|Five Ten Freerider VXi Shoes - Tested |
Think about mountain bike shoes intended for flat pedals and it's likely Five Ten is one of the first brands that comes to mind, and for good reason. The company's Stealth rubber, which was originally developed in 1985 for use on climbing shoes, is renowned for being ultra-sticky, providing loads of grip between shoe and pedal. In fact, this amount of traction can sometimes make changing foot position difficult, leading many riders to remove some of their pedal's traction pins to customize the amount of grip. For 2013, Five Ten introduced the Freerider VXi shoe with their Contact outsole, a smooth portion under the ball of the foot designed to make repositioning easier. This smooth portion is still made from Stealth rubber, but the raised dots found on the rest of the sole have been removed. The shoe's uppers are made from a mix of double stitched leather and breathable mesh, and have metal reinforced lace rivets. There is also an asymmetrical welt (the part of the shoe between the upper and the sole) for protection from crankarm rub. We took these shoes on nearly every type of ride imaginable, everything from long cross country rides to lift-served laps in the bike park, to see how they held up.
• Stealth Contact outsole
• Breathable, abrasion resistant upper
• Asymmetrical welt
• Sizes US 3-12, 13, 14
• Color: charcoal/grey, red/black, pumice/black
• Weight: 900g (pair, size 10.5)
• Price: $120 USD
Well thought out features, like metal lace eyelets and a reinforced toe cap are designed to make the Freerider VXi as durable as possible. The asymmetrical welt
(bottom left) helps prevent premature wear from crankarm rub.On the Trail
From the moment we put them on, the Freerider VXi felt less boxy and more form fitting than other Five Ten shoes we've used, a welcome improvement. The fit seemed closer to what you would expect from a running shoe, holding the foot securely in place without any unwanted movement inside the shoe. As far as sole stiffness goes, compared to the rest of the company's flat pedal shoe lineup it seems to fall somewhere in the middle; not quite as stiff as the Impact shoe, but slightly stiffer than the standard Freerider.
The Contact sole does make it slightly easier to reposition your feet when sitting in the saddle, as there is less weight on the pedals, but this isn't when we typically want to change foot position. Standing up out of the saddle on a descent seems to be when the need to change foot position usually arises, whether it's to get situated for an upcoming jump or to realign ourselves on the bike after getting jarred off line by an errant rock or root. When standing out of the saddle, the Freerider VXi seemed just as grippy as the traditional dotted Stealth sole - it grabbed tenaciously to the pedal's pins, and we can't recall slipping a pedal at any point during the duration of the test. This tenacious grip did mean that it was still necessary to perform the 'lift and turn' technique that we've become accustomed to using with other Five Ten shoes to reposition our feet. This isn't necessarily a bad thing – after years of wearing sticky-soled shoes it's a maneuver that has become second nature, and we would rather have shoes with a little extra grip instead of not enough, but the Contact sole didn't seem make moving our feet as easy as we would have expected.
Five Ten's Contact outsole does away with the dots under the ball of the foot, a design intended to make it easier to move your foot on the pedals, but one that we found to have downsides when not on the bike.Issues
While there was plenty of on-bike traction, walking with the Freerider VXi was another matter altogether. On dry, hardpacked terrain they were fine, sticking to rocks with ease and offering enough flexibility to make them comfortable for extended hike-a-bike sections. However, sprinkle a little moisture onto the dirt and rocks and the tables quickly turn. Any previous traction disappeared, replaced by the feeling of wearing tap shoes on a frozen pond. One of our local rides ends with a short, steep hike out of a creek bed. Trying to find purchase on the muddy walls of the creek bed was difficult to say the least – it was necessary to weight the very front of the shoe (where the dots are
), and gingerly tiptoe back to level ground. The same scenario happened on wet rock faces – forget to step carefully and you may find yourself splayed out flat on your back making mud angels. Pinkbike's take:
|We were impressed by the fit of the Freerider VXi, and for rides without any off-bike excursions this is a fine shoe. Durability seems excellent as well, with less visible wear than we'd expect given the number of rides these shoes have been on. That being said, the Contact sole severely limits the shoe's capabilities in wet weather - the negatives of the smooth sole seem to outweigh the positives, at least in our part of the world. Riders in drier climates, or that rarely step off the bike might not find this to be as much of an issue. Given that it seemed only marginally easier to reposition our feet on the pedals with the Contact sole, we'd rather have the traditional sole found on Five Ten's other flat pedal shoes. We'd love to see some of the features from this shoe, mainly the metal lace eyelets, light weight and revised fit, applied to Five Ten's Impact shoe, a shoe that's due for an update. If that dream ever came true, Five Ten would likely have a shoe that could rule the flat pedal world. - Mike Kazimer|