Bontrager Foray Review: One Year Later
Positioned as a durable, versatile clipless cycling shoe for trail riding, cyclocross, and gravel, the updated Bontrager Foray Mountain Bike Shoe looks to be a solid contender for bikepacking as well. We’ve been testing a pair for more than a year to find out how they hold up to a wide variety of rides and conditions. Find our review here…
While I’m slowly growing to appreciate bikepacking in flats, especially when there’s lots of hike-a-bike expected, I still feel more comfortable riding technical trails clipped in. As a non-racer, it’s not an efficiency thing, but more about feeling connected and in control. I find most clipless mountain bike shoes have a slimmer fit, stiffer sole, and allow for better micro-movements while riding. There are a staggering number of options out there, and I can empathize with anyone starting from square one.
I typically wouldn’t have given Bontrager’s Foray and Evoke mountain bike shoes much attention when they were announced last spring. However, having found the Bontrager GR2 a few years prior, a shoe that both Lucas and I lust over because of how comfortable we find them to be, I figured they’d be worth a shot. While the GR2s are still some of the most comfy clipless shoes I’ve worn, we’ve both found out the hard way that they don’t hold up well to aggressive riding and hike-a-bikes over rocky terrain. I’ve gone through two pairs in two years now, and both have eventually failed catastrophically. Incredibly comfortable doesn’t mean much if they barely last a season, so I turned to the updated Foray shoes for hope.
The Foray is positioned right in the middle of Bontrager’s clipless mountain bike shoe lineup. At $165, it’s not cheap, but Bontrager does offer clipless options as affordable as $95 (Quantum) and $125 (Evoke), all the way up to $450 for their pro-level XXX shoes. If there is one good thing about purchasing shoes from a mega-brand like Bontrager, it’s that you know you’re going to have some options. The Foray uses a single BOA dial closure and an additional velcro strap to dial in the fit. Bontrager describes them as having a “slightly roomier, high-performance fit”, with a 6 out of 14 stiffness rating that is “stiff, yet walkable.” The synthetic upper has perforations for breathability, rubberized coatings on the heel, toebox, and along the sides of the shoe for extra protection, and a fairly chunky rubber outsole for grip while walking.
Foray VS GR2
The Foray feels much more durable than the GR2. The upper on the Foray is far stiffer than the GR2, and that continues into the tongue and how easy it is to take on and off. The GR2’s lace-up closure is easy to open wide up for removal, while the BOA dial on the Foray sometimes has a tendency to bind up or not release completely. The GR2 has the same rubber heel/toe box reinforcements but they’re sewn into the upper, which is where I found it to fail. I also found the fit to be slightly roomier on the GR2, which is likely a byproduct of the lace-up closure as they both use the same last and stiffness rating. As expected, the GR2 is slightly heavier at 443g (single shoe with cleat installed) compared to the 413g of the GR2.
While the Foray has proven to be more durable than the GR2, I found the latter to be far more comfortable for commuting and light-duty gravel riding. The lace-up closure and more malleable upper do a great job at hugging the foot, while the stiff construction of the Foray wasn’t as forgiving. Although I prefer the lace-up closure from a practical standpoint, the velcro strap and BOA closure feel much more secure for proper mountain biking, providing solid stability and control while clipped in. So, if you’re looking for a comfortable shoe for commuting and light-duty gravel, check out the GR2. If you’re hard on your gear and will probably end up mountain biking at some point, I’d suggest taking a look at the Foray.
Bikepacking and More
The Forays have been my go-to clipless riding shoes for the better part of the last year. If there was any potential for technical riding, I felt confident reaching for them, knowing I’d have lots of control and power underfoot. They’ve got a sporty fit and feel that is anything but sloppy, but they aren’t my first choice for rides that involve a lot of hike-a-bike. Even though the sole isn’t race-level stiff, they still feel a bit of place hiking up trails, and I found the tread clunky and off-balance on more than a few rides. Of course, this isn’t totally out of character for clipless riding shoes, but it’s worth knowing. I found the tread wasn’t soft enough for traversing hard, loose surfaces or navigating rocky creek crossings, and the hard plastic sections just in front of the heel made for a slippery point of contact. For hike-a-bike, I found the Forays fell short when compared against the Fizik Terra Clima X2 shoes I tested a few years back, which feature a much more stable and predictable outsole.
Expecting lots of rideable singletrack, I brought the Foray shoes along during my San Juan Space Jam scouting trip in New Mexico, and they continued to prove themselves. There was only a small section of hike-a-bike, so it was nice having a solid platform for the amount of singletrack on the route. The stiff sole made it easier to pump into bermed corners and fly out of transitions, matching up well with the playful nature of the entire route. While they’re starting to show signs of wear, including some lost tread and a missing toe spike, they’ve also seen lots of hard use over the last year, including a damp winter in the Pacific Northwest. Overall, I’d say they’ve proven to be quite durable.
The Bontrager Foray isn’t the most breathable shoe I’ve used, but is isn’t particularly stuffy either. I say they hit a sweet spot for a wide range of conditions. They don’t soak through immediately when riding in wet conditions and don’t overheat in the desert, but the sporty fit was most comfortable when paired with a thin sock, so they might not be my first choice for shoulder season rides unless sized up. As always, Bontrager products are covered by their 30-Day Unconditional Guarantee, which allows the shoes to be returned for a full refund or exchange if they don’t work for you.
- More durable than the GR2
- Sporty, comfortable fit
- Solid and stable enough for technical riding
- Good option for a range of conditions
- 30-day return window is a nice perk
- Not my first choice for long hike-a-bikes
- BOA + Velcro closure isn’t as fuss-free as a lace-up closure
- Tread and cleat area are showing signs of wear after a year of hard use
- Slippery under foot , especially on wet rock
- Model Tested: Bontrager Foray Mountain Bike Shoe, Size 11 US/44 EU
- Weight: 443 grams per shoe (cleat installed)
- Place of Manufacture: China
- Price: $164.99 USD
- Manufacturer’s Details: TrekBikes.com
Lucas and I both agree that the Bontrager GR2 shoes are some of the most comfortable clipless riding shoes we’ve ever tried—and we’ve tried a lot of them. Unfortunately, for anything more demanding than light-duty gravel riding, their durability isn’t up to par. I’m the type of person who likes to use the same shoes no matter the style of ride, so it was disappointing to see two pairs of GR2s wear out in the same place. The Bontrager Foray is a true mountain bike shoe and has a more robust construction that has proven to handle both mileage and rough use. They’re a great option for anyone who prefers reasonably stiff footwear, doesn’t spend much time pushing their bike, and wants a solid shoe for any type of riding. If that sounds like you and how you ride, I’d recommend giving them a closer look.
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