Bike Touring Shoes: 7,500 KM Five Ten Aescent Review & Blackspires

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Most gear takes a absolute beating while on a long tour. None more than what’s beneath your feet…

After 7,500 kilometers worth of pedal strokes which pushed me through eight countries, as well as countless steps exploring city streets, trails, and towns, here are my thoughts on the shoes and pedals that were attached to my feet for six months.

Five Ten AESCENT – The One Pair Bike Touring Shoes

I convinced myself to convert to platform pedals prior to this past trip for one simple reason: to carry only a single pair of shoes, the ones on my feet. The requirements were that they have a stiff enough sole to pedal a 100km day without wrenching my arches, and continue to be just as comfortable hiking and walking as they are on the bike. The AEscents ticked all of the boxes.

Bike Touring Shoes - 510 Aescent

The AEscent is technically an approach shoe. From what I understand, some approach shoes work really well for climbing, while others do a fine job of getting you where you’re going. I would say the AEscent fits the latter description, although I haven’t really climbed much. The AEscent is a lightweight yet durable workhorse of a shoe that seems as if it were built for grinding out the miles. The soles are incredibly sticky, although this lessens slightly over time.

  • Bike Touring Shoes - 510 Aescent
  • Bike Touring Shoes - 510 Aescent
  • Bike Touring Shoes - 510 Aescent

Frankly, one problem I have with travel shoes is foot funk. During our Central America tour there was a point when my riding shoes had to be left outside if we happened to stay the night in a hostel. The AEscents didn’t get that bad, although I did scrub them down with a toothbrush and laundry soap one afternoon. This task was made easy by a removable foam footbed in each shoe. This also makes for a pretty good dry time.

Overall, the AEscents are a very well made shoe and held up for the long haul. A couple of abrasion holes wore in the soft inner liner fabric of the upper, but they aren’t structural. The sticky dot soles are a little run down at this point, but I think that is to be expected after a long trip. The wear is mostly at the ball of the sole, where the dots are all but erased. There are, as evidenced in the detail above, several permanent indentions that were formed by the platform pedal pins. These created a little play when pedaling. All that being said, the AEscents still ride very well. I will definitely pedal these for a bit longer, and buy another pair for our next trip.

Blackspire Pedals – 7,500 Kilometers Later

I won’t go in to a long description and spec list for the Blackspires, I did most of that in a previous post. I will say that I am convinced that this Canadian company created the near perfect bike touring pedal that performed flawlessly and held up for a long distance over rough tracks.

Bike Touring Pedals - Blackspire Big Slim MK II

We had two different Blackspire models on this trip. Gin pedaled the Sub4 and I the Big Slim MKII. They each have the exact same innards around a solid chromo spindle, and slim 6061 platform with a very well thought out shape. Their only difference is that the MK II has two additional pins on each side, which makes it slightly heavier. The first thing that impressed me about both models was the traction. Throughout the trip we managed to get ourselves in some rough terrain, and I had only a couple occasions that led to bloody shins.

  • Bike Touring Pedals - Blackspire Sub4
  • Bike Touring Pedals - Blackspire Sub4
  • Bike Touring Pedals - Blackspire Sub4

Both sets of pedals proved themselves very durable. Gins are still operating perfectly at this point. Towards the end of the trip, mine started getting a little crunchy. The bearings on both sides were shot, but the bushings were fine. All that was required was a quick swap of the bearings from a $25 rebuild kit (which actually services 4 pedals). It was a fairly simple task and now they are good for the next trip.

  • Blackspire Sub4, MK II Pedal Rebuild Kit
  • Blackspire Sub4, MK II Pedal Rebuild Kit
  • Blackspire Sub4, MK II Pedal Rebuild Kit

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  • Cass

    Your Aescents are definitely holding out a bit better than mine, but I’ve still been really pleased with their performance overall. Mine have cracks now in the sides too, as well as the material on top. But I put that down to innumerable soakings in Patagonia, followed by brittle dry sunshine in the desert.

    The Blackspires look great. They use sealed bearings? My cup’n cone Saints are damaged on one side, so I’ve had to replace them – sourcing a complete replacement spindle proved tricky and not especially cost effective.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Yeah, my AEscents are holding up well… pretty impressive. Mine definitely took a few soakings as we tailed off our East Africa portion of the trip in the rainy season, but still probably not as much as you’ve seen.

    The Blackspires use a sealed bearing and proprietary KY bushing internals with CroMo spindles… the seem pretty solid. If you were to carry a repair kit it would probably consist of one small bearing for each pedal (shown in one of those pics above), a 9mm socket (with thin walls so it can get into the threaded side of the cage), and a #6 allen wrench. This really wouldn’t require that much extra weight or space. Replacing the bushings is a different story, but mine were fine after 7,500km.

  • Cass

    Just bought some cheap replacement Saints to tide me through for now, but Blackspires will be next on my list. I’ve been looking for a low profile, sealed bearing options for ages. Funnily enough, my Saints just arrived yesterday, and I was about to post a pic on Facebook, when you’re popped up!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    So how many Ks did you get out of your Saints? There is always a next time :)

  • Cass

    The bearings went pretty crunchy on one side (other is fine) relatively quickly, but I kept riding with them regardless. I serviced them once in Peru a couple of thousand kms in, but that was too late. Should have repacked them with nice grease the moment I bought them I guess.

