For a ride across the state of Ohio, having the right shoe is a good idea. Review of Bontrager Cadence, Bontrager Solstice WSD and Shimanno SH-M038

So its the day before Guy and I leave on our 3-week-long adventure on the Ohio To Erie Trail and I still don’t have the right shoes. I Got A Bike but my old shoes have thousands of miles on them and I am concerned that after nine years they might not make it from Cleveland to Cincinnati and back. The soles are still decent and the straps are in good shape but the fabric on the inside of each shoe has a hole at the heal. Plus the old shoes are hot! Why are most bike shoes black?

Guy and Carol crossing the Ohio River in May 2011. This photo shows me wearing my old Shimanno SH-M038 on last year’s tour. I have been wearing these cycling shoes since 2003! They were great shoes but very hot. I am keeping them for colder weather rides.


After thousands of miles the inside fabric on the Shimanno SH-M038 is wore out and I don’t want to risk a total failure on the Ohio to Erie Trail tour in May 2012.

You can tell how many miles are on these Shimanno SH-M038 cycling shoes because the left sole is dramatically wore down compared to the right. When stopping I always put my left foot down and use my right foot to pedal away on starts.

I really wanted to get something white and cooler this time. I looked at few local bike shops but could not get a good fit from their selection of Pearl Izumi or Shimanno. I cannot use clipless pedals, so I am looking for a shoe that is lightweight, cool, stiff and will work well in cages. I also hope the shoe will be walkable in case I need to push my bike or run into a store. So on the last day I find the Bontrager Cadence. They looked good! Really nice looking with great lines and feather light. The shoe is made up of mesh and patent leather. The soles are thin but they are stiff. I calculate that they may have been designed as a spinning shoe but decide to give them a try. The price of $49 is about half of what I was expecting to pay so if they can get me through this trip I will be happy. After I got them home I discovered a little pocket under the tongue for securing the laces. I really liked that feature as I was not thrilled about the laces as there is a risk of them getting caught in the chain.

The Bontrager Cadence were great on the first day as we rode on the smooth Bike and Hike Trail. The next day we were on the Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail which is crushed limestone. I could feel the friction building up in the shoes but it was tolerable. I knew there would be some trade off in the cool and lightweight verses heavy and stiff.

Day 1 on the smoothly paved Bike and Hike Trail was hot and humid and my feet were cool and happy in my new Bontrager Cadence cycling shoes.

Day one close up of Bontrager Cadence cycling shoes.

Here I am leaving Summit County and crossing into Stark County. This is were the Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail switches from asphalt to crushed limestone. I am wondering if the new Bontrager Cadence cycling shoes will be able to handle the friction of the old-style “pavement.”

The third day we were riding the rolling hills between the Sippo Valley Trail in Dalton and the north end of the Holmes Country Trail In Fredericksburg. This is where the shoes started to break down. They were losing their stiffness and getting more flexible as the day went on. Its a pretty tough ride and we were fully loaded but the shoe simply could not keep up. There is a vent in the bottom of the shoe and on downhill sections you get a fabulous breeze right on your toes.

The Bontrager Cadence cycling shoes were already breaking down and becoming flexible on day five making for an extra challenge while working our way through Amish county. Here I am on Route 6 after climbing and walking the big hill up from State Route 520.

By the time we got to Mt. Vernon on day five I was hoping to get new shoes after only 160 miles. We went to Y Not Cycling to get our chains cleaned and some new gloves but there were no shoes for me. I wear a size 42 or 43 and most stores don’t stock much in that size. The women’s shoes are too small and the men’s shoes too big.

I almost found a pair at Oakley Cycles in Cincinnati, Shimano SH-WF23. They looked great but were too small. Later, Dave at Baer Wheels in Columbus told me it was an indoor shoe. This helped me to understand that the Bontrager Cadence and many of the other shoes in bicycle shops these days are intended for indoor use, spinning or Towny bikes. The Bontrager Cadence might be right for someone but not for me. I was desperate to replace them before climbing through Amish country on my way back to Cleveland.

