(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.
|Bontrager'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|
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