FEZZARI CR5-2011 REVIEW by Stephen B. Strum
Why did I buy a new Fezzari bike?
I’m not a professional cyclist; I’ve never competed in a road bike race of any kind. I would be best described as a recreational cyclist who loves getting close to nature with a self-propelled vehicle called a road bike. I have had three road bikes in my life prior to buying the Fezzari Fore CR-5.
My first bike was a Royal Enfield 3-speed English bike that I rode as a teenager. I loved riding so much that my father had to push me to get my driver’s license even though, since age 12, I was driving cars and trucks on the lot of the gas station that he owned. My second road bike, the far-out and innovative SoftRide, came many years later after finishing my university and post-graduate education. My father did not want me to be a mechanic; instead I became the first physician in my family; but over those years of higher education my cycling days were non-existent. Road bike #3 was a Specialized Roubaix with a triple crank. I still have that bike and use it as my trainer. There was nothing really wrong with the Roubaix other than that it was heavy at 26 lbs with the usual cycling accessories i.e., bike computer, tool kit, water bottle, saddlebag with the usual odds and ends.
The Search for Light-Weight Bicycle
What propelled me to look for a high-end bike like the Fezzari was my need to lighten my bike and also lighten myself to compensate for many years of back injuries, and most recently a herniated disc at L3-4.
What propelled me to look for a high-end bike like the Fezzari was my need to lighten my bike and also lighten myself to compensate for many years of back injuries, and most recently a herniated disc at L3-4. I have always loved to climb hills and reward myself with a fast descent. The weight of the Roubaix coupled with the pathology in my back definitely were issues that led me to look for a new bike. Even lifting the Roubaix onto the Saris bike rack was at times a strain. I wanted a new road bike, something light, and responsive, that was fast on the flats but could take hills despite the handicaps of my bad back.
I wanted a bike that I loved so much I would keep riding it for the next ten years. Being a scientist and a researcher I told myself that I would perform due diligence and really learn about bike components before making a serious investment. Biking had become a major part of the recreational time in my life, and just like buying a home or a new car, I wanted to be thoroughly happy with the purchase of a new road bike. I spent hours each day, for many weeks, doing my “homework” (Figure 1)
Figure 1. The above is a screenshot from my computer showing the various folders that I created as I reviewed literature available on the Internet. Each folder was loaded with various files saved as PDFs or image files to allow me to review, ponder and come to decisions.
WHY A NEW HIGH-END BIKE?
I live in a small town in Southern Oregon and the bike stores are not able to keep high-end bikes in inventory. Once in a while I did come across a high-end bike that was being discounted near the end of the year, and on one occasion found an Orbea that was perfect for my wife. She was riding a Marin mountain bike, and when I gave up riding my mountain bike after a bad accident and purchased the Roubaix she could no longer keep pace with me. In fact, it was the purchase of her Orbea that set the stage for my wanting a bike in that high-end class. I was tired of riding a Buick and wanted the experience of a Mercedes or Porsche. I grew frustrated with the local stores despite their allowing me to take their best bikes out for 3-4 hour rides. It wasn’t just my dissatisfaction with one component or the other but more the sales pressure that if I bought the bike and later found myself unhappy with it, there was no returning it. And often there was no ability for me to customize the bike with the wheelsets or the shifters that I determined were most appealing to me and the best fit for my abilities. I had researched and kept files on Cannondale, Cervelo, Felt, Focus, Litespeed, Look, Orbea, Pinarello, Specialized, Trek and others.
I came close to ordering an Orbea Orca (Silver) from a bike store in Portland, but they would not sell it to me without my flying or driving up to their store; a totally crazy attitude in an economic down-time. I considered a Project One Trek bike but the lower end models of the Trek I was able to ride did not meet my expectations. I grew more and more savvy as I read review after review and rode bike after bike. FInally, a trip to Southern California gave me the opportunity to visit a number of bike stores that had high-end bikes in inventory, and that I could ride. I test rode a few and of those liked the Colnago M10 and loved the C59. But by the time I got through customizing either of those two bikes with what I wanted, my price was up in the $10,000 and beyond range. There was no discussion with the salespeople. They had their overhead and the best they could do was 10% less the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).
AM I A DIFFICULT CUSTOMER?
