Review: Fizik R1B cycling shoes
“All these years I’ve been riding in Fizik shoes and now they come up with something like this,” said a former pro cyclist of my acquaintance as he turned the Fizik R1B over in his hands.
It was definitely meant as a compliment to the stunning flagship model of the Fizik range as opposed to a slight against all the other shoes they’ve ever come out with, but just in case, he shall remain anonymous.
As we all know, Fizik (written fi'zi:k, something to do with a powerful and healthy physique. Don’t think about it too hard) have never been a brand to be sniffed at. They started as a saddle manufacturer in 1996, designed in the US, handmade in Italy. They have diversified a lot over the past decade, not least into shoes.
These, the Fizik R1B are the preferred shoe of Geraint Thomas among other cyclists and they are about as perfect as a high-performance cycle shoe can get.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Looks, for one thing. There’s nothing fussy about these. They have a simple wrap-over design which is fastened down by a couple of Boa dials - ridiculously easy to use once you’ve worked them out. If you’re new to Boa, you pull the dial out to free the cord, push down and twist to tighten. Easy enough to adjust on the fly which is ideal if you happen to be hurtling along the road in the middle of a speeding peloton and your shoe feels a bit tight.
That wrap-over nature of the uppers also means the Fizik R1B are very easy to keep clean. There are very few nooks or crannies for muck to gather and the uppers are of microfibre (pleather) construction, which while sounding godawful actually allows for them to be wiped clean quite comprehensively.
Of course this pleather would be nothing short of a plastic bag over the feet were it not for ventilation, of which there is bucketloads. Holes galore, sieve-like in fact. But the air doesn’t gush through, it’s more of a gentle breeze, cooling the feet with a tender touch.
In the interests of giving these shoes a good hammering, we took them to Mallorca, for a three day trip which involved about 17,000ft of climbing over around 150 miles. It’s always a risk to take anything out-of-the-box new away on a trip without any prior road testing, given the obvious fit and comfort variables. We did something similar with a pair of snowboard boots once (on a snowboarding trip, not cycling) and spent the entire trip in abject agony.
But there was nothing in the way of discomfort here, not even as much as a twinge. It’s always desirable for cycling shoes to fit like a glove and these do, and the great thing is it’s an adjustable glove that you can tweak to your heart’s content.
This is all part of the plan, say Fizik and to hammer home the point they’ve given it a name: Volume Control Technology, which is as poncey a term as you’re going to find from a manufacturer. But it is proprietary (invented by them) and, say Fizik, means the shape of the shoe can be adjusted to any rider’s foot for the best fit and comfort. It certainly beats sticking them in the oven for 20 minutes.
There is also, and we didn’t even know this until we started reading the marketing schpiel, something called an “extended power strap” which adjusts the fit of the heel cup for better power transfer.
All of this technologically advanced upper foot action sits upon a uni-directional carbon sole, which is also ventilated and helps bring a single shoe in at a featherweight 227g (for a size 42.5). That’s just over half a kilo for a pair of these shoes, which as far as weight saving goes is up there with polystyrene.
So this is a ridiculously light and comfortable shoe which can be tweaked to fit the weirdest of feet to perfection. What’s not to like?
Toe bite, that’s what. We couldn’t have had these on for more than a couple of minutes before the tyre had rubbed on the toe of the pristine white shoe and made a nice dark scuff. This problem is not by any means unique to Fizik but is nonetheless infuriating. All it would take would be a bit of light protection at the toe, even a coating of clear rubber, just to add that little bit of a bumper. It can’t be beyond them, can it?
Summary: The flagship of the Fizik shoe range is ridiculously comfortable, lightweight and cool-looking with all sorts of advanced technology to aid fit wherever you might need to adjust it. We can’t really find a bad word to say about the Fizik R1B unless you count the ubiquitous toe bite.
4.5 / 5