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review

Bontrager Foray Shoes

8
£129.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Comfortable, just stiff enough, broad of toe and green of colour shoes for backroad exploring
Comfortable
Versatile
Good-looking
Also come in black
Roomy toe box won't suit narrow feet
Weight: 
790g

The Bontrager Foray Shoes are well constructed, comfortable two-bolt shoes that are stiff enough to push pedals easily, but have enough give and grip for sections of hike-a-bike or just strolling around the shops. Though perhaps not ideal for actual mountain biking, they're excellent for gravel riding, touring and general riding – though they won't suit those with narrow feet.

Bontrager bills the Forays as mountain bike shoes, but they lack the sheer gnarliness of pure off-road footwear. They're more like the offspring of a three-way between a mountain bike shoe, a mid-range road cycling shoe and a modern version of a cycle touring shoe.

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You might not choose them to line up at the start of a cross-country race, but they work really well for trail and dirt-road riding, and they're fine for unhurried road riding too.

Bontrager Foray Mountain Shoe - heels.jpg

The Forays are solidly constructed from two pieces of moulded synthetic leather, plus the tongue. A single Boa dial pulls them closed, assisted by a Velcro strap across the front of your foot. The toe and heel areas are stiffened and protected by sections of rubber-coated material that Bontrager calls GnarGuard, and plenty of padding keeps those areas comfortable.

The whole lot is built on a fibre-reinforced nylon sole that achieves the awkward trick of having enough flex for walking while still being stiff enough for pedalling.

Bontrager Foray Mountain Shoe - sole heel.jpg

They've been comfortable for all the riding I've done recently, from blatting about the trails on my gravel bike, to days out on the road bike, to popping into town on the flat-bar Cube Editor I've been testing (full review to come).

I've used them with Crank Brothers Candy pedals and an ancient pair of its Acid pedals. Crank Brothers pedals can be very sensitive to the thickness of the sole around the cleat pocket, but no such problems here – I was able to clip in straight away and pop out easily.

Bontrager Foray Mountain Shoe - sole.jpg

The depth is just right, and there's plenty of material around the pocket for support so your feet don't rock or wobble.

I'm a big fan of Boa closures, so I've been pleased to see them appearing on cheaper shoes over the last few years. The dial is easily turned to snug the shoes around your feet, and just as easy to pop out to release. With the stiff upper fabric you get a broad, even band of pressure across the top of the foot that's comfy even if you tighten them quite hard.

Bontrager Foray Mountain Shoe - BOA dial.jpg

There's plenty of padding round your ankle for comfort, and it works. In particular, the stiff, dense padding under the tongue distributes pressure from the Boa wires which might otherwise dig into your feet.

The toebox is roomy and quite broad – it's very much an 'American' fit rather than an Italian one. There's plenty of space for the bunions that prevent me getting comfortable in some stiff, narrow shoes.

Bontrager Foray Mountain Shoe - toe.jpg

It does mean the fabric over the toes can ruck up a bit if you pull the Velcro strap very tight, but you can't feel it; it just looks a bit untidy. If you've got narrow feet you might not get on with this, and it seems some riders find the toe box too loose.

Walking around in the Forays I barely noticed I was in cycling shoes, aside from the occasional crunch of cleat on a stray pebble. Sure, they're quite stiff, but nowhere near as stiff as, say, carbon fibre road shoes.

Bontrager Foray Mountain Shoe - side.jpg

Not only is the rubber outsole nicely grippy, it's soft enough that it gives a little, so the Forays don't slam your feet with every step. You wouldn't want to hike up a mountain in them, but for pottering round the shops or walking to the cafe counter, they're fine.

> Best clipless gravel shoes you can buy - tried and tested for winter and summer riding

If you're forced to hoof it in cruddy conditions, there's a couple of shallow studs under your toes which could be removed and replaced with bigger grippers. Walking batters them a bit though; they're looking quite worn already, especially on my left, 'touchdown' foot.

Bontrager Foray Mountain Shoe - sole toe.jpg

The Forays are the same price as Bontrager's GR2 shoes that Mat tested recently, and those have laces rather than Boa dials. They're cheaper than the Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 however, though those are lighter and that's clearly what you're paying for – along with unusual, broad straps and again no Boa dial.

I've really come to like the Forays even though I'm a grouch who thinks cycling shoes should be Practical Black, along with saddles, bar tape and tyre rubber. (To be fair, you can get Forays in black, as well as a combo Bontrager calls Radioactive Yellow/Waterloo Blue.) They're comfortable for both walking and riding, durable, and very easy to live with.

Verdict

Comfortable, just stiff enough, broad of toe and green of colour shoes for backroad exploring

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Bontrager Foray Mountain Shoe

Size tested: 43

Tell us what the product is for

You can tell they're gravel shoes by the colour. The design and construction takes elements from mountain bike, touring and road racing shoes for an amalgam that's comfortable on and off the bike.

Bontrager says:

"Undeniably comfortable off-road cycling shoes featuring a BOA® L6 dial for a superior fit on rides of any length and intensity. No matter where or how you ride, these shoes won't quit thanks to a stiff sole with a durable upper with the added protection of GnarGuard for overall reliable trail shoes."

Well, yes, filter out the hype and that's all about right.

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

Bontrager lists these major features:

1 inForm Race offers a slightly roomier, high-performance fit

2 Nylon composite Bronze Series sole provides stiff yet walkable performance

3 A single BOA® L6 dial allows easy and precise fit adjustments

4 The Tachyon rubber outsole allows great grip in all terrains

5 Stiffness index 6 of 14

6 Durable, GnarGuard rubberised coating protects against abrasions and fights debris

7 Compatible with 2-bolt SPD-style cleats

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Beefy without being weighty, which is quite the feat (sorry).

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Mountain bikers will probably want something gnarlier, but for gravel and touring-style road cycling, they're great.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

Holding up well so far, and feel like they'll last ages.

Rate the product for fit:
 
8/10

Good for me, though some might find the toe box a bit roomy.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
8/10

Fit is just right for a shoe described as "roomier". It's not a super-snug racing fit, but not a spacious walking-boot fit either. There's certainly room for thicker socks, so you can look to the Forays as three-season shoes.

Rate the product for weight:
 
8/10

790g/pair compares favourably to the Specialized Recon 3.0 at 844g (though our test set of those was Mat Brett size 46) and the Shimano MT5s at 855g.

Rate the product for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

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

They're comfortable for riding and walking.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Comfort, Boa dials, looks.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

No major gripes.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

The Forays are the same price as Bontrager's GR2 shoes that Mat tested recently, and those have laces rather than Boa dials. They're cheaper than the Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 however, though those are lighter and that's clearly what you're paying for – along with unusual, broad straps and again no Boa dial.

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

These are very good shoes for touring-style riding and long days out exploring the lanes and dirt roads. They're not amazing in any particular department, but they've no significant flaws either, so long as the broad toe box suits you. A solid eight, then.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 53  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 100kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  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, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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