I have been riding trail-specific clipless shoes for the better part of my riding career and appreciate the newer offerings that incorporate a well armored shoe into a package that doesn’t look like a set of XC carbon slippers. The Bontrager Rally rides that line very nicely combining a very nice aesthetic with the technical features already mentioned.
The upper is not overly stiff, it’s a little bit stiffer than the Fiveten Freerider but does not have as firm a structure as the Specialized 2FO. The shank is especially compliant and does not restrict walking at all. For those of you that are really looking for every single watt of power transfer, these may not be the shoes for you as they’re not overly stiff. However, if you suffer from foot fatigue in long descents, their compliant sole will help increase comfort walking and riding. These are in the Goldilocks zone of comfort and pedaling efficiency in my book.
Protection is good but not the best out there right now. The toe box is protected from heavy scuffs thanks to GnarGuard but I did feel the impact of some larger rocks that bounced up. The exposed EVA on the sides proved to be the only issue with the shoe. After lots of hard riding in the desert, it had started to show some significant scuffs and wear. If you don’t ride in deep, grooved desert trails where shoes are commonly dragging along rocks, I doubt this would be as much of an issue. Pedal entry was outstanding, the channeling works great, and if you find yourself clipped out for a dab, the Bontrager Rally has the best grip of any shoe I have tested on a medium platform clip pedal when not clipped in.
I also found the fit to be right on. I wear a 9.5 or 43 Euro and the Rally felt perfect, if not just a touch wide right out of the box. I threw them on for an entire week of heavy riding and developed no hot spots or blisters, with my first ride being a 4-hour mission. I have a narrow foot and was able to find a nice tightness with the lace and strap system after the first day of break-in. Breathability was good with venting in the toe box and sides of the shoes. Not once did I feel like my socks were sweaty, but I also never got cold feet while riding in cooler temps.
The Wolf’s Last Word
If you want a set of clipless shoes that feel as good off the bike as on, try the Bontrager Rally. Fit, performance, and style are all just a mark above most shoes I’ve tried. They could use a little bit more protection, but overall, these shoes offer a whole lot in an understated package. If you’re a watt-cruncher, the sole may not be stiff enough for you, however for everyone else, they’re some of the best-looking and most comfortable shoes I’ve ridden.