We sat down with one of our supporting partners, Bont, to chat all things shoes!
Noosa Classic: Sitting at the helm of Bont Cycling, you’re not only the CEO of Bont Cycling but also the one responsible for the unique design characteristics of each and every shoe model. How do you fit it all in?
Steven Nemeth: Very long days and being careful with how and where I dedicate my time. Of course, it helps immensely to have a number of great people around me.
NC: Apart from riding in sunny Noosa (of course), what is your favourite place to ride, when time permits?
SN: In Australia, I would say South Australia and Tasmania – both offer a stunning landscape in which to ride a bike. Overseas, there are so many but anytime time I throw my leg over a bike I am pretty much happy. I’m not overly picky as it’s always been about the ride and the people rather than the specific location.
NC: Bont shoes have been ridden, raced and won at the highest level of professional cycling. You must feel a huge level of satisfaction in seeing Bont Cycling shoes proven in this way?
SN: I do! When I think about the work that has gone into our products and the fact we are so different – that’s not easy either – there is a sense of satisfaction. One of the biggest joys I get is talking to people out on the road who wear our products and don’t know what I do. Listening to them about how they feel about Bont Cycling products is always a great experience and lovely way to learn where we can improve.
NC: Many of us would remember Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France victory in 2012. How did it come to be that the world’s biggest team (Sky, now Ineos) and its star rider, chose Bont?
SN: Brad had worn Bont Cycling shoes in the past when he was with the Garmin (Education First Pro Cycling) outfit run by Jonathan Vaughters. It was actually Brad who approached us and the discussion began about him using our products.
NC: Bont supports a huge number of cycling teams, athletes, national teams and events (including the Noosa and Bowral Classics) around the world and from that, there must be a huge number of other high level victories. Is there one that stands out?
SN: Every win that is captured using Bont Cycling shoes is special but it is never about just the victory. For us, it’s about creating a truly unique and special product and constantly evolving.
NC: There’s an undeniable difference when it comes to Bont Cycling shoes and it’s not just the aesthetics that catches the eye, we’re assuming a lot goes into the design and specific construction methods of each shoe?
SN: There is, everything starts from a sports science foundation and then each discipline is looked at differently – due to differing needs. Track riders, TT specialists, roadies and mountain bike riders all have different demands in order to perform at their highest level. We look at these disciplines from a functional standpoint to see where we can assist in not only performance enhancement but also injury prevention. We are extremely fortunate to have some amazing people who believe in what we do and are leaders in the fields of sports science and orthopaedics. With the help of these individuals we have been able to perform some really interesting testing around the biomechanics of cycling while also taking an in-depth look at common injuries that can occur along with their cause.
NC: In an industry with a near endless choice of shoe brands, Bont Cycling stands because of this strong focus around anatomical design. Can you explain the background behind Bont’s ethos a little more?
SN: It’s all about science but the absolute non-negotiable criteria in our design is that each model conforms to our two core values. The first is around performance enhancement and the second is injury prevention. Essentially, cycling shoe designs in general haven’t really changed much in the last 25 years. Sure, we have seen materials improve and we now have various closure mechanisms but the actual shape of shoes hasn’t really evolved. This is one area we really looked at; what I wanted to create were shoes that not only took advantage of some of our proprietary carbon and resin technology but really focused on anatomical factors that impact cyclists. I often have people tell me our shoes look weird because of their shape but my fairly simple answer is ‘have a look at the shape of your feet and tell me if our shoes still look weird?’. Our focus is really around the creation of a true anatomical fit that is based on the movements of a foot while cycling. Not when walking or standing around but while a rider’s feet are actually pedalling.
NC: The Bont Helix goes one step again with a retention format that is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Can you tell us a little about how this model came to life?
SN: Helix is just another step forward towards what I ultimately want to create. We have been working on various functional features in the past three models and the Helix is the result of a shoe that really envelopes the foot to create a more comfortable and secure hold.
NC: Like a number of other models tested by Bicycling Australia, the Helix is also heat-mouldable. Heat moulding features are not something you see very often these days. Is it simply more expensive to produce a heat-mouldable shoe?
SN: It is. For us, fit, comfort and efficiency have always been important factors and we need to do it whilst providing the foot with structural support to help with common injuries. It would be far cheaper and easier for us to simply put some soft material around specific parts of the shoe and just let it deal with varying foot shapes through material stretch, but this would open up the door to issues which can result in patellar tendonitis, hip and back problems.
We basically don’t take short cuts.
NC: Staying on fit you also offer four standard widths and then if that’s not enough, your hand-built models – Vaypor S, Helix and Zero+ – can be made with additional custom features, how does the factory manage those requests?
SN: We have a specific team in the factory that deals with full custom shoes. These are individuals who have been with us for a long time and are highly trained. We use medical grade casting socks and make a specific last on which each individual shoe is made.
NC: Oh, and colours too. How long can someone expect to wait if they request custom shoes?
SN: For a full custom shoe you are looking at 8-10 weeks, semi-custom (that is, custom colours) it’s 6-8 weeks.
NC: At the other end of the spectrum, there’s a shoe like the new Riot buckle. From what we’ve read, much of Bont’s top-level features are also found in a shoe at one third of the cost. That suggests you’re pretty adamant when it comes to performance?
SN: We are, but again it really comes back to the core values I mentioned earlier. We simply don’t want to make a shoe that doesn’t hold true to our design values. An individual who is just getting into the sport or simply riders wanting more entry level shoes should not be penalised with an inferior fit or lack of technology. Our new Riot ensures riders of any ability can ride comfortably and with structural support that will minimise possible repetitive injuries.
NC: Finally, thanks again for your support of the Noosa Classic. Will your shoes be on display at the Noosa Classic on Sunday, August 18th 2019?
SN: Thank you for putting on such a great event each year, and yes we will definitely have our team there.