Dirt Rag Magazine

First Look: New FiveTen Kestrel Lace

Say what you will about the enduro craze, but one thing we can’t deny is that many of the products being developed for racing have led to goods that are perfect for good ol’ fashioned mountain biking. One example is these new FiveTen Kestrel Lace shoes we found at Crankworx.


The Kestrel model was first introduced as a performance shoe that is lighter and stiffer than FiveTen’s more gravity-oriented models. It is built with a carbon-infused shank and closes with a BOA system. The new lace-up version, however, uses a more traditional nylon shank and traditional laces. The uppers are synthetic and the outsole features FiveTen’s dot pattern with S1 rubber. Both the lace and the BOA versions will be available going forward.


The Kestrel Lace will be available in both men’s and women’s versions and retail for $150 when they hit stores in February.


Shimano releases new gravity, touring and winter shoes

The new Shimano gravity series has been designed with input from Men’s Downhill World Champion Gee Atherton, 2013 Downhill World Champion Rachel Atherton and multiple British 4X National Champion Dan Atherton. The Atherton’s influence is clear to see in the AM9, which the whole GT Atherton team has been testing since the beginning of the season, with protection and grip to suit harsh riding conditions and the most aggressive riding styles.




The newly designed pedal channel in the outsole of the AM9 makes it easier to re-engage to the pedal while unclipped. This feature also brings about a weight-saving of 217g per pair (size 40), a 23% reduction over the AM45. It features a comfortable EVA foam construction midsole and Volume Tour Last sizing outsole for extra volume at the ball of the foot, providing additional comfort and support on and off the bike. A Velcro strap on the upper of all new AM shoes keeps the foot securely in place with even tension across the metatarsal bones.




The AM7 is identical to the AM9 but with a flat Virbram outsole for flat pedals. Armoured lace shields on the AM9 and AM7 provide additional metatarsal protection from the elements and keep laces confined, away from chain rings and cranks.




The AM5 on the other hand, foregoes the lace shield to offer a street-inspired style, equally at home in skate parks, trail parks and everywhere in between. With a lightweight and non-compressed flat insole, the AM5 offers an even and comfortable foot cushion for a platform that’s ideal for both walking and riding.



With its high-ankle protection and walking support, the XM9 takes on the appearance of a hiking boot rather than a traditional cycling shoe. Strategic ankle padding prevents debris from entering the shoe and offers more ankle support than a regular cycling shoe without interfering with pedaling movement. Further protection from the elements comes in the form of a durable rubber toe cap, natural nubuck leather and a breathable, waterproof Gore-Tex liner for optimal climate comfort.Traditional laces provide the closure system with metal hook eyelets for lacing, combined with a Mini Power Strap, TPU heel, and cupped and grooved insole to secure your foot in the shoe.



Designed for riders who are likely to spend as much time off the bike as on it, the XM7 delivers the best of both worlds. Natural Nubuck leather and a reinforced rubber toe box provide protection and durability, whilst a Gore-Tex liner allows your feet to breathe. Much like the XM9, a Vibram® outsole provides grip and a flexible half-length shank plate and shock absorbing EVA delivers outdoor walkability in all conditions. The lace closure system with its Velcro cross-foot top loop-strap provides a snug fit and allows laces to be tucked away.

Both the XM9 and XM7 come with a screw-in plastic cap for the recessed SPD cleat. This multi-functional cap is designed for use with flat pedals but is designed to fit an SPD pedal for those who want to get used to the cleat entry and exit action before committing. The cap simply unscrews when you’re ready to add Shimano’s SPD cleats.



A new addition in Shimano’s off-road shoe line-up, these insulated and waterproof boots are fleece-lined for protection from rain and cold. They have a waterproof Gore-Tex insulated comfort liner and heat-retaining fleece lined insole as well as Shimano’s Torbal torsional midsole giving you a stiff instep section and an independently flexible front and back section. This gives the foot a natural flow for descents and also provides you with efficient power transfer to the areas of the foot that need it most. Meanwhile high-traction rubber studs on the outer edges of the sole ensure excellent traction on a wide variety of terrains and conditions.

For mountain biking, the MW7´s molded toe cap and ankle support, cupped high sole and instep, and tough, padded synthetic leather surround protects the foot from on-trail basketball-shaped rocks. Lacing is taken care of with speed-lacing pull-cord and Velcro armored lace shield to ensure a quick and secure fit.

Pricing and availability

  • MW7 – September
  • XM series, AM9 and AM5 – October
  • AM7 – November
  • Pricing has not yet been determined.



Trail Tested: Bontrager Rhythm Trail Shoes

By William Kirk

These Bontrager Rhythm shoes could easily hide on the shelf at your LBS under the guise of a standard light-duty cross country shoe. However, if you dig deeper you’ll find features with an obvious gravity influence. About the intended usage of the$160 Rhythm shoes, Bontrager says “A little bit of all-purpose. Trail. Tech Trail. Enduro.” To me, it sounds like Bontrager managed created another mountain bike shoe, right?


