Bontrager's Flatline features Vibram rubber, which gave us a lot of wiggle room on the pedal if we placed our foot incorrectly. We think that something with more grip is better for overall safety, but if you know you like to have that freedom to move your foot, you may like this pair. These shoes were the lightest of all the models we tested, making them super comfortable. We especially liked the anatomical tongue with tons of cushion for the top of our feet. There was not much protection in this shoe, so it may not be the best choice if you are a high-risk rider. They did run a bit big, so make sure you order a half size down if you decide on these shoes.
Bontrager Flatline - Women's Review
Cons: Lacking in breathability and protection
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Bontrager is a branch off of Trek, named after Keith Bontrager who was integral in the development of how we know mountain biking today. The Flatlines are lightweight and flexible, giving you a lot of control and feel of the pedals. We think this makes up for the lack of grip, especially in comparison to the Five Ten and Ride Concepts shoes, and makes this contender an excellent option for someone who likes to have more freedom to replace their foot without disturbing the flow.
The Bontrager had similar grip to the other shoes we tried with Vibram rubber. The grip was a bit stickier than the Giro Riddance, but we still noticed these shoes slipping during technical climbing and when things got bumpy moving downhill. We think the shape of the lugs and the more significant surface area with more texture on the Vibram rubber, is what makes these slightly better compared to the Riddance. The toe and the heel also feature a zig-zag pattern, and we felt the variation in pattern helped when you have to take a short hike with your bike. However, when wet, the Flatlines performed the same way as the Riddance, feeling slippery on the pedals.
We recognize that there are lots of different types of riders out there, so this might be a great shoe for someone who likes to take their feet off the pedals or adjust their feet a lot — in that case, this might be a great shoe for you. If you need a shoe that is more grippy with a similar price point, we suggest the Ride Concepts Livewire.
Comfort and Protection
For what the Flatlines lack in grip, they make up for in comfort. Our feet loved the feel of these shoes primarily because they are so light. The tongue of the shoe is very padded and does not put any pressure on the top of your foot. They run about a half size small, so make sure you keep that in mind if you decide these are the ones for you. The width is pretty average compared to the other shoes we tried. During long bike rides, our toes didn't go numb, and we've concluded there is not any part of the shoe that decreases circulation.
These shoes could have more protection. There is reinforced material on the toe, and we could easily press our thumb into the material to make it flex. Shoes with a specific anti-abrasion material, like the Ride Concepts Livewire or the Five Ten Freerider Pros, performed much better.
We did find these shoes fit a little big, so if you are ordering, try to order a half size down from what you traditionally buy.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
This shoe is on the more rigid side, but overall it fell in the middle regarding rigidity. We think they are less rigid than Five Ten Impact pros and Grio Riddance, but a lot stiffer than the Ride Concepts Livewire or the Five Ten Freerider Pros. This shoe is also the lightest one we tried, a fact that truly allowed us to be able to feel the pedal underfoot, especially when we wanted to make micro-adjustments. However, we had a hard time trusting this shoe after having our feet slip off and getting shinned by the pedal when riding powerfully.
The upper is made out of synthetic material and only has a few holes for breathability, so sometimes our feet got too toasty. Not as hot as the Five Ten Impact Pros, because there is less material, but still uncomfortable on hot, high output days.
Our biggest complaint about these shoes is the size of the shoelaces. Bontrager did provide an elastic strap (like all of the shoes we tried), but they made it much lower on the tongue to accommodate the size of the laces. We think the shoe would be better if the elastic strap was higher and the laces were shorter. We also found that the laces stuck out quite a bit even when they were tucked underneath the elastic strap, leaving the potential to get caught in our gear ring.
The upper material is fully synthetic. Despite the beating we gave them, these shoes barely showed any wear.
These were the lightest of the shoes we tested, making them an excellent option for someone who notices the weight on their feet. While they feel like feathers on your feet, they may not protect you when you hit a rock with your toe.
These are durable shoes, and because of that, your ability as a rider may outgrow them.
We think these are the perfect pair of shoes for someone newer to riding who may need more freedom to move their foot around on the pedal easily. They are very lightweight, making it easy to feel the pedal underfoot to help with bike management. And, they are very durable and will last you a long time.
— Bo Outland