By Kevin Rouse
$275 / bontrager.com
To spare you my rambling, here's the nitty-gritty up front:
They are made by Bontrager.
They are indeed shoes.
They retail for $275.
They are super-comfy.
And, they do horrible things for keeping my shoe fetish in check.
Good, now that the important stuff is out of the way, let the rambling commence.
Oprah Winfrey once said, "My feet are still on the ground, I just wear better shoes."
Yes, I just quoted Oprah Winfrey--never mind how I know that--but it turns out I have Oprah to thank for more than my affinity for Moscow Mules (See: Oprah and Gayle's Big Yosemite Camping Adventure: Part One [Original Airdate: October 29, 2010]). I can now also thank her for a half-assed anecdote to help me sum up my first impressions on Bontrager's RXL cross-country shoe.
Lost yet? Well fret not; it appears I am too.
In the interest of fumbling my way back to the plotline, I must admit I'm in the favorable position of being able to test countless (ok, I can actually count them) pairs of shoes a year. In such a position it's easy to fall into the role of jaded critic. It's easy to forget the days spent trying to fuel a cycling habit on a college budget. It's easy to forget the red-tag, mega-clearance, everything-must-go, ill-sized, horrible-fitting body bags for your feet that I have purchased in the past.
But, to tell you the truth, I couldn't care less now. I'll never wear crappy shoes again. So, maybe my feet aren't exactly on the ground, but I do wear better shoes--and I'll never go back.
I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather spend money on good shoes than just about anything else--the second your feet get a taste of the good stuff, it's hard to go back. And, let's be real, an extra bit of cash spent on a nice pair of shoes will impact your quality-of-ride much more than those color-coordinated anodized stem bolts.
That's why I was pretty excited when the powers that be emailed me for my shoe size--always a sign of good things to come. When the Bontragers arrived, naturally I was distracted by their flashy good looks and surprisingly low price tag (this is their top-tier model after all). Not too long after though, looks and pricing were the last thing on my mind as I marveled at how comfortable they were. It shouldn't have been much of a surprise though. Sporting a host of comfort-enhancing features including heat-moldable insoles, a micro-adjust fit buckle and an adjustable heel cup, the RXL's offer plenty of options for fine-tuning their fit.
Also, for the price, the Bontrager's offer some pretty serious performance, balanced by sensible features such as replaceable forefoot thread and a 30-day unconditional comfort guarantee.
So far so good right? Indeed, these look to be some capable cross-country kicks but, in the past, we've noticed some durability issues with previous Bontrager models, so we're definitely keen to find out how the RXL's hold up for the long haul--which is why you'll likely see a long-term report in an upcoming issue of Bike. But for now, things are definitely looking--and feeling--good.