Giro Jacket & Race Face Chester NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG
REVIEW | EDITORIAL

Budget Flats : Race Face Chester Pedals X Giro Jacket II Shoes

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Sep 21, 2020
Reading time

Five Ten

There's really no point in carrying on with a flat-shoe review without addressing the most popular flat pedal combo amongst my riding friends; Five Tens mated to Chromag Scarabs. This is a great place to start a discussion of budget flat pedal setups. The stickiest of sticky-soled shoes wear out surprisingly quickly and the popular Freerider Pro or Impact Pro models will run you 160 USD | 210 CAD a pair. Chromag's iconic platform shape will set you back 130 USD | 170 CAD.

My friends that ride flat pedals every ride in every weather condition will tell you it's worth every penny. When I think about 290 USD | 380 CAD for a pair of, admittedly really nice pedals and then some shoes that are being replaced at least yearly it makes me cringe a bit.

I've never loved the Five Ten Stealth rubber myself, even on the wettest, greasiest, steepest, days and I quite like plastic pedals (sorry, glass-nylon composite) so my own setup is quite a bit less expensive, and longer-lasting, with a pair of Michelin-soled Shimano GR7 (now the GR701) shoes running 140 USD | 185 CAD and large-body Kona Wah Wah 2 composite pedals ringing up at 60 USD | 80 CAD for a combined total of 200 USD | 265 CAD.

It had me wondering about the relationship between a solid and durable flat pedal combo and price. The question of min-maxing an un-clipped pedal and shoe combo made for the timely arrival of Race Face's popular Chester pedals and these, Vibram soled, Giro Jacket II shoes.

Giro Jacket & Race Face Chester NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Race Face Chester: 15 colours available. 50 USD | 65 CAD for a pair.

Giro Jacket & Race Face Chester NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

Giro Jacket II: 11 sizes in three colour options. 90 USD for a pair.

I'm too ornery to give up performance just to save a few bucks. My shoe-and-pedal combo is reasonable for an enthusiastic participant in mountain biking so I tested both these products with two questions in mind:

A) Would I be happy to run them year-round in all weather conditions on North Shore trails and if not, then when would I choose not to run them?

B) Would I choose them as a more-budget-friendly option for a kid, newer rider, or someone experimenting with flat pedals part-time to improve their overall riding skills and for all those other good reasons?

I entered this test with a couple of assumptions:

1)The Chester platform would feel small compared to my Wah Wah 2 base (which was only sometimes true)

2) That with our abnormally wet spring and summer would limit my usage of the Jacket II or have me resenting days when I 'had' to ride them instead of my GR7 shoes. (which was also only sometimes true)

Chester Is Convex

Race Face claims that Chester uses "a slim yet durable Nylon composite body accented with a concave design." This is so measurably false that I assume it's a mistake on the part of their marketing department. One they appear to have made over and over and over again in marketing materials. Thanks in large part to the good folks at OneUp, having pedals that are actually concave in 2020 is really not a big deal. Pedals are either good, or okay, or shite. Put another way, a convex pedal shape only matters to those people who love concave-shaped pedals, and, at least in my extended riding group, they're tuned in to the point that they'll spot this kind of bullshit from a kilometer away on someone else's cellphone screen.

Chester has a decidedly convex shape. Race Face hasn't even installed tall pins that tower above the axle bulge. The pedal body tapers from around 15mm at the edges to 18.4mm at the axle and back again. Think a "subtle convex profile to provide you with more grip thanks to the pedals sitting in the natural arch of your foot" a la OneUp. Only with fewer sharp, aggressive, hungry pedal pins.

Measurements aside, Chester has a natural feel underfoot as my shoe sinks into the pedal. I've ridden them with both the Jacket II and some well-worn GR7 shoes and the grip is healthy but not generous in either case. As soon as the trails get slippery, technique and foot position becomes increasingly important compared to riding either shoe on a larger platform with sharper pins. Personally I'm good with it; drop your heels and go. Buddy who normally rides Dagga's wearing Sam Hill's shoes is probably not going to have a great ride with this combo however.

Race Face Chester Pedals NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

A 101x110 platform with 8 pins per side. The axles spin on a combo of sealed cartridge bearing and bushing.

