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The tiny Bont booth at Interbike has been one of the most crowded during the first day of show Wednesday. Triathlete stopped in to see just why names like Rebekah Keat and Natascha Badmann are riding these new-to-America handmade carbon fiber bike shoes.
Bont, a 33-year-old Australia racing footwear company made its name in the racing speed skate world on the handcraftsmanship of their carbon shoes, creating carbon fiber shoes as early as 1989 out of Sydney. The company recently found the same features employed in speed skates—stiffness and light weight—were the same desired in cycling shoes. This year, Bont arrives in America—and debuts its first triathlon shoe in Vegas.
The company, headed up by CEO Steven Nemeth, has been slowly gaining notoriety in the road racing market, finding favor with the likes of Mark Renshaw of Columbia-HTC, as well as with riders on Astana, Cervelo TestTeam, Garmin-Slipstream and Silence-Lotto.
The shoes are among the most eye-catching on the market. They’re also highly labor-intensive, with it taking five days to produce one set of shoes. Aside from tons of visible carbon fiber throughout the sole and heelcup, the shoes feature brightly-colored synthetic microfiber uppers. Black leather uppers are available as well, but the microfiber, available in eight shiny colors (including a brilliant red, white and pink), are certainly eye-catching.
Much of the magic of the shoe lay in that glossy carbon sole. “The entire cycle shoe range has a fully heat moldable base and upper, ensuring exceptional comfort and performance for the rider,” said Nemeth. A bake in the oven will make malleable the heelcup and heel (and forefoot to a lesser degree), allowing for a customized fit.
But we have been impressed with the exceptionally low stack height—3.6mm on the top-end A1 road shoe. The cleating area is wide, long, flat and, most importantly, low. With all that flat surface area, a Speedplay-specific sole will be offered at an upcharge, allowing Speedplay users to eschew the three-bolt install plate, allowing users to drive the four-bolt cleat directly into the sole for closer placement to the pedal spindle. Triathlete has been testing the A1 road shoe in training and racing in the past few weeks (actually racing the Savageman in them this weekend in Maryland) and found them unyieldingly stiff, and despite its boxy look and a tapering toebox, quite comfortable with the foot ratcheted inside, particularly in the deep heelcup.
Bont recently acquired U.S. distribution (with current sales found online at Nytro.com), and brings not only the road shoe to the North American market, but a mountain bike, track and lightweight time trial shoe, and, you guessed it—a tri shoe.
Bont recently entered the tri market, providing shoes to, among others, Australians Rebekah Keat of TeamTBB and Kate Major, and former Ironman World Champ Natascha Badmann of Switzerland. Both have been using the road shoe, but may be showing up in Kona this year with the new tri shoe.
Interbike was the debut of the tri shoe. Actually, it’s three shoes—the top-end Sub-8, the Sub-9 and the Sub-10.
The Sub-8, the product of development with select pro triathletes, maintains the thermo-moldable resin in the unidirectional carbon sole allowing for customized fit. Weighing 225 grams in a size 9 shoe, Bont claims the greatest strength-to-weight ratio of any tri shoe on the market. A single Velcro closure over the arch keeps you cinched in, and Bont employs a patent-pending rubber shoehorn for quick entry and easy exit at transition.
The upper has 40 small vents per shoe, including three “gills” at the medial arch, designed to capture and funnel air into the shoe for greater internal ventilation. Reflective piping extends through the lateral length of the shoe and around the heel. The Sub-8 will be available in eight colors. It also has the thinnest stack height in the line, at 3.6mm. It will price at $399
The Sub-9 takes in all the features of the Sub-8, but instead of using unidirectional carbon fiber, the Sub-9 features hand-laid fiberglass, cutting cost and adding 50 grams to the shoe. It will be available with a shiny silver microfiber upper. Stack height on the Sub-9 rests at 4.4mm. Pricing is set at $315.
Bont says that the Sub-10 exists as the only entry-level heat-moldable carbon tri shoe on the market. Again, materials change in the carbon sole, namely use of heavier resins, add a bit more weight to the Sub-10, bringing the shoe in at just under 275 grams, Bont says. It will be available in matte white with blue accents, and has a stack height of 4.8mm. It will price at $179.