COMPETITION between brands for your shoe dollar is immense. It’s easy to spend $400 dollars or more on the promise that you’ll no longer suffer from hotspots, squished toes, blisters, or ingrown toenails and you’ll never be embarrassed when you front up for your weekly pedicure again.
Keith Bontrager started making bicycle components in his garage in the 70s building the brand until he sold it to Trek in 1995. But the designer is still involved in the company, now Trek’s own parts and accessories brand, speccing Trek bikes and riders with everything from handlebars, to tyres, to shoes.
The RL MTB, at $189 dollars, is the top women-specific shoe in Bontrager’s range. It’s hard to say that this shoe is doing a whole lot that’s different, but that also means a refreshing change from some of the bells and whistles used to sell shoes and a bit more attention paid to the basics – a very reasonable price.
The RL MTB fit me extremely well and the relatively low stiffness index rating of 6 was never a noticeable disadvantage under general pedalling or acceleration. This is probably because the two Velcro straps and the low-profile ‘Micro-Fit II’ buckle – a well-positioned ratchet – held my foot very securely.
Up until a few years ago, top cycling shoes were made of leather. This isn’t the case any longer, and attention has turned away from the material used to make the upper to what goes into the sole. The reason for this is that the stiffer the sole, the more efficient the power transfer from your legs to your pedals.
Carbon is still the stiffest material around, followed by a variety of composites, resins, and plastics. The RL’s ‘Bronze Series Composite’ sole sits somewhere in the middle, made of a Nylon compound. It won’t retain its stiffness as long as a carbon-soled shoe will, but any shoes has only got a lifespan of a few years at the. A shoe like the RL has economy on its side. And they’re light – at least as light as carbon-soled shoes at double the price.
The RL MTB is mostly black – extremely practical for a shoe whose raison d’être is to get dirty – with some attractive azure trim.
There’s plenty of ventilation, removable studs, and a long tongue that didn’t slip into the side of the shoe and kept the mud out. My ankle and feet felt secure and stable.
A great feature of these shoes, and one that I’d usually associate with more expensive models, is that both the buckle and the strap are easy and cheap to replace – something I’ve had to do twice in the last year because of crashes.
Bontrager offer an excellent range of sizes, from European 36 to 43, although check with your Trek dealer as they may need to order your size in for you.
VITALS TREKBIKES.COM/AU $189 HITS REPLACEABLE STRAPS AND BUCKLES, GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY, AS LIGHT AS MORE EXPENSIVE SHOES MISSES NOT AS STIFF AS RACE-LEVEL SHOES