Fizik, the Italian company famed for its saddles, seatposts and bar tape, is launching a new range of high end, high performance shoes – the R1 and the R3 – which they say major on quality, comfort, design, and innovation. Oh, and they are as kind to the planet as possible with recycled materials being used in the insole and for other parts of the shoes too.
The new range comprises the top of the range R1 and the R3. Dunno what happened to the R2, maybe there were Star Wars licensing issues or summat? The R3 will be available in a choice of men's and women's versions and a couple of different colour ways too; sizing crossover means that men with small feet and bigger footed women will have four different colour designs to choose from. The R1 is only available in Midnight Black. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here, because these shoes are very much more about comfort, design and quality than they are about colour, although what they look like is of course important and in a smart touch they are all designed to coordinate with Fizik saddles and bar tapes.
The shoes are made from a kangaroo leather and micro fibre upper combined with a carbon fibre sole plate incorporating a carbon mobius rail that wraps around the heel for a more secure fit. The sole also incorporates a replaceable carbon skid plate. That's not all, a nylon heel cup along with stiffening side plates made from Tepex – to help eliminate “wasted foot motion” – is moulded in to the carbon sole. The idea is that your ankle should locate in the shoe to form what is effectively a ball and socket joint, so your heel fits in to the padded nylon cup rather than sitting on top cushioned by an insert as you might get on a more conventional shoe. Indeed the Fizik insole has its own Tepex layer around the heel to make doubly sure you waste no motion when pedaling.
Fizik, though, have paid particular attention to the insoles. The R3 shoes get an ergonomic memory foam affair designed by Fizik. However, the pursuit of comfort is taken a stage further with the R1 which incorporates a thermoformable insole for a custom fit to the shape of your foot. The insoles are made by the French company Sidas which specialises in this technology; their Flashfit process uses light for the moulding process and you can see me having my feet Flashfitted in the video. Interesting factoid: The mouldable component of the insole is mainly the starchy by-product left over from processing wheat… but that doesn't mean you can eat your insole if you bonk.
Fizik aren't done with the insole yet: memory foam runs its full length to cushion your foot and low impact foam is incorporated in to the base of the insole to help filter out road buzz but also to help dampen the repetitive effects of pushing down on the pedals over a long period of time. All of this is about making the shoe as comfortable as possible while also delivering the levels of power transfer you'd expect from a performance shoe.
So what about hotspots, that bane of many a cyclists life? Steve De la Cruz, the man who designed the Fizik shoes, is a 1st cat road rider who, he told me, has always suffered badly with hotspots himself. Steve's belief is that their main cause is the failure of your cycling shoe to spread the pedalling load across your foot and that in turn is caused by having a footbed in your shoe that doesn't match the shape of the underside of your foot, so the load gets concentrated on that point where your foot makes most contact with the sole and the pedal. Ouch! What he and Fizik have tried to do with the designs of the insole and outsole for these shoes is to come up with a footbed that conforms as much as possible to the shape of your foot and consequently helps both spread the pedalling load across your foot while also transmitting as much of your power through the pedals as possible.
One final note on fit, we wouldn't be stepping out of line if we said that Italian cycling shoe were noted for their narrow fit, while at the other end of the scale something like a Shimano is at the wider end of the spectrum. So, where do the Fizik's fit in? According to Steve, if Specialized are the mid point between Shimano and Sidi in terms of width, the R1 and R3 are about mid way between Specialized and Sidi.
That's the function covered off, what about the form? These are Italian cycling shoes after all. We've dealt with the colour co-ordination but the really big deal here is Fizik's desire to showcase Italian craftsmanship. All the shoes are hand made in Italy – there's a natty Italian Tricolore handstitched in to the tongue of each to remind you of that fact – and the shoes are heavy on detail to further emphasise that fact. It's not just for show either, function plays a big part too. The idea is that these shoes will last, they may be expensive but they will be an investment – that handstitched kangaroo is not supposed to stretch over time but to mould to your foot from the off.
The most eye-catching feature of the shoes has to be the closure system. Two straps and a ratchet and buckle seems standard enough, but these straps are made from sail cloth – light, durable, water resistant,. and made to withstand the worst that harsh environments can deal out. The buckle on the R1 comprises a carbon fibre load lever on a stainless steel base, on the R3 you get an aluminium lever.
Fizik may emphasise comfort and performance over weight but their shoes aren't heavy either: the R1 tips the scales at a claimed 270g for a size 43, while in the same size the R3 weighs a mere 4g more. The R3 Donna weighs 218g for the 38.5.
The shoes go on sale in Europe in November, we're just confirming UK prices and release dates. We can say that they're no't likely to be light on your wallet: the recommended prices are €340 for the R1 and €240 for the R3. Fizik will also soon be offering the mouldable insoles as a stand alone product, I've got a pair and I will let you know how I get on with them in my shoes. It'll be interesting to see what price they charge for them cos I'd be mighty tempted to go for an R3 shoe and buy the insole separately, which then does make you wonder why Fizik don't offer an R3 option with a mouldable sole too. Maybe they will, in the meantime more Italian cycling shoes to choose from can't be a bad thing.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.