I probably am, or have been, the most difficult prospective customer for Fezzari with loads of questions by email and phone. The responsiveness of Fezzari was truly commendable considering today’s routine of being put on hold and channeled into voice mail. The patience exhibited by Fezzari salesman Tyler Cloward in the many changes in my order as I went from “here’s what I am thinking” to finally placing my order was extraordinary and unprecedented in my lifetime of significant purchases.
As I write this review I think back about the salesman and co-owner of an Orange County bike store who became overtly obnoxious, close to the edge of hostility, after he had spent a few hours with me seriously looking at the Colnago. Hey doc, have you ever spent an hour or two with a patient and never got paid for it? I could have, and probably should have walked out of his store but calmly replied that I had done pro bono work as a cancer specialist for the last 30 years—and lots of it. I did end up having a professional bike fit in his store that cost me $200, but had to ask for a formal report which turned out to be handwritten. I share with you the information he provided below (Figure 2). This may have been helpful to the folks at Fezzari; it would be a good question to ask them. Perhaps I blew $200 for information that they could calculate from their 23-point bike fit questionnaire, but I do not think so.
You might also want to obtain your numbers from Lennard Zinn’s bike fit calculator which is available for free at http://zinncycles.com/Zinn/index.php/archives/2141. I am a firm believer that all cyclists should have bike fits to ensure that they are not damaging their bodies over years of cycling. I could not imagine selling a bike to a customer without involving a bike fit in the process. Most reputable companies selling bikes will forego the fee for a bike fit if a bicycle purchase is made. But if you do have a professional bike fit ask up-front to see what their formal report looks like. You should be getting an official document, easy to read, and containing all the information pertinent to a professional bike fit.
BIKE FIT INFORMATION for Stephen Strum as of 10/02/11
1. 86.9 cm center of pedal spindle to top of bike saddle.
2. 5 cm setback
3. 48.4cm saddle nose to handlebar
4. 4.5 cm saddle to handlebar drop
5. 10 degrees rise on levers; 1.5 cm drop to shifters from saddle
6. 42 cm 3T Ergonova handlebar
7. 100 mm 3T Team stem
8. 48 Sloping frame (similar to traditional 52 cm)
Figure 2: Professional Bike Fit Information
WHY A FEZZARI?
Now entering this picture and challenging situation was Fezzari. I had seen their Internet ads and although intriguing and enticing, ordering a bike over the internet seemed too risky for me. Caveat emptor—let the buyer beware ran through my brain. But what impressed me was that the bikes they were selling came with most of the components that I decided I wanted after my research on the Internet and in-store experiences. Dura-Ace shifters, brakes, derailleurs, and wheelsets like the Mavic Kysirium SL’s were top of the line. I had done my due diligence in researching not only performance and satisfaction reviews but also prices. Fezzari was as good as it gets regarding selecting the cream of the crop components for its bikes with hard-to-beat pricing. But what if I did not like the bike? I called Fezzari in Utah and spoke to Tyler. He assured me that if did not like the bike after riding it for 30 days I could return it with a full refund. The only cost I would incur would be the return shipping charge which he estimated to be $150. I wanted this guarantee in writing; I got it (and it’s on the Fezzari website).
“We realize that buying something sight unseen is a big step. That’s why we offer a RISK-FREE 30-day Unconditional Money-back Guarantee. If for any reason you’re not completely satisfied with your bike or accessory purchase, simply return it in new condition within the first 30 days and will promptly refund the full purchase price.”
Caption: The above is the guarantee offered by Fezzari on bike and accessory purchases.
WHAT DID I END UP WITH?
So what was my final order from Fezzari? I bought the CR5-2011 with all Dura-Ace components i.e., shifters, derailleurs, cassette, chain, brakes, except the crankset which is an FSA K-Force Light to accommodate the bottom-bracket 30 (BB30) design. During the many trials involving other bikes I did ride a Felt Z2, courtesy of my local bike mechanic Ian Bagshaw. The Felt was a very good ride and was the major alternative if the Fezzari did not work out, for any reason. The Felt Z2 has Dura-Ace electronic shifters (Di2), which I doubted I would want but after 30 seconds of my first ride with them, there were a “must have” on the Fezzari. I decided on splurging with Enve wheels, and this decision came after changing my mind three or four times thinking I would go tubeless, then tubular but ultimately was convinced that carbon clinchers might be a smarter way to go. I still wonder if tubular would have worked out since my test ride with Zipp tubulars was incredible. I chose Continental Grand Prix 4000s, after reading at least 20 different tire reviews. I selected Dura-Ace pedals with their large platform and along with those bought SiDi Mega bike shoes which are absolutely wonderful. I agreed to try the Fezzari seat being reassured that if I did not like it there would be no trouble returning it for another of my choice. The photo sent to me of my bike while it was being tested by Fezzari is shown in Figure 3.
