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You don’t have to spend $300 (or more) to find a cycling shoe that fits well, offers modern closures, and is stiff enough for most rides. Bontrager has hit the mark on all three counts with its $160 Specter road shoe.
Out of the box, the Specter feels just like Bontrager’s high-end shoe, the XXX, although perhaps the materials aren’t quite as stripped-down and race-oriented. The heel cup is supple, padded enough for comfort, but not so much as to feel sloppy. The toe ventilation is adequate, paired with the neat little vents cut into the shoe’s synthetic upper.
Boa’s easily adjustable IP1 dial helped snug up our arches for a secure fit. The Velcro strap on the toe helped us tweak forefoot volume, but it must be said that only one Boa dial per foot can sometimes lead to pressure points.
The Specter’s soles aren’t carbon fiber. That’s a bit noticeable when you stand up to sprint, but for most mellow to moderately fast rides, the additional flex is not bothersome. Bontrager employs what it calls a “PowerTruss” sole design to boost stiffness. That additional structure is easy to see in profile, as the sole has little cutouts beneath the arch, like a truss bridge — clever.
Bontrager also made the sensible choice to equip the Specters with both three-bolt road cleat fittings and a two-bolt SPD option.
We won’t go so far as to say that the Specter shoe is ready for high-end racing action, but it’s clear that Bontrager used what it knows from its experience with top-of-the-line shoes to make an affordable option that performs admirably.