2013 Bontrager Shoes, Helmets & Hilo Triathlon Saddle – Unboxed, Weighed & First Impressions
We recently received a goodie box full of Bontrager’s 2013 products, including the RXXL (Race XXXLite) road shoes shown above. Other items include the new RL mountain bike shoes, the Specter helmet and two versions of the RXL Hilo triathlon saddle, one of which features adjustable nose width!
To be honest, not much has changed other than colors on the RXXXL road shoes, but they remain one of the lighter, sleeker shoes on the market. Introduced in 2011 with a buckle-free Limited edition that chopped ~20g off what’s shown here, this black-to-gray is the new white. The other key difference is the move from a wide-weave carbon sole to a unidirectional finish.
The sole uses their top level Platinum Series carbon and is quite stiff. The last uses their InForm fitting system and in my experience is pretty darn comfy.
What makes the shoes so light (and unique) is the upper. Other than the heel cup, it’s a single-seam full mesh piece that has a rubbery/plastic-like finish that’s essentially painted on. At least that’s the effect, and it’s super thin and very light. The mesh is left visible on the tongue and forefoot to let air in.
The heel cup is the other special bit. It’s a perforated plastic that lets plenty of air in and out to cool your feet. Around the upper edge on the inside uses a directional fabric that has its points aimed downward, keeping your heel stuck in there. One other nice touch is a pull tab on the tongue, which lets you pull it snug so there’s no bunching under the top strap.
Insoles are light and thin with a bump in the middle to help spread the foot. I can’t notice it when wearing the shoes, but they’re comfortable overall. My size 47 (US 13) shoe weighed in at 266g. Their claimed weight for a size 42 is 235g. Early rides are promising, bolstered by the good fit and comfort of the RXL mountain bike shoes I tested earlier. Retail is $324.99.
Speaking of mountain bike shoes, the RL is a new model that slots in between the RXL and Race. Compared to the RXL, it uses a fixed length top strap (rather than the length adjustable version that causes a small bump on the inside) that gives the shoe an overall much sleeker appearance.
It also loses the replaceable tread blocks on the bottom. The upside is this probably saves a few grams, the downside is the tread strips directly adjacent to the pedal mounts are a little taller and make it a bit tougher to click in…I’ll likely trim them down a bit. Once engaged with the pedal, though, I didn’t pop out at all on my test ride.
Save money and weight: The RL’s are 429g compared to the 445g per shoe for the RXL I tested. Both are size 47 (US13).
So far, so good. They, like the road shoes, use their Micro Buckle which lets you release/loosen in small increments by hitting one black button at a time. Press them both to release the strap altogether. Other than the differences mentioned, the RL and RXL look remarkable similar save for a carbon sole on the RXL and a composite sole here. Both are plenty stiff while remaining walkable. Retail is $149.99.
The new Specter helmet (Spectra for Europe) was introduced earlier this year, check that post for tech specs. Basically, it’s a less expensive version of the Oracle that’s still fully featured and actually a bit lighter. I’ve ridden in both now, and both are quite comfortable. I do wish they would get down around the 220g weight, but if you’re used to a 315-340 gram lid, me thinks you’ll be quite pleased with either one.
Retention mech has a large, easy to turn dial and is height adjustable. The visor pops off and it comes with small plugs to cover the mounting holes. Large front vents let plenty of air in.
The size medium with visor comes in at 315g.
One of the more interesting pieces is the new RXL Hilo saddle with Speed Dial. The standard RXL Hilo has a fixed width split nose, but the Speed Dial version lets you adjust the gap’s width up to 16mm.
The adjustment is made via an allen key at the nose. Hard to see here, but the tail of the saddle has a small hook on either side that lets you hang your bike on the racks in T1 facing out, making it quicker to pull it out and go. Nice touch.
Turning the bolt pulls two other bolts through angled slots and spreads or closes the two sides of the saddle.
Compared to the standard Hilo, you can see how much wider you can make it.
And from the top, shown in full open and closed positions. Well, at least this is where the minimum spread marker is, you can get it to close in a bit more. The point of all this is to let the rider fine tune the fit and feel to their anatomy.
All that hardware comes at a cost, though. On the scale, it’s 69 grams heavier than the standard Hilo RXL, and at the register it’s $249.99 versus $179.99.
The relief channel runs the length of the saddle, and the cover has textured sections under your sit bones to keep you from slipping down. Construction is a carbon fiber reinforced shell with hollow titanium rails. This is the one item we haven’t ridden yet. They’ll be shipped off to Erik to test shortly as a follow up to his review of the Hilo tri shoes.