The new Flatline flat pedal shoe from Bontrager offers a great balance between function and style.
Our black Flatline shoes look like a traditional street styled shoe using laces (the box includes both red and black laces for you selection) to keep your foot snug and in place. They come with a really nice and normal looking sole with only the small Vibram logo near the heel giving away any hint that this shoe could be more than meets the eye.
Support-wise and for general comfort when on your foot they feel very much like a skate shoe and deliver a rather plush feeling once on when compared to a SPD (or clip-in) shoes of the same styling. Even with the slightly tougher external materials and reinforced toe box, the Flatline still does not feel like a cycling shoe until you match it with a set of pedals.
We combined our Flatline shoes with a set of Bontrager’s Line Pro flat pedals. These pedals have an adjustable pin height, rather generous platform and nice smooth bearings. When first playing with our Flatline black shoes we thought that for sure we would be opting for the longer pin height on the Line Pro pedal, but in order to not jump to conclusions we opted to set out on our first ride with the standard pin height. This was to be the only option we required as once the shoe and pedal mated, there was ample grip supplied by the Vibram sole.
One of the interesting notes about the Flatline shoe was the input from Ryan Howard – one of Trek’s premier Slope Style riders. R Dogg’s signature understated style and look is evident when viewing the Flatline black shoes, with that function over fashion appearance self-evident. What is also interesting to note is the amount of support the Flatline offers under foot when pedalling. We spent approximately 20 hours riding around the trails (light XC to technical downhill) in the Flatlines and very rarely did we discover using a flat pedal to be a hindrance, not even when climbing non-technical terrain. Having said this, on rougher more technical climbs, the lack of support delivered by the Flatlines compared to that from a stiffer SPD shoe and the extra pull you get by being clipped in was evident as the legs started to fatigue.
Once our trail tipped the other way and we again began our descent, we could feel the real advantages of a flat pedal. With the high amount of grip the Flatline offers there is an increase in confidence as you rail turns. You imagine yourself as Sam Hill #footoutflatout.
However, riding flat pedals is not for everyone, with some brands offering too much grip meaning the ability to adjust the position of your foot once on the pedal can certainly deter some folk from using them. The Flatline comes close and almost provides too much grip, but as they become worn in, the ability to twist and maneuver your foot and reposition it becomes far easier (we hope this doesn’t mean they will wear out too fast though).
If you are looking for a flat pedal shoe that doesn’t look like a cycling shoe and will accommodate a wider foot then definitely take a look at Bontrager’s Flatline. Flatline shoes are certainly not the most expensive shoe either – so if you are looking at going back to your roots or just want to feel like Sam Hill, then this could be a smart option to take you back to the good old days.
|- Understated style with great performance||- Might not suit a skinny foot|
|- Very comfortable|
|- Very grippy|