Specialized's Elite Road shoes sit sixth in the company's line-up and carry a value-laden price of just US$125 (£90). Even so, the overall fit is an admirable reproduction of the company's top-end S-Works model.
The last is similar and so are the supple upper materials. Key Body Geometry features have been carried over too, like the built-in forefoot wedge, generous arch support and specially shaped insole.
Key concessions include the conventional two-plus-one strap setup instead of a Boa reel, synthetic leather and open mesh panels in contrast to the S-Works' one-piece upper, and a glass-fiber-reinforced nylon plate instead of a true carbon fiber one.
Specialized rate the sole stiffness as 5/11 but initial impressions are much more favorable than that number would suggest – most riders won't notice much of a difference. Weight climbs about 85g per shoe to 655g per pair (size 43.5) but unless you're a diehard weight weenie, these look to be a great deal.
One of the key features of Specialized Body Geometry shoes is their generous arch support
We're also impressed with Specialized's new Propero II road helmet, which at $110 (£70) is a dead ringer for the $230 (£160) Prevail, with nearly identical styling, the same number of vents, a similar easy-to-operate retention system and comfy lightweight straps with fixed splitters for better ear clearance and faster adjustments.
It's just a smidge heavier – but still very lightweight – at 238g for our small-sized CPSC-approved test sample, the internal channeling isn't quite as deep so we expect a slight hit in venting performance, and the shell doesn't extend to the lower edge like on the Prevail. The two helmets are virtually indistinguishable in fit, though, and the single density foam already feels more durable. Given how we felt about the Prevail, this Propero II looks to be a winner already.
Styling on the Specialized Propero II is very similar to the Prevail model – in fact, one might argue that this one looks even better
Also coming across the BikeRadar desk this week is a pile of footwear and helmets from Trek's parts and accessories arm Bontrager. The latest flagship RXL MTB shoe boasts an updated inForm Pro last, which immediately offers a more uniformly snug and foot hugging fit than Bontrager shoes of years past. The heel hold is vastly improved, the midsection conforms more naturally to our feet and the more generously sized toe box leaves more breathing room than before.
Other features include a stiff carbon fiber plate with built-in arch support, a co-molded multi-density outsole with replaceable forefoot treads, a reinforced toe, Bontrager's Heel Trap clip for improved heel hold, a mesh-laden upper, heat moldeable insoles, an impressively smooth interior and a cleanly length-adjustable padded main strap anchored by a ratcheting half-step buckle. Weight for our test pair is 786g (size 43) and retail price is $274.99 (£179.99).
Bontrager's new RXL MTB shoes provide a much improved fit compared to earlier models
Bontrager use the same inForm Pro last on the RXL Road but switch to a "hand molded" Gold Series carbon outsole and a more minimal tread with replaceable heel pads. Pricing is the same as the off-road version but weight for a pair of size 42.5 samples is expectedly lighter at an impressive 532g with insoles.
Road riders on more of a budget but seeking a similar fit can look to the RL Road shoes instead, which use the same inForm Pro last but a Silver Series carbon outsole, a fixed-length ratcheting main strap, a non-heat moldable foot bed and a simpler heel cup that does without the Heel Trap metal clip. Actual weight is even lighter than the RXL model at 488g for a pair of size 43 samples, and the price is a more reasonable $179.99 (£129.99).
The Bontrager RL Road shoes offer the same refined inForm Pro fit as top-end models but at a much lower price
Also arriving from Bontrager are the latest Oracle road and Lithos mountain bike helmets. We sampled an early production Oracle several months ago but this latest version sports some minor changes to its carbon-fiber-enhanced outer shape plus a nicer set of interior pads boosted with silver to discourage microbial growth.
Otherwise, we expect the same impressive ventilation performance and comfortable fit, though time will tell once we get out on the road. Weight is still just average at 308g for our medium sample but the US retail price has dropped to a more appealing $179.99 – $20 cheaper than before. (UK RRP remains £129.99.)
Carbon fiber adds some visual appeal to the Bontrager Oracle road helmet while also allowing for bigger vents and deeper internal channels
The more trail-oriented Lithos prioritizes protection, with more coverage around the back of the head and a seemingly thicker EPS liner throughout. Vents are fewer in number than the Oracle but still amply sized with moderately deep interior channels for what looks to be reasonably good airflow.
The Micro-Manager retention system is a bit bulkier than the Oracle's Headmaster unit but still easy to operate with a single gloved hand and also height adjustable in three positions. Weight for our medium sample is a respectable 333g and retail price is $129.99 (£79.99).
The Lithos is Bontrager's top-end trail helmet with big, gaping vents and generous coverage