Race Face Chester Pedals NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

That's 368 grams a pair or just 8 grams more than claimed from the nylon-body, chromoly axle, pedals.

I really enjoy the Chesters, particularly on my full suspension bike where a bit smaller pedal clears the sport surface and my feet don't get tired the same way as descending a hardtail. I wear a size 43 shoe and I think going between the 101x110 platform and larger for someone with my shoe size is going to come down entirely to personal preference. I was okay with the Chester on my hardtail and I really like it on my full suspension bike, and I felt the opposite way about the Wah Wah 2.

Composite (nylon, plastic, glass-fiber, whatever you want to call it) is not just my first choice for flat pedals because they generally come in at 1/2 the price of the machined aluminum equivalent with the same guts. I'm not only focussed on budget and I'm not giving up performance at key contact points to save a few bucks. Chester, like other similarly high-quality composite pedals, is solid and a bargain. They've held up well to regular smashing and the bearings are still tight and smooth.

Jacket II Shoes v. Weather

Am I happy when it rains? Let's just say it's complicated. Since the Jacket II arrived I've worn these shoes more than any other pair of footwear I own, including my much-loved GR7 shoes and my BirksAndSocks. Some of that comes down to these being a product on test, but it's also the fact they've become my everyday shoes on my commuter bike and just for hanging out. They're a great all-purpose flat pedal shoe in which I've ridden janky technical trails in the rain, every time I go for a family bike ride, and commuting to and from work.

The Vibram sole has a good pattern that interfaces well with all the different pedals I've used but it gives up quite a bit of tachkness compared to the GR7's Michelin rubber and is like a hiking boot compared to anything from Five Ten. In dry conditions they're fantastic and in wet conditions, they're A-Ok as long as my flat pedal riding technique is on point. I have blown my foot off the Chester a few times due to the combination of firmer soles and a technique lapse.

When the going gets greasy these shoes work better with sharper pins like those of the OneUp or Wah Wah 2, but I think anyone with good technique is going to find them survivable in all conditions. For folks learning to ride flats, or just using them to hit the pump track or ride with their groms (or for groms themselves) there is a lot of long-lasting-shoe here for 90 USD.

Would the Jacket II be my only flat pedal shoe for mountain biking? Only if I lived somewhere dry and it was at the upper end of my budget. Certainly, my unicorn remains the GR7, but hang on a moment because the Jacket II may live on to represent one of the better value per dollar pieces of cycling kit I've used.

Giro Jacket II Shoe NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Flat laces and quality microfibre construction. Giro's best looking flat pedal shoe is also their least expensive!? Giro calls it their 'daily driver.'

Giro Jacket II Shoe NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

The multi-patterned Vibram sole is long wearing and good for hike-a-biking. Great in the dry but be choosy about your pedals if riding them on greasy winter days.

One of the things I love about riding flat pedals is the feeling of always being ready to roll. I go to work, pick up my kid at school, and we go for a ride and I can do that in one pair of comfortable footwear. If I'm home alone working on an NSMB article and I need to go for a blast around the block to finish a thought and there's no remembering what shoes have what cleats - I just put on the pair by the front door and grab a bike. A combination of fit, fashion, walkability and wearability, the Jacket II is like a casual shoe that's really good for mountain biking as opposed to a technical mountain bike shoe that you can wear around after a ride.

I have the luxury of owning a couple of pairs of flat pedal shoes, and these are not the first ones I reach for when it comes time for a moist lap of Boundary Trail. If they were eaten by beavers tomorrow I'd replace them in a heartbeat as my daily footwear on and off the bike that's solid for hitting the pump track and grippy enough for most trails in most conditions. Giro's latest Jacket is perfectly versatile.

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Comments

Cheez1ts
+1 Andrew Major
Garrett Thibault  - Sept. 20, 2020, 11:02 p.m.

I had the Jacket I for test and had a similar experience to you. They were okay on the full suspension bike, less okay on the hardtail, and not okay for anything technical in the Whistler Bike Park. 

But I liked wearing them around campus on my commuter, and I pretty much lived in them for 4 months when I was living in the prairies and riding flowy single track trails every day after work.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 danimaniac
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2020, 7:52 a.m.

I like Danimaniac’s “more than just okay” line. 

I wear them regularly for trail riding with zero issues, but choose the GR7 shoes for spicy trails. 

