First published in Singletrack Magazine issue 96
For years now I’ve opted to ride in a cross-country style shoe that gave me excellent power transfer, rather than the more relaxed recreational or skate shoe.
I’ve always had the urge to pedal up as much as possible, only getting off to push when there were absolutely no other options. Then seemingly overnight I started to look at trails from a different perspective, and sessioning became a regular part of a ride; it was almost like the moment you realise olives are OK.
This put me in the market for some new footwear, that would make hiking up a little more comfortable without losing all of the power transfer I was used to.
The Rhythm is built around a reinforced nylon sole that has been designed to flex just enough to make walking comfortable. There is a spacious toe box and a decent-sized vent on the outer edge. My feet didn’t overheat during the British summer and the roomy toe area made it possible to wiggle my tootsies easily. During some cold, wet wintery rides I did get icy feet. This could have been avoided by wearing some thicker winter socks or even waterproof ones.
Bontrager’s shoe designers have placed a good amount of abrasion-resistant material on the shoe to protect from those inevitable rock strikes – around the front, in areas on the sides and around the heel. This has worked well and there is little sign of wear and tear.
Keeping your feet in place are three straps: two offset Velcro and one wide ratchet that benefits from a micro-adjuster buckle which allows you to release the strap half an increment at a time. When my feet swelled slightly in summer, it was a nice feature to fine-tune the fit, although it was a little awkward to use on the fly with gloves on. Having a roomy toe box and long straps does mean that the Rhythms will easily accommodate a variety of foot shapes.
The neon rubber sole provides plenty of bite on muddy and/or grassy trails, due to having quite well-spaced tread around the cleat area that is nicely angled to the heel. They are also surprisingly good over rocky terrain, and there are spike attachment points if you fancy using them for a bit of ’cross racing as well, although I haven’t used that feature.
Fitting the cleats was easy, with plenty of room inside the tread recess to clip in and out. Bontrager has thought about those riders who are used to riding on flats and like to have their feet positioned slightly further forward; I have my cleats set further back for better control on the steeper trails.
I’ve used the Rhythms in as many situations as possible – local pub rides, long cross-country rides and enduro racing. They have been remarkably good in all areas of riding. Because the Rhythms err on the side of cross-country, they dry far quicker than any skate-style or leisure shoe, with lashes of insulation; even after months of use they are holding off any nasty smells.
The insole has a performance feel to it too, giving a good amount of arch support; and it is easily removed to further reduce drying time. Small features can make a big difference in footwear – the tongue of a shoe might seem insignificant but there is nothing more irritating if it moves when out on a ride. The Rhythm’s tongue is rubber-like on the outside with a soft inner; it has vent holes the entire length and it really moulds around the top of your feet.
The Rhythm is a well-designed bit of footwear that has proved itself as a shoe with good power transfer, comfort and longevity. It’s well worth considering as an all-round mountain bike shoe that is capable of the crossover to enduro race shoe.
|From:||Trek UK, bontrager.com|
|Tested:||by Richard for Seven months.|