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Verdict: 
Very expensive, but the mouldable carbon sole delivers superb comfort
Weight: 
686g

Australian company Bont has made a name for itself over the years with its distinctive custom-mouldable carbon shoes, but most of its focus has been on the road market. Its new Vaypor G shoes aim to change that, with the G standing for gravel – although, as I've found through several months of testing, they are ideal for everything from mountain biking to cyclo-cross racing.

  • Pros: Comfort, mouldable sole, very stiff for excellent power transfer
  • Cons: Very expensive, not easy to walk in (bearing in mind their off-road purpose)

The Vaypor Gs are in essence an off-road version of the Vaypor S shoes we tested a couple of years ago, swapping the smooth sole and three-hole cleat drilling for an aggressive rubber tread and two-hole cleat compatibility. It brings all that performance from the road shoe to the off-road market, with a clear eye on the most demanding gravel riders and racers out there.

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I'm not sure how a shoe can be gravel-specific, but the demands of gravel riding are, in my opinion, pretty much the same as for cross-country mountain biking and cyclo-cross riding and racing. They need to be stiff, light and comfortable, with easy fit adjustment. The Vaypor Gs offer all of that, along with a heat-mouldable, carbon, tub-shaped sole for personalising the fit.

A unidirectional carbon fibre sole ensures massive stiffness. These things don't give one single bit. That means incredible power transfer, and for more performance-focused riding and racing, that's a very good asset to have. You can stamp as hard as you like on the pedals, whether out of the starting blocks of a cyclo-cross race or tackling a steep wall of a climb on a gravel bike, and there's no fear you're losing precious watts to a flexible sole.

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You don't want to be walking very far in them, but for short stints of running in a cyclo-cross race or hefting a bike over fallen trees, they're adequate. That treaded sole gives plenty of traction when walking in the mud and they're impressively grippy on a range of surfaces. They also clear mud well – ideal if you're on and off the bike a lot during a race or ride. Usefully, some sections of the tread are replaceable should you damage or wear them out.

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There are additional stud mounts at the front if you want to really ramp up the grip, a no-brainer for muddy cyclo-cross races but probably less essential for adventure and gravel riding. There's also a useful rubber bumper at the front so you can really kick the ground and other obstacles and they won't immediately fall apart.

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The two-hole cleat drilling is standard fare for mountain bike shoes, with markers to help line up left and right cleats, and plenty of fore-aft range to accommodate most extreme cleat positions. One word on setting up the shoes: the stack height is quite low (3.6mm) and I had to slightly lower my saddle height, so that's something to be aware of.

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Those are the key changes from the road-based Vaypor S shoes. The rest of the shoe is essentially the same, and that's no bad thing – it's a really good design. The upper is made from a Durolite synthetic upper that I've found to be very durable and washes easily after muddy rides. There are lots of ventilation holes around the front that will probably be great in the summer, but in the winter they just let in all the cold air. Water also gets into the shoes pretty easily as well, so some sort of waterproof sock is a good idea if it's wet out.

The closure system comprises two Boa IP1 dials, one that pulls a cord across the middle of the foot, and one near the ankle that pulls the central flap over the tongue. It's a comfortable arrangement and one that spreads pressure evenly across the top of the foot, and the dials are easy to use: clockwise to tighten, and pull out to release.

A word on Boa dial durability... I've never had any issues with Boa dials on off-road shoes and I've been using them for mountain bike and cyclo-cross rides for years, right back to when they became a thing, so I don't really share the concerns that some people have with Boa dials on an off-road shoe. You can repair and replace the dials should you come into any trouble.

Heat treat

The big USP of these shoes is the heat-mouldable carbon sole. Unlike other shoes, the soles form a tub shape, extending up around the sides of your feet. You can wear the shoes right out of the box and you might find the comfort agreeable; I actually found the fit and shape okay for a few rides without heating up the carbon.

