Monday, 31 March 2014

Review - Bont Riot Road Shoes

After much deliberation, scouring various Internet forums and the like, I decided to invest in some Bont Riot shoes. The main reason for this was the superior spec, such as a full carbon sole, compared to other shoes around my £100 budget. Additionally, the Bont size guide is a lot clearer than other brands, which seem to vary a lot from my research. I would, of course, have preferred to try and buy them in person, however, the several local shops stock only Shimano and Specialized shoes, which upon trying just didn't feel right.

General advice when buying cycling shoes is to go half to a full size up, due to swelling of feet on a warm/long ride. The Bont website helped in this area, with an online 'Size Wizard'. One simply enters the length and width (illustrated guide on the site), and it produces a recommended size, in my case 45. I then set out to find the best price, which being relatively new was £89.99, £10 of the RRP.

Bont Riot shoes, mesmerising monochrome
First impressions of the shoes were good, the carbon sole looked great, and the black and white palette complimented it. The material looked a little plastic, but for the price I wasn't expecting kangaroo leather, sail cloth or any other exotic material found on other road shoes. Fit wise the Size Wizard seemed to have worked it's magic, with a little space for the toe, but not so much as to allow slippage, and ample width for foot expansion. The straps weren't the most secure, but the ratchet stopped any unwelcome forward movement. Immediately I could feel a difference just walking in the shoes, the stiff carbon sole feeling completely different to the nylon one on my 7 year old Decathlon ones.

The plastic ratchet feels a little brittle when tightening

After a couple of minutes in the shoes, I took them off to fit my cleats, at which point I started to notice a few quality issues with the shoes. The ratchet is made of what seemed pretty cheap plastic, bending easily, and it actually took a bit of fiddling to release the strap. I was slightly worried I was going to snap it. On to fitting the cleats, the shoe has lines in order to gauge the fore/aft and sideways positioning of the cleats, an improvement over my previous shoes. After moving the cleats around a little, I noticed the white lines were starting to wear. Not such a good sign if the shoes are going to be in use for a while. I also started to notice other imperfections, such as loose stitching where the sole meets the upper, and on the straps.

Stitching of the upper panels isn't brilliant

Cleat placement guide starting to wear off already


Anyway, on to riding. I've had a couple of rides in the shoes so far, admittedly no more than an hour, but intense riding nonetheless. I find it a little difficult to get the forefoot particularly snug with the Z strap, no matter how tight I pull it. Whilst this is mitigated to some extent by the ratchet strap, the ratchet itself feels so fragile, I am a little hesitant to really put force into tightening it. Another slight niggle is that the straps on the left shoe line up with the Velcro, but those on the right shoe are slightly misaligned. Likewise the ratchet strap come to think about it, though that may be due to foot shape. Overall, I can get them tight enough for sprinting or climbing, but it's not smooth like conventional Velcro straps or a BOA system.

Full carbon sole with arch support, efficient power tranfer
Starting to pedal in the shoes was a strange sensation at first, but this soon fades. What replaces it is a grin, as you can genuinely feel the increase in power transferred to the pedals compared to lesser shoes. I'm really impressed with the feel, they are a marked improvement over their predecessors. The Riot's are well ventilated, which was noticeable during Saturday's surprise 16C temperatures for the MK Bowl race! They claim to have more arch support than other shoes, which is evident by looking at the curvature of the sole. I couldn't feel it hugely when riding, but they do feel a little more dynamic than those with none. If you use a footbed, I would probably recommend still using it, but personal preference will dictate this.

The construction of the shoes is a little different to many, with a 'tub' sole, meaning the carbon fibre extends approx. 10mm into the upper, like an elongated U shape. This makes the shoes feels sturdier, but after riding for a while, there is an evident quality issue once again with the edge of the 'tub' being rough, which I found dug into my little toe/end of the 5th metatarsal. Almost like a stone in the shoe, annoying. Another surprise at this point is the ability to heat mould the shoes to your foot shape but heating for 20mins at 70C in the oven and then wearing them. Whilst I haven't tried this yet, and I'm not sure about the effectiveness/risk, I am tempted to try and rid them of this sharp edge. They can be moulded multiple times, which I suppose makes it less risky. I'll update if I choose to do so.

Reading the above, I may give the impression that the shoes are poor and not worth buying. Conversely, I would in fact recommend these, albeit with certain caveats. If you are used to spending a couple of hundred ponds on high end Shimano, SIDI, Specialized, etc. shoes, then I would hesitate in buying these, as sadly it's not a case of getting the same level of quality for substantially less money. If this does apply to you, it may be worth trying the Bont Vaypor shoes, their higher tier model.

However, if you, like me, are buying your second pair of road shoes, your first 'serious' pair, and/or have a £100 budget, I can wholeheartedly recommend them. There are few, if any, other shoes that deliver a full carbon sole for this price, and for me that provides a measurable upgrade. With regards to the 'flaws', I wouldn't be especially surprised if similar quality issues were found with the majority of sub-£100 shoes. My opinion might change if they start to fall apart, but I'm willing to give the Bont Riot's the benefit of the doubt for now.

Overall, they deliver exactly what they profess, a taste of top end road shoe technology, with necessary limitations to make them accessibly priced for many.

Another great review, especially on the support aspects of  the shoe from a physiotherapist, can be found at www.millsphysio.wordpress.com.
Review - Bont Riot Road Shoes
Review - Bont Riot Road Shoes
Review - Bont Riot Road Shoes
Review - Bont Riot Road Shoes
Review - Bont Riot Road Shoes
Review - Bont Riot Road Shoes

3 comments:

  1. Great review. Thanks. What are your thoughts now after a few months?

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    Replies
    1. Hi! Glad you enjoyed it!

      I would say my feelings are the same but amplified both ways...I'll explain!

      The shoes as a whole are great, really stiff, I can really feel the efficiency of the power transfer.

      On the other hand, the quality issues I highlighted are very prevalent. More stitching on the front is coming undone, the 'leather' has worn off on the front of the toes on the other shoe, and the bit of sole sticking out of the sole inside the shoe does my head in when the feet are slightly swollen mid ride.

      I really like the shoes, but I can't help wondering if this is just because it's my first carbon shoe, and whether I may have had a better overall experience with another carbon sole.

      That said, there aren't many options for that price, so for the cost:benefit I would have so say I'm happy.

      I think I'll give Bont another chance, but maybe with one of the pricier shoes,the vaypor maybe.

      Sorry to be a little inconclusive! But I'd say for the budget, they're good, but I think next time I'd stretch it in order to be comfortable and efficient.

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  2. The heat moulding feature of Bont is essential to really getting the most out of your Bont shoes.
    You can even spot mould them with a heat gun set low or perhaps a hair dryer to push out those pressure points. I found heat moulding around my heal to really improved the rear end fit. I am now on my 4th season on my A-2 and would buy Bont again

    ReplyDelete