Bontrager Rally Shoe NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG
A CLIPLESS SHOE REVIEW

Bontrager Rally Clip-In Shoes

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Mar 11, 2020
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This is the story of two shoes. A left and a right. No, seriously. I've been wearing the Bontrager Rally for months and I haven't so much as looked at another pair of clip-in shoes during that time. Mated to a pedal that fully supports the relatively flexible shoes - in my case the Crankbrothers Mallet DH - the feel is next level. They're also significantly more comfortable and grippier off the bike than the clip-in shoes that usually make me happy.

I've also ridden the Rally interfaced with a LOOK X-Track SPD, stance-enhanced Crankbrothers Eggbeater, and Time Speciale which are all pedals that I get along with when paired with a stiffer shoe. I found, however, that the Rally has too much flex to work well with a pedal that doesn't provide extensive support.

Bontrager Rally Shoe NSMB AndrewM.JPG

These particular Mallet DH pedals are on their third rebuild kit. Sh*t-kicked but truly still kicking.

Bontrager Rally SPD NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Deep cleat pocket? Trek DH and Enduro team are running one stainless shoe shield and one plastic shim under their cleats with the Mallet E & DH pedals.

This makes a world of sense to me since the Bontrager DH and Enduro teams both use Crankbrothers Mallet pedals and they were involved in developing the Rally shoe. I generally prefer a very solid interface, either carbon-soled shoes with XC pedals or a supportive platform with nylon soles, and there are folks at Bontrager happily using the Rally with Shimano trail pedals.

The Rally has more flex than any clip-in shoes I've recently worn; Bontrager doesn't even rate them on their stiffness scale. Heck, if you're designing and testing a shoe that will be used with a pedal that provides extensive surface contact and support, like the Mallet E and Mallet DH, it makes perfect sense to have the sole flex into that platform for a full-contact feel.

Showers Pass Crosspoint NSMB AndrewM.JPG

The Rally delivers similar off-the-bike traction and feel to the Bontrager Flatline. It is a very comfortable shoe to hike in.

Showers Pass Crosspoint NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

If it has rained, will rain, or is raining I'm running the merino wool-lined Showers Pass Crosspoint Mountain socks inside. No cold feet here.

Speaking of cleats, the Bontrager Rallys have relatively deep cleat pockets. Owners of Crankbrothers, Time, or HT mountain bike pedals will be used to shimming their cleats for optimum positioning relative to the cleat pocket but that likely won't be the case for riders who only use SPD pedals. Here are some recommended starting points with the Rally:

  • For the Crankbrothers users, Trek's athletes are all running one stainless steel shim, called Shoe Shields, and one plastic shim, and that's where I'd recommend starting out. Some of Bontrager's employees are voting for one plastic shim on each foot so there's certainly a degree of personal preference.
  • For Shimano and other SPD pedals, I obtained my best results running one shim under my cleats (I like the Shoe Shields for this application) but I spoke to Bontrager thinking this might be a foreign concept to most SPD users, and they confirmed that the folks working there running the Rally with Shimano trail pedals are not installing any shims.

For my own setups with my Mallet DH pedals, I have the pins fully inserted* and then do a little extra customizing depending on the bike. For my single speed, I love the extra float gained by removing the rubber traction pads and I still find, whether I'm standing and cranking up a climb or surviving a gnarly technical descent, that support is excellent thanks to massive surface contact. On my suspension bike, I'm still running the shortest 1mm rubber traction pads for a bit of damping on the release.

*except for a few that are missing but the result is same-same.

Bontrager Rally SPD NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG

I wish the Flatline flat pedal shoe also had the fat Velcro strap over the laces. It makes a big difference when putting the power down.

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The Rally comes in three colour options. Nautical Navy is my favourite but I think these B&W and the Green-Grey options look good too.

