Fezzari is a direct-to-consumer bike company with a mission is to deliver a perfect bike purchase experience with a love it or return it pledge. The company will build up a bike for you, ship it to you to ride on your local roads or trails and if you don’t absolutely love it, you can return it. That removes the risk of buying the bike without a test ride, something we advise everyone to do before investing your hard-earned moola.
For an MSRP of $3199 (USD), with financing available, you get a monocoque carbon frame with all the modern fixtures and an Ultegra R685 hydraulic group with the bike set up to your measurements. All you do is mount the handlebars and front wheel, pump the tires and ride. The experience is actually that easy, I filled out the online form and the frame size and component sizes were picked for me. If you don’t like the outcome, Fezzari will work with you and swap the components to make it to your liking.
We’ve recently ridden a lot of bikes that fit loosely into the gravel/ adventure road category, some of them decidedly more road oriented and others more offroad oriented based on tire clearance, frame fixtures and components, but mostly based on ride qualities. We’ll see where the Shafer fits into this scheme as we put this bike to the test, but today, we've got a close-up look at our review bike with some initial impressions.
Fezzari Shafer: The Frame
The Fezzari Shafer is a carbon monocoque frame with an all carbon, tapered steerer fork. With my measurements, we were sent a frame with a 55 cm effective top tube and a 52 cm seat tube. This is Fezzari’s size M frame. All frame sizes have long 44cm chainstays, but other geometry parameters vary slightly with size. Our frame has a 71.5 degree headtube angle combined with a 73 degree seat tube. The 155 cm headtube length is what we would expect for this frame size, and the 7.5 cm bottom bracket drop of the Shafer is road-bike-like. The 603mm front center is not extraordinary, combining with the long chainstays to yield a 103cm wheelbase, all similar to a touring bike.
The Shafer has all the modern fixtures we’ve come to expect, with a 12mm X 142mm thru-axle rear with a 12mm thru-axle front, flat mount disc brakes, and internally routed control lines, whether mechanical, hydraulic or electronic. There are three bottle mounts, the third on the bottom side of the downtube. Rack mounts are on the wishbone seatstay, and fender mounts are on the both the fork and rear triangle. There are not low-rider front rack mounts, nor is there a piercing at the front of the fork to mount a front rack, so if touring or bike-packing with the Shafer is on your mind, you’ll have to avoid front panniers.
The Shafer uses a 27.2mm diameter seatpost and has a standard 73mm (MTB standard) BSA threaded bottom bracket shell. Tire clearance is for a 40mm tire.
Fezzari Shafer: The Build
The complete drivetrain is the venerable Shimano Ultegra 6800 with R685 mechanical shifting hydraulic brake levers paired to BR805 hydraulic flat mount calipers. The calipers are new, but use proven Shimano technology yielding a light touch with one-finger modulation and stopping power.
Fezzari components dot the frame, notably the alloy stem which aids customization for the build. A Fezzari carbon 27.2 seatpost with a 2-bolt clamp holds a Fezzari-branded narrow saddle.
The handlebar is an Easton EC70 SL carbon shallow drop model. The Fezzari Shafer also rides on Easton, in the form of EA90 SL disc built with 20 Sapim straight pull double butted spokes and external alloy nipples up front and 24 on the rear, built up X3, this 1550 gram wheelset looks durable and easy to maintain. The internal rim width is 19.5mm and is tubeless ready.
The Shafer came with WTB Exposure 34mm TCS gravel road tires with a broad smooth center section bordered by coarse file tread and a few small side knobs.
Fezzari Shafer: The Ride
I thought the setup was a bit high and short for me, I prefer to be lower and a bit more stretched out. Swapping and dropping the stem is easy, but I could easily adapt to the prescribed position, so I tried that first. Shimano 172.5mm crankarms were selected for my leg length, and 42cm handlebar (center to center) my typical choices.
The geometry is like a touring bike of old with long chainstays for weight balance with a load and heel clearance for panniers. In this case, it also serves to provide some tire clearance, plus tracking stability and comfort over rough surfaces by putting the rear wheel a bit more behind the rider. Of course, with modern carbon designs and various BB styles, available tire clearance could be achieved with shorter chainstays as well. All that plays out well for handling but the frame is stiff overall, yielding fantastic road manners even if the cornering is not racer-quick. Stand up and jam on the pedals, dance on the climbs and drop into sweeping corners and the bike acts like a smooth, fine carbon road bike. The 34mm WTB exposure tires are great road tires contributing to that smooth ride, pumped to 45 psi for pavement adventures for my 155-pound weight.
For off-road sections, which included hard packed fire roads with buried rocks and a “kitty litter” covered surface, as well as loamy single track with roots, I dropped the tire pressure, varying between 25-30 psi to find the ideal. Admittedly the lack of knobs is a demerit even in dry conditions as the loss of traction on the steepest pitches is exacerbated by the long chainstays, and in loose corners handling could definitely be aided by some “teeth” on the tread to claw into the surface a bit. This tire selection will be based upon the rider's intended use, and the Exposure 34’s feel smooth and fast on the paved road—even if poorly surfaced.
"Stand up and jam on the pedals, dance on the climbs and drop into sweeping corners and the bike acts like a smooth, fine carbon road bike."
The Shafer leans towards the stiffer side of the spectrum for gravel bikes, which should please bigger riders and cyclists who spend a good amount of time pounding pavement. It feels like a road bike you’ve taken offroad, utilizing the tire size and pressure alone to damp the vibration and shaking. I’d like to feel the frame have more give, and was a bit surprised, especially after coming off reviewing a full-on racing bike just before this that I thought was a bit more forgiving. I swapped wheels just to be sure, and indubitably in a side by side ride with the wheel swap, the Shafer felt a bit “stiffer” over the same offroad track.
Powering along in a gravel race, you might appreciate the efficiency of the Shafer’s road manners and like in Paris-Roubaix, the bike is smoother at speed pushing a big gear. In these conditions, it does feel better and I think that is the Shafer's place. The long wheelbase keeps the bike balanced and tracking straight while you push the pace to lift your weight a bit and glide the bike over the surface while holding lightly on the bars.
On a bumpy descent, especially if it's a technical one, the Shafer begs for fatter tires. Thankfully, it handles 40mm rubber. Body weight and loaded bike weight will change things, so the Shafer absolutely deserves a test ride, and with Fezzari’s new “Ride it, Love it or Return it” policy, there is no risk.
Snobs may turn their noses at the Fezzari house brand components, but so far, they've proven to be dependable, high-value choices that keep more money in your pocket. As expected, the Shimano drivetrain has been reliable and braking performance has been superb.
We're looking forward to putting more time on the Shafer, and will check back with our full review. Photo gallery below the specs.
Fezzari Shafer Gravel Bike Specs:
MSRP: $3199 as tested
Frame: Carbon, monocoque construction
Fork: full carbon 1 ⅛”-1 ½” carbon steerer, 12mm TA
Weight: 18.0 pounds, 10. pounds without wheels
Shifters: Shimano RS 685 hydraulic/mechanical 11 speed
Derailleurs: Shimano 6800 Ultegra front and rear GS. Shimano Ultegra 6800 chain
Crankset: Shimano 805 hydraulic flat mount, 140mm rotor front, 140mm rotor rear
Cockpit: Easton EC70 carbon, Fezzari aluminum stem, 100mm
Seatpost: Fezzari Aluminum, 2 bolt clamp
Wheels: Easton EA 90 Aluminum rim, disc hubs
Tires: WTB Exposure 34mm tubeless
Warranty: Against defects, as long as original owner owns the frame and fork
Country of origin: Taiwan
More Info: fezzari.com