There used to be a time when the clipless mountain bike shoe market pretty much only had one player, and their name begins with a big blue “S.” That’s not really the case anymore, and there have been a lot of options for cross country type riding for a long time now. However it’s only quite recently that there have been options emerging for clipless gravity shoes. The Rally from Bontrager is here to give enduro and DH riders another option in a clipless shoe and it certainly gives the competition a run for their money.
Materials and construction
Enduro and downhill riding have their own style, which is typically a little more casual than the more pedally genres of riding. As such, gravity shoes usually have a laid-back, skate styling to them. The Rally fits the bill well with a casual look and some mild (and some wild) color options.
Starting at the top, the upper is a synthetic leather material and feels high quality and durable, and keeps those of us wanting to avoid animal products happy, though it’s not super breathable. An EVA foam mid-sole is designed to absorb shock and impacts and should keep your feet feeling fresh and comfy all day long. The toe box and heel feature a coating that Bontrager calls “Gnarguard” to help protect feet from impact and add some abrasion resistance to the shoe to keep them tidy for longer. Fastening everything together is a traditional lace-up design with a hook and loop strap to pull it all together and keep the laces in check.
Getting set up in Bontrager’s Rally shoes was a pretty straightforward affair. I wear a size 45 and they fit true to size, so no problems there. Getting the cleats dialed in wasn’t too difficult either. There’s a sizeable amount of fore/aft adjustment in the cleat channel, so I was able to find my preferred position pretty easily. The cleat channel is a little on the narrow side however and I did find myself needing to cut some excess material from the edge of the channel to get the cleats to engage properly, something I’ve had to do on most shoes of this type. It’s worth noting that I use Shimano XT Trail pedals.
On the trail
On the trail, the Rally shoes really impress. Focused on descending more than climbing, it’s not the stiffest shoe ever and so pedaling is not the most efficient, but they feel relatively well connected to the bike, as far as a shoe like this goes; it’s never going to feel like a stiff XC shoe. The big flat soles on the Rally, combined with the long cleat channel, means that finding your pedals is easy. And even if you don’t get clipped in, there’s plenty of room to just stand on your pedals until you can get connected. The flat sole and cleat channel also means that they’re super easy to walk in, and I find that these are my go-to shoe if I’m going to be hanging out somewhere (i.e. a bar) after riding as they look casual enough and are great to wear and walk around in off the bike.
While these shoes aren’t super stiff, the lack of stiffness translates to comfort, and the Rally is pretty comfy off the bat. A ton of padding all around the shoe means that it feels nice and soft, but my feet don’t move around in the shoe at all, and key areas like the ankles are well protected. Speaking of protection, the Gnarguard material around the heel and toe seems to do a good job warding off impacts, as I can’t recall any particular moments while wearing these shoes when I might’ve taken a painful knock to the foot or ankle.
One thing that does stand out to me is how good these shoes are on long rides. Likely thanks to the EVA foam midsole, the Bontrager rally shoes are super comfortable on long rides. When many shoes might leave my feet feeling tired and sore, particularly on the soles, I get no such feeling with the Rallys, riding long days of rough trails with no fatigue.
If I had to be picky I would say that these shoes aren’t the best ventilated, and while my feet never felt super hot in them, there isn’t a lot of airflow. That said, come winter that’s likely going to be a blessing, and I’d expect these to be a great year-round shoe. I also found that the upper part of the shoe on either side of the tongue was a little stiff to start with and chaffed a little while the shoe was new, though they did break in over time as expected. One final nitpick is that the lace cover gets in the way while lacing the shoe up, which is a little annoying but it’s not a deal breaker.
The Bontrager Rally shoes retail for $149.99 USD (available from Trek in men’s and women’s styles) and personally I think that’s a great deal, considering just how comfortable they are. They’re not bursting with tech and things like Boa dials and carbon soles, but for anybody who is looking for a super comfy casual-ish MTB shoe with more protection than a lightweight trail shoe, these could be just the ticket.
⭐️ Bontrager Rally mountain bike shoes are available for purchase at the Trek website in men’s and women’s styles.