Launching new products in the middle of global supply chain woes presents significant challenges, but Bontrager has been able to keep on rolling with new products galore. One of them is the all-new 2021 Bontrager Circuit Road Shoe — complete with the updated BOA L6 dial and a flexible road or mountain cleat system. These budget shoes have a lot to offer, so let’s dive in.
2021+ Bontrager Circuit Road Shoe Features:
- InForm race last for a roomier fit
- Perforated, synthetic uppers
- Single BOA L6 lacing system with velcro toe closure
- Nylon composite bronze-series sole
- Stiffness index 7 of 14
- 2 and 3-bolt cleat compatible (MTB or road)
- Available in 5 colors (nautical navy/radioactive coral tested)
- Full and half sizes available
- MSRP: $134.99
Easy on the wallet and feet
Over the years, I’ve been impressed with Bontrager’s road shoe lineup. Their attention to detail and fit (using InForm ergonomics) has improved with every iteration to the point that it’s hard to find something better for my feet and riding demands. That said, not everyone can afford $200+ road shoes with pro-level carbon outsoles and dual BOA laces, so the all-new Circuit Road Shoe slides in as a compelling option for road, light gravel and indoor fitness needs.
I’m not a Peloton user, nor do I frequent the Spin classes offered at the local gym, but I suspect the dual cleat compatibility of the Circuit is a partial nod to indoor cyclists. If that’s your jam, these will serve well for that purpose with one caveat — breathability (more on that later). In addition, many riders prefer one pedal type across all their bikes. This is even more appropriate for today’s gravel bikes and the Circuit Road Shoe accommodates just that. My wife happens to fall in that category, so these are perfect for her road bike.
A good road shoe has two things: proper-fitting uppers and a stiff outsole. At $135, you can’t expect the same features you’ll find with the Bontrager XXX Road Shoe, but some things do trickle down. First off, their use of InForm fit ergonomics for proper foot support. This includes a nice arch and that wonderful metatarsal button to spread out your toes. I’m a fan and love all cycling shoes that use that feature. That alone aids in blood flow to prevent numbness on long rides and I daresay should be standard across all brands, not just Bontrager.
The other trickle-down tech you’ll find with the all-new Circuit Road Shoe is the use of the BOA Lacing System. Here, price is king, so the simpler L6 dial gets the nod. It’s a good fit system, but does lack micro adjustments in reverse. I do use that regularly with other BOA shoes, so it’s a bummer not to have it. However, I work around this by leaving the Circuit’s one touch loose (~1 click) to accommodate foot swelling and still have the option to dial it down should I need to. Backing things off requires you to pop them open and re-adjust. It’s not the end of the world, but it does make precise fitting more challenging. That said, the strap closure does allow you to cinch down the forefoot and the BOA cables allow for a little flexing (not stretch) fore and aft as the cable slides through the eyelets with foot flex. This slight flex is also facilitated by fabric eyelets instead of the typical plastic ones.
Plenty stiff, comfy, but needs more ventilation
With the Circuit Road Shoe, Bontrager has opted for a more generous fit and large-volume toe box. This is great for most riders who value comfort and fit over racy performance. In the end, I do have to cinch the velcro strap to take up some of that volume, but lateral space remains excellent. Occasionally, I get pressure on the outside of my left foot behind the sixth toe area. On the longest of rides, I have felt a little pressure, but nothing problematic.
I’m pretty picky on shoe stiffness and usually prefer carbon soles one rung down from the race-level shoes (the Bontrager Velocis Road Shoe comes to mind). Flexy soles sap energy and are slow to respond under full power. The pop provided by an ultra-stiff outsole is a thing of beauty. With the Circuit Road Shoe, you do notice the lack of pop, but you have to really pay attention to notice it. Most riders would be completely stoked on the stiffness provided here and never want for anything stiffer (nor know why they might want a stiffer outsole).
As the temperatures have increased dramatically over the past few weeks here in Utah, I’ve noticed one drawback about these shoes — breathability. While they aren’t a sweat box, it’s hard to notice much airflow passing through these shoes until you get up to speed. At 25-30 mph, you will notice the vent port underneath the toe box and do begin to feel a little bit of airflow, but it’s definitely not breezy. I’m not so sure I’d opt to wear these on a hot, mid-day ride.
- Nice to see a BOA dial at this price point
- Outsole feels more responsive than a mid-level model usually does
- Locked-in fit
- Can run 2 or 3-bolt cleats
- Snappy color options
- Deep heel cup
- BOA L6 lacks reverse micro adjustments
- Could be more breathable
- Steel, 2-bolt cleat insert isn’t included
The Bottom Line: Bontrager Circuit Road Shoe (2021 model)
I point people to Bontrager’s shoes and wheels all the time. Of their entire product line, both of those items stand out and line up toe-to-toe with the biggest name brands in the industry. While I would love a little more streamlined fit and a BOA IP1 dial, the latest Circuit Road Shoe comes in at a great price with tons of bang-for-the-buck.
Buy Now: Available from TrekBikes.com