Bontrager Rhythm Shoe - Review

May 16, 2014
by Richard Cunningham  
Pinkbike Product Picks

Bontrager Rhythm Shoe reviewed 2014


Bontrager Rhythm Shoes

Bontrager's Rhythm is its take on the elusive cross-over shoe that incorporates the efficiency of the classic cross-country racing design, with the practicality of a hiking boot and the appeal of a DH racing tennie. The Rhythm's designers, however, make no pretense about its XC roots saying that their new shoe is for: "experienced technical trail riders who want a shoe purpose built for their Remedy or Fuel EX and their favorite terrain, and XC crossovers who won’t sacrifice snug fit or power transfer." Ok then, would it be a surprise to discover that the Rhythm is a very XC-looking shoe that is built around a the pronounced S-curve of a pro-level racing last?

The sole is fiber reinforced plastic, intended to flex just enough to enhance walking and scrambling up steep slopes, and the toe area is curved a bit more to further improve walkability. To protect against inevitable rock and bush strikes, Bontrager's shoe experts armored the sides of the uppers with hard rubber strips and created a stiff toe cup. A screened ventilation port in the toe cup ensures that air and water can flow freely into the shoe with enough velocity to compensate for the fact that, outside of a number of small perforations in the uppers, there are no other vents in the shoe. Two offset hook-and-loop straps adjust the shape of the uppers over the foot, while a snug fit is ensured by a wide overstrap at the instep. The overstrap is tensioned by a ratcheting buckle that can be positioned via one screw to sit 10-millimeters higher in order to accommodate wider feet. Because feet swell with exercise, a micro-release mechanism is built into the buckle that uses a pair of small levers. Alternately depressing the levers releases the band by one increment. The bright day-glo sole is super tacky material that has a cushioning effect - rare for any performance shoe - and a couple of bosses are set into the toe for spikes, should you fancy yourself as a cyclo-cross-dresser. Rhythm shoes are sold in sizes from 40 to 48 (that's 7 to 14.5 in 'Merica) and most half-sizes are available. The weight of our size 42.5 test sample was 860 grams for the pair and the MSRP is $159.99 USD.
Bontrager

Bontrager Rhythm Shoe reviewed 2014

(clockwise) Bontrager made the Rhythm shoe to last, with a reinforced upper and a low-profile aluminum ratcheting buckle mechanism. Depressing one of the two micro-adjust levers releases the overstrap one click. The Rhythm's grippy sole is a bit too narrow in the center to be of any use on flat pedals. A well padded and contoured heel cup make it seem like the feet are directly connected to the pedals.



Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesBontrager's design team have a lot of experience building shoes, so expectations were high for the Rhythm. The shoe fits like a racing design - snugly around the foot, with a molded heel cup to keep the two moving as one. The snug fit suggests that those considering the Bontrager shoe should buy a half size larger than average. The first three rides with the Rhythm shoes were not an optimum experience, as part of the ratcheting buckle's mounting pad caused a hot spot. The pressure points disappeared after about ten hours on the bike, afterwhich, the shoes were comfortable to use for extended rides. This is a good point to remind potential buyers that Bontrager offers an unconditional guarantee, so you won't be stuck 160 bucks shy, with a pair of potted cactus plants that have ratcheting buckles if your shoes don't perform as planned. Moving on, the twin-lever micro-adjusting feature was easy to use when stopped, but on the fly, accessing only one of the pair was a pain with gloves on. Ventilation is good, not great, with the large toe vent cooling half the foot well, but leaving warm spots in the uppers at Summer temperatures. Rating the Rhythm shoes for efficient pedaling would grant them an eight or a nine out of ten. They climb and accelerate with purposeful authority as if the feet are connected to the cranks. There is a slight feeling of having your feet entombed by plastic when negotiating rough technical sections that require you to move about the bike at odd angles, so, yes, they do feel like XC racing shoes in some respects. The Bonti' slippers shine in the rocks, where the sticky, compliant soles grip loose and hard surfaces securely, making steep portages almost enjoyable. Longer slogs, however, are a reminder that Rhythm shoes are still racing shoes on the inside, which has us wishing for a more versatile compromise. That said, Bontrager's designers held true to their words; that the Rhythm was a shoe made for XC cross-overs who won't sacrifice a snug fit and good power transfer. The Rhythm gives you both, along with a measure of comfort and surefootedness when you are forced off the bike. - RC



79 Comments

  • 22 2
 Can I have some advice please...

If you:

a) are not a racer
b) spent years riding flats
c) prefer gravity to XC
d) look for value for money over the latest and greatest thing
e) now ride clipless, even on long epics and
f) love the fit of your shoes now.