The side panels and toe box of the Rhythms are armored with plastic to protect your feet from trail debris and impacts. The ratcheting buckle on the top of the shoe offers micro adjustments to fine tune the fit as the day gets long. To keep you upright during hike a bike sections, Bontrager constructed the Rhythm with a Tachyon rubber outsole for better grip. While the Rhythms have features to protect your feet, they also offer generous venting on the top of the shoe to keep your feet cool in the warm weather.

When I first put the Rhythm’s on my feet, I was struck by how snug they fit. My feet tend to run slightly wider than average, so I was delighted to find the adjustment screw that fine tunes where the ratchet engages the buckle system, which made it simple to get the fit where I needed it.

On the trail the Rhythm’s offered a stiff platform for pedaling efficiency and provided the feel of an XC race oriented shoe. Off the bike, the soles were excellent at providing traction on all kinds of wet and dry surfaces. The micro adjust ratchet strap was used regularly on longer rides to adjust the fit for swelling feet or after creek crossing and wet socks. I tested the Rhythm’s on both standard and trail-style clipless pedals, and both pedal configurations engaged and disengaged without issue.

The Bontrager’s were used as my primary shoes for an entire summer of riding. The first pair of shoes I received had a pre-production ratchet strap which lost its bite within a month or so. Bontrager updated the shoe to include the new strap, and I am happy to report it works fantastically. The shoes have worn very well, I don’t see any reason you can’t get more than a few season out of the Rhythm’s.

As a rider who often switches between clips and flats, I long for the efficiency of reasonable pedaling platform but still demand trail feel. This is where the Bontragers may have fall short. The Rhythms have a very XC feel to them, but it seems this shoe is aimed at a wider audience that would be happy to sacrifice some stiffness for more trail feel and more comfort off the bike. If you are looking for an efficient pedaling shoe that offers more protection and versatility than your carbon soled XC race slipper, you want to check these out.



Review: currexSole BikePro insoles

If you think about it, the connection between your feet and the pedals is the most important between you and your bike. It’s where the power generated by your body becomes forward motion through the gears. Naturally cyclists spend a lot of attention on their shoes, but what is often overlooked is the insoles inside the shoes. Even high-end cycling shoes usually come with wafer-thin strips of foam that add little if any support. They’re like the cheap plastic pedals that come with your new bike—no one really expects you to use them.


I recently received a sample of the BikePro insoles, one of a number of models from currexSole that include run, golf and work. They are available in three different height profiles and your local retailer should have a gel-filled Footdisc that accurately measures the shape of your foot to make sure you select the right one.

I went with the medium height instep model and used my old insoles as a template to trim the insoles to fit perfectly. It’s easy to see what a massive difference there is when holding them side by side. The currexSole insoles have a taller heel cup and a three-layer construction that is much more substantial.


Under the ball of your foot currexSole uses a cushioning material (the orange part pictured above) that has an extra fast rebound to propel the force from your effort down into the pedals. Now, I don’t have any way to test that claim but they certainly are comfortable, especially with the additional arch support. Because they take up more volume in your shoes it is easier to get a snug fit without having to tighten the straps as much, which can off blood flow and is generally uncomfortable.

If you think you know which height you’d like, the BikePro insoles are also available through the correxSole website for $60. It’s certainly not pocket change but it’s worth budgeting in for your next cycling shoe purchase or to extend the life of your current shoes.


First Impressions: Giro Empire VR90 shoes


Over the past two months I’ve been putting substantial trail time in on Giro’s top off-road offering, the Empire VR and it’s quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites.


Giro’s new lace-up VR90 utilizes an old-school lace closure for a comfortable, snug fit. Laces rule because they don’t create pressure points anywhere across your foot and they’re lighter than straps, buckles and dials. The one-piece synthetic leather upper is supple and comfy, like a nice set of slippers made for dirt bashing. The lower is made from full Easton EC90 carbon with a full Vibram rubber sole. There are also foot bed adjusters which Giro calls “SuperNatural,” so you can adjust arch support.


At 348 grams each (size 44, no cleat) this is just about the lightest hard-core mountain bike shoe there is. For comparison, utilizing our reliable Feedback Sports Summit Scale here’s how they stack up compared to top level, size 44 shoes from Sidi, Shimano and Lake with identical Shimano SPD cleats:

giro-empire-VR90-review-4  giro-empire-VR90-review-7

giro-empire-VR90-review-6  giro-empire-VR90-review-5

Not only do I appreciated the light weight, comfortable fit and tight lace closure, but also the full rubber sole, especially in wet conditions. The sole gets great traction over rocks and roots with no open carbon spaces to slip or loose grip—something I really appreciate here on the east coast as winter rolls in. One thing to note with laces: While mine never loosened during a ride because I made sure I got them really tight, if they do you can’t just reach down on the fly and snug everything up like with straps, buckles and dials.

So far durability has been excellent. Look for more down the road as I get more trail time under my laces. Retail price is $300.


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