A Great All-Around Road Shoe With Impeccable Styling
Fizik is an Italian brand that focuses it products on bicycle contact points. Best known for saddles, the company also produces handlebars, seatposts, and stems. Cycling shoes were added to their product range around 2010, and they have continued to evolve and improve in the years since. The Fizik R1B Uomo is their top-of-the-line road shoe.
As a performance-oriented brand, Fizik’s products are heavily used in the pro ranks, including quite a few high-profile riders using the R1B. But sometimes pro-level equipment strives to achieve ultimate performance at the expense of comfort and everyday functionality. Fizik claims the R1B is the perfect combination of comfort, weight, fit, and power transfer. I put the R1B’s to the test over the winter, both indoors on the trainer/rollers and outdoors in the wet and muck, to see if they live up to that claim.
The Aesthetics Are Unrivaled
The unique styling of the R1B certainly catches the eye. Some shoe designs are polarizing when it comes to the looks, but I feel like most of us can agree that the R1Bs are really sharp shoes. They look less like road shoes and more akin to fancy Italian loafers. The R1B uppers eschew the standard jigsaw puzzle of panels and mesh, opting instead for a couple of shaped microfiber panels that are simple and elegant, with very clean lines. The continuous uniform panels are broken up with laser-cut ventilation holes and the required but tastefully minimal branding of a “:k” on the outside of the heel and “fi’zi:k” on the outside of the forefoot.
Padding is limited to the heal cup area with only a cloth liner and minimal foam ankle padding. The result is a very svelte look and feel that is a respectable 225 grams for a size 42.5 (claimed). There are four color options: white, black, black with red highlights, and red. I tested the white version and on rides when they were not hidden in shoe covers I got envious comments from all my riding buddies. The white microfiber has held up very well and cleans easily, which is good because otherwise I would never use them for fear of getting them dirty.
Overlapping Uppers Hold Foot Securely
Foot retention duties are performed by a pair of Boa IP1 dials and an overlapping upper design. Each side of the shoe upper overlaps the top of the foot, one side on top of the other, and is snugged down by the two BOA dials. The rear-most Boa dial is charged with securing your foot in the shoe, holding it down and locking it into the heal cup. The overlapping design does a great job of hugging the foot and distributes pressure well. The micro-adjustable (both in and out) Boa dials make setting the perfect pressure easy, and adjustments on the bike (even through shoe covers) are simple and quick.
The forward Boa dial controls the toebox volume with Fizik’s Volume Control technology via a single run of cable that is anchored at the front of the shoe. The cable zig-zags back and forth between the main shoe body and the overlapping “tongue” to the Boa dial. This provides a large amount of width adjustment in the toebox. I was pleasantly surprised to find the R1B’s toebox is wider than most road shoes I have used, especially as the shoes visually appear to be very skinny. The wide toebox combined with the Volume Control means this shoe can accommodate a large range of foot shapes and as you change sock thicknesses throughout the year you can adjust the width to keep the fit consistent.
The first few rides in the R1Bs had me worried that the upper microfiber material was too stiff for a great fit, but soon things softened up and now the fit is excellent. The R1B’s sizing does appear to run on the large size. I almost always wear a size 44.5 in road shoes, and a size 44 in the R1B fits well, but I could probably get away with a size 43.5. Due to this I would recommend trying these shoes on before you buy them and keeping in mind that you may have to size down .5 to 1 full size to get the exact fit. The extremely minimal padding, lining and insole account for this.
Stiff Sole that is Comfortable for Hours
As Fizik’s top-of-the-line shoe, the R1B gets a unidirectional carbon fiber outsole that I found to be very stiff but also very comfortable. Power transfer feels immediate and I can’t detect any flex in the outsoles. Similar to stiff bike frames, stiff carbon outsoles have been known to be uncomfortable, especially for longer rides. I have ridden several 6+hour rides in these shoes and found them to be perfectly comfortable the whole time, with no hot spots or vibration-induced numbness. On top of the carbon outsole is a very thin insole that offers little padding except for a discrete foam pad directly under the forefoot. Arch support is quite low, so if you have medium to high arches, you may need to add your own insoles for better support.
The outsole design incorporates some of the best vents I have ever used. There are three inlet vents at the front of the outsole with a forward-facing scoop design that is very efficient at pulling air into the shoe and up through the perforated insole. A consequence of this great air inlet design is that it is also very efficient at taking in water, so I recommend taping the vents shut when it is wet out.
There are also five outlet vents in the middle and rear of the outsole that allow for good front-to-back airflow. Unfortunately, I tested these shoes in the winter so I can only attest to how well they let in cold air and froze my feet. I am very confident they will keep my feet cool in the summer heat.
The outsoles have the standard three cleat mounting holes and convenient markings to help with cleat placement and alignment. It is worth noting that the three mounting holes have somewhat limited fore/aft adjustment. Typically I run my cleats biased slightly rearward relative to the mounting holes in road shoes, but on the R1Bs I had to slam the cleats all the way back and it was just barely far enough to get my position correct.
To protect the carbon outsole and facilitate walking in the shoes there are heel and toe pads on the bottom of the shoe. The heel pad is hard rubber, shows little wear after my testing, and is replaceable. The head of the pad replacement screw is flush with the bottom of the pad (it contacts the ground) and so far has held up well, but I do have a concern that over time the screw head will be damaged and make removing the screw, and thus the heel pad, difficult or impossible. The front pads are permanent and pretty small, but so far have proven to be durable and offer adequate protection for the front of the shoe.
Final Thoughts – A Well-Rounded Shoe
The R1Bs are a great all-around shoe that is stiff enough to race in and at the same time comfortable enough to use on a leisurely century ride. And you will be hard-pressed to find a better looking road shoe. Of course authentic Italian loafers can be expensive, and the R1B’s are certainly not cheap, but there are many more expensive top-of-the-line road shoes out there.
For me, the best feature of this shoe is the wider-than-average toebox combined with Fizik Volume Control. It gives me that little extra bit of width that I have not been able to find in other shoes, but at the same time will work for skinny feet with the turn of a Boa dial. Switching back to my previous shoes was a bit of a shock as I never realized just how cramped and uncomfortable they were. If, like me, you generally find road shoe toeboxes to be too skinny and wide versions too voluminous, then the R1B’s are worth a look.
Brandon Bilyeu is an avid recreational roadie who lives in Portland, Oregon, and enjoys road, track and ‘cross racing. He’s also a year-round bike commuter and is a mechanical design engineer by trade. Click to read Brandon’s full bio.
Marsha Thurston says
I’m not gonna buy a pair of shoes that call themselves “MAN”. Just like I never eat in a Mexican restaurant that calls itself “Boobs”.
Scott in Seattle says
Maybe I’m just cheap, but $400.00 for a pair of shoes is too much. I’m willing to concede that there is some difference between my typical 125.00 vs the more expensive models. Mine have lasted me multiple (4-5) seasons and seem fine to me.