It's been a few years since we first came across Bont shoes; I was doing a photo-shoot with Kiwi sprinter Julian Dean, and noticed this unusual looking pair of shoes he was using. He explained that he'd been using these Australian shoes for some time, as he'd had shoe comfort issues - and these were custom made for him, and great shoes.
Roll on a few years and the name Bont has become the name for top end race shoes, and no more so than in the past couple of years when we've seen riders like Bradley Wiggins and Thor Hushvod riding them - and this year the entire Cervelo Test Team too. You could say they've come a long way in just a few years.
Throughout the last race season Bont have been putting their 2011 race shoes through the grinder of the pro peleton, working things out to come up with the best shoes for the coming year, the pinnacle of which is the new Vaypor road shoe. The Vaypor has created something of a whirlwind in terms of interest, and we were lucky enough to get hold of one of the very first pairs to become available, and in a custom fit too.
The Vaypor is the flagship of Bont's road shoe range. The shoes are made from the company's unique monocoque carbon fiber sole design, which is quite unlike other shoes on the market in that it actually forms it's self around the bottom of your foot too, moulding around and holding your foot firmly, but comfortably in place. From there the upper of the shoe is glued and sewn into place - each shoe being made by hand. The desired effect of this is performance - it braces your foot, cradles it, and ensures there is very little excess movement. In turn this reduces friction, increases comfort - and performance in the delivery of power to your pedals, or at least that's the theory.
Over the year's I've worn shoes from around 20 different manufacturers - to varying degrees of comfort and performance success; It's usually been a case of one or the other. Many shoes have been too narrow at the front for my size 12 ski like feet, and have caused terrible foot cramps. With this in mind I've often avoided high end carbon soles, they always seemed to be even more narrow and flex-less, so I was a little apprehensive about the Bont's at first, which I voiced to the company when placing the order. The resolve? A custom fit, not unusual for this premium manufacturer, thus a couple of sketches around my feet, with measurements added were emailed to Bont.
Six weeks later the Vaypor's arrived. The first thing I noticed was their weight - these are some of the lightest shoes available, and rigid with it. The monocoque and cross fiber carbon moulding enables them to make the shoes with a lower stack height - thus saving weight. Ours came with a shiny white upper, pulled together with one crossed velcro strap and a ratchet strap. They look great, robust and clearly performance oriented. The inner is lined with suede, vented at the front, and Bont use a memory foam insole, while the base has a "roughened" area around the cleats, and a graph, which really helps lining up cleats correctly. There are also replaceable heal and toe pads.
Pulling the shoes on and they do feel a little tighter than normal around the heal - which is thanks to the "canoe" style monocoque moulding, which cups around much of your heal and foot, and does away with sloppy movement and friction. Once on they fit like a glove, perfect. Bont shoes are all heat mouldable at home, so even with a none custom fit you can tweak to make up for big toes, bunions etc - but these were perfect straight out of the box.
What about the ride? These are pure performance shoes, the Ferrari's of cycling shoes, real riders shoes. The moulding ensures that your foot remains firm and gripped, without cramping it. You can feel everything, every ounce of output goes through, there is no flex yet the design ensures they remain comfortable. As for cramping issue I've had before? Nada, the cradle like moulding and wider fit holds my feet secure, but allows for enough movement to keep me comfortable.
Bottom line - These shoes are about sheer performance. They deliver more power to pedal than other shoe's we've used, yet are comfortable with it. They're also super-light, but remember quality like this costs. For ultimate performance they take some beating.
RRP for the shoes is US$399, while a FULL custom pair retail at US$995 - Bont can also cater for leg length issues, and make a one off pair too, but you must contact them on this.
Check out www.bont.com