PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Pimp Peds: Bontrager RXL Shoes

Now On Pez
Tech N Spec
WK in Richmond - Roadrace men elite 2015
Pez Videos
Readers' Rigs
Gara ciclistica 'Il Lombardia' - Gara
tech n spec
Pimp Peds: Bontrager RXL Shoes
Here in Arizona there’s almost never a need to bother with a rainy day ride. Sun and fun are just around the corner and unless you earn a paycheck, there’s little reason to get wet and dirty… So it figures that Bontrager would roll into Phoenix last winter to test prototypes for their new road shoe line and that the temp would drop and it would piss for the days they were here…

But hey, getting to ride stuff that “doesn’t exist” yet is pretty much my favorite part of the test job, so strap up and roll round in the wet I did… And while it always stinks to hand back test stuff, I didn’t mind so much this time because Bontrager are one of those companies that wasn’t going to disappear making my effort a waste of time (which happens a lot in testing cycle gear for new companies). I knew the shoes would show eventually and poof… Here they are.

A couple changes from the prototype all round but the easiest to spot is that the new one’s (above) feature venting channels that are not only wider but are also uninterrupted, unlike the proto here…

Step one in my shoe shopping, I look for what type of ventilation a shoe will likely have. Sure it’s January and shoe covers are in full play for morning rides, but soon my mornings will start in the 80’s and 90’s before sun rise… Once the sun is up, your feet are inches away from tarmac that’s so hot we have to re-pave intersections here because they literally melt. One of the things I was hoping for was that the cool design of the channels on the uppers would be as good as the testers. The new shoes are better…

In fact looking inside the shoe is a great way to see how well something is likely to vent because air flow tends to be on par with how much light will shine through a shoe’s vents…

Not only do the uppers breathe exceptionally well, but this is the first time I can think of where the sole plate vents are also both clearly visible and functional.

The sole itself is a full, hand laid unidirectional carbon fiber. It’s what Bontrager class as their “gold” level.

Take off the paint and it would look a lot like the stiff stuff Trek makes bikes from.

That’s carbon end to end on the sole, except where the functional vent holes and cleat drilling (Look pattern with Look’s cleat placement “memory” nub slot) are notched out.

The heel is one of the most stable platforms I’ve used, but in the long term I’m wondering about replacement after it wears. It’s not soft rubber but rather a pretty hard composite (but still grips relatively well for some reason) so it should hold up a while.

The external heel cup is solid but flexible and holds your foot well and also has some good padding for comfort.

And the vents there are functional too…

One of the most notable things when wearing these is that there is plenty of room in the toe box… The first time I put these on I thought “OK here’s the answer when someone in chat rooms asks what shoe has a lot of room up front”.

The new RXL are not only wide but the tongue is cut all the way to the toe… I noted that when I had the prototypes and again when these popped out of the box, and also noted good ventilation and well placed padding and snapped the shot…

I don’t read anything about a product before using it (just as a rule) but sat down afterward and read that Bontrager call this a “derby cut” and the design has a basic and specific purpose.

It allows you to use the straps for greater adjustability and accommodation of fit for the full length of the shoe. The RXL tongue not only runs full length where other shoes stop short, but the lower most strap is also a tad closer to the front of the shoe to regulate fit over more of the length…

The fastening system is pretty basic for the RXL. The two lower straps are simple to use.

But interestingly enough the straps feature a little motivation…

This marks the only spot on the shoe where a minute or two more thought about our sport would have had it read “don’t lead till the finish line…”

The buckle is pretty basic. Pull to tighten…

push to release…

The strap itself is very pliable (EVA) unit that comes with both long and short attachments on the opposite side of the buckle that attach at the shoe so that it works for people with high or low arches.

That’s a nice tunable piece, but it’s nothing compared to the inside of the shoe, where Bontrager partnered with my local home boys ESoles.

These inserts are two piece design and are a result of Esoles huge database of foot scans (tens of thousands) allowing them to create a sole that should work very well for the vast majority of users.

Roll em…
Comfortable, roomy, easy to adjust and reasonably stiff. That’s pretty much it.

The shoe’s upper is very pliable and soft, but still secure. That makes for an upper that conforms to your foot really well but, with the straps where they are, things stay in place and there’s not too much movement when making a big effort. Whoever decided on the structure and material should get a smiley face sticker on their report card…

One of the best things about the roomy inside is a really good ability to accommodate orthotic inserts. I have ESoles top line (full custom) insoles and they are double+ the thickness of the inserts included with the shoe as standard. The RXL swallows em up and leaves room for a foot in each shoe too, which sounds logical but simply ain’t the case with a lot of other shoes…

The one thing I do find a little off is that the base sole inside is not flat side to side. It does have a bit of a cupping shape and that’s not optimal for some custom orthotic inserts because when you place an insert inside it will change shape a bit to conform to the base of the shoe.

The carbon sole isn’t completely stiff but it’s not overly flexy either. There’s a little spring to it but it’s very uniform. Enough that it’s comfortable and a little bit forgiving but not so much that it allowed for any sort of cleat hot spot or pressure point.

Then comes the venting…

This time of year, these things just flat freeze my feet (that’s a good thing). I did an hour on the trainer and then, with sweaty feet, went for a road ride at 50 degrees and you could feel the venting in a BIG way. These are some of the best venting shoes I have ever used. No trouble at all putting on overshoes for winter, but come spring and summer these will be dream shoes…

What’s the bottom line? On one hand, $229 is a lot for shoes. On the other hand, $229 for top line shoes that fit and feel like these is not relatively high for us bike snobs. In fact it’s reasonable in my opinion, as I have shoes costing 2-3 times as much…

You should start to see these any day now for sale and you can check em out right this second at

Have Fun,
Charles Manantan

Thanks for looking. If you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

Send your comments to:


Related Stories