Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
- Ingenious internally routed laces
- Single Boa closures for easiest adjustment ever
- Fully heat moldable carbon soles for a custom fit
- Light & super stiff to maximize pedal power
- Durable rubber toes and heels for traction and protection
- Tough and breathable Duralite synthetic leather uppers with suede trim
- Excellent ergonomics
- Some cyclists require more adjusters to fine-tune the fit
Source: http://shop.bontcycling.com, bike shops, catalogs
Sizes: 36-50 in whole sizes plus 40.5, 42.5, 44.5 and 46.5. Also available in 4 widths
Colors: Metallic Blue/White, Black/Gold, Black/Black, White/Charcoal, Shiny Red/White
Weight (pair): 524 grams
Cleat compatibility: Look
Stack height: 3.6mm
How obtained: sample from company
RBR advertiser: no
Tested: 600 miles
Cutting-Edge Carbon Shoes with an Ingenious Lacing System
In January, I gave Bont’s Vaypor S road shoes a rave review. Here it is in case you missed it: Bont’s Vaypor S Road Shoes Review. At the time of the review, some comments were posted by Bont users who mentioned pros and cons they’d experienced with older Bont shoes. So, I told you I’d follow-up down the road on how the test shoes were performing.
Since then, Bont came out with an ingenious new closure system and incorporated it into a new model, their Helix shoes. I requested a pair and have been riding them now for a couple of months.
So, in this review, I’m going to cover these new Helix shoes and also talk a little about how my Vaypor S’s are doing. I’ve been going back and forth wearing both, in order to compare the two models since they share all of Bont’s technologies with the closure system being the main difference.
The first thing I should mention – since I said that the shoes were pricey in the first review, is that Bont has actually lowered their pricing! Currently the Vaypor S is $379 (they were $450 back in January) and the new Helix model is $399.
Ingenious Single-Boa Closure System
What sets the Helix shoes apart is Bont’s brilliant internally routed lacing system. It boasts single Boa ratcheting knobs and Kevlar laces that travel through the shoes wrapping under and around the feet. The result is the first shoes I’ve worn that allow tightening or loosening the entire foot by simply turning one knob.
If you look at the side photo of the shoes you can see how this works. The laces leave the Boa dial and travel back and down into ports on the shoe. These ports lead to internal routing built into the carbon chassis of the shoes (little tunnels). The routing lets the laces wrap around the foot so that when the dial is tightened the laces pull the shoe in all directions for the most even tensioning I’ve experienced in a shoe.
It’s unlike top lacing which can only squeeze the top and sides. And it’s unlike straps that put the pressure where the straps are. Instead, Bont’s Helix lacing eliminates pressure points by encircling the feet. It also pulls the feet back and into the heels taking up any slack there, too.
It’s a snug, secure feeling and if you’re looking for the utmost in power transfer, I think you’ll love it. Of course, when you’re riding it’s also easier and faster to tighten and loosen shoes turning a single dial, rather than having to deal with multiple dials, straps or buckles.
Fine Tuning the Fit
I found the Helix’s even and snug fit perfect for my feet and cycling. I prefer tight shoes with no slack in the upper and no movement of the feet. So it works for me to tighten or loosen over the entire foot/shoe.
Yet, I can see how some cyclists might have sore spots on their feet and require fine-tuning certain parts of their shoe’s fit. In which case, a full tension release such as the Helix’s might not be the best choice for you.
The Vaypor S shoes have two dials. Wearing a Helix on one foot and a Vaypor S on the other, you can work the dials and feel the difference between the whole shoe getting tighter/looser and separate zones in the shoe doing it. Both feel good and it’s hard for me to pick a clear winner in comfort.
Since I do not have issues with shoe fit, I didn’t take advantage of it, but both the Helix and Vaypor S shoes have a unique custom fitting option. Because Bont’s carbon soles are made of a fully heat-moldable unidirectional monocoque carbon “chassis.”
The carbon uses an epoxy thermoset resin. This allows putting the shoes in an oven so they become moldable and then putting them on to let them change shape to perfectly match your feet.