Buyer beware! Many shoes offered for sale at bicycle shops these days are actually designed for indoor use and may not hold up to outdoor cycling. Spinning classes have become so popular it is easy to understand how the manufactures would want to reach this new type of cyclists.

After 400 miles the Bontrager Cadence were used up. In this photo you can see the little pocket on the top of the tongue that holds the laces secure. I really like the look and cool features of this shoe but they clearly were not designed for the kind of riding I was doing.

After riding about 600 miles we were back in Columbus I knew it was my last chance to find new shoes before hitting the rural back roads. So we decide to ride over to Sawmill Road in Dublin to go to Performance Bicycle and the Trek Store. It is unfortunate that these two giant bicycle stores are in such a seriously unfriendly biking location. It was tough to get there but worth the effort in the end. We went to Performance first and they did have a discontinued pair of Shimmano that could have worked but I was suspicious that it too was an indoor shoe. While we were there we ran into Harry who is a friend of Mike’s at the London Coffee Peddler.

Next we went to the Trek store and they really set me up. When I walked in wearing the Cadence shoes I asked a salesman how old they looked. He replied “two years.” He was pretty surprised when I said two weeks! By this time we had peddled 600 miles and the fabric had stretched so that I could not lace them tightly. They had lost all stiffness and you could fold them like a tennis shoe. They let me trade the completely trashed Cadence for a pair of the Bontrager Solstice WSD, $89. The staff was top notch and highly concerned that I was satisfied with their products.

The mesh fabric on the Bontrager Cadence had stretched so that I could not lace them tightly.

The Bontrager Cadence cycling shoes had lost all stiffness and you could fold them like a tennis shoe and there were small cracks on the sole at the place where they bend. Two weeks earlier when they were new they were perfectly stiff with no bending.

The Bontrager Solstice WSD, $89 are really good looking and are surprisingly lightweight. The mesh fabric and vents helps to keep your feet cool. The triple Velcro straps make it easy to get the shoes off and on. The sole is stiff enough for me and the rubber tread makes for easier walking. Note the cool socks from Baer Wheels in Columbus. They were sad they could not sell me a pair of shoes so instead they gave me some socks!

I really like the way the Solstice shoes fit and look. They have the same mesh as the Cadence so they have some of the breathablilty and lightweight feel that I was originally looking for.
The main fabric is much thicker than on the Cadence and more like a road shoe. I am hopeful that it will not stretch. As I am writing this review I have owned the shoes for about month and gone about 300 miles. So far so good. There are vents on all sides of the shoe including a tiny one right under your toes. If you move your feet around while riding you can actually get breeze and cool off your feet. I think it is smart to remove your shoes for even a short break when touring, so I appreciate the triple Velcro closure that makes it easy to get the shoes off and on. The removable liner fits in the shoe well and is comfortable. All the stitching is holding up well and the craftsmanship is excellent. I am sad that mine are marred by some road tar from the Amish chip and seal roads–of course it was in the 90s the day we did the climbing! I have not yet tried to clean them. I have not been caught out the rain so I do not know how they will be in wet weather.

After eight days of touring and a few rides around town the Bontrager Solstice cycling shoes still look good. Check out the heavy duty stitching and extra graphics.

After 300 miles the Bontrager Solstice cycling shoes overall are holding up well but both shoes have a tiny hole where the shoe meets the cage. The hole does not go all the way through but is through the top layer.

Bontrager Solstice cycling shoes have just enough tread for easier walking but not too aggressive where it could interfere with the pedal cages.

Bontrager Solstice cycling shoes have lots of extra features built into the design. The top strap is actually two pieces and has a buckle. The tongue is padded and has vent holes and a tab at the top. There is a hoop to hold the tongue to the middle strap. The removable liner and mesh fabric allows the shoe to dry out quickly.

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One Response to For a ride across the state of Ohio, having the right shoe is a good idea. Review of Bontrager Cadence, Bontrager Solstice WSD and Shimanno SH-M038

  1. Pingback: Getting Started in Bicycle Touring | IGotABike

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