With a name like fi’zi:k, you might have predicted that they’d branch out from saddles, grips, and handlebar tape. Since starting the saddle line in 1996, the Italian company has always been about integrating stylish design with comfort and performance for cyclists. Now that they’ve introduced three models of road cycling shoes, fi’zi:k is on the way to conquering all three touch points between body and machine: the rider’s hands, feet, and butt.
Early in the Eurobike week, fi’zi:k presented the new line in Friedrichshafen’s stylish Zepplinhalle restaurant. With actual zeppelin airships outside and overhead, ferrying tourists for aerial surveys of the city at sundown, the company’s footwear product manager Steve Delacruz proudly showed off the results of his two-year project.
Fi’zi:k shoes come in three models (two for men and one for women): the flagship $400 R1 Uomo for men, the $300 R3 Uomo for men, and the similarly priced R3 Donna for women. The R1 comes only in black, but the R3 for men comes in white or red and the R3 for women comes in white or black.
On the surface, it seems like a small dip of the toes into the deep waters of the shoe market, but fi’zi:k obviously put a lot of work into the project. Their goal wasn’t to create the lightest, flashiest, or most tricked-out kicks in the world. Rather, in keeping with their Italian heritage and their company’s DNA, fi’zi:k strove to synthesize elegant design, classy materials, and high performance. Obviously the result isn’t cheap, but fi’zi:k thinks a rider seeking the finer things in life will find the R series appealing.
Sparing no effort, because “comfort is not an option”
One of fi’zi:k’s guiding principles is, “comfort is not an option.” Of course, the meaning of that phrase is actually more like, “comfort is essential.” In addition to pursuing comfort, the company has clearly defined its own style and aesthetic with the goal of bringing appeal and functionality into the equation.
The R-series is 100 percent handmade in Italy. The uppers employ kangaroo leather combined with microfiber for light weight and breathability. Velcro straps on the shoes are made from sailcloth, a lightweight, strong, and weather resistant material that’s got subtle style all its own. On the R1, the oversized ratchet buckle loading lever is made from injection-molded short strand carbon fiber (the R3 shoes get aluminum levers with stainless steel bases). All the upper stitching and edging is tightly finished rivoltato style with high stitch count.
R-series soles are made from T700 high modulus carbon fiber. At the rear of the sole, a Tepex carbon/fiberglass band wraps the base of the heel cup for additional stiffening support around the heel and arch. Finally, the heel cup itself is molded from a proprietary nylon called mobius. It’s co-molded to the sole and is meant to offer a snug but flexible, “ball-and-socket”-style grip on the heel.
As with the shoe architecture itself, fi’zi:k tried to kick the insoles to a higher level as well. The R1 comes with a heat moldable footbed built in conjunction with SIDAS technologies, another Italian company. At the heel, there’s a semi-rigid cup for heel support. Moldable podiaflex material runs the length of the insole and under the forefoot, there’s low rebound foam for vibration damping.
Both the R1 and R3 shoes weigh about 258 grams in size 43. In size 38.5, the women’s R3 Donna weighs 206 grams. Fi’zi:k’s Alberto Fonte made the point, “Our mission isn’t to make the lightest shoe, it’s the comfort.” And product manager Delacruz emphasized fi’zi:k’s goal of making classy, refined shoes that will last a long time and hold their shape without breaking down, becoming less supportive or losing comfort.
Suzette Ayotte, fi’zi:k’s PR manager for North America, commented that the R series has a classic European fit with a relatively narrow, low volume midfoot and toe. She likened the fit to that of Sidi shoes, but with a little more toe room. Cleverly, fi’zi:k designed the tongue of the shoes with a removable pad, so volume on the upper midfoot and instep can actually be increased by pulling the thin foam pad out of the tongue. Ayotte said the heel and throat of the shoe felt “snug but flexible” with enough hold to keep her heel down but enough give to be comfortable.
Rolex style for the cyclist set
Fi’zi:k’s venture into footwear is clearly targeted at cycling’s upper end. The styling is muted, with the flashiest aspect – the Italian flag colors – reserved for inside the shoes, under the tongue. On the other hand, Delacruz pointed out that the carbon buckle on the R1 is intentionally oversized as if to mimic a large, stylish watch or piece of jewelry.
Is the cycling world ready for high-class kicks? In a playing field dominated by sporty, race-inspired engineering and aesthetics, fi’zi:k shoes look like they could play nicely with more refined getup like that from Rapha, Assos, and Campagnolo. And by the sound of it, the R series should be able to back up their outward class with performance on the pedals.