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But you're going to buy these shoes principally because you can customise the fit. To do that involves simply popping the shoes, minus inner sole and cleats, into an oven at 70°C for 20 minutes, taking them out and, with the insoles and your feet inside, moulding the slightly softened carbon sole to the shape of your feet. You can repeat this process as many times as you like, so no worries if you don't nail it the first time.

You can view more info and a handy video on the Bont website for going through the heat moulding process.

The difference between the before and after fit is quite noticeable. They were good before, they were fantastic afterwards. The fit around the foot is snug without sandwiching your feet too much, and there's generous width and volume in the toe box. I found I could leave the closure system reasonably loose for leisurely rides, the fit is that good, and the heel cup keeps your feet firmly locked into place.

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When you're racing you can really lock the dials down without ramping up the pressure or fearing any pinch-points.

The shape of the shoe is quite different to ones I've tested from Shimano, Fizik, Giro and others. The front of the shoe is much wider and flatter and does look a bit odd when you look down at them when pedalling along, but it never felt like there was a lack of support for my average shaped and sized toes and feet. The support around the toe area and midfoot was very good; my feet didn't slide about and there was no heel lift.

Conclusion

The stiffness is the most noticeable aspect of these shoes. It's a boon for the demands of a cyclo-cross race, and it really feels like you're getting an extra advantage at the pedals, even if it's probably only psychological.

Fortunately, that massive stiffness doesn't translate into discomfort on longer rides when you're not putting out massive power. Where that stiffness is a problem is off the bike – you wouldn't want to have to spend much time walking in these shoes, and that may dictate whether they're a good choice for you.

> off-road.cc's buyer's guide to mountain bike and gravel shoes

The mouldable carbon sole delivers a tailored fit and the upper, with its twin Boa dials, is comfortable and well ventilated for warmer rides. Durability has so far impressed; I've clattered and battered these shoes over my local trails for months and they are showing no signs of wear. They also clean up easily and dry out quickly after mucky rides.

That just leaves the price tag, which is definitely at the high end of the scale, though only £20 more than Specialized's S-Works Recons with their semi-customisable but not heat-mouldable insoles. The custom-mouldable tech is the Bonts' key selling feature and might be a benefit to you if you don't get on with regular shoes. And if you want the stiffest carbon shoe, there are few rivals.

Verdict

Very expensive, but the mouldable carbon sole delivers superb comfort

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Bont Vaypor G

Size tested: 45

Tell us what the product is for

Bont says, "The Vaypor G brings to Gravel riding Bont Cycling's industry leading carbon technology and biomechanical efficiency. Our latest flagship shoe sets new standards for those with a passion for dirt."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Bont:

Material Unidirectional carbon monocoque chassis with Durolite upper and faux seude leather liner

Stack Height 3.6 mm

Air Vents Frontal area and tongue air vents

Innersole EVA thermo-moldable

Sole Guards Replaceable

Padding Memory Foam

Cleat Mounting MM grid plus grip / SPD compatible

Fit Customization Fully Heat Moldable Chassis utilizing Epoxy Thermoset Resin

Closing Options Dual dial retention system with Kevlar wiring

Sizing Options Stock, Wide & Narrow Fit, Full Custom

Color Options Black/Black, Black/Red

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for fit:
 
8/10
Rate the product for sizing:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the product for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

They're pricey, but if you want custom-mouldable shoes there are few options on the market now. Specialized's S-Works Recons are £20 cheaper, with their semi-customisable Body Geometry insoles. You can certainly get very good shoes for a lot less cash, though.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

They're very easy to look after and keep clean.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Provide supreme stiffness and comfort for off-road riding.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Moulding the carbon sole to get a perfect fit.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

High price tag. Let cold air and water in too easily.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

While they are expensive, the Bonts are the only shoes we know of that provide a custom-mouldable sole, allowing you to really perfect the fit, which goes some way to justifying the high price.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.