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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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)
You might want a stiffer sole for racing.
The uppers in particular are showing few signs of wear.
Worth emphasising that this is a slightly wider fit, which is either a plus or a minus depending on your feet.
576g is pretty good at this price.
The wide fitting disclaimer again applies.
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.
About the tester
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,