This article originally published on BikeRadar.
We've frequently noted numerous little tweaks and upgrades in the past on the bikes of Team Sky captain and current maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins: ultralight custom wheels with Enve carbon rims and Tune or Chris King hubs; full-ceramic bearings; and his trademark O.symetric chainrings. That attention to detail extends beyond his bike, however, as even his shoes are notably lighter than what's used by the majority of the peloton.
Wiggins' shoe of choice is the decidedly niche-market Zero model from Australian outfit Bont. It's quite the fitting name as its ultra-minimalist construction gives it a claimed weight of just 170g per shoe - 70g lighter than Bont's already-feathery Vaypor and nearly half the weight of a more conventional high-end shoe.
Key weight saving features include a paper-thin carbon fiber sole, an aluminized fiberglass upper with no synthetic leather layer on top for aesthetics, and the use of laces instead of a more elaborate ratcheting buckle or even conventional hook-and-look straps. Bont also employs a novel, 'inside-out' monocoque construction where the upper and lower shells of the shoe are wrapped around a last and joined at the edges - not unlike how a carbon frame tube is laid-up around a mandrel - instead of the more typical upper-on-sole bonding method that produces more overlapped material.
According to Bont Cycling CEO Steven Nemeth, the Zero isn't only about being light, though. Despite the sole having a claimed thickness of under 4mm, its bathtub-style construction - shared with the Vaypor - also makes it remarkably rigid (a trait we've noticed in our own reviews as well). Moreover, Nemeth says the built-in arch support and wrapping the edges of the sole up and around the sides of the foot also lends additional support for improved pedaling mechanics.
Normally, that sort of wraparound construction wouldn't produce much comfort but Nemeth contends he's got that covered as well since the entire shoe is heat moldable - including the entire upper and lower - instead of just select areas. In addition, the unusually shaped toe box is much less dramatically tapered than the norm - and more akin to the actual shape of a rider's foot, he says - and while the heel cup fits very snugly, it's cut atypically low for easy ankling.
"It comes down to manufacturing ease," Nemeth said, referring to the traditional methods used by most of the industry. "Why are we making shoes that don't resemble the shape of a human foot? It'd be so much easier to not make our shoes the way we do it."
Moreover, Nemeth even claims the Zero's clean exterior surface and simple, smooth lace cover makes it more aerodynamic than a conventional shoe, too.
Interestingly, Wiggins - who first started using Bont shoes back in his track-only days - is apparently using a bone-stock pair of shoes despite coming into the Tour as the hands-down favorite and his status as a bona fide British star athlete.
"[Our sponsored athletes] ride what people can buy," Nemeth told BikeRadar. "They're all on standard-fit shoes that we manufacture. We'll do custom but we even make those available to the public as well."
Well, as always, there are exceptions, especially when you're likely about to win the Tour de France. Nemeth says that Wiggins does actually have a set of custom Zeros on hand with him, finished in yellow with a big Union Jack - just in case, of course.