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The Ballista Road Shoe from Bontrager is a smart and sleek design that offers a very precise fit right the way around the foot. They don't have the stiffest sole on the market, but they offer a good all-round package for fast group rides or smashing out a sportive.
First of all, these specific shoes are a limited edition model that comes in this fluoro yellow colour, and the grey/black material you see around the rear is actually reflective for some added visibility in the dark. The standard models are available in red, white and black, but both the LTD and standard have the same RRP.
The first thing you'll no doubt notice about the Ballistas is that the retention system isn't like that on most race shoes. A single Boa dial has been placed on the heel, with the wire being run around the sides and then down the front of the shoe like normal.
It is actually a very good concept because, with the additional tension being placed around the side of the ankle, you get a fit that actually wraps around the foot rather than just pressure being applied above the tongue.
If aerodynamics are your thing then removing all of the closure system from the front of the shoe probably cleans up the airflow a bit, removing the need to wear Lycra overshoes in races or time trials, for instance.
If it's winter overshoes we're talking about, though, which are thicker and a little bit less stretchy, they can be a bit of a faff to fit over the Boa dial – especially if they use zips.
Breathability is good thanks to the number of venting holes on the front and sides of the shoes, and the upper is pliable enough to feel soft against the skin while still being tough enough to shake off the odd scuff and knock.
The tongue is well padded, especially at the top and there is plenty of comfort here too when the shoes are fully tightened.
The sole is a full carbon job and has a stiffness rating of 12 out of Bontrager's index of 14. All companies have different index levels, so on its own it's kind of a pointless number. What I can say is that the Ballistas offer a decent amount of stiffness for most riding, although when really putting the power down, in the saddle or out, I could detect some flex around the mid-sole, which was a bit disconcerting.
Price-wise, a penny under 200 quid isn't unheard of for this type of shoe: Boa system, full carbon sole and a build quality that looks and feels to be very high.
They are well made, and as I've said are very comfortable, but they are up against some stiff (if not stiff enough) opposition from the likes of Shimano with its RC701s, which come in at £169.99. They use a full Boa system and have a carbon fibre sole, although Steve did think that their stiffness could also be improved.
They are £20 cheaper than the Giro Sentrie Techlace shoes, though, which cost £219.99 and are quite a bit heavier than the Ballistas.
Overall, I like the Ballistas, especially in this limited edition colourway, and unless I'm really going out for a smashfest I'd happily wear them for a ride, long or short.
Great fit and very comfortable, though they lack a little stiffness in the sole for a race shoe
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Ballista Road Shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Bontrager says, "Everyday speed
The Ballista LTD Road Shoe is lightweight, aerodynamic, and super efficient - and it has a rear mount Boa System that provides incredible security for riders who want to get the most power out of every pedal stroke. This limited-edition shoe also comes in a high-visibility color with integrated reflective elements that can help you stand out on every ride."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Bontrager lists these details:
Hi-vis colorway and integrated reflectivity adds contrast to enhance visibility, day and night
inForm Pro last delivers an ergonomically optimized, high-performance fit
100% OCLV carbon sole is extremely lightweight and stiff for efficient power transfer
Heel-mounted Boa IP1 dial offers precise, two-way fit adjustments
Stiffness index 12 of 14
Streamlined, aerodynamic upper helps to reduce drag
No-sew, fused upper for lightweight construction
Heel Reel draws foot down and back to create a secure heel lock for a more efficient pedal stroke
Sizing across shoe brands fluctuates quite a bit. I normally wear a size EUR 45 in most, which matches my size 10UK, but I found the Bontragers a little bigger than most.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The high-vis upper does tend to mark quite easily but the majority of it wipes off.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great shoes across the board when it comes to fit and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great fit thanks to the Boa system.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slightly flexible sole.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They're £30 more than Shimano's RC701 shoes, and £20 less than Giro's Sentrie Techlace shoes.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No, I prefer a stiffer sole.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I'm wavering between 7 and 8: there is a lot to like here with the Ballistas' fit and performance for the price, but the sole isn't as stiff as I'd expect for this kind of shoe and money.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!