Five Ten Kestrel Review: A clipless bikepacking option?
What are the requirements for a good clipless bikepacking shoe? It needs to be stiff enough to pedal efficiently, have a form fit to maintain comfort over long rides, possess a hike-a-bike friendly sole, and remain fairly comfortable off the bike. Does Five Ten’s Kestral tick all the boxes?
After riding the Maltese Falcon Race, Five Ten’s new-ish clipless all-mountain shoe, for over a year now (two pairs to be exact) I found a couple of flaws. The first is that when using the Falcon on routes with extended hike-a-bikes, it takes a toll on cleats. The soft rubber that forms the shallow pedal contact area around the cleat bed wears out and allows the cleats to be exposed. In turn, rocky terrain grinds away at the soft metal. The other issue is float. The pedal contact area is soft and wears quickly which allows the shoe to move around a little too much on the pedals. In short, the pedal recess isn’t quite cozy enough after being broken in by miles of use. All that being said, I am a huge fan of Five Ten shoes. I found the Aescent to be a great option on overseas trips using flat pedals, and the Guide Tennies are even better. Fortunately, Five Ten released the Kestrel, a clipless option that fixed my two major gripes with the Maltese Falcon Race.
The Kestrel is aimed at the trail and enduro segments of mountain biking, but I thought it might be a solid option for bikepacking trips in the typical 3-5 day range. After several rides on them I can’t yet vouch for their long-term durability, but I can give them a good rundown.
Built around carbon infused shank, the Kestrel is Five Ten’s stiffest shoe to date. It’s also quite a departure from the rest of their lineup; it doesn’t have the characteristic skate shoe look. It’s fairly sleek and light weight at about 425 grams per shoe (size 9.5). The dual-compound outsole is split between two types of rubber. The hard C4 rubber at the pedal contact area allows the pedal to firmly lock in place. In tandem with the overall stiffness of the shoe this provides exceptional power transfer. A softer and stickier Mi6 rubber makes up the remainder of the tread which provides optimal traction off the bike. The relatively wide and grippy platform seems to do well both trudging up steeps and simply walking around, post-ride.
The crown jewel of the Kestrel is its ratcheting BOA IP1 dial which controls the coated stainless steel cable closure. It turns clockwise to tighten and can be microadjusted by several clicks counter. The dial also pops out to loosen completely, a nice feature which allows for a quick escape after a long day riding. Compared to the Falcon, the Freeride, and other Five Tens, the Kestrel is a form-fitting shoe. However, I found them to have some uncomfortable pressure points at the top of the foot, at first. This seemed to be a result of over tightening. With my narrowish feet, if was difficult to get the front tight enough without over tightening the top/back. This has improved as they have broken in, but after the first couple of rides there was a bit of soreness and foot fatigue. I definitely wouldn’t recommend setting out on a long bikepack with a fresh pair.
Again, I can’t fully speak to their long-term durability, but the Kestrel seems to be well constructed and reinforced in all the right places. There are a few features to mention. The reinforced toe bed adds a bit of protection against rocks, sticks, rattlesnakes, or whatever trail hazard comes your way. The toe box is touted as being weather-proof with a layer of sealed material added to keep out water from random puddle splashes or damp foliage. There are also rubber reinforcements on the sides and rear of the shoe.
For bikepackers looking for the weight and pedal-efficient stiffness of an XC shoe, optimal traction for hiking, and a rugged build for protection and durability, the Kestrel just might be the answer. Find it at your local bike shop for around $180 per pair.