I first spotted Bont cycling shoes back in 2008 when they were being hidden under overshoes by the all-conquering Great Britain Track team. Given their commitment to the best kit, that immediately marked them out as worth investigating.
Since then the list of professional riders strapping on a pair of Bont cycling shoes has leapt significantly this season with Cervelo Test Team going so far as to make them a partner. Bradley Wiggins wears them as does Michael Rogers and some of Lance Armstrong’s Nike branded shoes looks suspiciously like rebadged Bonts.
I’ve had these beauties knocking about since last autumn but as I bought them after the end of the season I hadn’t got round to setting them up until last week. In part that’s down to me not getting round to getting the velcro fixed (heating molding incident) and some Speedplay extender plates.
Why blue? Because they were so heavily reduced that it was stupid not to and it works with my London Dynamo kit. Subconsciously, perhaps I thought they’d make for a nice Bernard Hinault ridng for La Vie Claire circa 1985 vibe.
So how do they ride?
For comparison, I’ve been riding Specialized S-Works Boas since 2007 and prior to that was on their lower-end road shoes. Looking around the market, the Bonts offer something very distinct from other offerings.
Most cycling shoes are built on a relatively flat sole with the main body of the shoe made of soft flexible leather or synthetic upper. So you get only about a quarter of the shoe as a platform that your foot sits on.
With the Bonts, the carbon fibre “sole” wraps the foot so that it sits inside the lower half of the shoe. The upper part of the shoe is then glued over the foot and heat moldable to improve fit. What this means is that the feeling is very different as it eliminates the sensation of lateral movement on the pedal.
Actually, the whole sole is moldable in a low oven so you can really push the custom level of fit. I’ve not gone all out on this after a disastrous attempt involving a heat torch in a bike shop. Even without heat molding the fit is incredibly good.
The biggest difference is the stiffness. These aren’t slippers, they’re racing shoes so don’t expect flex. You notice it, just walking to the door, that you’re strapped in to a shoe that is no wet noodle.
Once you clip in it’s very evident how well the design works. Instead of feeling like your foot is sitting on top of a pedal and there some being play, you feel like you’re pushing down on a much bigger platform that extends across the whole foot and that you’re putting the full force of your leg through the pedal stroke.
I’m still tweaking my cleat setup to make them perfect and had concerns about hotspotting due to the stiffness but once I was racing on Tuesday night I really didn’t notice any. I need to test them on a longer ride but for crits, they are awesome.
It definitely felt like I was putting down more power and that there was far less slop in my pedalling. After all these years it’s weird to feel so connected when riding to the extent that you almost forget that it’s a shoe clipped to a pedal.
I’ll come back on how they feel after a longer term test some time later this years.