This women's road cycling shoe from Fi’zi:k is almost too beautiful to wear—but too light, stiff, and quick not to.
These shoes. Just look at them. The color of whipped cream. Shots of brilliant teal. A galaxy of diamond perforations along each side. I want them to stay perfect, free of the blemishes that will come with each ride.
I was a teenager when I first learned about patina. My parents had bought me a silver flute, brand new, to replace my beat-up, school-issue model. Its tone—a full moon in an ink sky, bright and round and full of joy—inspired me to play more than ever, and I got good. I polished it every night until it gleamed then placed it in its velvet-lined case instead of leaving it out. I was dismayed the first time I dinged it on my music stand, but by the day I left for college it glistened with a subtle web of abrasions that spoke of love and use, its sound as full as ever.
Of course the Fi’zi:k R4B Donnas get bunged up the first day I wear them—a grease smudge, a scrape where I brush toe to pedal each time I clip in. But from the beginning, I am aware that underneath their striking looks is serious performance. The carbon-injected sole is stiff enough that I’m convinced all my watts fire directly into the pedals, yet not so rigid as to be uncomfortable. Air circulates noticeably through the laser-cut uppers, front and rear vents in the sole, and perforated insoles. The Boa dial closure cinches tight and makes adjustments easy even when I’m churning along in a pack, and the supple microfibre upper feels like a second sock. The tongue, clad in glossy teal, is sewn in place so it doesn’t shift around and chafe. At 230g each the shoes are about 13 per cent lighter than my regular ones. It doesn’t sound like much, but it makes me feel fast.
I try the R4Bs with Speedplay and Look Keo pedal systems. Insole padding at the ball of the foot provides a cushy buffer. (Worth noting: I like a rearward cleat position and the location of the mounts in the sole makes it difficult to get either cleat back far enough. The Keos, with their slightly longer platform, feel more comfortable.)
Shoes are meant to be worn—I know this. And with each new scuff, I wince a little less. The accruing patina reminds me that those marks of everyday use are hard-earned emblems of a well-loved instrument.