Bont Vaypor G Shoes: Getting Rolling- by Guitar Ted
One of the ways we as cyclists connect to our bicycles is generally through a pair of pedals. (Speaking of pedals, Grannygear, one of our fine contributors, has started a series comparing pedals for gravel riding.) Now, pedals are definitely an important component, but you also need to have shoes to go with them. I mean, who pedals barefoot while riding gravel? I suppose someone out there is doing that, but for the rest of us, shoe choice is an important consideration.
There are shoes and then there are cycling specific shoes. When it comes to high performance cycling shoes, the Bont Cycling company may not come to mind immediately. However; they have been making shoes for high performance ice skating since 1975 and have started into making cycling shoes within the last decade. Their shoes have been worn by a Tour de France winner in 2012 and have won 13 Olympic gold medals on the track. Now, for 2018, Bont is making a new model intended for the gravel road racer dubbed the Vaypor G.
What It Is: Bont is first and foremost all about high performance cycling shoes made to feel great while cycling. It becomes pretty apparent that they are not concerned much about what their shoes do for walking. So, right up front I’ll say that these Bont cycling shoes are not going to be what you and I would call “walkable cycling shoes”. Now, that doesn’t mean that you cannot walk in them. Of course, you can walk in them, it just isn’t what they are designed to do. So, if you are into getting the most out of your bicycling efforts, and if you want to reach your goals in a speedy, efficient manner, these slippers might just be your ticket to the ball. Also, being that these shoes are handmade and aimed at eking out the best in performance, at being lightweight, and at being the best fitting, the price is at the upper end of the spectrum. You can figure on spending about $399.00 on a pair of these shoes.
Yes, that sounds like a lot of money for a pair of cycling shoes, I’ll admit that. But does this mean these shoes are for racers only, or those with a lot of dispensable income? We will see about that. That said, they are definitely not going to be on everyone’s radar.
Tech Features: Bont prides themselves on building their footwear from “the inside out“. They also state that they use a more anatomical foot last to build their shoes around which better fits the foot, especially in the toe box area. The shoe boasts a monocoque construction using layers of Toray sourced carbon fiber and specially chosen materials to make a shoe that is heat moldable, non-stretching, and very lightweight. You can read all about Bont’s process here.
You can see in the images here that the Vaypor G uses a Boa closure with Kevlar strings. One knob controls the panels which make up the forefoot upper and the other knob draws the larger panel of the uppers with the “Vaypor G” logo, over that. The “tongue” of the uppers is connected to this larger panel on the inside of the foot. To allow the Boa knobs to let the panels loose to facilitate putting the shoes on, you simply pop the knobs out from their base which releases the strings. Once you have put the shoe on you push the Boa knob down and turn the heavily detented, hexagonal knob clockwise on the right shoe, anti-clockwise on the left shoe. This will tighten the panels and secure the shoe to your foot. Notably, the detents are fine enough that backing the knobs off during riding is not only possible, but effective, should you need to make an adjustment after the ride begins.
The shoes also feature venting in the toe box area and on the tongue of the shoe. The “stack height” of the shoe is a minimal 3.6mm, so you will be closer to the pedals in these shoes than many other shoes will allow. The sole features replaceable tread bits, two toe spike mounts, and two bolt cleat compatibility in a recessed “pocket” which is formed by the surrounding rubber tread bits. Finally, the overall weight of the Bont Vaypor G shoes without cleats installed was 700 grams for the pair.
First Impressions: These shoes are very differently shaped than your average cycling shoe. Bont claims that other cycling specific shoes are based upon a “dress shoe” style while their shoe lasts are bio-mechanically designed from a cycling standpoint, and their continued research still informs their final product to this day.
I’ve seen Bont shoes in the past, and they were somewhat “crafted” looking with what I would term as an “obviously rough” looking fit and finish. Bont, to their credit, not only have continued to pursue the technical performance and fit goals but have also cleaned up the look of the shoes over the years to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The test samples were requested in the red stripe/red stitching option, but an all black stock option is also available. Bont does have a custom program that allows riders to choose colors for several parts of the shoes, but it is unclear at the time of this writing whether or not Bont offers this customization level for the Vapor G.
Putting the shoes on was a revelation. I’ve used high end shoes from Sidi and Shimano before, but the way in which these shoes draw across your foot is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Bont shoes like the Vaypor G here are heat-moldable to allow for a perfect fit. However; Bont claims that you may not even have to do that to attain a great fit, and I agree. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a better fitting shoe, and I have a very narrow, flat soled foot with a heel that typically moves in any shoe I’ve tried on. The Bont fits so well out of the box for me that even my heel was secure. I could heat mold them, but I don’t know that I’ll have to.
Cycling with these also revealed a new sensation or two. Bont claims that their shoe design provides a better foot support for a relaxed fore foot, better lateral support, to avoid that feeling that your foot is moving around inside the shoe, and that the heel cup provides a better support for the pedal stroke at the bottom and as the foot rotates back up on the back stroke. All things I immediately felt on my first rides. I think the biggest thing for me was the sensation that the entire inside of my foot was now supported in a way that I felt myself applying power through that part of my foot instead of all the pressure being focused right underneath my foot wherever the cleat was mounted.
Riding also revealed the “Jekyll and Hyde” nature of the Vaypor G. The Vaypor G is downright harsh to walk in. There is no getting around that. However; when you get on the bike, the shoes are so comfortable and relaxing to the foot that they simply disappear after you get on with the ride. The features of the shoe were felt at first as being efficient, comfortable, and adjustable. I actually tightened down the fore-foot area a bit too much on one of my first rides, but I was able to easily back the Boa retention knob off a detent and it made enough of a change that I was okay. That’s nice to be able to do without stopping. It is rather obvious that what Bont claims is true- that these shoes were made for riding bicycles.
So Far….. The Bont Vaypor G is a shoe for the high performance minded rider that is looking for efficiency but not at the cost of on-bike comfort. That said, don’t think about walk-ability when looking at these shoes. Bont is unapologetic in saying that the Vaypor G is not for such pursuits. These shoes are made for riding bicycles. They are heat-moldable, but fit so well that you may not have to use this feature. Boa closures afford an adjustable fit while riding. How they feel after a multi-hour ride is yet to be determined. Stay tuned for the “Checkpoint” article coming soon.
Note: Bont sent the Vaypor G to RidingGravel.com for test and review at no charge. We are not being charged nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.