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The Bontrager RXL Hilo

Written by: Jeroen van Geelen
Date: Mon Jul 26 2010

This triathlon cycling shoe has the best breathability of all shoes Iíve so far tested. The large amount of mesh used in the upper of the shoe makes this like riding with the air conditioning on full volume.

The shoe closes using 2 Velcro straps that seem to be a bit short, but truth be told, I tested the womenís version due to the lack of stock on the menís version in my size. Iím lucky to have rather small feet (menís US size 7), so itís pretty easy to test the womenís model. Maybe the menís model has longer Velcro. In any case, while a tad short, on my feet the Velcro did close the shoe satisfactorily.

The sizing seems on the short side because I had to go up 1 full size to get the right one (even correcting for womenís sizing). I expected to see a lot of the old Nike features and fit since Trek used to be the distributor of Nike cycling, but that was not the case.

The fit of the forefoot is roomy, but not extremely wide. Some of you who read my previous cycle shoe reviews know I donít like shoes that close high around your foot and this shoe is closing much lower in comparison to the Specialized TriVent and the Northwave Tribute.
For me, this is great.
But you would expect that this lower fit, which frees up the ankle, is also a fast entry and thatís not the case. Rather, itís on the slow side. You need to open both Velcro straps, and wide, to get your feet in the shoes. But as I mentioned earlier the straps are a bit short, so when I open them wide my straps are almost slipping out of the opening at the other side of the shoe. But I need to give Bontrager the benefit of the doubt, as the menís version might feature longer straps. Just check this for yourself before you settle on the RXL Hilo.

These shoes do have a great rubber heel loop which is not really a loop, but more a device to grab, so you can pull the shoes on. As a long distance triathlete I really donít care if it takes just a bit more time to slip onto the shoes, but when you are a short courser and you ride out of T1 with your shoes already attached to the pedals make sure they work for you.

When you develop a shoe with a lower closure system around the ankle you need to produce a heel counter that fits very securely. I would use a thermoplastic heel counter, so that the customer can mold this to the heel. The Bontrager RXL Hilo does have a plastic heel counter molded at the outside of the shoe but itís a bit wide and flexibleótoo flexible and not moldable. The fit of the shoe is just a bit insecure on the backside of the pedal stroke, and itís the only aspect of this shoe Iím not happy about.

The RXL Hilo is made on a carbon reinforced platform which offers more than enough stiffness. Itís made with the 3 hole cleat pattern. It retails for $169, which I think is great value.
[Editorís note: Our capable editor-at-large for footwear Jeroen van Geelen owns Total Running, one of the more important running and triathlon retail establishments in The Netherlands.]


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Best bang for the buck 5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Rocco, Jul 29 2010 6:29AM

Been using the Bontrager shoes (tri - hilo, road - RXL, MTB - RXL MTB) for 2 years now. Last season the silver male version, this year the female white-gold edition which features the same cut and fit, but looks better IMHO. Interestingly i even had to attach a piece of velcro on the inner side of the shoe to keep the excessive length of the larger strap from rubbing my crank

i really like the cosy material inside the shoe, which makes sockless riding very comfortable.

At first I was sceptical about the heel strap, contemplating folding it and making a loop out of it (2 stitches - done!), but after two seasons of racing I can say that attaching rubber bands works well even without a loop. the straps offer plenty of grip

Good shoe 4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Bryan, Jul 27 2010 10:57AM

Jeroen and Ed's comments are spot on. I tested both the Hilo and the PI Tri Fly III and ultimately went with the Hilo because of the breathability and forefoot comfort. I have wide feet, particularly in the forefoot, and the Hilo's were definitely the most comfortable of all the tri shoes I tried. No little toe numbness with them. The heel cup could be better, but that may be due to the location of the top strap - it's a little lower (away from the ankle) than most tri shoes. My straps are on the short side, but they work fine - there's still plenty of velcro grabbing. You definitely have to open the straps all the way to get into them. I also wish it was a loop instead of a tab. I like the e-soles inserts in them as well.

All in all, a good shoe, but not perfect.

Great Shoe 5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Ed Gross, Jul 27 2010 4:23AM

Just like you said, great shoe, especially for the price. The heel tabs need to be loops to accommodate rubber banding to bike for short course athletes, & the dual velcro straps are no wider for men. A wider, thicker strap would really help. For a first tri shoe by Bontrager, I think they are well done. Spot on review.