I echo the live-in-them factor though. I wouldn’t daily drive the GR7 like I do these shoes.

Reply

chachmonkey
+1 Andrew Major
chachmonkey  - Sept. 23, 2020, 8:27 a.m.

When you say you wouldn't daily drive the GR7, is that because of comfort, looks, or are you trying to preserve the softer rubber from wear?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 23, 2020, 9:04 a.m.

It’s 100% the latter. Anecdotally, the Shimano’s Michelin soles outlast the newer options from FiveTen, but they still wear way faster than the harder Vibram soles used for MTB shoes (Vibram makes some super sticky rubber for climbing but for some reason their MTB options are always on the firm side). I’m cheap, so when I’m out riding with my daughter, or commuting, or just going for a pedal I’ll leave the quicker wearing shoes at home.

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lev
+4 Sean Chee Andrew Major AJ Barlas Timer
Lev  - Sept. 21, 2020, 3:34 a.m.

I think weight of the rider matters too.  If you're heavy like me 100kg+ five tens WILL wear out very quick (holes through the sole in 60hrs) and can be too sticky for any type of foot correction.  I run Chromag Dagga and older Ion Scrub Amps (i think).  My weight keeps them planted on the pedal, but I don't have to lift right off to adjust my foot.

Reply

Bad-Sean
+2 Andrew Major Lev
Sean Chee  - Sept. 21, 2020, 5:55 a.m.

I'm in that club. I can't bring myself to buy a pair of five tens for many reasons including local stock in appropriate sizes. 

The last thing I want is to spend a lot of money and effort getting the right shoes and have them wear out quickly.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Lev
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2020, 7:55 a.m.

Interesting re. weight. I know some very light riders who prefer less pins/less aggressive sole and ride like they have cats taped to their feet, so I’m no sure.

Interesting about the Dagga. Stock pins? I think Chromag should get a commission cheque from Five Ten with every pair of those pedals sold. You’re the first person I’ve talked to whose been happy with those pedals with anything aside from Five Ten’s thickest soled DH option.

Reply

lev
+1 Andrew Major
Lev  - Sept. 21, 2020, 11:33 p.m.

Yes stock pins, with the pin closest to the axel removed.  I bought the Ions because they were reduced a fair bit, so it wasn't a scientifiic choice.  I did test Five Tens for them about five years ago (pre kid) because I wrecked them so fast.  Obviously not on Daggas back then, probably on boomslang pedals with very needly pins. 

I would still say that weight is a thing, because the harder sole shoes like Ion, are good for me on nylon pedals too, like the oneup, which preceded the Daggas.  I still wrecked five tens on those!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Lev
Andrew Major  - Sept. 23, 2020, 9:08 a.m.

I think there’s also a tolerance-for-wear factor. I have a couple buddies - who, to your point, aren’t small - who buy a new pair of Five Tens every ~ 6-9 months. They ride a tonne and consider it a cost of riding sticky high performance shoes and sharp pins. I have another buddy who is trying the RideConcepts now (and who knows what next) because he was pissed he couldn’t get a year on Five Ten shoes in the same conditions.

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lev
0
Lev  - Sept. 21, 2020, 3:35 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

danimaniac
+1 Andrew Major
danimaniac  - Sept. 21, 2020, 5:46 a.m.

Your jackets sound exactly what the Fiveten sleuth dlx are for me. Look and feel like a samba. More than just ok on the pedal. /even often unclipped on nasty old plastic candy's.)

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 danimaniac
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2020, 7:49 a.m.

“More than just okay” is a great way to put it. I wear them regularly for trail riding but if it’s wet & greasy or spicy I grab my GR7s.

Reply

Bad-Sean
+2 Andrew Major Jerry Willows
Sean Chee  - Sept. 21, 2020, 6:45 a.m.

I will let you guys in on a little secret gem I've stumbled upon.

First a disclaimer: I live in Western Australia, the climate is Mediterranean and rarely gets really sloppy and wet.

New Balance 806.

https://www.newbalance.com.au/pd/slip-resistant-fresh-foam-806/MID806.html#style=MID806K1&width=2E

They're an 'industrial' shoe with a wicked non slip sole. They're light, extremely comfortable, breathe well in the Aussie heat, and grip my pedals (DMR vault) like an influencer grips their iphone.