To make sure that the shoes hold their perfect fit, Bont prevents them from stretching by putting a proprietary anti-stretch fabric between the outer leather and shoe linings. This fabric resists stretching similar to Kevlar and is stitched to the leather and bonded to the liner so that it becomes part of the shoe structure and can’t move or be removed.
Complementing the custom fit and feel, Bont incorporates several technologies to optimize pedaling efficiency. First, the anti-stretch fabric I just mentioned helps by ensuring the upper doesn’t flex much. Also, Bont is very proud of its cycling-specific “last,” – the basic shape of the shoe. Since 1975 they’ve been refining their cycling lasts and believe it’s a key reason their shoes are so comfortable.
To explain their other technology, which is extensive, I’ll quote from their technical documents so that I don’t explain anything incorrectly.
- “Structural medial longitudinal arch support is provided in all models to stop over-pronation of feet. Over-pronation is one of the main contributors to incorrect tracking of knees during a cyclist’s pedaling phase due to internal rotation of tibia and femur. This can result in knee injuries. In addition, the rotation of tibia/femur can cause the pelvis to tilt resulting in lower back strain.
- Anatomical Forefoot Shape. Some cycling shoes offer a conventional “dress shoe” shape. This will cause the toes along with the metatarsals to be overly constricted, compressing the nerves between the metatarsals which often results in the common “hot foot” sensation. Bont’s anatomical shaping allows the foot to function in its most efficient and anatomically correct position. The foot is supported in its endeavour to relax through the metatarsal joints allowing the pedalling force to be spread across the greatest possible surface area.
- Anatomical Heel Cups. The anatomical heel cup shaping of Bont cycling shoes provides increased stability during the pull-through stage of pedaling stroke and up stroke. This stabilization is achieved without any mechanical operation or over tightening of straps/laces allowing for increased comfort and blood circulation.
- Lateral Forefoot Support. Bont’s lateral forefoot support ensures neutral positioning of the forefoot and alleviates common issues associated with over-pronation and supination. These issues often result in incorrect tracking of knees causing injuries along with hip and lower back pain.”
Other Noteworthy Features
Regarding the ergonomics of the Vaypor S and Helix shoes, I’ve tested them with a lot of long climbs, which is where I would expect shoes to show weaknesses and they’ve worked wonderfully. I don’t suffer hot foot and feel like all of my power gets to the ground and none is lost in the shoes.
Both sets of shoes fit snugly but never feel too tight. There’s wiggle room in the toe box and there’s no play at the heels. The uppers and soles are nicely vented for ample airflow. And the leather uppers and suede trim feel great.
Durability-wise, I haven’t had any issues with the Vaypor S shoes in the eight months I’ve had them. And there’ve been no problems with the new Helix’s. In fact, even though the Vaypor S’s are white, they still look new.
I do clean them after rides. But, I’ve found that dirt is even easier to wipe off than on my other white shoes. Bont uses a closed-cell memory foam in the uppers that doesn’t retain water and that probably helps. They say it also keeps the shoes lighter during wet conditions as well as ensuring sweat, which can begin to break down the durability of shoes is not absorbed.
I’m not surprised the shoes hold up well, because they’re constructed with a quality materials, fit and finish and built to last. Thick rubber bumpers on the front of the shoes provide walking traction and protect the uppers and soles from the wear and tear of clicking into pedals and hoofing around. Plus, there are replaceable rubber heels to save the rear of the shoes. And, the rubber is a full 7mm thick so they should hang in there for years.
Another nice detail Bont attended to is making it easier to locate cleats on the shoes, which is handy when first putting on cleats and later when it’s time for replacement. The soles have more gradations and the design is target-like making it easier to see what you’re doing and to make adjustments when fine-tuning new cleats.
Summing up, Bont’s new Helix shoes raise the bar in fit, comfort and performance, plus they even managed to drop the price. If you’re looking for a shoe upgrade give them a try. And, if you’re concerned about only one dial, give their dual-dial Vaypor S model a go. I think you’ll love Bont shoes.
Ride total: 9,010
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.