Bont's Helix shoes are as stiff as previous models and they're built to the same high standards, but although the new around-the-foot retention system is innovative, the single Boa closure doesn't give you the options of a double dial system.
Let's take a look at the retention system first because that's the major talking point here. The Helix uses a Boa IP1 dial, a tried and tested closure that works amazingly well. You see it all over the place these days; click the dial one way to tighten the Kevlar lace, turn it the other way to loosen it, and pull it upwards to let off the tension completely. It's easy to operate one-handed from the saddle.
What's different here is that the lace surrounds the whole of your foot. It goes into the carbon sole and out on the other side. One end of the lace goes from the dial towards the heel, then underneath the shoe and up on to the bridge of your foot; the other one goes underneath, around the ball of your foot, and then up to the area just behind your toes. It's one long loop.
Why? Bont says, 'Continuous wiring spreads the load for a secure hold without localised pressure points. Cable routing wraps around and under the chassis for a wide, even anchor point.'
That's certainly true. My comment would be that although I guess some people will like the simplicity of a single Boa single dial closure, it doesn't give you as much control over lace tension in different areas as a double closure system, such as you get on Bont's other shoes.
If you have a slim forefoot and a tall bridge, for example, you can adjust two different dials accordingly – the lower one tightened up, the upper one less so. With a single dial you have to compromise. Don't get me wrong, I found the Helix's fit adjustment to be good... just not as good as that of the Vaypor S, for instance.
These shoes boast all of the features that Bont has become known for over recent years. First up, there's the bathtub-shaped chassis (or 'sole' to you and me) that's made of unidirectional carbon fibre from Toray. It bends up around the sides of your foot, especially towards the rear where it extends to about 70 per cent of the height of the shoe.
That chassis is heat mouldable as many times as you like, so if there are any tight spots you can heat up the shoes in your oven and push the sides out until the fit is right (the EVA innersole is thermo-mouldable too). Shaped properly, the sides of the chassis provide extra support to help prevent your foot over pronating (falling inwards) or supinating (dropping outwards).
One of the main reasons why you might consider these shoes is because of Bont's last which determines the overall shape. Essentially, it's a cycle-specific last that's designed to be closer to the shape of a foot than others out there. I get on really well with Bont shoes because of this. Many people find that with Bonts, their toes aren't squashed together like they usually are, leading to improved comfort while pedalling. You also get a 'medial longitudinal arch support' – you can see that the chassis is shaped on the instep – to prevent over pronation and all of the problems that can result from that.
The chassis is incredibly stiff and the extended heel cup holds everything firmly in position to add plenty of stability, even when you're sprinting. A TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) toe protector helps prevent damage up front when you walk to and from the bike while a replaceable heel pad does a similar job at the back.
Bont uses a proprietary material sandwiched in the upper to prevent stretch – there's absolutely none – and memory foam in the tongue and around the opening to provide comfort without retaining sweat or rainwater. The lining is faux suede while the outer layer is Durolite (as it is on the Vaypor S), a composite material that's very hardwearing. I can tell you that for sure. It might look a bit scuffed after a scrape along the tarmac but it'll probably survive.
Vents over the toes let fresh air in and moist air out, although if hot, sweaty feet is a particular issue for you there are certainly more breathable shoes out there.
Three hundred quid plus is, of course, a lot of money to spend on a pair of bike shoes, although the Scott Road RC Ultimate shoes that we reviewed recently were a little more expensive than these. I'd actually be willing to spend a lot on shoes because they're so important to both comfort and, ultimately, performance (you're not going to do your best if you're riding with hot spots, for example). Also bear in mind that making Bont Helix shoes is a labour-intensive process involving high-quality materials.
Overall, the Helix shoes offer many excellent features and they're built to Bont's distinctive shape which will win them many fans, but although the under-the-sole cable routing can help to avoid pressure points, the single dial closure does mean you have less opportunity to fine-tune the fit than with a dual dial system.
Stiff and lightweight shoes made to Bont's usual high standards, although new closure system has both pros and cons
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bont Helix
Size tested: 46 white/charcoal
Tell us what the product is for
These are lightweight and stiff shoes for the road.
Bont says, "Introducing Helix, the new standard in performance footwear. Bont Cycling's race-proven anatomic fit is now even further enhanced by a newly reimagined closure system. Experience performance and comfort without compromise like never before."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Bont lists these features:
Material: Unidirectional Carbon Monocoque Chassis with Durolite upper
Stack Height: 3.6 mm
Air Vents: Ventilation via air vents on front bumper and perforated upper
Innersole: EVA thermo-mouldable
Sole Guards: Replaceable
Padding: Memory Foam
Cleat Mounting: MM grid plus grip / 3 Hole Look Configuration
Fit Customisation: Fully Heat Mouldable Chassis utilising Epoxy Thermoset Resin
Closing Options: BOA IP1 Dual Dial Retention System with Kevlar wiring
Bont's production standards are very high and the materials used are second to none.
Very good, although I didn't find the fit adjustment quite as good as on the Vaypor S.
These are tougher than you might expect. The Durolite upper stands up to scrapes well and the carbon sole is reasonably well protected when you walk, although you'd want to keep that to a minimum.
Considering the amount of support and the stiffness you get here, the weight is very low.
I didn't find these quite as comfortable as the Vaypor S because I couldn't adjust the fit as precisely, but they're still very comfy.
Tricky one! Yes, you have to pay a lot of money, but the materials, build quality and performance are high. I don't begrudge paying a lot for good shoes because they're so important to your enjoyment and performance.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They're superbly stiff and very light.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The shape of the last and the ultra-stiff sole.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I like the idea used here to bring the two sides of the shoe together, but in practice I get on better with the dual dial system of the Vaypor S.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I'd buy the Bont Vaypor S in preference to these.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I think that these shoes have gained something in the new under-the-sole cable routing, but that they've also lost something in the shift to a single Boa closure as opposed to a double Boa system. That's why I've scored them an 8 overall, as opposed to the 9 awarded to the Vaypor S.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.