Since conquering the Tour de France with Bradley Wiggins in 2012, Bont have focused on a different sort of mountain climbing with their Vaypor XC shoe.
The upper is unchanged from the road version, but the off-road/cyclocross model’s carbon ‘tub’ has a number of additions, and weight for our size 45s increases to 795g.
Seven small mesh vents in the toe protector aid cooling on dry days but are easily blocked by mud, the perforated top of the toe-box faring better in the sticky stuff.
Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) protector strips are fitted across each side of the forefoot to guard against the crank arm and passing obstructions. Harder wearing than rubber, the TPU bumpers shrug off abrasion effectively and are virtually unmarked after weeks of use.
Replaceable grippy rubber sections transform the sole, and a pair of toe studs can be fitted for extra bite. The two-bolt cleat-fixing slots are flanked by a pair of angular, grooved pontoons, and at the back is a generous star-shaped heel.
Between heel and cleat is a fixed rubber patch that provides purchase should you miss the pedal when remounting. The rubber is quite soft, gripping superbly, especially on hard surfaces where plastic soles slip, but a couple of rubber blocks on our shoes already show signs of splitting.
The heat-moulding process gives a great fit, and in a cyclocross race revolutionised the drive we could transmit when sprinting from the start line and out of low-speed corners. With road buzz not an issue off-road, comfort on the bike is excellent.
The main compromise of a totally stiff shoe is when you’re dismounted; the complete lack of flex requires the ratchet strap to be done up tightly to keep the foot in place, and running works the ankles harder than usual as there is no sole and little upper deformation. Soft ground helps the Vaypor grip, by giving where the shoe can’t, and studs are essential when running uphill.
Stony ground will scratch the unprotected carbon, and you may need to trim the ratchet strap, but for incredible security and power transfer, and an upper that sheds mud well, the Vaypor XCs are our favourite off-road race shoes.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.