"SWEET" is the best way to describe the new Bontrager RXL Mountain bike shoe along with the word "STIFF". This Italian made shoe from the folks at Bontrager (and Trek) is one of the nicest pair of mountain bike shoes that I have owned / reviewed. A lot of thought and design has gone into this shoe and it shows. I know that Trek hasn't had a lot of success in the past in the shoe biz, but they nailed it this time.
It's important that a mountain bike shoe start out with a stiff sole for power transfer. Trek uses a silver level BMC carbon sole, super stiff but not very flexible. Designed to fit the contour of your foot, the carbon sole offers more than enough support on the bike and when teamed up with eSoles insoles, it leaves you with a shoe that cradles your foot. I personally have a slightly high arch, and it felt like my foot was being fully supported. This is one of those shoes that when you have it on you almost forget you're wearing it.
Sharing the same uncompromising design approach as its road-going cousin, the RXL Mountain shoe is packed with features that give hardcore cross country racers and trail riders a distinct performance and comfort advantage with a sole that is as stiff as a road sole. The lightweight, styling and durable RXL waits ready for all-out efforts on local trail rides with friends or on the World Cup circuits.
The Silver Carbon is tough and durable, with a hard clear coat finish and seemed to hold up excellent to the rigors of being on a mountain bike, hitting sticks, mud, rocks, stones, etc. I even had a day when I had to ride for an hour on a broken pedal using the carbon arch portion of the sole and riding away mark free! Amazing!
Did I mention the Silver level carbon sole is stiff? Well it is the perfect sole for the pro or the weekend racer, but may not be the best for the casual tourist. There is no flex in the sole and when running or walking it, there is some heal slippage. Bontrager actually makes an RL model shoe with a "bronze" level carbon that is not as stiff as the RXL, maybe a little more suitable for walking, etc. The RL may also be a great choice for cross.
Performance Heel Cup
Bontrager cycling shoes feature a heel cup that's designed to eliminate heel slip while you're turning the pedals. By utilizing an external cup, they use a thicker, stronger plastic, padded with several layers of cushion between you and the cup. The stiffer cup does not slip while riding and offers a more stable feel, but does slip during running or walking, simply due to the fact there is no flex in the sole.
Customizable Insoles by eSoles
Bontrager is the only cycling shoe on the market (well that we know of) designed to accommodate a custom insole. All shoes come stock with an insole exclusively designed for Bontrager by eSoles. These insoles are universal & neutral insoles, developed using data collected from over 25,000 foot scans to provide the ideal amount of support a variety of feet. These are easily removed and can accommodate a fully custom insole.
Enough about the the sole
The top side of the shoe has a lot to offer as well, and is really the key to keeping the shoe secure on the riders foot. The Medial Adjuster is one of the many features on the RXL. The Medial Adjuster is what controls the top strap positioning on the shoe. Each Bontrager shoe comes with two straps for the Medial Adjuster, one for a narrow foot and one for a wider foot to make sure you can adjust the tension on the tongue properly on the mid-foot. The ratcheting buckle is simple to use, and easy to release and is adjustable in 1-mm increments. After several months there have not been any issues.
Two strategically placed velcro straps take care of holding the toe portion in place The "derby cut" tongue, which is basically where the tongue extends all the way to the toe. This "derby cut" makes the toe box more adjustable, and a better fit.
Material, we could not find out what material Bontrager uses in their shoes. We can tell you that is does not seem to stretch, or it is very minimal and does not shrink after getting wet. Both of very key features in a Mountain Bike shoe.
We tried to put this video from Bontrager on our site but had no luck, but the folks at Bontrager go through the entire line of shoes, details, technology, history, etc. Click on the link below.