Review: Five Ten Freerider VXi

By in Reviews

How do you take a product synonymous with the brand delivering it and a product that is so well respected to the extent its almost standard, and then improve it? It’s not easy that’s for sure and while the temptation to push design boundaries is always there, sometimes breaking away from what many of us have grown so familiar with, can sometimes do more harm than good. Be that as it may, mountain biking has never been a sport to sit still and accept what’s in front of us, regardless of how awesome we think it is…


We are of course talking about Five Ten, Stealth Rubber and the fact that they not only invented a product that changed the way many of us ride our bikes, a product so popular you’d struggle to meet a rider who hasn’t had some experience of it and that the template used across most of their line has remained (to the untrained eye at least) virtually unchanged for quite some time. Cruising around the outdoor expo at last years Eurobike and it was hard not to notice the masters of sticky rubber shoes had been rather busy breaking more than just that famous footprint in the dirt we all know and love!

Words: Olly Forster | Photos: Nathan Carvell & Olly Forster

The new Freerider VXi is more than just another bike shoe with a radical sole design – it’s a totally new chassis built from the ground up for the job at hand; mountain biking. Featuring what Five Ten refer to as a “Performance Fit”, the VXi’s feel quite unlike any Five Ten shoe I’ve ever tried. Construction and attention to detail is very sharp on the VXi as is the overall quality, but there’s so much more to this shoe than what’s visible on the outside…


Handling the VXi’s for the first time is a testament to the fact that they are a totally new shoe design – the first thing you notice is the weight, which at 434 grams a shoe, is 100 grams lighter than a standard Freerider. They are also, and quite significantly, more streamlined than other shoes in the Five Ten line.


F1 tyres anyone? When you talk about the pros and cons encountered when riding in sticky rubber shoes (and Five Ten in particular), it is the heightened level of grip which can be quite vice like, leading to issues with foot re-positioning on the pedals. The new sole design employed on the VXi’s is designed to approach this problem by allowing riders to adjust and move their feet thanks to the introduction of a smooth area, devoid of the traditional Five Ten grip pattern and situated on the ball of the foot – the exact area where you place on your pedals. Sound good?


While the prospect of a totally smooth sole might scare some, the traditional dotty sole we are all familiar with, adorns the toe and heel for grip off the bike.


Out on the Trail

Slipping the Freerider VXi’s on for the first time was an eye opener on several levels, but mostly because after owning more than my fair share of Five Ten’s over the years, the only ones which felt similar to these were the Hellcat’s, and they’re clip-in shoes… This is down to the the all-new ‘Performance Fit’, which gives the VXi a very sporty (insert rigid and purposeful) feel to say the least and every bit the performance product these are billed to be, so expect a little bit of bedding in when you first get them.

The VXi’s are also a little narrower than previous Five Tens, but thankfully nothing like the 5.10-fiveten-Freerider-VXi-2013-1

The first trip out was a day on the DH bike and while these aren’t labelled as an out-and-out DH shoe, I thought what the hell! Running the Burgtec pedals, which are a tad gnarlier than your average flat, the grip was pretty much on it from the off and the only thing I really noticed was how stable my feet felt within the shoe. Hiking and biking wasn’t what these were made for, but if you pick your lines up and watch where you put your feet, they are surprisingly grippy in places where you wouldn’t imagine they’d have any grip at all…

If you suffer with an OCD foot position disorder and hate clips, the VXi was designed for you – the vice like grip synonimous with Five Ten can be a real pain if you can’t get your foot back into the ‘sweet spot’ after a dab, but the new sole design with its unique flat spot allows your foot to reposition itself without having to be physically lifted off the pedals to get things where you want them to be.


