August 16th, 2018 12:00am
It’s been about 12 years since I saw Bont Cycling shoes come on to the cycling scene. This little Australian company went straight after the then booming Tri-Athlete market with their first offerings (the company now offers shoes specifically for all cycling disciplines.)
Each year I would see them at the various shows and events, still hanging around not knowing much about them until this past year their PR team reached out to me for a meeting at the Sea Otter Classic. I decided to find out how they were doing and more about their shoes.
I met the company founder who like most Australians was gregarious, optimistic and real.
His explanation of his design rational made real sense and I accepted his invitation to try a pair out for myself and write about it. This is that review. (Note: We had some technical camera issues when we filmed the product which is why you are reading this now instead of watching a video)
The shoe I tried is the Helix and from the start it grabs your attention. First with very relevant colors, then the truly one-of-a kind shape of the toe box, then the one-piece carbon foot bed, then the enclosure system and the list goes on. Yes, these shoes are different all right. Let break it down into a little more detail.
The shape – Instead of being just another maker of shoes that all look the same, Bont cycling took their inspiration from rowing shoes (think Australia here). In rowing where the foot is really a platform from which to push from and not having impact the shoes tend to have a wider toe box a thus a unique shape. This shape does several things really well. The obvious is that it gives your toes room to spread out and breath and second it gives people with a larger second toe a more comfortable fit.
What I have found is that after a 3-hour ride, my feet didn’t hurt, nor was I in a hurry to get my shoes off when I was done. (Note: my second toe is not longer than my big toe either- I’m more evolved than that 😊 ) So the unique toe box shape really worked well.
The soles – Bont’s soles are a true monocoque one-piece foot bed formed out of unidirectional carbon fiber and molded with the liner and uppers. The unidirectional carbon makes the soles as stiff any thing on the market and yet stiff. The fact that liners and uppers are both molded into the carbon sole means the shoes will not come apart because they are not glued together like most shoes, they are molded together with resin and sandwiched between carbon layers. Really strong stuff.
When speaking of such a one-piece shoe construction you have to include the retention system into the mix and Bont has refined their retention system through a really unique cable routing. One look at the routing and you mind will be blown. The single boa’s cables run under the foot bed and through the carbon sole before wrapping your feet on the other side. The technology to execute this kind of precision is no joke, but more importantly, the feeling your feet feel when the boa is secured is amazing. It is as good as the heat molded and vacuum fitted shoes of the past. If you really like the moldable fit, the Bont’s are thermo-moldable for a snugger fit. Our legal department wants us to tell you to remember to read the instructions (and check with the misses) before attempting this as Bont’s proprietary resin formula does not require hi heat to mold them. We did no mold our shoes but are just as happy with the fit.
We did however use our own custom insoles in the shoes without worry. Simply remove the supplied inserts before using your own. You may want or need to trim your inserts since the footbed is a different shape. We did not trim our and have had no issues.
Final words on the footbed. The Helix also features a toe protector that works and hides several vents that help increase air flow.
Breath ability on the Helix is good. The Durolite uppers are perforated for air flow and are a light weight and durable material. In our testing in Arizona’s heat this summer, the shoes have performed very well for us in this area.
There are several other invisible technologies that the company touts too, like a memory foam layer that does not retain water or sweat thus increasing durability from material break down and an Anti-stretch layer in the upper that prevents the shoes from stretching out over time. It is stitched and bonded to the upper to prevent any movement. We can’t really tell you if they work which we guess means they are, because that kind of tech should be…invisible.
Stack height/pedal interface – one of the benefits of the monocoque shell is that there is a much smaller stack height (3.6mm). This is advantageous for direct transfer of power.
We have found our (new) cleats squeak when powering in certain parts of the crank cycle. When we tighten the cleat on the shoe it is good for a couple of days, but then it comes back. We will continue to tighten them even further or put something as thin as a paper between the cleat and shoe to see if this helps.
Overall summary – Excellent. Road shoes don’t typically wear out like other shoes so making an investment in a good pair is well worth it when your logging the miles.
The shoes take a little bit of getting used to visually, but that goes away once your pedaling. Since the shoes are made completely different than your normal shoes it takes a couple of tries to slip your feet into them in a natural way and I found that thin socks worked best with the shoes. You also want to pay attention to make sure the upper layer wrap around your foot in the right order and without folding over. As for releasing the shoe, the boa release on these shoes could not be simpler as the shoe unfolds easily to get them off. Both small things to get used to but worth it once your tootsies are inside.
To me comfort and performance are priceless and the Bont shoes dseliver both making them worth buying.
Weight for a size 13 men’s US shoe or a 46.5 EU size shoe is 260 Grams.
The shoes come in the following variety of colors.
Price: $399 USD
We called these our Wizard of Oz shoes and got comments on most group rides. ;-)