I paid $100aud, but your local work wear store in North America is probably cheaper. The internet will be cheaper still.

And no, they don't have a safety toe. They're designed to mitigate slipping rather than dropping stuff on toes.

I was at a workwear store grabbing some socks or something, and noticed them on the wall. I noticed the sole pattern and compound.

I rock NB sneakers as my default off farm footwear (alongside crocs, real g's know). So I decided to try them out as a casual shoe but first thing I did when I got home was go for a ride. It was a revelation.

It's definitely stickier rubber than skate shoes and even vibram soled walking shoes my family own. The off bike grip is exceptional as well on all surfaces from dusty gravely inclines to moss covered rocks that I have no business trying to scale.

I haven't owned any mtb specific flat shoes so I can't give you a good comparison to them. I can however say that until I win the lottery I have no reason to ride in any other shoes. I have covered hundreds of km in them on bike and walking around town over the last six months and they show barely any signs of wear. Normal NB I would be halfway through by now from just walking.

There are two extra benefits of them too. First they come in wide sizes. Secondly because they're a work shoe they are tax deductible! You can't ask for much more than that.

So next time you're heading past a work wear store, stick your head in and have a look at them. They just might be the right option for you.

Reply

Bad-Sean
0
Sean Chee  - Sept. 21, 2020, 6:52 a.m.

Oh I forgot to mention they have a pretty flexible sole, so if rigid soles are your thing, skip these.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 Sean Chee
Pete Roggeman  - Sept. 21, 2020, 11:41 a.m.

Verrry interesting. $129 here in Canada. Which riders will gladly pay if they perform like they have for you. Hmmm.

Reply

Bad-Sean
0
Sean Chee  - Sept. 21, 2020, 7:50 p.m.

Their rrp is $140aud but I paid $100aud. So that gives you a basic point of price reference.

As I said I haven't owned dedicated flat mtb shoes, so it's worth having a look at them in store to see what they're like.

Reply

Ceecee
+2 Sean Chee AJ Barlas
Ceecee  - Sept. 21, 2020, 12:36 p.m.

A secret gem with little toe protection, little midsole protection against hard landings, and little midsole pedaling support. But they're tax-deductible, like certain medical expenses. At least New Balance, unlike Giro, publishes a footbed length in centimeters, which helps eliminate the mystification of unitless sizing.

Reply

Bad-Sean
+1 Andrew Major
Sean Chee  - Sept. 21, 2020, 7:58 p.m.

Certainly they're not going to be for everyone but they have served me well.

I would recommend them to people who are looking at 5.10 trailcross. 

But would also recommend they inspect them in the flesh to see what they think.

I'm 110-115kg , use size 12 ee and I have thrashed them pretty hard. Lots of hard landings, sketchy bailouts, one bent set of pedals, even a scorpion or two. Still no complaints.

Reply

JBV
+2 Sean Chee Andrew Major
James Vasilyev  - Sept. 21, 2020, 11:46 p.m.

'off farm footwear' says the poster from down under. Sean i like the cut of your jib.

Reply

Vikb
+2 Andrew Major AJ Barlas
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 21, 2020, 7 a.m.

I like the Chesters [I get fewer pedal strikes than with the bigger Wah Wah 2's] and I can usually get my 5.10s for ~$100-$130CAD on sale. I just buy when I find them on sale and put them in a corner until needed. With say on average 3 rides a week I can get over a year out of a pair of 5.10s. So the overall cost of this setup is not bad. I've never loved a non-5.10 sole as much as a 5.10 for techy MTBing. For touring or less demanding flat pedal use the Michelin rubber or the Ride Concepts rubber seems fine.

I used to clip in for decades and have been riding flats for over 10 years now. I love having shoes I can walk around in all day comfortably, go for a hike a in and crush out a tough MTB ride without needing to think about footwear. I haven't noticed any performance loss on rides so my motivation to go back to clipless pedals is approximately zero.

The cost//performance of composite pedals being what it is I can't see myself going back to metal again. I've got a few sets of Chesters and Wah Wah 2's. I use them and when they need service I put them aside and swap in a new set. After a few pairs need service I'll sit down with a couple beers and service several pairs at a time. Ideally getting  them all back to primo shape and at worst scavenging enough working parts to get some of them working and putting the rest of the useful parts into my pedal bin for next time.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2020, 7:58 a.m.

