The most consistent thing about my riding this summer has probably been my shoes. My riding has been irregular as strangely I find summer the hardest time of the year to find the time to ride. For the 6 weeks of the school holidays, any day I’m not at work I’m looking after my kids. There’s also a family holiday, work, and this year we moved house too. I ridden here and there, including a couple of sportives but I’ve lost some fitness. The one thing that’s been most consistent about all of my riding is the Bontrager RL Road Visibility shoes I’ve been enjoying on almost every ride.
I’m a big believer in mid range shoes as opposed to the top end. It’s a bit like why I recommend people buy Ultegra groupsets over Dura Ace unless they’re awash with cash – you get much of the performance for a lot less money.
For me the RL Road come in at about as much as I’d be comfortably able to consider spending at £150 (and I’d be hoping to find them in a sale!) so they have been great to try.
The first key thing to note is sizing – I ride a 44 Shimano sizing and the Bontrager matches that perfectly, which might help you with fit.
As I mentioned earlier in the year when I wrote about a selection of other Bontrager products (http://girodilento.com/first-look-bontrager-2014-soft-goods-range-highlights/), the company has being making serious investments in the development of new products and this extends to shoes too. You’ve probably seen coverage on the new top of the range XXX Road Shoe but some of that know how trickles down to more affordable products like the RL Road.
I absolutely love the colour of the RL Road Visibility but if you’re not so keen, normal black or white options are available. I’m not usually a big fan of hi-vis but I’m quite happy with it on my shoes as they’re moving and I think they might catch the eye – but even if they don’t I just like the colour.
For the first month of riding these shoes, they felt a bit uncomfortable riding (although perfectly comfortable when not riding) but as they loosened up a little, the got more and more comfortable.
As you’d expect the straps are easy to adjust with the two closest to the toe being Velcro and a ratchet for the top one. The ratchet clasp is split into two halves and whilst I works perfectly tightening, one is a bit idiosyncratic on the release – never to the point of being a problem to get the shoe off but not perfect. The idea behind the split clasp is to allow you to tweak the fit at the top or the bottom half of the ratchet – so you can get it just so – micro-adjustment. Certainly doing up the ratchet you almost can easily find one side tighter than the other and this gives you a way to adjust that.
The upper is constructed from a synthetic and it’s wearing really well. It’s easy to clean and in fact seems to shrug off road grime pretty well when you’re riding. My previous “best” shoes are a pair of Shimano shoes (which I’m still very fond of) but the Bontrager upper seemed tougher and is already wearing better than my Shimano shoes. Hopefully that will continue to be the case – but after about 1,000 miles they’re still looking very good indeed.
The sole is a mixture of carbon and fiberglass and has a rating on the Bontrager scale of 10. The top of the range Road XXX shoe is rated at 14 to give you a feeling on how towards the top end the sole stiffness is. Let me just say I’ve been more than happy with the stiffness of the RL Road. If I get to try any of the stiffer soled shoes, I’ll update this with further thoughts.
The sole is the area showing the most wear and tear so far. I try not to walk too much on cleats but the finish on right sole has taken a bit of a beating. I don’t think I’ve been particularly unkind to the shoes or walked too much on rough surfaces, but they do show a bit more wear and tear than I’d have expected. To be frank, it’s not something I’m bothered about and it wouldn’t put me off recommending the shoes, it’s just a note. Let’s be honest carbon soled road shoes are not going to cope well with being walked on the ground – especially gravel.
I’ve not changed the standard insoles that come with the shoes, which are Bontrager Inform Pro and Bontrager say they are an ergonomically optimised high performance fit. I’ve been very happy with them and they’re still in almost new condition after being ridden all summer.
I’m very happy to recommend these shoes. I love the colour and I’ve found them very comfortable (after they wore in a little). The upper is tough and easy to look after and the fit is good. Much like the soft goods I wrote about previously, Bontrager is not a brand that you might have previously put on your short list for riding kit – but you really ought to. They’re investing significantly in their product range and aren’t trying to charge the earth for it.
I think the Bontrager RL Road Visibility is a fine shoe for the money and I’ll happily keep riding them. Every now and then I’ve gone back to my other shoes but that’s never lasted long and I’ve been back in the Bontrager’s again almost immediately. I have even been recognised by my shoes locally and I’m happy that it’ll continue to happen in the future.
You can buy them here: http://tidd.ly/ab9f48f7
Find out more about them here: http://www.bontrager.com/model/12330
Thanks for reading