Saddle powerhouse fi'zi:k is set to launch its 2013 range at the opening day of the Eurobike trade show but BikeRadar was given an exclusive sneak preview the night before at a completely redesigned and greatly expanded shoe range – which now includes triathlon and mountain bike models – plus the second generation of the iconic Arione saddle. Clearly fi'zi:k hasn't been sitting idly over the past year
Building up – and starting over
Fi'zi:k launched its gorgeous new road shoes at the Eurobike show just two years ago but production hiccups delayed widespread availability by nearly an additional year – and even then, the company wasn't entirely satisfied with consumer feedback. The fit was too polarizing, the stack height too great, and the ventilation inadequate for riding in hot conditions.
As a sign of its commitment to the burgeoning segment, fi'zi:k has nearly completely scrapped the existing range for 2013 after barely a year on the market, replacing it with a wholly redesigned collection that admirably addresses the drawbacks of the previous range. The revised lasts are flatter, slightly more voluminous, and generally more accommodating of a wider segment of the population; the brand new one-piece sole plates are substantially thinner and less complex to manufacture; and breathability looks to have improved dramatically across the board.
Moreover, the new shoes are lighter than before, they arguably look better, and they're still completely made in Italy – including the outsoles.
The R1 Uomo – and the women's-specific R1 Donna – again sit at the top of the road range with new carbon fiber outsoles that slash the previous effective stack heights roughly in two while also noticeably boosting torsional stiffness over the first generation models. The uppers are still constructed with supple kangaroo leather, lightweight sailcloth straps (two hook-and-loop plus one ratcheting), and slick carbon fiber buckles but there's now a much more generous helping of very open nylon mesh for what should be much more liberal airflow.
In addition, the heel tread is now replaceable and claimed weight has dropped to a more competitive 240g (size 43, each, without insoles). As expected, suggested retail price still falls at the premium end of the spectrum at US$400/€340.
While the R1 will likely appeal more to those that appreciate – and can afford – the finer things in life, the new R3 is pegged as more of a racer's shoe with the same redesigned carbon fiber outsole but a more practical aluminum buckle and even more mesh in the upper. In fact, here the kangaroo leather is restricted almost exclusively to the edges of the toebox and the heel cup. This should give the R3 a softer feel up top but it also drops the weight slightly to 220g per shoe (size 43, without insoles).
More weight savings comes with a switch to conventional EVA foam insoles instead of the R1's more supportive – but heavier – custom moldable Sidas footbeds.
Fi'zi:k will again offer an R3 Donna for 2013 but this is the only model that's completely carried over unchanged.
Suggested retail price for either version is US$300/€240.
Fi'zi:k rightfully acknowledges that even the R3 shoes still fall well north of many buyers' budgets so 2013 will bring with it a new 'gateway drug' R5 model that shares the same fit, many of the same features, and the same high-quality construction as the higher-end shoes but a much more attainable price point of just US$200/€180 – impressive for a shoe that's wholly constructed in Italy.
Cost-saving measures include a switch to Microtex synthetic in lieu of the R1 and R3's kangaroo leather and a carbon-reinforced nylon outsole with non-replaceable tread. In addition, the straps are also switched to Microtex instead of the more premium sailcloth material.
Fi'zi:k hasn't just revamped the current shoe range, though – it's also added triathlon and yes, even mountain bike models.
Aside from the R3 Donna, the new tri-specific K1 Uomo and Donna men's and women's shoes are the only ones to continue using the old Mobius outsole. According to fi'zi:k, pro racer feedback actually favored the more aggressively curved shape – supposedly because of the more forward riding position and a perceived reduction in foot fatigue entering the run.
Nevertheless, the uppers are all new with a more basic twin hook-and-loop strap arrangement (including a flipped main strap) and a more open architecture that's easier to get into after the swim. Also unique to this model is the selective use of perforated neoprene upper panels for more comfort when worn on wet, bare feet.
Claimed weight for a single shoe is 220g for the men's version (size 43, without insole) and suggested retail price is US$400/€340.
Finally, there are the new mountain bike models. The entry-level M5 is built on an injected nylon sole with grooves built into the heel and toe for selective flex and a surprisingly aggressive tread that runs the entire perimeter of the plate. The more radically asymmetrical two-plus-one uppers are built with a mix of Microtex, sailcloth, and specially armor-coated cow leather panels and they also skip over a conventional tongue in favor of a more wrap-around layout.
Suggested retail price is US$200/€180 and fi'zi:k will offer the M5 in both men's and women's models.
Topping the MTB range is the M1, which uses a carbon fiber sole plate, a more finely adjustable aluminum buckle, and more kangaroo leather instead of the M5's synthetic Microtex.
All of the new shoes will begin arriving in stores around late autumn.
A new form for the Arione
Ten years after its original debut, fi'zi:k's now-iconic Arione saddle gets a major redesign for 2013. The much-loved upper shape, conforming Wing Flex sides, and generous 30cm length remain the same – despite the seemingly longer form – but the new version is otherwise sleeker, better looking, and more durable than before with more refined lower covers at both the front and rear.
Topping the range is the flagship Arione 00, which uses a co-molded carbon fiber and rubber shell for selective stiffness and flex mated to fi'zi:k's wraparound Mobius braided carbon fiber rails and topped with a stealthy, one-piece black Microtex synthetic cover. Claimed weight is a paltry 135g and suggested retail price is a whopping €350.
Sitting second-tier at a somewhat more attainable €199 is the new Arione R1, which is built with a co-molded carbon fiber-and-nylon shell, a three-piece Microtex cover, and braided carbon fiber rails that attach to the shell in a more conventional fashion. Claimed weight is still-feathery 145g.
Further down the range is the new Arione R3, which subs in a co-molded aluminized fiberglass-and-plastic shell that's both slightly heavier as well as more flexible than the R1's carbon hull. Claimed weight is 185g and suggested retail price is €169.
Replacing last year's Arione Tri are the new Arione K1 and K3 models, which are analogous to their R-series brethren with the exception of more generous padding in the nose.
Fi'zi:k will continue to offer carryover Arione CX Base (nylon shell, k:ium rails) and the more rounded Arione Classic Base models but otherwise, all of the new Arione saddles should begin arriving in stores around early October.