While we all love to lust after uber-expensive bike gear, sometimes going for the top of the range isn’t always the most practical choice. I’m a big believer in setting one’s sights on the product just one step down from the flagship model. Deore XT is the perfect example. Thanks to trickle-down effect, you can often give you much of the same performance, but with much greater value, and often with a little more practicality to boot.
Take the new Cambion shoe from Bontrager. Released earlier this year, the Cambion is modelled on Bontrager’s flagship XXX carbon race shoe, but makes a few practical changes to come in 60 quid cheaper. It features the same fit as the XXX, and it still gets a carbon sole and grippy rubber tread blocks. But rather than two BOA dials, it has just one. And at 347gm per shoe, the Cambions are just 30 grams heavier for the pair. So is the performance really that different?
In essence, the Cambion replaces the previous RXL mountain bike shoe. Compared to its predecessor, the Cambion ditches the traditional buckle in favour of the snazzy BOA IP1 dial. This is a simple ratchet mechanism that makes adjustments super easy to perform out on the trail. Wind it one way to tension the cable, and wind it the other way to loosen the cable. The dial also has a quick release function to aide shoe removal. Just pull up on the dial till it ‘clicks’, and the tension cable is allowed to run free.
In use, I actually preferred the single BOA dial on the Cambions to the dual setup on the XXX shoe. You can definitely get a more fine-tuned fit with the XXX’s, but I like that you only have one dial to reach down to adjust as you’re cruising along the trail. On hotter rides where my feet would swell, a couple of clicks was all it took to ease the pressure. Also worth noting is that there is one less dial to be damaged whilst riding. Even then, the BOA dial has been placed higher up on the shoe so as to avoid being clipped by a rock or wayward tree branch.
Overall, the Cambions offer a very stable and secure fit. The upper is comfortable, but it’s not so flexible that it turns into a floppy mess when under pressure. There’s an anti-slip lining at the back, which combines with the perforated nylon heel cup to keep your feet snug inside the shoe. Even when reefing on the pedals on steep climbs, there was no slip and no twisting to be found.
Compared to the previous RXL shoes, the new Cambions are on the wider side, and they have a much roomier toe box. This allows for plenty of wiggle room and will suit most riers, but those with narrow feet might find themselves at the limit of the adjustments with the BOA dial.
Turn it up to 12!
Using a ‘Silver Series’ carbon fibre sole, the Cambion is equipped with plenty of stiffness underfoot. The shoes deliver wicked power transfer, and they provide plenty of stability over the top of small clipless pedals. Compared to the XXX shoes with their Stiffness Index of 14, the Cambions bring it down a couple of notches to 12. Unless you’re racing in the upper echelons, this is actually a good thing. They’re stiff, but they’re not so stiff that they break your feet on longer rides.
While there is plenty of rigidity to the Cambions, they’ve got just enough give to them to make walking around less of a nightmare. Combined with the soft and grippy Tachyon rubber tread blocks, the Cambions are a great trail riding shoe. They’re also ideally suited to gravel grinding and cyclocross racing.
Taking performance cues from the high-tech XXX shoe, Bontrager have added a dose of practicality to create a versatile option in the Cambion. They’re comfortable, easy to adjust, and they’re properly reinforced for stability under power. Combine that with the added scuff guards and grippy rubber tread, and the Cambions might just be the shoe for every occasion.
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for three months|