Five Ten Freerider VXI - The Ultimate Riding Shoe? - Dirt

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Five Ten Freerider VXI – The Ultimate Riding Shoe?

At one time a name only mentioned in a hushed whisper and revered for its magic frictional qualities, 5:10 have taken the mountain biking world by storm…

From Dirt Issue 134 – April 2013

Words by Ali Todd. Photos by Steve Jones. Over the years, starting with Intense Cycles and the World Cups, they’ve moved into the sheds and shoe racks of mountain bikers across the land, becoming the go–to shoe for weekend riders and professional racers alike. Despite the short–lived craze for buying the Stealth sole and sticking it onto Vans (or similar), it seems you can’t walk onto an uplift bus without tripping over (often literally) some well used Impacts or Freeriders. It’s facing stiff competition from the likes of Giro, Shimano and Teva, but competition breeds development – and develop they have. The result of this development is the new Five Ten Freerider VXi, which a few of us at Dirt have been riding for a while now. We got together with Joe Bowman from Bigstone (UK distributors) and Luke Hontz to discuss 5:10, the new shoe and riding shoes in general. This is what we came back with. How and why did 5:10 start making riding shoes?

Making biking shoes was a good fit for Five Ten due to the benefits of Stealth rubber on flat pedals. In the late 90’s a group of Aussies including Nathan Rennie, Chris Kovarik and Sam Hill got their hands on Stealth rubber and dominated UCI DH races and showed the world what was possible on flat pedals. They helped to build a name in the bike industry for Five Ten. Since then, Five Ten has upped performance for specific categories of riding – including flat pedal, clipless and even trials riding.

It’s been more than a decade since Five Ten introduced a bike specific shoe culminating in the VXi, or ‘Five Ten Innovation’ decoded. We’ll get to the ‘innovation’ bit later, but is the Five Ten Freerider VXi the ultimate riding shoe?

Every shoe is engineered to solve specific problems. Our new Stealth Contact outsole addresses issues some flat pedal riders are facing while still providing the unbeatable traction that’s made Five Ten famous. The Stealth Contact outsole is designed to increase grip while providing more float on the pins. This will allow riders to micro adjust their foot on the fly and still have confidence that they won’t slip a pedal. The way it works is the flat spot on the bottom of the VXi gives full contact with the pins, while our Stealth S1 rubber provides the most grip possible. To reposition your foot, you don’t need to lift it as high off the pedal as you would when the entire sole has Stealth Dotty tread.

What makes the ultimate riding shoe then?

Every shoe has its place, it really depends on what you’re riding. You need to pick a shoe that enhances the type of riding you’re doing, your particular style and the terrain. We made specific shoes for specific riding requirements. It’s not us making the call as to which is the ultimate shoe, it’s our athletes and all the bikers who wear our shoes.

Five Ten was bought by adidas at the end of 2011. Is this where the ‘innovation’ comes into it? The money for research, the technology to improve stiffness and reduce weight?

Adidas does provide invaluable resources that have helped us to increase our focus on innovation (and we’re all getting better at PowerPoint!). However, Five Ten was born and raised in Southern California, and that culture is still at the heart of our company. Five Ten has always led in innovation and technology and continues to do so, with some fantastic synergies from our parent company.

Is this an entirely new shoe then, rather than the ‘Freerider+’, which the name might suggest?

The Freerider VXi is an entirely new shoe and has a completely different fit, as well as our new Stealth Contact outsole. We have added features to the shoe like an EVA midsole, a stiffer platform and a more athletic fit.

The obvious difference is the flat spot on the ball of the foot. It looks a bit like you have decided the normal sole is a bit too grippy, so toned it down a bit. What’s the thinking behind it? Have you decided they’re normally too grippy?!

Again, every shoe has specific benefits. Stealth Contact is obviously not for all situations. Sometimes riders will want and need more tread. Our new Stealth Contact outsole enhances float, but still offers the sticky rubber that riders depend on from Five Ten.

The flat spot is bound to have downsides though. These shoes were designed in California (like a huge amount of bike components), so we see a lot of ideas that work brilliantly in dry, dusty conditions, but come unstuck in the mud like we have here. A flat sole and muddy ground sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

The toe and heel on the Freerider VXi have been designed to enhance grip on soft ground and rock while hiking. The VXi was designed as a pedaling shoe, not hiking. It will still have much more grip than your classic hard plastic XC shoe. If you require even more tread, buy the Impact.

The other obvious feature to question is the mesh on the top of the shoe. Surely the British rider wants something more…‘elements’ friendly?

For Autumn ‘13 we have designed a winterized version, the Freerider VXi Elements. It dries overnight due to hydrophobic materials. We used closed cell foam that won’t soak up water. On the outside is synthetic leather with a DWR coating to further repel moisture.

On a more technical note, I assume the Stealth rubber compound will work better in certain temperatures than others. What’s the optimal temperature for 5.10 shoes, and at what point does the performance seriously fade?

All Stealth rubber compounds are different and there are optimal temperatures for each activity (climbing, biking, paddling, slack lining). For biking our benchmark rubber, Stealth S1, generally works better in temperatures from 60 to 90º Fahrenheit. With climbing, those temperatures drop to about 40 to 55º. We have other climbing rubbers that excel in higher temperatures. Our new MI6 rubber is so soft that it has a wider performance range at cold temperatures, with optimal temps going down to about 50º and up to 80. In any temperature, Stealth performs better than other footwear compounds.

So is the Freerider VXi the ultimate riding shoe? White shoes with partially slick soles don’t mix well with wet days in a Merthyr Tydfil conifer woods but San Remo in spring is another thing. But that misses the point, Five Ten make a range of shoes for varying riding conditions more than any other company. OK, the Vans Gravel gives a good mix of everything too, the elements we talked about and search for – sole grip, support, pedal compatibility, weather proofing, ankle protection, material durability, keeping shape under constant wetting and drying. Fit is also a big feature with flat shoes. For many of us the standard Freerider is still the answer to everyday riding, it’s not perfect but then it seems Five Ten could be the first company that bring us seasonal ranges in compounds, protection, grip and weight. We’re finally getting somewhere.

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