Fizik bar tape and saddles can be found on many bikes at the local café as well as the world of the ProTour. Now their shoes can be seen on some of the fastest riders in the world. As you’d expect with a brand like Fizik, they haven’t gone into the supply of bike shoes in any way that you’d describe as tentative. No, the Italian saddle company have hit the ground running, beginning right at the top level. Both Allessandro Ballan and David Millar were among a small group of ProTour riders handpicked by Fizik to debut the top model R1 shoe. With Ballan taking the R1s to fourth place at their first outing, the one-day classic Milan San Remo and David Millar to seventh in the World Championship TT, you’d think they were pretty sharp.
The Fizik range is handmade in Italy and the finish on these shoes is testament to this. The R1s are produced using 100% kangaroo leather for the upper and in looks they are a cross between a road shoe and an Italian dress shoe. Kangaroo leather was chosen for its low weight and abrasion resistance. The shoes boast hidden stitching on the body and in one of those, ‘why hasn’t anybody else thought of that?’ moments, they’ve chosen sailcloth for the straps. Sailcloth is lightweight and extremely strong, so is perfect for shoe straps. The carbon buckle is a work of art in itself.
The T700 high modulus carbon sole is drilled and marked for all popular cleats and has a replaceable rubber heel skid plate. Stiff is an understatement, with no discernable flex felt at all. The tongue is breathable mesh and in another Fizik first, is supplied with a removable section to adjust the fit of the upper for people with high arches. It is also sewn along one side to keep it stable and to prevent it sliding down one side of your foot. The inner soles of the R1s are custom-moldable and have been developed with SIDAS technologies, an insole specialist who started working with moldable insoles in 1975. They have a reinforced layer around the heels, Podiaflex moldable material at the arches and low rebound foam to reduce road shock. This is all covered in a 40% recycled cotton/polyester top sheet.
The test began at the BA office with a visit from the importer and the insole custom fit machine known as the Flashfit System. The inner soles are removed from the shoes and slid into a SIDAS technologies Flashfit machine for a few seconds. They are then placed on a custom-shaped pad and your feet are molded to them. Weight is evenly placed on the soles for two minutes to ensure they are shaped to your foot. The entire process took less than 10 minutes. After that, bolt on your favorite cleats and it’s ride time. The Flashfit System is supplied to the Fizik dealer so the custom fit will be handled at the time of purchase and you will be on your way.
The first thing that I noticed is the shape of the footbed. The midfoot support is like nothing I have felt before. The normal feeling of only using the pad of your foot to pedal and the rear-half of the foot being only supported by the shoe has swapped to the entire foot doing the work. Pushing down on the pedals lets you feel the midfoot doing more work, with the heel also sharing the load. This took a few kilometres of the first ride to feel normal, but two hours and 70km later after a Tuesday morning bunch ride shakedown, there were no odd feelings, hot spots or numb feet.
Instead there were several comments about the flash new Fizik shoes gracing the bunch. Questions and comments about the styling, fit and finish were a common thing during the test period, One question that kept coming up in my mind was how had Fizik handled the cooling side of things? On first inspection, I thought that they might be hot shoes in warmer weather. Being the black model, this would be a good test—they are also available in white for those of you struggling with black road shoes. A hot Saturday afternoon ride proved to be the test I had been waiting for. A few hours into the ride, rolling along a country road, I could feel the airflow coming through the ventilation holes in the leather and the breathable mesh tongue. There was no discernable difference in cooling between these and my usual white road shoes.
As the weeks and the kilometres rolled on, the R1s have become more and more comfortable as the leather softens around my feet. They have been in the sun, soaked in rain, dried out again and covered in dirt, and they still look just like a pair of quality handmade Italian shoes. I simply give them a wipe with a damp cloth to bring them back to life. Reverting back to my personal road shoes for a few rides just to compare the fit has shown them to feel flat and unsupportive compared to the Fizik R1s. Bugger. I have personally been affected in the past with numb toes after a long ride—just on one foot, and only sometimes. I have tried different insoles in my shoes to no avail. Thinking that this was just part of the game we play, I became used to it. With the R1s, I have had no issues with my feet at all.
Sprinting with the R1s is where you can really appreciate the support they offer. You can feel the entire foot working. The harder you push, the more the transfer of weight under your foot becomes even, or as Alessandro Ballan said, “more impressive is the capacity to transfer the power in a more equalised way with no dispersion. The result was that I am able to push more powerfully on the pedals.” You really can feel the difference, not that I can push like him, but I do agree. The feeling that your feet are supported from heel to toe helps drive power to the road.
The Fizik R1 is a well-designed, beautifully finished, handmade Italian road shoe that would benefit both weekend warriors and racers alike. With many points of difference, it is a standout product that will be missed from my cycling kit in the future.