Review: Bont Vaypor Classic
(2016) Editor's Note: Per Bont's website, these shoes have been officially discontinued.
I remember when I switched from plastic-soled cycling shoes to carbon-soled shoes. The moment when I walked to my awaiting bike I expected a similar bendy feeling in my shoes is what stands out the most. It’s probably because it was the first experience I had with extremely rigid carbon soles. That sensation was followed by just how stiff the shoe was when doing its job. The stiffness continued after clicking into my pedals. I was converted that day.
I had carefully researched those next shoes. I wanted something that was comfortable yet unique. I had come across a company that seemed to be molded particularly for me. So back around 2008, I ordered and received my first pair of Bont A-One shoes. I've never used another company's shoe.
First some background on Bont. Since 1975, Bont’s only interest was skating boots. They started their boot construction using fiberglass. Over time carbon took its place. As a matter of fact, Bont made many of the speed skating boots in the 2014 Winter Olympics. According to their social media at the time it was easy to recognize their boots because of their all-white stature. They are apparently the go-to speed skate boots for the best in the world.
Because of my hockey background I found this to be attractive. This is where I made my first mistake. You see, hockey skates have a different fit. Like Bont shoes, they are heat moldable but through body heat instead of cooking them. My prior knowledge dictated I size the cycling shoes like hockey skates. Being a retired goalie, I confidently purchased a shoe size close to the skate scale. For example, despite walking around in size 11 shoes, my hockey skates were a scant 8.5. (Before asking, no, hockey skates are not comfortable.)
Thinking all things were relative I ordered a size 10.75 expecting the heat molding process to iron things out. Bonts can be cooked in a conventional oven at 160 degrees. I figured this would let the shoes stretch a little to conform to my feet. I also expected discomfort; since breaking in hockey skates is something I don’t wish upon anybody. We’re talking dry-heave discomfort. This was definitely my second mistake. I’m sure by now it’s obvious where this is going so I’ll fast-forward a bit.
For the sake of brevity, I was nervous to heat my shoes (overheating voids the warranty) and probably cooked it to about a light 100 degrees by leaving the oven door cracked. This would be my third mistake. I molded the shoes and slapped the hardware on it. I rode for seven years with the constant side effect of my left foot falling asleep twenty miles in. I thought this was normal and dealt with it. The shoes, though, were stiff as all hell and extremely responsive. If there was any flex going on, it was too small to notice.
After many riding seasons of pulling on Belgian booties or overshoes, parts began to fall off, sections became unglued, and the white no longer had that brilliant shine. It was time to seek out replacements. Though the A-Ones are still in my rotation, believe me when I say I tested them thoroughly. They are still usable after all these years.
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I’ve always struggled to like the Velcro straps. Since cycling style is never really normal, I couldn’t figure out why cycling shoes couldn’t come in a lace up variety. I’m aware of the perils of laces going into the drivetrain. I know they are not adjustable on the fly. Aren’t twelve points of contact with laces better than six with Velcro and ratchet systems? I guess I was about to find out.
I got my hands on the matte white version of the Bont Vaypor Classic. It was a decision between the Vaypor T(rack) and the Classic. I stuck with my first desire. They look beautiful. I also took full advantage of Bont’s size guide on their website. I measured feet using a ruler and a piece of paper at the fit guide's request. It strangely recommended I should spring for a size 11.5. I would listen this time.
The Vaypors were successfully heated for a full twenty minutes this time. I scientifically manipulated the oven using a thermometer to gauge 160 degrees. I molded them once and added the hardware and laces. I was getting closer to new shoes. Meticulously adding the laces I lusted over them until I was able to ride next.
When it came time to ride, the Vaypors did not disappoint. The feeling of a proper fit was immediate. Everything felt like it lined up. It was a major change from the old pair of Bonts that- in hindsight- definitely was a tight fit. The overall feel specifically felt like a wide, comfortable platform on which to stand. Cramped feelings are certainly not how I would describe these shoes.
The fit feels extremely comfortable after molding the shoes. They slip on with minimal interference. The customized parts are certainly felt as things line up. The laces are much like hockey laces with their design: very little expansion and confident knot tying from the waxed laces. The lace ball won’t budge. I personally loop the laces extra long and slip them under the cross pattern to stow them out of the way.
The venting is definitely comfortable. Bont has more than thirty vent holes over the toe box. There are more in the fore portion of the shoes, more robust vents in the tongue, and extras under and down the side of the shoes. The breeze passed comfortably through them. While they don’t have mesh panels for the warmest days, these shoes will be more versatile throughout the year.
Bont’s extremely stiff soles persist in this model as well. They are not going to move at all.
The adjustment period did come with some perils. The right shoe was tied a bit too tight the first time. The second time it was a bit loose. A reasonable forty-mile ride dismissed any further concerns when I decided to take my time setting up the shoes.
Two common remarks about Bont shoes come in the form of cleat hole placement and the lack of variety of cleat options. I’ve heard many riders remark they’ve avoided purchasing them because of how far forward the cleat triangle is, and that Look cleats are the only solid fitting styles. The Shimano cleats and their large body reportedly have a tendency to wiggle themselves loose on the not-so-flat sole.
I am glad to have added the Vaypor Classic to my cycling gear. Their products are durable as evidenced by the seven-year service of my A-One shoes. Their stiffness is essential to heavier riders as well as racers who can put down some serious wattage on the pedals. Or if a rider wants a shoe that can be set up for almost a decade (and be heated as many times as necessary), then the Bont shoes are certainly up for consideration. Vintage or not, the lace-ups may be an even further consideration for maximum security.
Bont cycling shoes can be found at bontcycling.com. There is a shop locator that could help narrow down sizing, otherwise the size chart and direct sales can be found on their website. According to the Bont site, the Vaypor Classic sells for $369 (USD) in closeout.