With its new R1B Uomo shoes, Fizik has completely revamped its flagship road cycling shoe and introduced an all-new upper design and closure system that greatly improves comfort and performance.
The Italian company might be better known for its range of saddles, but it has been making inroads – with quite some success it should be added – into the shoe market, combining its unique twist of style with great performance.
The new R1B Uomo is a complete redesign. The kangaroo leather upper has been replaced by a Microtex synthetic material and the two Velcro straps and ratchet have been replaced by a pair of Boa dials. Fizik has been using dials on its cheaper shoes for some time, and it joins a slew of shoe manufacturers phasing out ratchets and straps on its top-end race shoes.
And these shoes are very much designed for racing. They've been in development for the past year, with Sky's Geraint Thomas and BMC's Rohan Dennis both putting them through their paces this season and last.
The key feature of the shoe is the large pullover flap and two Boa dials, a combination that Fizik calls Volume Control. The lower dial is, unusually, a single zigzagged wire anchored at one end, and is used to control the volume in the forefoot area. The upper dial controls foot retention by pulling the large majority of the flap over the foot.
The idea is that the shape of the shoe can be customised better than the previous design, and reduces any potential for pressure hotspots to form across the top of the foot. It is quick and easy to get the shoes dialled in to your preference, the Boa dials allowing micro adjustment in both directions, and it's easy to make changes on the move.
Fizik has also fine-tuned the last and made it wider and flatter, which is claimed to offer a more natural fit. The fit of the shoes is a little more generous than the superb Specialized S-Works 6 shoes I recently tested, which suit my feet better.
The sole is still made from carbon fibre and is said to offer the same stiffness as the cheaper R3B Uomo shoes, but is significantly lighter. There are large vents at the front intended to provide fresh air for hot feet on warm rides, and there's your usual three-bolt cleat drilling.
There isn't, however, the huge range of fore-aft adjustment you get from other shoes, and that could be a hurdle for some people, depending on the specifics of your cleat positioning. To facilitate cleat setup, Fizik has helpfully added a generous number of markers.
I've been really impressed with the more affordable Fizik shoes I've tested, but I never got on very well with the original R1 shoes. With their soft kangaroo leather upper, they just didn't offer the support I look for in a shoe. Shoes are very personal, though, and one rider I know says the R1s are his favourite shoes of all time, and by some margin. Anyway, the softness has been completely addressed with the updated R1B Uomo, and performance and fit are greatly improved.
Some new shoes feel great from the moment you first pull them on, others take a while to bed in. So it was these shoes: it took a good few rides to dial in the comfort and they seemed to break in a little as the material became a bit more supple with use. You notice the craftsmanship of the shoes as there are no unnecessary or irritating seams anywhere inside the shoe.
Setting the shoes up on your feet is a doddle with the twin Boa dials. The flap opens up wide so it's easy to slot your feet in. With the dials, start by adjusting the forefoot volume with the lower dial, then tension the flap down with the upper dial. The dials have a nice tactile feel with good feedback, and it's easy to make changes on the move. You can make micro-adjustments whichever way you spin the dials.
During pedalling, the shoes are undoubtedly stiff and certainly in the same league as similar offerings from Specialized, Sidi and Shimano. In terms of fit, the tweaked last provides a shoe with noticeably more volume than previous shoes, but they're still on the narrow side compared with some rivals. Of course fit is highly subjective, and for that reason I'd certainly advocate trying them on for size. I found the fit good, but the toe box is a bit on the narrow side, so people with big toes might struggle for wiggle room.
Comfort is good, once you've broken them in a bit. Initially, I found the top flap placed too much pressure on the top of the foot, something that isn't a problem with a regular shoe because it's open down the middle with a padded tongue.
You soon get used to wearing them, but for me the comfort never really lived up to the high standard set by Specialized's excellent S-Works shoes. It's not far off, though. For me, they're an improvement on the original R1 shoes, but I'd still say they aren't quite as good as the cheaper R5B shoes I wrote so enthusiastically about. I wanted these to be a high-end version of those R5B shoes, but they just miss the mark. I'd urge you to try them though – if you liked the original R1s, you might love these.
Impressive update with high performance, but not quite as comfortable for me as rivals
road.cc test report
Make and model: Fizik R1B Uomo
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Materials: Microtex Laser Perforated
Outsole: Full UD Carbon Vented
Closure system: Double IP1-B
Insole: fi'zi:k cycling insole
Weight: 227 (size 42,5)
Sizes: 40-47 and 48
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
R1B Uomo: fi'zi:k's range of road cycling shoes is developed in collaboration with leading professional cyclists and used to great effect by WorldTour, Olympic and World Championship riders. The best technologies, materials, R&D, testing and manufacture techniques are used to deliver you the best shoes for road riding and racing.
R1B is the top of the range; the optimum in performance cycling shoe design; the perfect blend of comfort and light weight, fit, power transfer and aerodynamic efficiency.
R1B features fi'z:k's new proprietary Volume Control technology: whereby the shape of each shoe can be changed individually and adapted to any rider's foot for optimum fit and comfort; and fi'z:k's Extended Power Strap, a system adjusting the fit of the heel cup around the rider's foot, resulting in increasing power transfer. Both the Volume Control and Extended Power Strap are micro-adjustable using Boa IP1 closure controls.
The R1B's outsole is fully uni-directional carbon fiber – with built-in ventilation that further enhances both cooling and the aerodynamics. It combines with the proven supportive and comfortable fi'zi:k Cycling Insole with sculpted footbeds and supportive heel to ensure that every precious watt goes straight into your pedals.
The R1B's Microfiber upper is hard-wearing, light, and resilient with enough flexibility to ensure that the Volume Control technology works to shape the shoe to every rider's foot, but strong enough to withstand the demands of racing – without any weight penalty. The diamond-shaped laser-cut perforations help temperature management, in harmony with the sole's air duct.
R1B Uomo weighs just 227g (size 42.5).
Excellent construction and high-quality finish
They're very stiff and weigh little.
The new Microtex upper seems more durable and is easy to clean.
Fit is subjective, but these are mostly good – some might find the toe box on the narrow side.
Sizing compares well to previous Fizik shoes and other brands; they are a bit roomier than some – which may, or may not, suit you.
Oh they're lightweight, no doubt about that.
They're not uncomfortable, but they're not quite as comfortable for me as some others.
They're not cheap...
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Really easy to care for, clean up well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Deliver high stiffness, low weight and easy on-the-move adjustability.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They look great, and it's easy to adjust the fit at the top and front of the foot.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
They weren't really comfortable enough for me.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Not really.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes if the fit was right.
Use this box to explain your score
A really good improvement on the previous R1 shoes with the move to twin Boa dials and large flap, with improved fit and comfort. For me personally, the ultimate fit isn't quite as good as my current benchmark shoes, the Specialized S-Works, but if they suit the shape of your feet they are a really good pair of shoes.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.