I was wrong. ~Pepper
For most of my biking life, I've been "clipped-in," and for good reason. I basically started racing my bikes before riding them.
So naturally, I got pretty good at the clipless (which actually means being clipped-in... cycling is dumb). Albeit, the learning curve is a little sketchy. My earliest memories include nearly drowning in Mill Creek while I was still attached to my bike at the feet. (The OG DirtGirls will remember this!)
I couldn't ride my mountain bike very well on platform (flat) pedals. Unable to match my skill-set, I decided that flat pedals sucked and being clipped-in was better. It can't be me, it has to be the pedals, right? Well, in this instance I can make a bit of a case for my silly excuse.
My good friend Janet (local legend) had been a flat-pedal rider for years and often provided well pointed arguments for riding on flat-pedals in opposition to being clipped in. I assumed our different riding backgrounds had the most influence on our perspective, but I ended up glossing over an important part of her argument. The equipment.
All my previous experiences on flats had been on crappy nylon pedals with no pegs/pins and whatever trail runner I had in rotation. I was ignorant to the possibilities. How could a mountain bike 'specific' shoe make that experience any better?
Wow! Turns out that a killer set of quality flat/platform pedals, matched with a reputable pair of mountain bike shoes really is the answer.
I'm ashamed and proud to admit that this is my first pair of 5Tens, and I am hooked!
I'm a complete convert (Except for racing...). This is how I role now and it's afforded me the opportunity to improve my riding experience. I wasn't expecting that.
On one hand, I feel like I pushed back for too long, but on the other I'm not mad at myself about it. I still use my clipless pedals for nearly every other type of riding outside of mountain biking, and I'm still not likely to show up at a cross-country race with flats.
It's more fun to keep being wrong and gain new experience and try all the flavors. Janet was right and now I'm telling the world. Below are some reason's I really like riding flats and then after that I have my own quick review of the Five-Ten Freerider's that I'm using.
What do I like about riding flats?
So just to be clear, it's not just riding flat pedals. I'm serious about choosing a good flat pedal (with pins) and a purpose built flat-sole mountain bike shoe to get the best out of what I've experienced. In this case, my experience is limited. I've used Giro's and 5Tens. There's a big world out there. So you may need to try a few options. Here are some of my favorite perks.
Grippy! Holy smokes, I didn't believe the hype, but the compound and design of these shoes on my spank spike pedals is perfect. Grippy, sticky... Stippy? Gricky? - whatever, you'll just skip or slip off your pedal less. Way less.
Stance - Have you ever played with your stance on the pedals? Foot placement, and foot placement options. Being readily able to place your foot differently on the pedal can open up possibility to change pedal pressures and body position. That can change how your ride certain trail features.
Start and Stop Nearly Anywhere - I'm just going to say it. It's safer in a lot of circumstances. Bailing, is way less chaotic and I can start from positions that were formerly, less ideal when clipping-in was necessary.
How'bout them Five-tens?
This is my first pair, so take a sip, but don't chug this review. For reference, these are 2021 Five-ten Freerider Women's size 6.5
They fit big. I'm a full Size-and-half smaller in the 5tens than my normal shoe size
They are roomy. At first I wasn't a fan of the wiggle room, but I've come to appreciate the space.
Cozy, airy and not super clunky. The thick sole kinda clip-clops when you walk, but I'm not recommending them for your weekend 5k run. "Who's that clip-clopping over my bridge?"~Three Billy Goats Gruff.
They stand up to the grippy reputation. I love the grip. There's been few circumstance where I've been unable to ride up the same technical climbs that I've done with my clipless pedals (your results may vary based on skill/ability)
Pretty tough. I've been riding them hard for 3 months and they are mostly in great shape. I can just start to see wear marks on the sole from the constant digging of the pins on the pedals.
I should mention that I notice the sole is slightly delaminating from the shoe. Though, based on what they've been through, I'm not surprised. Just keep that in mind if you're hoping to get more than a couple season's out of one pair.
Looks Score: 4 out of 5
Durability Score: 3 out of 5
Improved riding experience score: 5 out of 5