Bontrager GR2 Gravel Shoe Review: 500 Miles Later
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After a combined 500+ miles of riding, Miles and Lucas report back on Bontrager’s GR2 Gravel Bike Shoe, which was released earlier this spring. The lace-up closure and no-frills design are likely to appeal to bikepackers and gravel enthusiasts alike. Learn more here…
After catching wind of a new dedicated gravel bike shoe from Bontrager, I was quick to get my hands on a pair to try them for myself. My first impressions were positive. Enough to spark Lucas’ curiosity, and he ended up picking up a pair as well. Collectively, we’ve now logged more than 500 miles in the new Bontrager GR2 Shoes—throwing as much as we could at them for just under two months. Although the GR2 Gravel Bike Shoe is distinctly marketed towards those riding gravel, it’s proven to handle all types of terrain effectively, and is a great option for bikepackers as well.
This is the first lace-up cycling shoe I’ve used. Even my first pair of shoes had some sort of ratcheting buckle designed to secure my foot in even the harshest of terrain. Since then, I’ve always used BOA dials, velcro, and speed-lace systems on my shoes, replacing the old fashioned lace-up shoe for good. Or so I thought. I was eager to give a lace-up clipless cycling shoe a shot, partially due to their more casual, coffee-shop-appropriate style, and partly out of a growing frustration with buckles and dials wrong.
Bontrager’s GR2 is designed around a synthetic leather upper, lace-up closure, and their slightly roomier inForm Race last. Both the heel and toe box are protected by a rubberized coating, and the Bronze Series sole is said to be “stiff yet walkable.” I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the lace-up closure, which has required no adjustment or tightening on numerous multi-hour rides. The elastic lace keeper does in fact keep the laces, and I’ve found the fit to be noticeably roomier than other clipless cycling shoes I’ve worn. The lace-up closure also allows for a wider range of fit, meaning I’ve had no problem riding with heavyweight wool socks or my bulkier Showers Pass Crosspoint Waterproof Socks.
There’s not much to the synthetic leather upper—it’s thin and very pliable. Although I have yet to see any signs of early wear, it’s the one aspect of the shoe I could see failing. That said, I think the pliable upper partners well with laces and allows the shoe to really hug the foot. The only other gripe I have are the toe spikes, or rather, the toe spike placeholders. They provide no grip on their own, as they are constructed from a harder rubber than the rest of the sole. As a result, I’ve slipped several times during brief moments of unclipped pedalling. I believe the shoes would be better off without them, but perhaps those who sprint up muddy inclinces would feel differently. Otherwise, the remainder of the sole has held up well.
The GR2 shoes are flexible and comfortable enough for short hike-a-bikes, but wouldn’t be my first choice for loose, rocky terrain. In that regard, they’re better suited to gravel riding. They feature Bontrager’s nylon composite bronze-series sole (a stiffness index of 6 out of 14), which I found to be just a touch more flexible than what I prefer. I could see the GR2 shoes as a great option for someone seeking an ultra comfortable and versatile shoe, which may include those newer to riding clipped in. If you’re worried about purchasing a pair online, or perhaps this is your first time wearing Bontrager, their 30-Day Unconditional Guarantee means you can use the shoes for up to 30 days from the purchase date—if they aren’t doing it for you, you can get a full refund.
I’ve noticed the colour of the shoe has mellowed after a few good rides, and truthfully I like how they look now better than when I first received them. They’re less mustard-yellow now, more of a sandy yellow. I’m sure this will change when I finally decide to wash them.
Some Thoughts From Lucas
At least for my feet, these things are seriously comfortable. By the end of my first spin in the Bontrager GR2s, I realized I’ve been wearing the wrong cycling shoes for a while now. I’ve been trying out various pairs of shoes since my old favorites were discontinued a few years back, but nothing has felt quite right. At least until now. The GR2’s slightly roomier fit and more flexible sole make for a shoe that’s uniquely comfortable for long days on and off the bike. I don’t feel like I’m in any rush to take them off after a big ride, and that’s saying something. They seem to breathe well, too, as I’ve been doing most of my riding down in the Arizona desert and my feet have yet to overheat.
I can’t imagine paying $300+ for a cycling shoe that I’ll inevitably destroy, and I think the GR2 is priced right at $140, which is incidentally about as much as I’m willing to spend on a cycling shoe. And I think you get what you pay for here. The GR2 doesn’t exude quality or feel particularly burly, but it gets the job done, and does so very comfortably. I’ve noticed a bit of fraying in a few spots around the shoe, and the laces feel somewhat delicate, but the sole and uppers have held up well. The rubberized “GnarGuard” coating on the toes and heels should help extend the life of the shoes, and it offers a little bit of added protection as a bonus.
What color is this shoe, really? Your guess is as good as mine. I don’t think I particularly liked the color when it arrived, but it’s been growing on me. In part because I’m getting used to it, but I also suspect it might be changing with time. Sometimes the GR2s are more brown, other times more yellow. One thing’s for sure, though: given their lighter color, they scuff up and show dirt pretty quickly. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing, as the more patina they take on, the less self conscious I feel about being the guy in yellow shoes. I’d normally go for black shoes, but I’m not crazy about the black version of the GR2. Hopefully it sticks around and they introduce some additional color options next season.
As for the fit, they feel about true to size. For reference, I’m wearing a size EU 46 / US 13, which is what I typically wear in more casual shoes. I don’t think I have particularly wide feet, but most other cycling shoes tend to feel quite narrow. My heel stays firmly in place when they’re laced up and there’s a cozy amount of room in the toe box.
Overall, I’ve been impressed with Bontrager’s GR2, so much so that I think I’ll pick up a second pair. I’ve spent twice as much for shoes that were half as comfortable in the past, so I’m happy to see a solid shoe at a reasonable price point. And I’ve grown to appreciate the simplicity of their lace-up closure after spending far too much time fussing with various other systems. If you’re in the market for a new shoe for riding gravel and can get past the flashy color, I’d recommend giving them a try.
- Lace-up closure holds firmly and allows more room for adjustment.
- Roomy fit is great for long days of riding.
- Old Style Gold colourway is fun and ages well.
- Enough sole flex to walk comfortably.
- 30-Day Unconditional Guarantee. If you’re not happy, bring them back within 30 days for a full refund or exchange.
- Toe spikes. No benefit to the majority of cyclists.
- Lightweight upper doesn’t feel very rugged.
- Sizes available 3.5 to 14.5
- Size Tested 11
- Weight (as tested) TBD
- Place of manufacture China
- Price $139.99
- Manufacturer’s details TrekBikes.com
I’ve been quite happy with the Bontrager GR2 Gravel Shoes. Although they share more than a few technical details with Bontrager’s BOA-equipped Foray mountain bike shoe, the new colourway and lace-up design sets them apart. They flex enough for walking, fit comfortably, and the synthetic leather upper looks great and breathes well. The roomy fit and laces allow for thicker socks when the temperature drops, and they pair well with a shoe cover for riding in wet conditions. The GR2 is a great warm weather shoe that’s perfect for everyday riding, commuting, cross-country riding, and… you guessed it… gravel.