    Anyway, many months on, and the dodgy side is now horribly loose, but still trucking. I’d say they’ve had at least 10,000kms now, and a hard life at that. I’ll hang onto them and try and source a replacement spindle somewhere down the line.

    So all in, the Saints are pretty good. Especially for the price. But ultimately, I’d like something easy to service, with sealed bearings. The Blackspires seem to be the one.

  • Rob Frye

    Out of curiosity, what shoes did Gin use?

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Rob, she wore a pair of Salamon XR Mission shoes (http://www.salomon.com/us/product/xr-mission-w.html?article=327035). She actually liked them quite a bit…

  • http://www.simplicityofjoy.com/ Simplicityofjoy

    Would have loved to use the 5.10 but they are just a bit too wide for my very narrow feet. Just as you am I looking for a one shoe quiver and am still wondering what that may be. Any ideas for narrower feet?

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    I actually have pretty narrow feet myself… I kind of just wrench down the laces. These aren’t as wide as an older pair of freerides that I had though. Another you might check out is the Scarpa’s approach shoe (The Crux)… I haven’t tried it, and I’m not sure how stiff it is, but they make good shoes: http://www.scarpa.com/approach

  • J.D. Kimple

    I was inspired partly from your post to go back to platforms, and partially because we had such a muddy cyclocross season that my pedals kept gunking up and getting hard to clip in… And so much happier now.

    Kept looking to get the AEscents or the Crux, but I tried my new trail running shoes – Merrell’s Ascent – and it works excellently. Not sure how they would last compared to the 5.10s but they work pretty well for me.

  • Christian

    Would you take the Blackspires again next time? Which ones could be candidates for a a more sturdy alternative/tougher bearings?

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Nice, thanks for the suggestion. Are the Merrills pretty stiff in the sole?

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Definitely. I will take my MKIIs again. But if I was going to buy new ones, I’d probably get the Sub4s… they are just as tough.

  • J.D. Kimple

    The Merrell’s are pretty flexible. Fairly thin sole as they are a minimalist style, zero drop sole. However as they were meant as a trail running shoe they do have a rock plate in them so I never feel the pins on the pedal poking into me. While not as sticky as 5.10 I suspect, the small tread seems to grab the pins pretty well. As well, they work great for running and just walking around.

  • Christian

    Did you never think they were too narrow? 92mm width seems to be less than most other similar platforms.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Not at all… they are perfect, I think. I wouldn’t want anything wider.

  • Blevin

    Logan, I was just wondering about the color of your AEscents. On 5.10 website they are black/yellow or gray/blue. Did the black fade to the tan in your photos or is that an old color? On the Big Slims, I’ve got 2 sets on my bikes and love them. Highly recommended!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Looks like they changed the color schemes… used to be red/gray or gray/yellow. The gray did become slightly tan from dust and dirt though.

  • http://michaelharley.me/ MIchael Harley

    Hiya-
    I just wanted to let you know that I bought these shoes because of this post and I couldn’t be happier. Love them. Thanks!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Nice, glad they worked out for you. I’ll be buying my second pair soon. Cheers

  • Bart Windrum

    Hi Logan,

    I’m an older guy who’s re-found bicycling (my first was a gold Stingray sealed 2-speed rear hub :). After a year on my Novara Torero 29er going out 3-4x/wk I’ve worked up to — don’t laugh — several 26 mile RTs on mostly concrete paths around my excellent biking town and region mixed in with the 12-18 mile circuits. Still in sneaks and soon to try the Aescents, I’m going back and forth about Vice vs Giant MTB pedals. I did one circuit on the Vice and have not yet used the MTBs I found in a local shop (very rare to find a concave pedal in the $55 price range). Riding in my sneaks I did not perceive a hump over the Vice axle like some folks have critiqued. A technical mountain rider staffing the shop where I found (unsealed bearing) MTBs just told me that the Vice are made to let the foot angle rearward (hard for me to imagine with one’s foot planted…). Given my short rides compared to yours (!) I don’t know what’s to come as I increase my mileage. I wouldn’t mind getting comfortable with a 40-50 mile RT, allowing some inter-town out/back. Do you think what he claims about the Vice, vs the MTB’s concavity, might matter? FWIW I really like the Vice’s look (although the MTB’s reflectors are useful in the urban setting).

    BTW what size shoe do you wear? (I’m a 12 and really like the 102-105mm pedals)

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Hi Bart, Sorry for the delay. I don’t know much about the Vice, but the Blackspires have a bit of concave shape and they seem to conform very well to the shoe. I wear a 9.5

  • Bart Windrum

    Hi Logan; delay no prob. Had a fitting and the supposed rearward foot angle thing didn’t materialize. I like and went with the Vice. And a pair of Aescents — delightful shoes; so glad to have run across your writeup of them.

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