Bontrager SSR Multisport bike shoes are perfect all-rounders with enough pedalling efficiency in the saddle and enough grip by foot to keep everyone happy. If you're the kind of person who takes to the road or trail with SPD pedals, these are comfy and thoroughly – if quietly – competent.
Over the course of 2020 I tested a fair selection of flat cycling shoes, with the idea being that you don't have to clip in, and good flatties can offer both easy life by foot and secure pedalling by bike. However, when it comes to really rewarding performance, nothing quite beats the clunk-click of cleat engaging with pedal. Can these SSR Multisport shoes from Bontrager offer yet a third way?
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The short answer is: yes, they can. With very grippy rubber tread at the sole, good if not super-plush comfort inside, and a supportive inner sole, these are fine for standing, walking and even tackling a spot of slip-slide hike-a-bike. Aiding general comfort is the glass-reinforced nylon outer sole that has a little bit of give when you're on your feet. Bonty says they deliver 'trainer-like comfort' – I wouldn't go quite that far, but it is possible to forget you're wearing a cleated bike shoe.
Comfort on the pedals is even better than comfort on foot. I didn't suffer any hotspots when pushing on and – even in temperatures hovering around freezing – I didn't get cold feet. Whether with or without two-bolt SPD-style cleats, the sole provides a good and fairly effective pedalling experience.
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As always, it's a trade-off. But if flatties can sometimes offer too much flex, and shoes such as the Mavic Cosmic Boa provide only a cursory nod to walking ease, these Bontys are found bang in the middle with an almost perfect compromise.
Construction is good and the lace-up closure offers little to argue about – you can get them as tight as you like. As expected, there's an elasticated lace port on the tongue to stop the laces getting intimate with your chainrings. Sizing and fit is very good, too.
Overall design is pretty innocuous but quietly smart. Lara tested the women's version of the SSRs and slightly bemoaned the lack of colourways, but at least smaller feet have the option of a rather fetching blue finish. If you've got size 43 hoofs or bigger, this black design is all you can expect. Weight at 928g for these size 45s is pretty much as expected but not stellar.
I mentioned the Mavic Cosmic Boa SPDs earlier and although aesthetically there are notable differences, in performance terms they're not actually that far apart. For that extra £55, the Mavics do provide better pedalling performance but the Bontys are easier to wear day-to-day.
> Buyer’s Guide: 9 of the best flat shoes for commuting, leisure and urban cycling
A slightly more obvious comparison would be with the similarly specced £79.99 Giro Gauges, which are £15 cheaper than the SSRs but share a lot of the same characteristics. To my mind, though, the SSRs are a better year-round product (I got cold feet with the Giros). So the Bontys are pretty good value and not overpriced.
When it comes to summing up my thoughts about these shoes, rather strangely I can't help thinking about my my mother-in-law. When she asks her grandchildren how they are, if any of them reply with just 'good', she demands they come up with something a bit more exciting – even 'very good' doesn't cut the mustard. I hope she doesn't read this review because I'm conscious that I've said the Bontrager SSRs are 'good' or 'very good' across the board.
Unfortunately for Bontrager, it's probably easier to seduce the paying public with a small spot of excellence than a comprehensive list of competencies. But that would be a shame because these shoes will do the trick quite happily for a whole host of cyclists, from commuters to tourers to leisure, gravel, social road and light mountain bikers. Simply, they're very good.
Very solid and dependable multi-use SPD shoes that won't let you down on or off the bike
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Make and model: Bontrager SSR Multisport Shoes
Tell us what the product is for
These are multi-use cycling shoes suitable for commuting, touring, off-road, gravel or general riding duties short of fast endurance or competition riding. Bontrager says: "Versatile bike riding shoes that deliver trainer-like comfort while pedalling, walking and adventuring. Versatility, thy name is SSR shoe! On-road, off-road, touring across the country or commuting to the farmers' market – Bontrager's SSR Multisport cycling shoes will tackle it all. Its roomier fit and classic lace closure system deliver comfort and convenience, and the lugged, full-rubber outsole gives you all the traction you need for off-bike scrambles and adventures."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Glass-reinforced nylon plate with textured rubber outsole
Lace closure system with elastic lace keeper
Compatible with 2-bolt, SPD-style cleats
Plugs available for better flat pedal use
Upper fibre content - 60.9% Polyester / 37.1% PU / 2% TPU
Liner fibre content - 100% Polyester
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Typically good Bontrager kit – well made.
Rate the product for performance:
Outright pedalling performance is slightly compromised, but day-to-day use is excellent.
Rate the product for durability:
With chunky grip on the sole, solid construction and lace closure, these should last well.
Rate the product for fit:
Really good fit – no complaints.
Rate the product for sizing:
Again, very good – exactly as expected.
Rate the product for weight:
At almost 1kg for the pair, the SSRs aren't superlight, but not terrible.
Rate the product for comfort:
Decent comfort off the bike, very good comfort on it.
Rate the product for value:
Perhaps a little pricier than some rival products, but not by much. Their all-round performance has to be factored in as well.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine so far; I've just wiped them clean when they've got muddy.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These are really solid shoes – they do exactly the job you expect with little fanfare but, equally, no real weakness.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
All-round performance – great compromise between on foot or on pedal.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The option of a more exciting colourway would liven things up.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Mavic Cosmic Boa SPDs are £149 and while aesthetically a little different, they are similar in performance terms. You get better pedalling performance with the Mavics, but the Bontys are easier to wear day-to-day. The similarly specced Giro Gauges are £15 cheaper than the SSRs but I got (literally) cold feet with them, so I prefer the SSRs. The Bontragers aren't overpriced.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The problem with the Bontrager SSRs is that they have no real stand-out feature, but also no real weakness. If compromise and sensible-ness was exciting, these would be the cycling shoe equivalent of naked bungee jumping. As it is, they're just really good day-to-day SPD shoes for almost every situation, on or off the bike.
Age: 39 Height: 6'0 Weight: 16 stone
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure
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