Words Derri Dunn, Photos Rupert Fowler
Fuji seems to like the use of hyperbole in its bike names; we’ve already seen the Absolute hybrid and now we’re trying the superlatively monikered Finest 1.0, which at £150 more than the Finest 2.0 is the finest Finest in Fuji’s range.
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As far as looks go, though, thinking about the tasty line-up of women’s bikes we put through their paces last month, we’re not sure it’s the finest in this category unless you’re into a very traditional-looking women’s road bike. Pastels abound, with the palette borrowed straight off a can of Right Guard — by the way, the colour’s called ‘Seafoam/Pearl’, which also sounds like it’s nicked from a deodorant ad.
Still, looks are a personal taste and very much secondary to performance anyway and there are some treats in the spec of the Finest that should help count towards this. For a bike costing the right side of £800, easy to use Tiagra shifters are a massive step up from Sora which is often specced at this price and the 105 rear derailleur is a swish touch which marries up with the Tiagra front mech for flawless shifting. Just as well, really, because with a nine-speed cassette (12-25t) and triple chainset, that’s a pretty massive range of gears to flick through. During a long day ride in hilly Kent, I can honestly say I never struggled for a suitable ratio, whether heading up hill or down.
Nevertheless, a triple can feel like overkill on a road bike, particularly at this price point where more experienced riders may be the target market. Curiously, and annoyingly, it’s traditionally something that has been offered on women-specific bikes, while the unisex counterpart receives a compact double. This is the case here, with the Fuji-for-him, the Team range, sporting a compact double. Obviously, this can be frustrating if you want a bike tailored for women but with the simplicity and weight saving of a compact.
This big ol’ triple may be at least partly responsible for another slight dislike with the Finest — at over 10kg, it’s a tad portly. That said, having put it on the scales, we were expecting a rather sluggish ride and this wasn’t the case at all. It has a sprightly, brisk feel and both wheels and tyres are skinny, lightweight numbers, keeping the Finest feeling lightfooted despite its overall mass. As a trade-off, the ride was a little bit buzzy and harsh at the handlebar end, though sensation through the saddle was quite the opposite, giving the curious feeling of having a different bike under your hands to the one beneath your backside.
There’s an unusual equipment choice with the stem: it’s own brand, but it’s adjustable, so you can alter your angle over a massive range with just a couple of turns of an Allen key. It’s good for beginners because it’ll let you test out a multitude of positions without the expense and faff of swapping stems, but purists will say it’s ugly and despite stopping to tighten it several times, I couldn’t totally eliminate creaking, which is pretty irritating.
In fact, the Finest’s main sticking point seems to be that it hasn’t quite made its mind up what it is. The geometry’s super-relaxed but the wheels and tyres are light and skinny. There’s a triple drivetrain, but it consists of the lightest-weight, raciest parts you’ll find on a bike of this price, yet the overall bike is a bit portly. Front handling is crisp, borderline harsh, but there’s a floral, spongy saddle that wouldn’t be out of place on a step-through Dutch-style bike.
So we’ve made our own minds up about what we think it should be — we think it should be a light tourer. There are no women-specific touring machines at the moment and for some reason touring bikes tend towards rather large frame sizes, so there’s definitely a gap in the market.
The Finest has mountings at the rear to easily fit a rack with plenty of heel clearance and if there’s one thing a massive range of gears like the Finest’s 30, 39, 52t chainset lends itself to, it’s cranking up European mountains with a heavy load on board. The adjustable stem means you could easily change your position several times in one day to stay comfortable for long saddle hours.
So it’s not the finest women’s race bike around, but the Finest’s sturdy, quality build makes it a worthy all-day, multi-day performer.
Fuji Finest 1.0
Frame: A1-SL aluminium
Fork: FC-770 carbon
Gears: FSA Vero chainset 30/39/50t, Shimano Tiagra (f), Shimano 105 (r)
Shifters: Shimano Tiagra
Brakes: Tektro R-350
Wheels: Alex AKX R1.0 wheelset
Tyres: Kenda K-152 700x25c
Saddle: Fuji road sport
Sizes: 44, 47, 50, 53, 55cm
Alternative: Bianchi Dama Sora £795
If you want to keep it all girlie and pastel but get a bit more sporty and serious, the Dama offers a compact double chainset and sportier geometry. You do spend more to trade down to Sora shifters from the Fuji’s Tiagra, though.