If, like many cyclists, you’re spending more and more time venturing off the tarmac and on to the less beaten path, you’ll soon realise that a dedicated road shoe isn’t necessarily the ideal footwear. At some point you’ll inevitably need to dismount, to find that carbon soles and rocky surfaces aren’t a particularly good combination.
So, what if you want to combine a shoe that’s stiff enough for road use but with enough practicality for more adventurous riding? Step forward the Bontrager Cambion.
These combine a carbon/fiberglass hybrid sole with a stiffness index of 12 on Bontrager’s 14-point scale, onto which are bonded large pieces of abrasion-resistant Tachyon rubber, complete with bladed studs on the forefoot and heel that provide a decent grip for walking. There is also provision for toe studs should you want to use them for cyclocross, where running is an important aspect.
The upper is based on Bontrager’s top-flight XXX shoes, and features a hexagonal gridded perforated heel cup that’s lined with non-slip padding. This combines with the stiff sole to give a superbly secure fit, and even over the roughest of surfaces we suffered no lateral twisting or slip.
Boa’s dual-adjustment IP1 is one of the finest retention systems around, making it easy to get the fit just right and to make adjustments on the fly. The additional Velcro toe strap felt less critical, though the Cambion’s generous toe box means you may find it useful if you have slimmer feet.
The toe is well protected by what Bontrager calls ‘Gnar Guard’, a tough nylon bonded cover over the toe and instep. Leaving aside the dubious merit of the name, it’s effective, doing a good job of protecting the Cambions from scuffs.
The result is an excellent shoe that balances comfort and stiffness well, and at 696g for a pair of 45s they aren’t that heavy when you consider the toughness and protection they offer. Great off-road – and you don’t feel compromised on it.