiny ones. Also, drilling plastic with a common twist drill makes a ragged hole that looks crummy and can wear out liners as they rub against it. For cutting a clean hole the tool of choice is a step bit, as shown in the photo above.
We’ve found it helps to first do a layout with ruler and Sharpie, then drill starter holes on the layout, using a sharp twist drill around 1/8 inch diameter. Then punch out the holes with the step bit. Racers also lighten their boots by grinding off a bunch of sole material. Key with that is working outside so the toxic dust isn’t an issue, and using water mist to keep the material cool as you grind (use a disk grinder with course open grit sanding disk). Rig up something to hold the boot firmly as one slip with a disk grinder can ruin an expensive pair of shells.
Step bits are available at most hardware stores. If you need to punch a hole in automotive plastic (such as when installing an electronic device on your dashboard), they work nicely for that as well. They’re expensive but last forever if you’re only drilling plastic.
There you go — Friday’s gear tip.