Bang the gong, roll your eyes, whatever, when I invoke that 'flat pedal feel' cliché here because with my cleats slammed back that's exactly how the system works. My shoes flex into my pedals and instead of pins holding my loaded feet from slipping it's the pedal-cleat interface. The combination of the Rally shoe and the Mallet DH pedal is the closest I've come to mating what I love about riding flat pedals with the security of being clipped in.

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Available palettes in the Bontrager Rally shoes.

I can't jump in and recommend the shoes unequivocably because I prefer a much, much stiffer sole with the majority of pedal options on the market but that doesn't mean other riders won't be stoked on running the Rally with more diminutive pedal contact. Keeping in mind that I don't count grams, choosing between standing on clip-in pedals in the stiffest shoes or the experience I'm getting here, I'm reaching for the Rally & Mallet every time. Frankly, the 200 CAD/150 USD Bontrager Rally is the most positive clip-in footwear experience I've had.

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Comments

velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - March 11, 2020, 2:47 p.m.

This sounds awesome. After a couple of years back on flats, the thing I'm missing when I put the clips on is the pedal feel.

I tried maxing out the shims on my DMR V-twins, but with Shimano AM9s there's still a little bit of space between the tread and the pedal body. 

I really like the idea of a softer clip shoe that relies on the bigger platform of a DH / Enduro pedal.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 11, 2020, 4:38 p.m.

I know it’s just a shoe review but my takeaway was a complete rethinking of how I want my shoes/pedals to interface. 

I’ll reiterate that these shoes work with any pedals, but the experience mated to the Mallets is one of those “climbs like an XC bike - descends like a WC DH machine” experiences that readers are always making fun of test-writers about. 

I don’t know if I’d appreciate it the same if I hadn’t started riding flats again regularly a couple years back but it’s the clipless experience I expect now.

Reply

velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - March 14, 2020, 1:04 a.m.

Nice, "a complete rethinking of how I want my shoes/pedals to interface" is just the phrase. I converted to clips 15ish years ago, before trying flats a year or so ago... Now if I'm going to clip, I want that tactile feedback to stay.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 14, 2020, 3:52 p.m.

I dabbled with flat pedals a little bit around Y2K but I've been by and large clipping in since I started mountain biking. It's meant a heck of a learning experience riding flats the past couple years - but also a clean slate which is how I figured out pretty quick that super sticky Five Ten shoes aren't for me and what pedal shapes I like best. 

It made riding clips much less interesting (I'm not racing anyone up or down and really enjoy the dynamic feeling of riding flat pedals) but it's just brutal on the single speed and even running gears on a hardtail I prefer being clipped to the bike in really chundery situations hence looking for that unicorn pedal/shoe combo. 

It took A LOT for me to come around to riding Crank Brothers pedals because for years working in a shop they were awful (all their products - dropper posts, wheels, etc) but after my first experience with the Highline post I really came around and my Mallet DH pedals have been truly awesome. They're so easy to rebuild, service kits are readily available, and they really hold up well.

Reply

Jotegir
+1 Andrew Major
Lu Kz  - March 12, 2020, 7:50 p.m.

Forget shoes, tell me about that bike

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 12, 2020, 8:06 p.m.

That's my V1 custom Waltworks. It's actually my commuter now as I'm riding V2. 

If you're interested in more shots there are some sweet riding shots that Deniz took featured in Scare Yourself and there are lots of my own shots of V1 and V2 on Instagram. You just have to scroll down a wee bit for the V1 content. 

Cheers,

Reply

badgerracer
0
badgerracer  - March 15, 2020, 9:11 a.m.

I’ve been flats only for the first 2 ½ years of my biking career. Tried other systems, crank bro’s and Shimano specifically, but always went back to flats because I could never get used to it. Just felt like standing on a slippery, thin metal pole or something.

But Bontrager Rally shoes and HT T1 pedals have been the only system that I think will get me to switch. The deep and rearward cleat pocket and flex in the shoes actually makes them feel like flats. I’m a fan, and hopefully other shoe manufacturers follow suit and just keep moving the cleat further back.

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