Here’s a confession: I don’t like spending money on biking gear. Yeah, I know it may seem like a strange thing to say for someone who writes a lot about biking, but it’s the truth. While I like buying new outdoor gear like sunglasses, drifit shirts and shorts, I don’t really buy stuff specific to mountain biking unless I absolutely have to.
Shoes for instance. For the longest time, I resisted getting biking-specific shoes. Instead, I bought trail running shoes. Why? I just didn’t see any point in spending on shoes that I could only use on the bike, when I could have footwear that i could use both on and off the pedals. I also thought that a lot of MTB shoes with their plastic soles looked a bit goofy.
But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of rides that have been quite harsh on my minimalist trail runners, not to mention my ankles and calves. My shoes were getting ripped by the pins on my pedals, while feet and shins were feeling scorched from too many heel-down sessions on technical trails. So last May, I finally relented and got myself some proper biking shoes. I got the Five Ten Maltese Falcon.
I first encountered Five Tens in the world of rock climbing. Some of the regulars at Power Up gym wore Five Tens, along with other brands like Scarpa and Mad Rock.
Trivia: Five Ten or 5.10 refers to a difficulty grade in sport climbing. How difficult? Just look at the photo of the rock climber above and you’ll get an idea.
5.10 rock climbing shoes use special rubber soles that make climbing up walls much much easier because of their stickiness. These shoes make it possible to keep your feet planted on the wall even if there isn’t any foothold. You could smear your shoes on rock and they would stick.
Five Ten uses this same rubber compound on its mountain biking shoes. I must admit that I was initially skeptical of how Five Ten’s sticky rubber would fare when mated with metal pedals. I knew that downhillers and freeriders have backhoed tons of praise on these shoes because they supposedly stuck to the pedals like glue, allowing for amazing control on gravity trails. But still, I had my doubts.
Now, I don’t have any doubts anymore. The hype was real: these shoes do provide amazing grip! I’ve tried them on jackhammer rock garden trails where my trail running shoes would sometimes slip and bounce off the pedals. The Five Tens however, kept my feet firmly glued on the the traction pins.
Talagang matindi ang kapit, parang si Binay sa Makati… or maybe not. We all know the grip of traditional politicians is on a whole different level.
The firm grip also helped me better attack technical climbs. I could mash on the cranks without worrying that my feet would slip and cause undue pain and sorrow. Even on less technical but tough and grueling climbs like The Wall, the stiffness and stickiness of the soles helped fend off the fatigue that would sometimes creep into my calves and ankles.
I know some people will say that using cleats and clipless pedals will achieve the same thing. And they’re probably right. While the Maltese Falcon allows for cleats, I’m just having too much fun right now using them on platform pedals. If I put cleats on them, they may become awkward for hike-a-bikes.
Speaking of which, the Five Tens were also surprisingly competent when it came to hiking despite the absence of aggressive tread patterns or lugs on the soles. I knew they’d do well on solid rock, but they also proved reliable on loose gravel and soil.
Of course, I wouldn’t use them as regular hiking shoes, but during several hike-a-bike rides, the Five Tens provided amazing traction when walking up steep slopes with lots of slippery rocks and loose gravel. I think they actually perform way better than the XC clipless shoes which use plastic soles. I’ve seen a lot of guys wearing those shoes slip and slide on hikes because… well, plastic isn’t really known for its grip.
Bottomline is: These shoes are just amazing. But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. I have a few gripes actually.
The shoes don’t drain well. The leather uppers are great for keeping splashing water of your feet, but they also trap the wetness in. When I rode the Pinatubo trail, I had to cross several streams and wade into knee-deep waters. The Five Tens felt like wet rags wrapped around my feet.
The black leather uppers also don’t ventilate too well. On the scorching hot Pinatubo ride, the Five Tens felt a bit hot–not uncomfortably hot, but noticeably hot.
And finally the Five Tens are also a bit heavy. The substantial build of these shoes will protect your feet from sharp rocks and almost anything the trail can thrown at you. But they also feel and weigh almost like industrial safety shoes
Maybe I just got spoiled by my minimalist running shoes which weigh like air, ventilate like an air conditioner, and drain water like a submersible pump.
I’ll probably go clipless eventually. I used clipless pedals way back when I was still a roadie, and I can say that they really are more efficient when you’re doing day-long road rides. But for now, the Five Ten Maltese Falcon and platform pedals are already an awesome combination for the trails.