FIZIK GRAVITA TENSOR CLIPLESS SHOE REVIEW
CLIMB TRAILS AND PODIUMS, NOT WALLS
Review by Robert Johnston | Photos by Adam Lievesley
Fizik doesn’t tend to make products for your everyday leisurely ride, so it’s no surprise that their commitment to the mountain bike scene involved developing products to be raced at the highest level. The recent release of their mountain bike shoe lineup was no exception to this, with a range of flat pedal and clipless shoes designed to be ridden and raced at the highest level. We got hold of their Gravita (gravity) Tensor Clipless pedals to put to the test at the back end of the British Winter.
Fizik’s Gravita range of mountain bike components and apparel is designed to perform at the highest level for the gravity disciplines of enduro and downhill. Their particular focus for the Tensor models of flat and clipless shoes was to give the ultimate footwear to hunt race podiums, so they focused on making a lightweight and efficient shoe that didn’t compromise on the protection and comfort required to give confidence when charging hard.
The Gravita Tensor clipless shoe looks different to the competition thanks to its slim silhouette that’s afforded by the thin but sturdy ripstop material that forms the majority of the carcass. Fizik opted to employ a heavily asymmetric design, with extra ankle protection on the inside and a relatively low cut on the outside. The shoe is fastened with ergonomically arranged, offset laces to distribute the pressure evenly across the foot. It’s then further cinched down with a power strap across the top of the arch, which serves double duty as a way to secure the laces out of harm’s way.
The sole is produced by Vibram, with their stickiest XS Trek Evo rubber that has a tailored pattern to produce the best interface with the pedals, and deeper and more shapely tread on the heel and toe for walking grip. The clip-in shoe tested has a stiffer nylon shank in the sole to improve power transfer through the cleat, with an extended, gravity-spec cleat track to allow for cleat positioning closer to the arch, and a long-ramped portion behind the cleat to aid clipping in. There’s an EVA foam midsole to aid in impact absorption in rough and rowdy terrain.
Protection is provided by an armored TPU toe box, keeping your feet safer when contacting trailside obstacles. There’s further protection from abrasion and damage with scuff-guards in strategic places, ensuring the total weight of the shoes doesn’t climb above the 865g mark for the pair tested (EU45/US11). The Fizik Gravita Tensor clipless shoes retail for a decidedly premium £175/$180 and are offered in sizes EU 36-48/ US 4-14.
The look of these Fizik shoes is unique, with a climbing shoe aura thanks to the ripstop materials and wrap-around of the Vibram sole. I personally dig it, with a performance-first feel that gave me confidence that they’d be suitable for life in the saddle. Getting the cleats mounted up was no issue, though the cleat track doesn’t extend quite as far back as the likes of Leatt, so the most gravity-oriented clip-in pedal riders may not get things in their optimal position.
The Gravita Tensor clipless shoes come up about average for their size, with generous volume in the toe box to give a bit of wiggle room, and a generally average fit elsewhere that should accommodate a wide range of feet. The asymmetric laces do a good job at cinching the shoe down without producing pressure hot spots once you fettle the tension a little, and the Velcro strap then lets you clamp the shoe down tight and keep the laces safe. This Velcro strap is of a good length that didn’t quite fully bottom out for my high-volume instep, and so should allow shallower footed riders to cinch down without being left with an excess. Initially I was concerned for the strength of the strap, as its thin material doesn’t give overly tough notions, but throughout testing there didn’t prove to be any issues, where others have failed. Though the material around the foot is slim and devoid of comfortable, cushy notions, they feel surprisingly pleasant
Finding the correct balance of weatherproofing and breathability can be difficult for a shoe that’s designed for year-round abuse. For the Gravita Tensor, Fizik tended towards the lightweight and breathable end of the spectrum but didn’t go so far as to perforate the ripstop material or add mesh portions. This allows the Gravita Tensor to retain a little more heat than some similarly slim options, meaning they’re not the airiest option out there, but they’re far from sweltering. Light puddle splashes are fended off relatively well, but anything more will penetrate the sock. Thankfully, the thin lining doesn’t soak up enough moisture to produce the “heavy foot” feeling that saps the life out of each pedal stroke on a miserable day, and they dry impressively quick post-ride to get you back and ready to rock without the need for a hair drier or newspaper.
The angled portions on the front and rear of the cleat track on Fizik’s Gravita Tensor clipless shoe helps to guide the foot into a clip, especially on pedals without pins to interrupt the movement. For those with pins, such as the Hope Union GC’s that formed the test bed for the majority of time, the soft Vibram rubber does a great job at latching onto the pins and holding tight when weight is applied. When the cleat spacing is set up correctly, this doesn’t interrupt the clipping-out process thankfully, so you can have the best of most worlds. Walking grip is excellent, thanks to a subtle flex in front of the cleat track and the lug pattern producing enough purchase to combine with the sticky rubber and prevent too much slipping around.
Stiffness underfoot is not ultra-high with the Gravita Tensors, but the shank is stiff enough and the midsole padded enough to prevent any serious hot spots underneath the feet and give adequately efficient power transfer when hammering hard on the pedals. The balance feels about right for a gravity race shoe as the slight flex gives some more feeling of the terrain below though the feet, though on some longer descents a bit of foot fatigue began to creep in.
Thanks to the TPU toe box, medium-sized hits on trailside obstacles are well protected, though there was one instance where an awkwardly caught rock caused the edge of this to bend back around and push into the top of my toes, which was uncomfortable to say the least. This was a freak accident though, and as a balance between protection and bulk I’d say the Gravita Tensors are impressive. Once you get used to their slimmer profile and begin to trust in their performance, you’ll be confident in their hard-charging suitability. The asymmetric sock design, with the thin padded section on the inner ankle, helps the Fizik shoes feel like they wrap around your feet. This padding is minimal but effective in taking the sting out of ankle-to-crank bashing, without feeling overly cumbersome.
The materials on the upper have held up well to the abuse of hard enduro riding, brushing off scuffs and crank rub without leaving much of a trace. The Vibram sole had shown some wear from pedal pins and walking after the first couple of weeks riding in them, but this hasn’t accelerated since the initial bed-in period, so I’d say they’re in it for the long haul. Though the price tag is becoming quite normal in the high-end shoe market, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow, but you can rest assured that you’ll get the performance to justify it.
Ed: Long after the release of this review and after many more miles enjoying the Gravita Tensor shoes, a heavy (but not excessive) landing with a set of LOOK X-Track EN-Rage pedals led to the shank in the Fizik shoes failing just behind the cleat. With the shank no longer holding the stiffness along the length of the cleat track, the shoes became unusable. We assume this would be covered under warranty, but it was a shame nonetheless.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Fizik brought a unique product to market in their Gravita Tensor clipless shoe, with a performance-oriented approach all-round that yields a great shoe for aggressive riding without being cumbersome, if you can dig the looks and stomach the price tag.
Price: £175 /$180 /€179
Weight: 865g (pair, EU45/US11)
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