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review

Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoes

8
£129.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Comfortable and versatile all-rounders for all kinds of riding and all kinds of cleats
Boa dial for adjustment
Compatible with both two- and three-bolt cleats
Wide fit
Subtle and unsubtle colour options
No ratchet micro-release
Needs a separate mounting plate for SPDs
Weight: 
576g

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoes are comfortable and well constructed, and suitable for most types of sporty riding. They're compatible with both two- and three-bolt cleats and offer a relatively wide fit that will be ideal for some.

This latest version of the Circuit is billed as being 'the perfect choice for riders who want to tackle a variety of road rides without making their feet pay for it'. It's an everyday road riding shoe, in short. This means it seeks to strike a balance between comfort and performance. I'd say it's largely successful in that.

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Just as with previous incarnations, the Circuit is secured with a Boa dial and a Velcro strap. Higher-end shoes often feature a couple of Boa dials, but this one-dial arrangement still offers a neat and secure fit. I found that one foot did get a bit tingly on one ride, but this was really just from over-tightening and so easily resolved.

2021 Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoe - boa.jpg

A minor frustration is that the dials only adjust one way. There's no ratchet micro-release. If you need to loosen a smidge, you'll have to release the dial and then retighten.

The Circuit's updated upper is constructed from synthetic mesh and TPU with perforations to provide breathability. This proved comfortable over a five-hour ride, with a split tongue to dissipate pressure at the ankle also a welcome touch.

2021 Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoe - openings.jpg

In terms of breathability, there are visibly lighter, airier summer shoes out there, but with a mesh window under the toe box as well, things didn't feel too steamy even when temperatures were pushing 30 degrees.

2021 Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoe - toe.jpg

The shoe's 'Bronze Series' sole is 67% nylon and 20% glass fibre, with carbon fibre, TPU and metal rounding out the mix. The end result is something Bontrager says offers a stiffness of 7 out of 14 on its index. I don't know what the two ends of that scale represent exactly, but the shoes felt decently solid to me when I was putting my weight through them on steep climbs. You can find stiffer soles, but these aren't really being sold as all-out race shoes. I'd have liked more pronounced arch support, but this is an individual thing.

2021 Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoe - in step.jpg

Significantly, the shoes are suitable for both two and three-bolt cleat systems, which will be good news to road cycling fans of the SPD system. The necessary two-bolt mounting plate is, however, sold separately.

2021 Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoe - sole tow.jpg

In terms of fit, the 43 I tested was broadly equivalent in size to other cycling shoes I've worn. Broadly is the word, though, because Bontrager says the Circuit is designed to offer 'a slightly roomier, high-performance fit'. With my relatively wide feet, I was very happy with this. Others may not be.

> How to choose the best cycling shoes for you

Appearance-wise, the Nautical Navy/Radioactive Coral shoes on test provide a bit of a challenge if you're fussy about maintaining a coherent colour scheme in your attire. I neatly sidestepped this sartorial landmine with my tactic of giving up and not caring – but you could instead go for one of the other options, like 'Black' or 'White', say. 'Radioactive Red' and 'Radioactive Yellow' are also available. (It's not clear what precipitated all this radioactivity.)

2021 Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoe - side.jpg

Value

The price of the Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoes has climbed a little since we last reviewed them, but looking at some of the competition, they measure up fairly well.

Shimano's XC5 (XC501) SPD Shoes are arguably the standouts in this price bracket (okay, a tenner more). You could employ them for the same kind of sporty endurance riding for which the Bontragers are intended, but they aren't quite the same in that they're SPD-only shoes, with recessed cleats.

Decathlon's Van Rysel RR 900 Carbon Road Cycling Shoes, meanwhile, offer a more race-centric option with a carbon fibre sole for the same price.

> Buyer’s Guide: 24 of the best performance road cycling shoes 

Both of these feature a Boa dial, unlike many of the cheaper options, such as the Giro Techne shoes (£89.99) or the Bont Riot Buckles (£99).

At £99.99, the Specialized Torch 1.0 Road Shoes are a more affordable option with a Boa dial closure – but then, as with the Giros and the Bonts, they don't cater for SPDs.

Conclusion

Overall, the Bontrager Circuits have proven comfortable for long rides, fast rides, and leisurely rides, and seem hard to beat at this price point in terms of features and construction.

Verdict

Comfortable and versatile all-rounders for all kinds of riding and all kinds of cleats

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoes

Size tested: 43

Tell us what the product is for

Bontrager says they're "for riders who want to tackle a variety of road rides without making their feet pay for it".

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

Bontrager lists:

inForm Race offers a slightly roomier, high-performance fit

A single BOA® L6 dial for precision fit and easy micro-adjustments

A hook-and-loop toe strap allows adjustments for a better and more comfortable fit

Perforations on synthetic mesh and TPU uppers provide superior breathability

Nylon composite Bronze Series sole

Stiffness index: 7 of 14

Compatible with three-bolt and two-bolt (SPD-style) cleats (two-bolt mounting plate sold separately)

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

You might want a stiffer sole for racing.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

The uppers in particular are showing few signs of wear.

Rate the product for fit:
 
8/10

Worth emphasising that this is a slightly wider fit, which is either a plus or a minus depending on your feet.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight:
 
7/10

576g is pretty good at this price.

Rate the product for comfort:
 
9/10

The wide fitting disclaimer again applies.

Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

Good to see a Boa dial at this price, but you wouldn't call it a snip.

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

The uppers wipe down pleasingly well.

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

They're more geared towards comfort on longer rides than hard efforts – but stand up reasonably well for the latter too.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The Boa dial, the width in the toe box and the option of using SPDs.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The inability to fractionally loosen the Boa fitting without completely disengaging it and tightening again. And the need to get a separate mounting plate for SPDs.

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

Reasonably well without qualifying as a bargain.

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

They're really versatile shoes that don't especially suffer from attempting to deliver in many different ways.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 41  Height: 185  Weight: 77

I usually ride: Scott S40  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding,

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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