Picked up some new shoes for the 2013 season, some Bont Vaypor Premiums. Here are my thoughts:
Stock Vaypor Premium
Before I get to the review, I have to explain why I am training and racing in the Bont Vaypor, technically a pure road shoe vs. the Bont Sub-8, a pure triathlon shoe. That is an easy question to answer. I truly believe that ALL long course athletes shoes be training and racing in pure road shoes. Tri-shoes ALWAYS make a big compromise in fastening and tightening, just so the athlete can enter and exit their shoes 0.2 seconds faster. For ITU racing, this might make sense, but for long course athletes that are going to be spending 4-7hrs in their shoes, having a shoe that fits comfortably, that allows your foot to be wrapped securely is well worth the extra second or two they take to put on. For short course athletes, Bont makes their Sub-8 triathlon shoes which is one of the top tri-specific models on the market.
In my case, Bont made me a set of custom Vaypor Premiums which took a stock road shoe and added the heel strap from the Bont Sub-8 triathlon shoes. So I get to have my cake AND stuff down my face too!
Bont Vaypor Premium w/ Customer Tri Strap
So on to the review already!
As some of you might know from my recent Twitter posts it has been raining EVERY.SINGLE.DAMN.DAY in Noosa since I’ve been here. I was praying that I wouldn’t have to get my beautiful new silver Bont’s dirty and wet on their very first ride, but it wasn’t to be. First ride in the Bont Vaypors? 7 hours baby, in the pouring rain.
Yes, it is a horrible idea to ride in new cycling shoes for this duration, but there are a few caveats. First, I have custom Amfit orthotics that I take from shoe to shoe so this prevented most transition issues a cyclist would normally have. Second, all Bont cycling shoes are moldable which means that the day I got my shoes, I was able to put in them in the oven for 15-minutes to soften the carbon fiber resin that molds around the shoe. I was able to wrap the foot more securely in some parts, while able to push out areas that might dig into the foot. This is a great feature that Bont offers.
Over the past two weeks of riding in this shoe I made a few mental notes of things I wanted to highlight in this review.
Okay, look, all top-end cycling shoes are stiff these days. They are all made out of great carbon fiber and when people usually first take them shelve at their local bike shop the sales rep will say: “Try to flex the sole of that shoe. See how stiff it is!” Some manufacturers even associate a number with how stiff these shoes are and every year their shoes get “magically stiffer” in a grand marketing scheme to sell more shoes. “This year our shoes are going to an 11 in stiffness! Try to flex that sole! Last year was only a 10, the 11s are so much stiffer!!”
The point I want to make here is WHERE the shoes are stiff. Having a stiff sole is great, but it does nothing if your arch and foot aren’t supported and your foot collapses on the pedal stroke. The thing that separately Bont from the competition is that rather than having a carbon sole that is bonded to a textile upper, the Bont design wraps the carbon around your foot. If you have a good, custom insole, you can heat mold the sole so that your feet are perfectly supported throughout the pedal stroke.
Having the carbon wrap around your foot also allows you to not have to buckle the straps down so tight around your foot. You can leave the buckles loose on a Bont and still have as much security as other shoes that are strapped down hard. Not having to strap the foot down as hard makes a difference in triathlon when after a 180km bike, we have to strip our stiff shoes off and transition to a rubber sole with laces. If our feet have been winched down for 4+ hours running is going to HURT!
One thing that is worth noting about the Vaypor is how the buckling is configured. The main closure mechanism is an asymmetrical buckle that tightens mainly over tarsals in your ankle vs tightening over your foot. With the Vaypors buckled down, my foot felt nice and relaxed which the tarsals of my foot had enough security to jump out of the saddle and really pull up on the pedals. It is a unique and nice feeling, especially late into long hard rides when your feet swell a little bit and can get squished.
As for race comfort, these shoes feel fine sans socks and I haven’t had any problems with the shoes being wet for two solid weeks so don’t worry about them getting wet at aide stations.
Carbon Wrapped Goodness
A huge differentiator between Bont and its competitors is it’s array of custom options. If you have some neanderthal-like club feet that don’t seem to fit into any shoes comfortably, you can have your feet “cast” at a custom Bont dealer and Bont will actually make a custom last of your foot. If you are like most people, a good custom insole is usually enough, and combined with Bont’s moldable carbon resin you can get a great custom-feeling fit.
But it doesn’t stop there. You want custom colors, Bont has them. You want a triathlon strap on the back of the standard road shoe, Bont can figure out a way to get it done… I’d like to see you try that with another “main” brand. Good luck.
In addition, if you are a fan of Speedplay, Bont offers custom options for a direct mount 4-hole design which allows you to remove the Speedplay 3-hole adapter and drop a few mm from your shoe stack. If was riding Speedplay, this what I would ride.
While the Bont Vaypor is extremely light, lighter most top-tier road shoes, it isn’t the lightest. But then again the Vaypor is a do-everything shoe so you wouldn’t expect it to be the lightest. It’s closure mechanism adds a few grams, but that extra security is worth it for long flat time-trials and road racing. Some people say that weight isn’t that important for a road shoes, but I highly disagree. I think any time you can remove weight from a system, especially when it is rotating at 80+rpm, you’re going to save energy.
If you demand the lightest shoe out there, Bont makes their Zero model, which has the same base as the Vaypor, but with a lace up closure system and a nifty aero flap. This is the shoe of choice for Bradley Wiggins, last year’s Tour de France champ. The Zero will be improved upon for 2013 but replacing standard laces with a BOA closure mechanism… This could be a great option for triathlon as it is uber-light and very aero.
Wiggins Prefers the Bont Zeros
The only differentiator between the Bont Vaypor and the Vaypor Premium is the material of the upper. The Vaypor Premium has a sexy woven textile finish that looks like chromed carbon fiber. My favorite thing about this textile fabric is that it looks great even after hundreds of miles of riding in the rain. Last year I busted out a brand new pair of high end shoes for Oceanside 70.3 and they were literally trashed after 90km of riding. They literally looked like crap. The Bont’s finish allows me to continue to be looking good while riding soaked and dirty roads. I highly recommend this silver-premium finish if you want really good looks combined with good durability.
The thing that strikes me about Bont is that while the Vaypor seems to do EVERYTHING well, they have different top-end models that focus purely on weight and aerodynamics. Whereas most companies have one singular “top end model,” Bont has four! First, Bont has the do it all work horse – the Vaypor. Second, Bont, has the lightest shoes out with the Zero (soon to be Zero+ with a Boa closure mechanism). Third, is the Chrono with is an all out time-trial shoe that has actually been banned by the UCI for being too much of an advantage (but has not been banned by triathlon!). Lastly, Bont has their new Vaypor+ which is essentially a regular Vaypor with a non-assymetical ATOP-dial closure system.