Tested: Five Ten Freerider VXi
By Vernon Felton
I've been running Five Ten Impact Highs for an eternity or two and while I've gone on record here vowing my love for that old standby, I was intrigued when Five Ten released the Freerider VXi model last year. The VXi is a much lighter shoe than the Impact (and many other older Five Ten models, for that matter). What's more, the Freerider VXi sports a less aggressive sole.
Here's the deal: Flat-pedal riders tend to fall into two camps when it comes to Five Tens. There are those who love Five Ten's ultra-sticky Stealth sole and those who feel like the sole is too grippy—actually making it difficult for them to shift their feet while riding. The VXi aimed to please that second group. To that end, while the shoe still sports Five Ten's proprietary Stealth rubber compound, the company has removed the traction knobs from the meat of the shoe (where the ball of your foot contacts the pedal).
Would the Freerider VXi offer too little grip? When you look at that baby-butt smooth sole, you'd sure as hell think so. The design looks ridiculous. Why pay for a shoe that's pre-worn out? The VXis look like the acid-wash jeans of cycling shoes. It's not confidence inspiring. Looks, however, are deceiving.
Grip is still outstanding. In fact, it kind of boggles the mind. If we were talking about any other rubber compound, I think you'd be looking at countless slipped pedals and shins that look like they were made of bloody hamburger meat. Five Ten's Stealth rubber, however, is wicked stuff—even without all the tread, these things still cling to your pedals like they were Velcro'd on. In fact, the Freerider VXi may still be too sticky for some riders. I'm not one of those guys—I'll take all the grip I can get and was glad to find that Five Ten's best trait still shines through on this shoe.
That, however, is when the shoe is making sweet love to your traction pins. The grip isn't nearly so hot when you’re walking around in wet conditions. Hike-a-bikes in the rain can be sketchy. If you live somewhere dry, you can ignore this paragraph altogether. On the other hand, if your Hobbit Hole is located somewhere soggy, you might be bummed when it comes time to hobble down a sketchy section of trail.
On the whole, the Freerider VXi is an impressive shoe. While it doesn't look as bomber as some of Five Ten's older, heavier models, mine have withstood the elements and plenty of encounters with rocks quite well. They are surprisingly rugged. The Freerider VXi also boasts a more comfortable fit than earlier Five Ten models. I almost want to say they fit tighter, but that's not really accurate. It's more like the inner form of the shoe meshes more closely with the actual shape of my foot. Take that with a grain of salt—my feet are not your feet. Still, I have a feeling that Five Ten put some effort into improving the overall fit of the shoe. Kudos to them there.
Bottom line: the Freerider's are more comfortable during those all-day pedaling efforts than previous Five Ten's, yet still offer outstanding pedaling grip and durability. Hike a bikes aren't their best suit, but if you found yourself removing traction pins in order to run other Five Ten models, you'll dig these.