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Bontrager GR2 gravel shoes review

Bontrager’s GR2 shoes go with a civilian aesthetic for low key cruising, but what are they like when you need to put the power through the pedals?

Bontrager GR2 gravel shoes
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Bontrager’s GR2 lace-up shoe looks casual and they're certainly comfy, no matter whether you’re riding or walking, but they still pedal well when you need to inject some pace

For

  • Easy walking
  • Reasonable pedaling
  • Great grip
  • Lacing simplicity
  • Wider fit
  • Toe protection
  • Reasonably light

Against

  • No tension tweaking on the fly
  • Not the stiffest
  • Pricey for laces

The Bontrager GR2 gravel shoes come with a lace-up construction paired with civilian style. They provide enough comfort for both off-the-bike strolling or day-long pedaling adventures, but they also offer up plenty of stiffness and security for when you want to get the power down.

Construction 

The microfiber upper - which comes in black or tan - certainly doesn’t scream cyclist and the perforated sections create a balance that isn’t obviously leaky or hot, just ‘fine most of the time’. After a few years where they had really tight toes, Bontrager has revised its inForm Race fit so wider feet won’t feel crushed either. They also come in a broad range of sizes from shrew-like to Sasquatch. There’s ample padding under the tongue and around the heel cup and the laces make accurate tensioning easy. They stay tight too, and there's a little elastic safety loop to secure the ends away from chainrings. Reinforced GnarGuard toe and heel sections are backed up by a thick lower lip protector extension of the sole rubber so they won’t get trashed if you go scrambling in them. They’re still relatively light though and they dry fast if they get soaked.

The broad, soft-compound Tachyon tread gives them a surefooted feel and even includes molded toe studs that can be swapped out for proper cyclocross fangs for maximum grip. It gets contrast color flecks in the tread for a bit of extra sneaker pimping too (Rapha do similar but for $100+ more). The nylon composite Bronze Series sole has a pronounced lift in the toe section so it rolls easily and it flexes enough for easy strolling or extended push/carry/off-bike explore use. 

Performance

A stiffness rating of 6 out of 14 (according to Bontrager) made us think it would be a flexy morale killer alongside other racier shoes. However, riding them back to back with carbon-soled options showed us that the well-structured upper meant they actually still got the power to the pedals quite well, even when stomping hard.

The laces are obviously a super simple and reliable system that can be easily replaced or bodged if you’re touring in remote areas but they do make adjusting the tension on the fly impossible. If that’s a big deal for you, the Bontrager Foray mountain bike shoes might be to your preference. They use the same sole set up as the GR2 but with a Velcro strap and Boa dial closure. They're the same price too, which does make the GR2 seem expensive for a lace-up.

Bontrager GR2 gravel shoes

The Bontrager GR2's sole is less stiff to balance walking and pedaling performance (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

They’re slightly pricey for a lace-up shoe, but they deliver a comfortable fit with useful durability-boosting features. The sole is a great balance of easy walking, surefooted grip and reasonable pedaling efficiency that’s ideal for those who are more likely to showcase their rides with Instagram views and coffee stops than Strava KOMs.

Tech Specs: Bontrager GR2

  • Colors: Black, Tan
  • Sizes: 37-48
  • Weight: 370g 
  • Price: $139.99
Guy Kesteven
Guy has been riding mountain bikes since before they were mountain bikes and is right handy on an offroad tandem (of course he is).