Bike riding has not only given me many incredible hours in the saddle, but also taught me some hard learned lessons about myself, and my equipment. Like the first time I rode in Whistler (during Crankworx no doubt), looking to change from fire roads to more technical features—often referred to in BC as "North Shore riding" after the trails outside of Vancouver.
I was smart enough to arrange to ride with a local—an older, somewhat stoic fellow named Bill, who had been riding the area for close to 20 years. Before pushing out to rip my legs off for the entire day, Bill questioned me, “Aren't you riding with flat pedals?”
Ignoring this seemingly innocent enquiry, I clipped into my SPDs to what would become a long, arduous day of pulling off at best 40% of the bridges and features that make up trails such as “A River Runs Through It” and “Comfortably Numb”. The remaining 60% of the time, I fell and fell some more, sometimes still clipped in to my bike, sometimes not. I managed to pull my groin to add insult to injury and to serve as a reminder of my stupidity for weeks to come.
In order to save me from myself, Five Ten graciously sent a pair of Freerider VXi to test out. I had yet to come up with an acceptable solution for technical riding, so was excited to give the Freeriders a try.
The Contact outsole on the Freerider is made from Five Ten's über sticky STEALTH MI6 rubber. With 50-percent more shock absorption and damping than any other mountain bike shoe on the market, not only is it incredibly sticky, but also absorbs impact as you smash through rock gardens. Covering everything from downhill to all mountain, the Freerider uses a tough and durable construction, with an abrasion resistant upper and plenty of mesh to allow for good breathability.
I rode the Freerider VXi throughout the California spring, in both wet and dry conditions, all the time amazed at how my feet welded to the pedals. No matter what trail features I rode, from steep climbs and tight switchbacks to quarter pumping off a lip, I felt confident that my foot would stay planted with continuous power transfer. Even though the treadless ball of the foot means great contact on the pedal, I could still shift my weight and position the shoe as needed throughout my ride.
The Freerider VXi fits true to size with a slightly roomier toe box than other Five Ten shoes I have tried. The leather upper is PU protected, so you don’t need to worry about riding in wet conditions.
To add a bit more support for long rides, I swapped out the stock insole for the BIKEPRO MED insole from CurrexSole. The BIKEPRO insole features a Force Transmission Pad that delivers even power transfer, particularly as you climb. Most importantly, the 3D DAT insert under the arch means I feel more balanced on the pedal, most noticeable in slow speed, tight turns or moving over difficult features.
For all the confidence and power transfer you get from clipless mountain bike shoes, but with the assurance that comes from being able to put your foot down at a moments notice, check out the Five Ten Freerider VXi. These flat pedal mountain bike shoes retail for $120 and are available now.