Five Ten Freerider Contact Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
Five Ten has been one of the leaders in the climbing shoe industry with their Stealth sticky rubber for the past three decades. They transitioned into the mountain bike world in the early 2000s and the Freerider Contact has further improved pedal grip over those first models. What started for our testers as an object of skepticism rapidly turned into the highlight shoe, providing an unexpected top score. At first glance, a completely smooth bike shoe sole appears ridiculously slippery and insecure, but that's not the case at all.
The smooth Mi6 rubber simply begs to grab the pins of any flat pedal. While this is the expectation for Stealth soles, the Stealth Mi6 is a cut above. The non-textured sole provides exceptional pedal grip, but also offers features overlooked by other flat shoes: the ability to fine-tune foot position and release from your pedal with greater ease. This is a departure from traditional flat shoes which tend to require a bit more effort to lift the sole from the pedal pins. Off the bike, the Freerider Contact provides traction adequate for most situations but does suffer a bit when the going gets steep or wet.
While pedal grip is the most important feature of a flat shoe, comfort is a close runner-up and the Freerider Contact scores high marks here, too. After miles of riding, both climbing and descending, comfort becomes even more important. The Mi6 sole not only grips pedal pins like a champ, it also provides a first level of cushioning and damping. While cushioning is necessary, support is also crucial, and this comes from molded EVA midsole. After multiple hours in the saddle and on the pedals, the thin protective shield was really appreciated, preventing pressure points on the rider's feet.
A basic insole provided enough comfort, but the Freerider Contact might benefit by the addition of your favorite insoles, especially for riders with higher arches. The mesh upper provides plenty of ventilation even while riding long climbs on warm sunny days.
Obviously, with an open mesh upper, wet weather comfort is a tradeoff. When it's time to dismount for hike-a-bike sections, the shoes provide ample comfort with good cushioning and the midsole preventing contact with sharp rocks and sticks. The abrasion-resistant uppers and a reinforced toecap add a sense of security for inevitable scrapes and toe stubbing. Fit seems true to size, although the forefoot is a bit higher in volume than the regular Freerider.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
Power transfer is excellent and the shoe is an efficient climber, providing an effective platform for multi-hour riding. Even though the Freerider Contact's profile appears slimmer than Five Ten's other offerings, it provides greater stiffness than most. Rigidity is a great characteristic while on the pedals but can become too much of a good thing when walking. This contender performed well, striking a good balance between riding efficiency and walking comfort.
The Freerider Contact is Five Ten's lightest shoe in their Freerider line, tipping the scale at 13.75 oz each for a men's size 9. This is also one of the lightest in our lineup of mountain bike flat shoes, although there was only a total weight difference of 2.25 oz across all shoes tested.
The mesh upper provides plenty of ventilation, even while riding long climbs on warm sunny days. The Freerider Contact's mesh upper is highly breathable but is also prone to infiltration by fine dust particles during late summer conditions. With an open mesh upper, the shoes are mostly open to moisture. If breathability isn't as much of a concern and moisture-resistance is an issue based on where your riding takes place, a shoe with less mesh may be the ticket.
When it comes to rating durability, the Freerider Contact performs so-so. The beefy abrasion-resistant uppers and protective cap stood up to dozens of granite-studded Sierra Nevada hike-a-bike sections without a serious scratch. However, the sole durability was sub-par. This didn't come as a surprise after we initially researched our shoe selection, finding this was a common complaint from numerous other reviews. After a half dozen rides, we noticed some definite wear marks in the treadless portion of the sole caused by pedal pins. Sharp granite edges left some noticeable scars in the rubber as well.
Although we didn't find the lack of sole durability catastrophic, it should definitely factor into your purchasing decisions. A decision to go for the higher sole performance while sacrificing durability is an individual choice. As this test ran over a span of months and not years, it's tough to say how much life you can expect from the Freerider Contact.
The Five Ten Freerider Contact is a high-performance enduro-style shoe that begs to be ridden hard on those long days when you need a shoe that can handle any conditions you throw at it. Lightweight and ventilated adequately for long climbs with downhill performance to match, the Freerider Contact is a top performer.
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