Not the prettiest or stiffest soled shoe on the market, but that helps add to the Bontrager Meraj's all day comfort.
Secure closures - including Boa IP1 dial
InForm Pro footbed and heal cup
Not high-end looking
Slight flex in sole
Velcro closure longevity
Finding that all-important racing shoe that fits like the proverbial glove is like gold dust.
Different from a standard road shoe, due to its need to be much stiffer in order to transfer every inch of power your leg puts down through to the pedal, racing shoes still need to be comfortable enough to wear for several hours and the Bontrager Meraj shoes promise to deliver both.
Constructed from synthetic and Trek Lightning Mesh uppers it's clear that the Bontrager Meraj are going to provide a great option for a hot day pushing the pedals, or for those whose feet run hot.
The Boa IP1 steel cable dial also adds to the Meraj ventilation due to it's minimalistic design, and as well as as offering millimetre fit adjustment, will also secure the majority of the foot in the shoe.
A velcro toe box retention assists in this precise fit, although I do have some concerns over the velcro's wear over time - especially in an area constantly at risk of full frontal road crud spray.
Bontrager ranks the Meraj sole as 10 on it's internal 0-14 stiffness index, which means the 70 per cent fibreglass and 30 per cent carbon mix should be reasonably stiff, which for a weight of just 390g (for a pair) will be pretty impressive.
>>> Are carbon-soled cycling shoes necessary?
Being women's specific set, Bontrager has designed the shoes on a narrower and smaller last, which it says is in line with a woman's foot.
This means that not only are the Bontrager Meraj shoes available in smaller sizes, but also that everything has been scaled down, so even the cushioned ‘InForm Pro’ footbed and heel cup offer less volume in crucial areas, which Bontrager says assists power transfer.
Slipping the Meraj on, it was noticeably light and really secure thanks the the minimalistic Boa Ip1 dial retention system, which allowed me to get a millimetre perfection fit with no pressure points. It was also super easy to adjust on the fly - a vital feature for the pre-sprint shoe tightening ritual.
When pedaling out of the saddle, there was a slight flex noticeable in the sole, which a hands on lateral strength test off the bike confirmed. Although, for me personally, I found it probably added to the comfort factor of the Meraj, but if you are looking for totally ridged soles - you may have to look elsewhere.
As predicted, the Bontrager Meraj are very ventilated, making them ideal for hot weather rides, but the downside of cool feet is that the mesh panels in the toe box area don't do much for the shoe in the looks department. And while I admit beauty is in the eye of the beholder - I feel it lets the high-end element of the shoe down.
At just a penny short of £170, the Meraj will seem like a lot of money to many riders, but is in fact at bottom of the price bracket for highend race shoes.
This relative low cost, does factor in performance and looks - so as an out and out race shoe, you may find these wanting, but if you're looking for a very comfortable pair of lightweight shoes that would be easy to spend all day in, especially if you have small feet, then the Bontager Meraj could be just the ticket.
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Hannah is Cycling Weekly’s longest-serving tech writer, having started with the magazine back in 2011. She has covered all things technical for both print and digital over multiple seasons representing CW at spring Classics, and Grand Tours and all races in between.
Hannah was a successful road and track racer herself, competing in UCI races all over Europe as well as in China, Pakistan and New Zealand.
For fun, she's ridden LEJOG unaided, a lap of Majorca in a day, won a 24-hour mountain bike race and tackled famous mountain passes in the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Himalayas.
She lives just outside the Peak District National Park near Manchester UK with her partner, daughter and a small but beautifully formed bike collection.
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