Could you tell me what shoes you have and what pedals they mate well with. Thanks.
  • 15 1
 Five Tens Maltese Falcon (comfy, durable, casual) and Deore m530 pedals (30$ new - cannot be destroyed).
  • 8 3
 Maltese LT's and crank brothers Mallet DH.
  • 6 1
 Mallet DH is 5 times as expensive, great pedals but pricey, especially since he said he looks for value.
  • 6 0
 Time ATAC platforms, with Northwave Missions. Good for up, down, trail centres and real world. Not bad in the boozer either for thosse summer evening "rides"
  • 4 1
 661 Filter (cheapish and comfy fit) or Giro Chamber (stiffer and tighter fit) with Crank Brothers Mallet 2 Pedals.
  • 2 0
 Thanks people! It gives me a great base to start looking!
  • 2 0
 Specialized Tahoe with Time atac DH.
  • 1 0
 The older Shimano DX shoes with Shimano PD-M647s. This combo has lasted me for many seasons, although the shoes can get hot in the summer and aren't the lightest.
  • 3 0
 mallets and mavic alpines- went for the mavics as they have a decent grippy tread pattern on the sole, essential for year round uk riding
  • 1 0
 I ride Crank Brothers Mallet 1 pedals before they got all cheap and plastic and i just retired a pair of 661 filter shoes and switched to five tens Maltese Falcon shoes. I have three or so rides on the Maltese Ffalcon and like them so far, i like the strap design a billion times better than the 661 filter shoe
  • 3 0
 Mavic Alpine XL and Time ATAC. Need some grip for the NorthWet as well as mud clearance on the pedals. The shoes are ugly but fit like a glove and are stiff enough for pedaling but comfortable enough for walking. I actually like the added bonus of no ratchet. Nothing to break and ratchets from Mavic are unicorns.
  • 1 0
 I'm really a big fan of Northwave Drifter GTX. Comfortable, weather proof, OK when it's hot and you can walk in them too. Unfortunately they seem to be discontinued now, at least here in the UK. I've used spesh Tahoe in the past, and they were good but certainly prefer the Northwave for comfort and they seem more durable after a muddy winter or two. I use XT trail pedals, and had the normal Shimano SPDs for years before that. Shimano pedals are such good value that I wouldn't use anything else unless I needed more float or something.
  • 4 0
 I love my Shimano M162 SPD shoes. They're light and stiff enough for pedaling but at the same time they offer some protection and are not uncomfortable for walking. The only downside is that you may get cold feet at the winter but I guess you could use thermal socks or overshoes. I use them with Shimano XT trail pedals but you could always go for the cheaper M530 Trail pedals which are similar.
Keep in mind that my rides involve lots of climbing followed by singletrack descents. I love these shoes for this type of riding but I'm not sure if they'd suit someone who's more into DH. Btw I bought them one (european) size larger than my Five-Tens and fit is spot on.
  • 2 3
 Teva crank mids with nukeproof flats - love it
  • 1 1
 I just ride in VANS LXV1. They've a pretty stiff sole, and aren't ridiculously expensive like other shoes.
  • 2 0
 Just moved to Specialized (Leanne) Rimes after 18 months of wearing Alpine XLs. Really like them so far. Only downside to them is clipping in on XT trail pedals is not as clean and easy as the Alpines XL shoes. On DX spd they seem much easier.
  • 2 0
 Mavic crossmax or alpine XL shoes and Time Z-strong pedals. Better to start well than regret switching to clip less cause of shitty equipment.
  • 1 0
 mavic alpine XL and M530 pedals, i just made the change from flats using tioga flat pedals and the change hasn´t been any problem, when switching from flats, set the in/out force adjustment to the minimum and then start to rise it. you´ll be riding very well on your clips in no time
  • 1 0
 510 Cyclones and Mallet 1's on the AM/Super D rig.