AM I HAPPY WITH MY FEZZARI?
The Fezzari was shipped out and received by me within about 2 weeks after my credit card order. It came in a heavy cardboard box and no evidence of exterior damage was seen. The contents were all securely buffered by proper packaging against possible injury during shipping. The bike came with ample instructions in both “quick” assembly and more detailed assembly formats. I admit to being totally inexperienced in putting a bike together when received this way. I do think the instructions could have been clearer and hope that Fezzari follows through with making this so. For example, the Enve wheels came with DT Swiss RWS quick-release skewers that were totally new to me and perhaps I should have done a Google search instead of guessing how they worked. You can see how innovative these skewers are at http://bit.ly/sgxfyG. I believe that instructions that assume the customer is totally naïve to putting a bike together should be written and will gladly agree to be a “beta” tester for Fezzari. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to assemble the Fezzari but before I rode it I had my bike mechanic go over what I did to make sure there no blatant screw-ups on my part. I wasn’t quite sure of the saddle height or the stem positioning so these were checked against my bike fit info. The instructions regarding pedal installation were in error and the Dura-Ace pedals use an 8 mm Allen wrench rather than the 19mm standard pedal wrench. The criticisms were related to Tyler and he informed me that Fezzari was already in the process of amending the bike setup instructions.
My first ride on the CR-5 was glorious. First, I could lift the bike easily with one hand and place it onto the Saris rack with any concern for my back. Despite the Fezzari being incredibly light, it was also incredibly responsive and stable on steep hill descents. On climbing hills, I was pleased at how comfortably I could climb and how the electronic shifters made this even easier, and my worries about moving from a triple crankset to a compact crank dissolved. The electronic shifters are indeed wonderful. The Fezzari saddle was more comfortable than I had anticipated.
But, being totally honest there is one item I am no happy about. I am not crazy about the Dura-Ace pedals (PD-7900) and remain unsatisfied with them despite reading many four-star reviews—and surprisingly not finding anyone experiencing the same difficulty that I have encountered. I am able to clip in easily but unclipping was too difficult and raised major stress at stop lights or any time a quick stop was needed. Clipped in, the large cleat platform definitely added to my performance. The pedal tension release settings were set at the lowest, and this was confirmed by my mechanic. I related this to Tyler and he called Shimano who recommended some lube at the pedal-cleat interface. I had done this early on and it did not help. I have spoken with other riders who have not experienced this problem with the exact same pedal, and I think I may have pedals that are just lemons. I have no problems uncleating with other pedals I have tried. I may have to abandon these pedals if I cannot come up with a solution.
I should also mention for completion that I started to hear some chain noise when in the small front ring and the rear 3rd sprocket. I had the chain inspected and relubed. The problem did not go away and I related this to Tyler who tried a number of possible remedies, none of which worked. Finally, Tyler suggested that the derailleur hanger might be bent or out of alignment. I thought this was unlikely since the bike was received by me in pristine condition and no subsequent trauma to the bike had occurred. Amazingly, when this was checked again by my local mechanic, a slight correction was made that solved the problem.
So at this point, aside from the pedal problem, I can honestly say that the Fezzari CR-5 is an absolute delight to ride and I am extremely happy with this purchase. I continue to be amazed at how wonderful the interface has been between Fezzari a la Tyler Cloward and hope that the rest of the Fezzari sales staff has an identical work ethic. I have purchased a high-end bike from a high-end company and in today’s world this is a delightful thing to experience.
I should end this review by stating that I have no relationship with Fezzari in any way that would violate the genuine honesty of my “critique”. I will also add that I have given permission to Fezzari to share my email address and phone number with anyone that wants to hear further detail or follow-up on my experiences with Fezzari’s FORE CR-5.
Stephen B. Strum, MD