I’ve noticed a loss of performance climbing with flats on both my bikes - speed on both | what I can make on the SS - but still have zero motivation to switch back. At least I haven’t yet. Not having to think about shoes is a factor but I’m having more fun on the more techy descents on flats too. 

I’m in the same boat with composite pedals. I’ve broke a body but I’m certain I would have done the same to alloy (or bent the axle) in the same circumstance. With the same guts and same grip for 1/2 the price I can’t go wrong?

Reply

cxfahrer
+1 Sean Chee
cxfahrer  - Sept. 21, 2020, 9:17 a.m.

After breaking my leg because slipping off the pedal (Chester) and not being able to put my foot back on I am not that convinced the Chesters are enough pedal for my size 47 5.10s. Maybe I will go back to shorter cranks and wider pedals.

Until that I liked the better clearence and easy grip they have. I could move my feet with the 5.10 FreeriderPro (super sticky sole) on the Chesters which was great. I drilled two extra pins into them on each side.

No problems anyway with 5.10, I still have my first pair of Impacts from 2007, and a lot more (size 47 is quite often on sale for under 60€), so I can change them around. Shoe Goo is a must,though.

But the grip on the DMR Vault is way better, and it is much easier to find the pedal again with the foot once you lose it.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 cxfahrer
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2020, 10:14 p.m.

Yeah, I wear a size 43 and I'm borderline on the Chester - certainly only run them on my full-suspension bike or commuter. Size 47 shoes I'd definitely be riding bigger platforms. 

Ugh. Hope your leg heals (healed?) up okay!

Reply

cxfahrer
+1 Sean Chee
cxfahrer  - Sept. 22, 2020, 2:01 a.m.

Thanks, yes, it's getting better, another 4 weeks. 30 screws and some titanium hardware. 

I have bought a pair of cheap Shimano GR 7 now, and look for new pedals. I dont like those with that bulge for the bearing like the Konas have. Maybe DMR Vault again.

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tehllama42
+2 Andrew Major Sean Chee
Tehllama42  - Sept. 21, 2020, 12:25 p.m.

I feel like such a complete jackass for still running Raceface Atlas pedals with $10 Harsh Arabica shoes that I turn over every 24 months...  on both my RM Instinct (BC), and my XC hardtail.

Am I really doing it that wrong?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 21, 2020, 5:37 p.m.

Are you out riding mountain bikes? If you answered “yes” then you’re probably good!

Reply

tehllama42
+1 Sean Chee
Tehllama42  - Sept. 21, 2020, 8:56 p.m.

Am I putting most of my miles on pavement, hauling a kid trailer? Yes.

Does this make me feel better about investing in carbon rims ($850) and $150 pedals for the same bike?  Depressingly, also yes.

Reply

danimaniac
0
danimaniac  - Sept. 21, 2020, 11:11 p.m.

ah mate I feel you!

Reply

GladePlayboy
+2 AJ Barlas cxfahrer
Rob Gretchen  - Sept. 22, 2020, 6:27 a.m.

Budget shoe and pedal options are not for me.... arguably the most important touch point on your bike.. I rotate through multiple shoes to reduce wear if that is a concern... not for everyone but peace of mind is worth it.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Rob Gretchen
Andrew Major  - Sept. 23, 2020, 9:12 a.m.

I mean, grips? Saddle? And yeah, pedals and shoes.

I think I’d say that I notice good grips and saddle on every ride - even pedaling to work or on a family bike ride, doing an XC rip etc.

I REALLY notice a bad shoe/pedal combo (for me) when the terrain gets greasy/janky/steep and the riding gets faster. Then I’m on the GR7. 

Agree though that touch points are key. I do think a more budget flat pedal shoe is better than pedalling I’m running shoes.

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Sept. 23, 2020, 5:02 p.m.

Yeah, I actually will not compromise on any touch points... but riding in running shoes is sacrilege!! Especially on challenging terrain. But I see it all the time. I've seen some horrendous injuries from slipping a pedal so I prefer to err on the side of more grip than less... and nothing is grippier than the much maligned FiveTen stealth rubber... many shoe manufacturers make claims but they are not even close.  This is based on my empirical testing at least.

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