Nukeproof Flats and 510 Impacts on the DH rig.
  • 3 2
 510impact shoes and VP components VP-007 flats with 10 pins each side. They stick together so well that I can pull a pedal all the way up while stopping. There is also no way of any sliding a shoe on a pedal, so once I step in the only way to correct something is to step in again. Why no clips? Because it is very often when immediate and hard stepping on a ground saved me from crash.
  • 3 1
 Teva Pivot
  • 2 3
 normal shoes
  • 1 3
 Flip flop...
  • 1 0
 FiveTen Impacts and Spesh pedals. Well padded and comfy shoes even for walking around in (I wear 'em when wrenching at the shop), and the pedals are smooth spinning, have a pretty substantial platform for wide feet, and the replaceable pins are tall and grippy.
  • 1 7
flag injuryprone (May 17, 2014 at 7:16) (Below Threshold)
 fiveten impacts, nukeproof neutron flats, clips are gay
  • 4 2
 Barefoot
  • 1 0
 5.10 maltese falcons on mallet 3 pedals
  • 2 0
 Thanks again everyone, even those of you who prefer mirth to relevancy...!! It's looking like I will try some 510 Maltese Falcons since they are used by a significant number of people and either ATACs or Deore and see where we end up! Cheers!
  • 1 0
 +1 for Pivots
  • 4 0
 Meh, almost identical to the very well priced Shimano M088. Only problem with the Shimanos is the sole doesn't have sticky enough rubber for hike-a-bike up steep rock slabs etc.
  • 1 0
 The lack of a tacky tread pattern is why I leaned away from Shimano Shoes that had a rigid sole. I presently am using a Mavic show that rocks when it comes to traction on slick rock, but stiff enough to distribute power. I may look at Bonty when the Mavic shoes die...
  • 1 0
 Im on second pair(alot of miles each) of those shimanos via warranty, same seam keeps ripping on inside arch of both shoes. Well, $90ish for two pairs ain't bad tho.
  • 4 0
 there was a time BITD when a shoe like this would have been ridiculed and laughed off the front page of Pinkbike. oh the times have changed. so XC, so Enduro, so mainstream
  • 3 1
 I like these shoes, my am45s work fine but I like the velcro and buckle upper that's reasonably ventilated, my am45s have to be cranked down to fit snugly and they're brutally hot
  • 5 1
 Mavic Alpine XL or Crossmax all the way.... I've been using crossmaxes for 2 months and can't be happier about shoes Smile
  • 1 0
 Previous models of this shoe are very nice. Sidi's fit my feet very well, and these are a little wider than than them and *very* comfortable. Only reco would be to run the toe spikes, even if you don't think you need them. Those toe treads would wear out on one trip to moab. As for the previous model buckle (with two small adjustment clickers); yeah they break if you look at a rock funny, mind have been replaced with what's in the pic and they're running great. FWIW I ride in SoCal and do quite a bit of HAB for various reasons.
  • 1 0
 I can attest to this shoe being great, BUT... and a huge BUT! There's a critical design flaw. I've snapped the arm on the ratchet TWICE on two fairly new pairs. First pair was 2 months old, second was only 6 weeks. My LBS has replaced them and admitted that there's obviously a design flaw. The plastic used to make the arm which pivots when tightening is made from a fairly soft compound. It will just snap upon tightening. Disappointing as they're beautiful shoes, and were pretty comfortable.
  • 4 2
 I went through 3 pairs of Bonteager RLs in a year. They just don't last, and the buckle system is too exposed and breaks easily.
  • 1 0
 Curious, how many miles/kilos in that year?
  • 3 0
 then why do you keep buying them???
  • 1 0
 macross: not a ton... say 15 miles/week x 52 = 780 miles as a rough estimate. I normally ride pretty rocky, techy stuff though, and these shoes were clearly a roadie's mtn bike shoe.

retardo: I don't keep buying them. Bontrager kept replacing them for me. They made some small tweaks on the buckle of the last pair, but it just failed differently. The lever snapped off in my fingers instead of catching on a rock! The pair I had the longest (~8 months) was literally falling apart, seams were ripping, velcro straps were dead, rachet strap broke... you name it.
  • 2 0
 Having similar experiences with RL. Quite comfortable, but buckles are a bit....fragile :/
  • 1 0
 I use the giro terraduro shoes with xt trail pedals best combo I've ever riden. The shoes are amazing stiff pedaling with flexibility and the vibram sole gives me great traction when I have to hike
  • 4 2
 Mavic Alpine XL is only a $100 vs $160 for these. I'm enjoying them ( the Mavic that is ).
  • 1 2
 nah, trail all the hype!
  • 1 0
 Also running a set of Mavic, the Pulse though. I love then to death! The stick tread pattern is great on wet rock and then seem to vent really well in the Texas heat.
  • 1 0
 Yeah well i dont like the lace system on the alpine xl
  • 2 0
 my choice Shoes : #1. Mavic Alpine XL #2. Shimano AM45 #3. Maltese Falcon | Pedals - Time Attack or Shimano SPD
  • 1 0
 Just picked up some Sidi Dominator 5s to go into my XTR Trails..$$$

before that I was running the 100$ shimanos and they worked well
  • 1 0
 I prefer shoes. That look like shoes. Not some hi teck science experiment. Probably great for Enduro.....what ever that is.
  • 1 0
 48 = 13.5, not 14.5. Yet another shoe that doesn't fit...
  • 2 0
 You have a problem...easy cut your toes it heal fast
  • 1 0
 Maltease lt with cbdh
  • 2 2
 BumbleBee
  • 1 3
 spcialized sawpit
  • 2 5
 Nice Mavic shoes.
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