Hands On: Fizik's 2015 Road Shoes

By: Brandon Nov 11

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Today we were lucky enough to take delivery of a number of samples from Fizik's 2015 line up. Road and mountain shoes, road saddles, and even a "29er specific" saddle".

Up first we're going to eyeball the road shoes, we have the Men's R3B Uomo, Men's R5B Uomo, and Women's R5B Donna.

Each of these were sent to us with one thing very much in common: Boa. Fizik started their shoe line touting their sail cloth straps, which I was personally very much a fan of, but not everyone is me, right or wrong.

First, some specs:

Men's R3B Uomo: 265g (size 42.5), Microtex laser perforated upper, UD Carbon Fiber sole, $300 MSRP USD

Men's R5B Uomo: 270g (size 42.5), Microtex upper with reflective heel cap, Carbon Reinforced Nylon sole, $185 MSRP USD

Women's R5B Uomo: 225g (size 38), Microtex upper with reflective heel cap, Carbon Reinforced Nylon sole, $185 MSRP USD

As with everything from Fizik, the finish is top-notch, all the way through the line. While I find myself in love with laces currently, soon enough I'll have some on-the-bike impressions of Fizik's footwear and their last shape.

I scored some of Fizik's Gen 1 shoes a few years ago. Made of kangaroo leather, they were probably the softest uppers I have ever touched to this day, cycling shoes or otherwise. But the fit was very narrow and the sizing was a bit off, so they spent more time being ogled than pedaled. Fizik has made some changes, done some updates, and they're using some new materials.

Fortunately Fizik has stuck with the sail cloth straps on some of their shoes. Lightweight and incredibly strong, that feature remains one of my favorite touches. They have done away with the kangaroo upper and have gone to a synthetic Microtex, which should allow much better ventilation.

Stay tuned for a lot more to come from Fizik's new gear.

photos and words by Brandon Elliott

 

Out of the Box: Shimano XTR M9000 Pedals

By: Brandon Oct 22

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Not more than a few weeks ago a shiny new pair of Shimano's new M9000 XTR pedals dropped. Fortunately, not a moment too soon as I am sporting yet another pair of Egg Beaters with wings flopping around and a spring losing tension.

A few years ago I ran XTR pedals, M980 series to be specific. The engagement of those pedals was much more secure than that of my Egg Beaters, but I had some issues with durability. The first pair stopped spinning like they should within a few weeks of getting them mid-CX season, so I dropped them and was back on my Egg Beaters.

Back to the M9000. Shimano bettered their mud clearance of the M9000 pedals, which was a weak point of the M980 series, as evidenced by so many sponsored pros riding either modified versions or previous generations. I'm happy to test the claims of added mud clearance, which I've enjoyed plenty of from my Egg Beaters.

A bit of a letdown (though fully expected), the weight of these new XTR pedals. My set came in at 304g, which is 6g below the claimed weight, but also 29g heavier than my previous Egg Beater 2's, which retail for approximately 1/2 of these new XTR pedals.

Weight aside, engagement of these new pedals is very positive, one of my favorite aspects of my previous foray into Shimano pedals. Compared to the light engagement and release of the Egg Beaters, the Shimano certainly give you audible and tactile feedback to clipping in and out.

One thing I did notice, the float on my right foot is slightly more free than the left foot. A minor cleat adjustment and the difference in float was taken care of. I'll admit a minute of concern, but it showed to be unfounded.

Otherwise, there's very little to report, which is expected with $200 pedals. They work just as they should, the engagement is crisp and positive, and since this is Embrocation, it's nice that they match. Shimano's fit and finish is what it always in.

A few rides in, I'm happy to be testing these pedals and initial impressions are very positive.

photos and words by Brandon Elliott

 

Long Term Test: SRAM Force CX-1 Groupset

By: Brandon Aug 27

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652g. Racers and weightweenies alike spend gobs of time and money for 652g. Hell, they'll gobs for 50g. But 652g? Unreal. 652g is what I shaved from my personal Gaulzetti Carbon when I "made the leap" to SRAM's new CX-1 drivetrain recently from my all-but-perfect Shimano R785 drivetrain.

Why the switch? There are a couple of answers to that question, the most basic of which is that I was asked to try it out. Simple as that. And I love new stuff.

But the real answer is much deeper than that. Being in bicycle retail, I've felt burned a few times over the last couple of seasons by SRAM. First, Elixir brakes, their noises, air leaks, and crazy bleed procedures. Quite literally, more sets were sent in under warranty replacement than I sold. Not good. Then came Gen 1 Red front shifting, or lack thereof. Recently that's been readily addressed by SRAM's YAW technology, so we're getting somewhere.

Most recently, the straw on the camel's back if you will, was the HydroR recall. I commend SRAM for stepping up to the plate, admitting fault, and doing everything in their power to remedy the situation. As a retailer though, I had to go back and call numerous customers to let them know the drivetrain I recommended they use could now lead to serious injury.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and I get a call. The voice on the other end of the line says "hey, I know you have a lot of time on Shimano's hydro system, want to try our new one out and see if we've done a better job?" After 6+ months of perfectly silent and strong braking as well as flawless shifting, I thought they were asking for trouble. How could SRAM ever compete?

Right on time, the boxes rolled in and I wasted no time yanking parts out. SRAM is known for pushing the weight envelope, so I knew I needed to pay attention here. I weighed every piece out of the box from SRAM that was going to find it's way onto my bike. Hoses were uncut, as was housing. When I pulled the R785 from my bike I kept every piece that was getting replaced together. Cassette and chain were not weighed since they carried over, though the chain was cut a couple of links shorter. The net result was a savings of 652g. 1.44lbs. .103 stone.

That's the difference of going from Aksium to Carbone Ultimate. CAAD10 to SuperSix HiMod.

Though, both of those upgrades cost you money. In this instance, CX1 is actually cheaper. $650 cheaper at MSRP than R785 for those of you counting.

Enough with that, what did I notice once the group was installed? Shifting is crisp, which I expect to remain with my full housing run setup. Not much room for contamination.

Also supremely important, the ergonomics are great. When SRAM first introduced HydroR last year, they were critiqued for the size of the front of the hood, myself being one of those people. It's a large hood, no doubt. But from the cockpit, it's not overwhelming and actually provides another measure of safety in rough terrain. Also a nice touch, you'll notice on the front of the hood, above the lever, is a groove cut that seems to fit my hands like I was used for the mold.

Of course we know braking is the real question here. I have to report that initially I was a bit let down. I had some of the turkey gobble that SRAM/Avid are known for. Though after closer examination of their setup instructions, I had only done about 15-20 runs on the bedding period, and SRAM recommends 30. I am THIRLLED (no joke) to report that after roughly 40 miles on the road the gobble is all but completely gone, and only barely noticeable under extremely heavy braking, such as avoiding disaster (cars). I have yet to really jump on the brakes off-road, though I don't know how much that will realistically happen since these brakes do have quite a lot of power. To grab enough lever to get the gobble I would have some pretty nasty wheel lockup offroad.

What does this mean? SRAM did their homework this time. Time will tell what happens in the cold, which will be the real proving ground for CX1. Until then, I tend to log as many miles as possible, flog this group and see where it's at come mid-season, or maybe even January.....

photos and words by Brandon Elliott

 

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