Review: Bontrager Rhythm SPD Shoes

by
May 22, 2017

bontrager rhythm trail spd shoe cleat

The unique-looking Rhythm SPD shoes are tough, grippy and well-armoured. Wil gives us his review of Bontrager's latest SPD trail kicks

Brand:
Bontrager
Product:
Rhythm Shoes
From:
Trek Bikes, trekbikes.com
Price:
£139
Tested:
by Wil Barrett for 5 months

In Issue #111 of Singletrack Magazine, Wil gave us his thoughts on some spangly SPD shoes from Bontrager.

One of the best trends of the past few years has been the ruggedisation of clipless mountain bike shoes. Contrary to yesteryear’s delicate tap-dancing slippers and their fake tread blocks made from hard plastic, modern clipless shoes are burlier, more protective, and sensibly adorned with grippy rubber soles. Case in point; the Bontrager Rhythm shoe.

bontrager rhythm trail spd shoe cleat
The Rhythm is a newer model from Bontrager, and it’s built for trail riders who use SPD pedals.

Bontrager recently relaunched the Rhythm shoe with a ground-up redesign. It’s still billed as a comfortable trail shoe like the Bontrager Cambion shoes I’ve previously ridden and reviewed, but it’s been amped up with a few more bells and whistles.

bontrager rhythm trail spd shoe cleat
With a single BOA IP-1 dial, the Rhythm shoes are designed to be easy to adjust both on and off the bike.

The Rhythm is designed for use with clipless pedals, and so it’s built with a carbon-reinforced nylon shank for stiff pedalling performance. There’s a BOA IP1 dial for making quick adjustments while in the saddle, and the upper is reinforced with the sweet-sounding GnarGuard to protect your tootsies when it all goes tits-up.

The Rhythm shoe is available in Orange/Black and Black/Gum colours, and you can have it in whole sizes from 39 through to 48. There’s even a low volume women’s version called the Tario.

bontrager rhythm trail spd shoe cleat
The Rhythm shoe can be had in a Black/Gum colour, or the Black/Orange colour we’ve got here.

As a shoe brand, Bontrager doesn’t really do the skate style. Instead, the Rhythm takes its inspiration from cross-country race shoes like the Cambion. The result is a firm-feeling shoe with a relatively slim profile overall, which means you can wear overshoes if needed. And thanks to the BOA dial, I could still adjust the tension even with a waterproof overshoe on top. As a result, the Rhythms have copped a hiding over the winter season.

bontrager rhythm trail spd shoe cleat
The toe box is nice and stiff, with external armouring from the ‘Gnar Guard’.

In terms of sizing, Bontrager shoes sit on the wider side of the spectrum alongside Specialized. They feature a blunt toe box that offers plenty of wiggle room, and overall they’re a touch wider than a Shimano or Giro equivalent. For our medium-footed testers, the Rhythm fitted like the proverbial glove. For my narrow feet, however, I found them to be a two-sock affair. Fine in the colder seasons, but less than ideal in summer.

bontrager rhythm giant trance calderdale
The stiff composite reinforced soles deliver masses of stiffness over the pedal body.

In use, the Rhythm delivers excellent power transfer whether you’re running tiny, lightweight cross-country pedals or broad platform clip pedals. Although they’re only rated as 7/14 on the stiffness index (who governs this shoe-stiffness board anyway?), the Rhythm is damn stiff in the real world, even after being broken in. In fact, some added flex would be appreciated for off-the-bike excursions, as the rubber lugs are plenty grippy when tackling wet stiles and uphill scrambles. Although some may be put off by the fetishist pimpled look, the GnarGuard provides excellent protection around the toe box and the outside of the forefoot. The reinforced heel cup is sturdy, and there’s loads of protection there too. I also really like the added ankle protection, which is comfortable and effective, but low profile enough to avoid crank rub.

While effective at shrugging off rock strikes and toe-stubbing incidents, the added protection comes at a price. Compared to my current favourite trail shoe, the Shimano ME7, the Bontrager Rhythms are over 100g heavier per shoe. For a pair of 45s without cleats, the Rhythms weigh in at 1.06kg for the pair, which is noticeable to me on longer trail rides.

bontrager rhytm giant trance
With solid armouring around the shoe body, the Rhythms are a tough all-mountain SPD shoe.

Overall

The unique looks might put off some, and they are relatively heavy, but the Rhythms are comfortable and thoroughly well protected trail riding shoes.

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