While hiking and biking wet UK DH tracks wasn’t really the angle to which the designers at Five Ten were coming from, the VXi is admittedly restricted in such environments and for good reason – these are riding shoes and not hiking shoes. In the dry, no bother and like all Stealth Rubber soles, they bed in over time and you quickly learn their characteristics. On the trail bike is pretty much where these shoes are squarely aimed at (in my opinion) and with so many riders rocking flats and sticky shoes while out shredding their 140-160mm trail bikes, a shoe with a nod in their direction should be explored further…


On the trail bike, you really notice the way the VXi’s new sole design comes in to play and at first, how to best make use of this new design as it’s characteristics are distinctly different from what we’ve used in the past. From the off, climbing is weird to just plain awkward, at least until you get the hang of things…

Running some more averagely grippy Moove pedals, the level of grip when sat down and climbing was pretty poor and especially so on technical climbs where the trail was littered with the kind of obstacles you’d prefer to see on the way back down. The reason for this lies in the new sole design, which allows for a heightened level of movement between the sole and the pins when the load from you reduces – like sitting down and grinding gears up a dirty big hill. To overcome wandering feet takes a little practice and technique prevails as always, but any annoyance soon disappears when you go back to regular shoes and suffer similar issues, but then struggle to find the sweet spot due to too much grip!

Descending and doing all the fun stuff? Well, they feel like any other pair of Five Tens and as soon as you stand up and get into an attack position on the bike, your weight is directed through to the pins below, increasing the grip to a more familiar level, but with one distinctly different ability, and that’s this heightened level of freedom on the pedals. It is this ability and the addition of a sturdier, more purposeful chassis combined with a stiffer sole, that really makes the VXi’s stand out from the crowd.


The Freerider VXi represents a leap in flat pedal specific shoe technology that acknowledges the drawbacks inherent with a product that does its job so well, it can actually hinder you in the process. It also shows the direction Five Ten are taking with their bicycle line and the benefits of being part of a bigger animal (Adidas) is starting to show in their own line, and while there’s nothing wrong with the slip on and shred Five Ten’s of old, the VXi’s are an important step in the right direction.

Are they for everybody? No, but then what is these days? Ultimately, the experienced trail rider looking to get away from unsupported, heavy shoes that are potentially just too-grippy for what they do, will love these shoes. They will take a few rides to bed-in like a good pair of clips shoes (or any specific sports shoes for that matter) and a little time to also get your head around how you need to position your weight with regards to the on and off nature of their grip. I’d say these aren’t for the DH set as you’ll be hard pushed to beat the feel of a pair of Impacts when hurtling down a steep trail on the edge of control, and if you want to “section” parts of a track in the wet, forget it!

It’s also worth noting that these are great looking shoes and available in three colour-ways including the blue/ grey (Five Ten call it Pumice) number we reviewed. Lighter and with less water absorbing material than their peers, the VXi’s are every bit the honed cycling shoe for the modern mountain biker.


Downsides? Only for those who shouldn’t look their way in the first place. Like I’ve said, not for hard core DHers (although they are pretty good providing its dry and/or your not hiking back up) and perhaps not for the inexperienced rider. If you like to feel your pedals through your shoes, these might not be for you too as the sole is pretty rigid, but in all honesty, you quickly get used to it and it is there to help, not hinder… I actually think a clips rider looking to make the switch and especially for those new to sticky rubber shoes, could potentially get their head around these much faster than they would on some stock Freeriders or similar shoes. Other than that, they’re not cheap at £95GBP, but when you look at the tech, materials and capabilities of what is a radically new take on a design that’s been around for over ten years, it’s not that bad. These are also respectively priced amongst other “sports specific” cycling shoes, which the VXi’s most definitely are!

Five Ten could easily sit back and rest on their laurels as they already rule the roost, but have instead looked at the specific needs of a good proportion of the mountain bike community, where and how they ride and delivered a product designed specifically to meet their needs. They’ve also delivered a pretty good shoe in itself, regardless of the new sole pattern I might add… If your in the market for some new shoes to get dirty in, I’d really recommend taking a closer look at the Freerider VXi as they could well be the shoes you’ve been looking for!

For more information on the Freerider VXi and the other shoes from the Five Ten range, hit the big logo below. Happy trails, Olly.




In Reviews


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