Editor’s Note: This test was conducted by Mtbr contributor Jeremy Kipp, who is the head mechanic at Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven in Crested Butte, Colorado. Kipp also has a penchant for riding his bike down really tall mountains.
What is it
The Bontrager Flatline Mountain Shoe is designed for use with flat pedals and features a Vibram rubber outsole and uniform tread pattern that’s directional at the toe and heel. The aim is to provide a consistent, predictable interface between pedal and outsole, while also enhancing traction during off-bike uphill or down. The Bontrager Flatline Mountain Shoe also has a shock absorbing EVA midsole and durable, synthetic leather upper. The shoes come in black (tested) or viper red, with sizes ranging from 36 to 48 and half sizes from 41.5 to 45.5. They ship with black and red laces. Our size 44 (equivalent to US11) test pair weighed 370g per shoe. Price is $130 and they are available on-line at www.trekbikes.com.
- Sticky — do great job staying put on the pedals
- Good stiffness for all-around trail riding
- Durable sole and upper show little to no signs of wear
- Comfortable and true to size fit
- Nice touches such as lace keeper and ergonomic tongue
- Not too thick, thus able to dry out within a day
- Reinforced toe box
- Not recommend for pure gravity riding — need thicker sole
- Are a little toasty in warm weather
- Not most comfortable shoe for extended hiking sessions
Riding flat pedals has made a strong comeback these last couple years. Better pedals and shoes have, in my opinion, made it viable for riders of all abilities to improve their skills and control on the bike. But just as a clipless pedal and shoe is an integrated system, the same is true for flat pedal riding. A flat pedal is only as good as the shoe it’s mated to and vice versa.
The Bontrager Flatline Mountain Shoe is aimed at all-around trail riding. The black version tested here look like a hybrid of the Giro Jacket and Five Ten Freerider Pro. Bontrager is not the first shoe that I’ve tried that has used Vibram rubber for their soles. The Giro Jacket and Riddance have it, as well as the old Teva Links. But Bontrager’s tread design differs from other shoes on the market. They utilize big square blocks versus the more popular dotted and skate tread-like designs.
Initially I questioned how the grip of these shoes would compare to the superb stickiness of my go-to Five Tens. But after the first ride those doubts dissipated. Indeed the Bontrager Flatline Mountain Shoe’s grip is quite impressive. Mated with my trusty DMR Vault pedals I never had any issues. They are on par with Five Ten’s Freerider Pro, providing that stuck-on-the-pedal feel without being too sticky where it’s hard to adjust foot position.
The sole itself is moderately stiff, comparable to the Freerider Pro and Riddance, but stiffer than the Giro Jacket or standard Freerider. Sole thickness is on par with the Riddance and Five Ten Impact VXI. The only option I’ve seen that beats the Bontrager Flatline Mountain Shoe in terms of overall grip, stiffness, and downhill performance is the new Five Ten Impact. But those aren’t really shoes the Flatline is trying to compete with. That said, if you’re looking for the best flat pedal shoe for pure gravity riding the Bontrager Flatline is probably not the shoe for you.
As for sole durability, it’s been one of the most impressive attributes of the Bontrager Flatline Mountain Shoe. After several months of testing, the undersides still look great and have shown no wear. There are also no signs of delamination or peeling around the sole. Indeed, these have been among the most durable flat pedal shoes I’ve ever ridden in.
Moving to fit and comfort, our test pair of size 44’s were true to size. That’s opposed to Giro shoes that tend to be a half size small for me, and Five Tens that are a half size big. Overall comfort was also quite good. The heel cup shape kept my heel and ankle in position and the toe box had ample room for my D-width size feet.
Two other features I really appreciated were the lace keepers and ergonomic tongue shape, which contours nicely to your ankle and in-step. It’s a welcome departure from the bulkier skate style tongues found on some other shoes in this class. As for the lace keepers, they’re easy to use and eliminated all worries of flopping around or unwanted chainring wrapping.
The synthetic leather upper also proved quite durable, and after a quick scrub they still look good with minimal scuffing. The upper does a good job repelling water, though it is not waterproof. And while I didn’t do any hot temperature testing, my guess is the lack of obvious ventilation could make them a little toasty.
Bottom line, the Bontrager Flatline Mountain Shoes are a top notch option that’s on par with stalwarts such as the Five Ten Freeride Pro. So if you are looking for a great flat pedal shoe with a similar level of performance, comfort, and durability best try a pair of these on.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
More Info: www.trekbikes.com