This one is actually a ‘two birds with one stone’ kind of deal. On the one hand we have the sticky rubber that we now love on our tyres, and on the other we have Five Ten’s ‘Stealth’ rubber that created an entirely new dimension in the world of flat pedal grip.
Starting with tyres, it used to be a case of simply deciding which tread pattern you were going to go for. Then we started to get the odd choice in casing, but that was mainly for price Vs weight reasons rather than anything else. The first real change in compound that I remember was when I saw someone with some ‘Magic’ Panaracer Smoke/Dart tyres at a DH race. These things were super hard to get hold of, expensive, and wore out in seconds. They were white because they had no carbon black in them, which in turn meant they were far softer and grippier than usual. Ok, so they definitely weren’t great by modern standards, but they clearly got people thinking that they was something to be gained in this whole compound game because it wasn’t long before we then got treated to tyres like Michelin’s legendary Comp 16. Along with suspension and disc brakes I think it is the improvement in tyre compounds that have enabled us to go so much faster on our bikes, especially around corners.
As for Five Ten’s insanely sticky shoes, well what is there to say? They’ve been around for years now and despite all that time to work out how it’s done the competition still haven’t managed to match the grip. When we first got to try some we really couldn’t believe how good they were, and no matter how hard you tried to explain their performance to someone who hadn’t tried them, you couldn’t. It was only when they themselves tried a pair on that they too realised what all the fuss was about. It seems crazy to say it, but the sole of one pair of shoes really did change the face of flat pedal riding.