Bont shoes explained
Sure, there are plenty of cycling shoe manufacturers, but none enter the market with 35 years of design and engineering comparable to Bont. High-end cycling shoes share more than a few traits with the speedskate boots. They need to be stiff, light, and transfer force efficiently. Companies such as Lust and Rocket-7 had already garnered attention for spectacular designs borrowing speedskate technology, but Bont is the industry’s 600 lb gorilla, with vastly greater manufacturing and engineering capacity.
The fundamental difference between a Bont cycling shoe and the vast majority of cycling shoes on the market is the integration of the sole and upper. Traditional cycling shoes are constructed the same as a pair of Chuck Taylor hightops: an upper is stitched together and then attached (by stitches and/or glue) to the sole (base). True, a high-end Sidi will have a well formed, stiff heel cup, technical materials, and adjustable straps, but the sole and upper are two different things that are combined somewhere down the production process. Though there are some skate boots made in a somewhat similar fashion, Bont has always made their boots by building the boot from the inside out, layering materials on a foot shaped form (called a last). The sole is made by laminating carbon and/or fiberglass over the boot’s inner liner, so that the sole curves up over the edges of the foot for support. The heel cup is actually one with the sole, and the sole’s support smoothly blends into the upper. The shoe becomes a single piece, seamlessly connecting you to the pedal.
Of course, this structure would be very unforgiving if the shoe didn’t match the shape of your foot. In fact, since a skate boot requires a lot more support than a cycling shoe, having the support in the wrong place for the anatomy of your foot is excruciating and damages skating technique. So Bont has spent years perfecting thermal sensitive technology in the resins used in their boots. By heating the shoe/boot in an oven, the rigid support becomes surprisingly pliable. One then straps the still-warm boot on, allowing the footwear to cool into the shape of the individual’s foot. This isn’t just a company jumping on the bandwagon; Bont has been a pioneer in using this technology in footwear for decades.
The end result is that a Bont cycling shoe is light (225-250gr per shoe), incredibly rigid, and has an extremely slim stack height (moving the foot closer to the pedal spindle for better efficiency). Alex Bont feels that the shoes could be even lighter but that current technology would limit the longevity of the shoe, a somewhat conservative philiosphy that shows that the company is looking to firmly establish a reputation for performance AND quality. The shoes are not cheap, but labour-intensive items made of high-tech materials (like Toray carbon fibre) just aren’t bargain items.In competition, the shoes have won multiple Olympic golds on the feet of a certain nation’s powerhouse track team, and Bont just joined the ranks of innovative manufacturers contributing to the Cervelo Test Team. Numerous Pro Tour riders on other teams have been using their shoes as well.