Review: Bontrager RXL Hilo Triathlon Cycling Shoe

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I’m not sure about others, but it’s always difficult to find a cycling shoe that “fits.”

I am a triathlete to be sure and have big hooves -size 14- and they are wide. This makes things a bit harder for me when it comes to finding a shoe that does not feel like it was made for someone who’s foot looks like a pizza slice. When testing any shoe, including running shoes, I am probably one of the most OCD/anal retentive reviewers on the planet. With that being said, finding the Bontrager RXL Hilo Triathlon cycling shoe on my doorstep I was skeptical – but only for a split second!

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Lifting these shoes out of the box my first thought was “these things are light!” I had not weighed them yet but knew that they were the lightest triathlon cycling shoes I had ever held. The one feature that, at first, I did not like was that they had no tongue… this was just “new” to me and as you will read, became a positive rather than a negative.

The look of the shoe is sleek and all of the features have a purpose without any “bling” whose only purpose is a fashion statement. I did find the absence of a tongue was a bit disconcerting initially.

First impression: Man, this shoe fits like a glove! Not restrictive in the toe box, not so narrow crushing the toes, snug heal and a comfortable foot-bed coined the “inForm Pro Last”… so far so good.

Cleats were as easy to install and adjust as with most major cycling shoes on the market.

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The shoe features a two-strap design with the larger top strap having a “no pull-thru” feature making it virtually impossible for any athlete to pull the strap through the loop, which would render the shoe un-adjustable on the fly. The forefoot strap is easily adjustable and once your set its tension, you need not adjust it again.

Bontrager-RXL-Hilo-heal-and-transition-straps triathlon shoe review

One of my favorite features was the large heel loop. I’ve found smaller heal loops difficult to manage, especially with cold fingers/hands where dexterity is needed. These loops are easy to find with with clumsy hands and with a quick pull the heel snugly meets the foot bed.

As mentioned, this shoe is tongue free and I was unsure of this design when I first saw it. However, after using the shoe, sockless or with socks I became a big fan of not having the tongue digging into the instep of my foot and not having to adjust the tongue repeatedly while riding. I was, at first, concerned with my feet becoming too cold without the tongue and the “micro-fiber uppers and flow-thru mesh panels”  but surprisingly it was not an issue. The mesh paneling works incredibly well to keep your feet cool. So well that if your feet tend to run cold, you may actually want to use to covers.

Bontrager-RXL-Hilo-Carbon-Sole triathlon shoe review

The “Silver Series Carbon Sole” is stiff as any I have tested and absolutely no force is lost to anything but the drivetrain.

Competition is the true test, and racing in these shoes was a treat!

The medial side rubber band anchor (the red bit on the side, two pics up) holds the shoe horizontally so the shoe does not flap and hit the ground when running with the bike to the mount line. Granted, many shoes can be rigged this way using the heal loop but with this feature the heal is held higher, keeping the shoe flatter for easier mounting. The straps performed flawlessly and allowed for quick adjustment for a snug, yet comfortable fit. My feet dried faster than I am accustomed to and I never felt any hot spots or toe numbness that unfortunately I am accustomed to in other shoes. Getting out of the shoe is as easy as entry… in other words, the shoe did its job and and did it well. I’d highly recommend them, particularly during this hottest-summer-ever race season!

The Bontrager RXL Hilo triathlon cycling shoe came available in July (we got an early pair to test). Claimed weight is 225g per shoe (size 42) and even my monster versions were super lightweight. MSRP is $179.99 and they come with their “Unconditional Comfort Guarantee”.

Comments

greg - 08/09/12 - 8:34pm

HEEL

slippy - 08/10/12 - 1:32pm

Being from Hilo HI I am confused by the name of this shoe. Is Bontrager trying to find some town name from Hawaii that isn’t ‘Kona’ yet has tri associations? Are there even mid-sized triathlons in Hilo? (no)

They coudl change the name to Kapoho – or Pohakuloa – or Kealakekua…

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