Clipless Bikepacking Shoes: Five Ten Maltese Falcon Race
The Five Ten Maltese Falcon LT all-mountain shoe is a great SPD bikepacking option with a lightweight design, water resistance, rugged construction, and the near perfect blend of stiffness and comfort.
When it comes to bikepacking shoes, three requirements come to mind: 1. soles stiff enough for long and/or technical rides; 2. reasonable weight; 3. soles not too rigid for off-the-bike comfort and hikeability. In a lot of respects, I find bikepacking gear requirements similar to those in the ‘all-mountain’ category… not quite XC, but not as aggressive as the free ride variety; it’s more about features and function that enable all-terrain adventure. Fortunately, a lot of companies have been listening to the marketplace and developing products that fall in to this in-between niche.
Five Ten has long dominated the flat pedal shoe market with their ultra-sticky 5-10 Stealth Rubber, comfortable design, and stylish skate kick aesthetic. Their offerings have also proven to be exceptionally durable (see my 7,500 km review of the Aescent). So when it came time to replace my old Lake SPDs, I quickly investigated several new offerings from Five Ten, including the Maltese Falcon LT. It was immediately clear that they stepped up their game and created a promising and versatile shoe that crossed into the all-mountain segment, and would be a good fit for bikepacking.
Five Ten Maltese Falcon LT Highlights
- Stiff yet comfortable Stealth S1 Rubber sole
- Water repellant synthetic upper
- Reasonably light at 932 grams for the pair
- Rugged materials and design
- MSRP $140
Fit and Form
Perhaps the most important factor in making a shoe decision is fit. I have always read that Five Ten shoes run wide and are better for folks with hefty flippers. However, I have fairly narrow feet and both my Aescents and the Maltese Falcons fit snugly. There was a slight break in period. Upon the first couple of rides, a little bit of soreness ensued around my pinky toe, but that quickly resolved itself and I ultimately found these shoes to be quite comfortable, even after long 50+ mile days.
Normally for those who ride SPDs, and who are somewhat weight-conscious, the typical options are bright, sporty, and super-stiff plastic XC shoes. There aren’t too many ‘in-between’ options in the lighter weight variety. Five Ten seems to have thought this through and developed a shoe that is fairly light, minimally styled, fit for adventure, and unobtrusive on the eyes.
Function and Performance
The sole is surprisingly stiff for a lightish trail shoe. It provides a solid pedaling platform while maintaining enough flexibility to make hiking and walking tolerable. Many the longer rides I do in Pisgah and the Appalachians require a bit of hike-a-bike, so the proper balance of comfort and stiffness is important. The sticky Stealth rubber outsoles provide an approach shoe like grip on rocks, roots, and logs which makes for excellent traction over technical hike-a-bike terrain.
In the past, with other SPD shoes, I’ve had issues with heel slippage. At times this led to blisters after a long day of grunting up the steeps. The Maltese Falcons have proven exceptionally comfortable for hikes and I have not had this issue at all during two 5 day bikepacking trips, both of which had a fair share of pushwhacking.
Water resistance and breathability
I found the Maltese Falcon to have both good water shedding characteristics, and decent drying properties. They do get wet, but it takes more than a splash or a sprinkle to do it, and if given the chance, they seem to dry out quickly. On a recent bikepacking trip the sky dished out a proper soaking on the third day. That evening I removed the soles, set them out, and by morning they were dry and ready for another day. They aren’t the most breathable shoes, but they aren’t bad either.
Durability and the Bottom Line
This pair has been on two big 5 day trips and many singletrack rides since I got them back in August. Other than a few scuffs, there are no signs of degradation at all. The durable construction and rugged materials that make up the Maltese Falcon offer a protective shell to shield your feet while hiking or riding burly, technical terrain.
All-in-all the Five Ten Maltese Falcon LTs are a solid, comfortable, and durable shoe with an optimal blend of power and flex.
After riding the Maltese Falcon Race 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. It’s still a great and comfortable shoe, but the sole has some durability issues when it comes to hike-a-bikes; also, it’s worth noting that these observations come after a whole lot of use. Five Ten has updated the Maltese Falcon for 2016, although we’ve yet to test it.