Shimano announced a host of updates to its enthusiast cycling shoes towards the back end of 2017, giving its more endurance focused RP models an unexpected revamp. Not just limited to aesthetics, the latest iteration of Shimano’s RP9 cycling shoes adds BOA dials for the first time, changes up the sole and foregoes the heat moldable uppers of old. Featuring a stiff carbon sole, a sublime synthetic leather upper and a generously padded interior, it’s clear that this shoe is designed to be used for long weekend rides.
The single Boa dial and a velcro strap keeps the weight impressively low with our size 46 example tipping the scales at 264g per shoe. That’s lighter than the equivalent size in its more competition focussed S-Phyre brethren.
The RP901 is available in four different colors; black, (smurf) blue, white and navy/pink. Sizes run from 41 through 48 with half sizes and a wider E width available, too.
Who’s it for?: A cycling enthusiast seeking a lightweight and comfortable road shoe capable of an all-day adventure.
What we liked: Lightweight, all-day comfort with a sleek aesthetic.
What we didn’t:Volumous toe-box not to everyone's taste, durability concerns.
Stiff and Secure
With a sole stiffness of 10/12 on Shimano’s stiffness scale, power delivery is anything but lacking. The little bit of leeway in the sole does keep things comfortable on longer rides and is also a welcome, albeit subtle, addition if you need to do any walking off the bike.
For those that like to fine tune their fit, the generous cleat adjustment range will be welcomed. The alignment guides on the sole are easy to read and made swapping cleats simple.
A single Boa IP1 dial with hidden wire routing replaces the ratchet system long-used on Shimano footwear. The Boa dials make micro adjustments on the fly a breeze and snugly held the upper to my foot. Working in unison with the Boa dial, a single velcro strap takes care of closing duties down towards to toe, however, we’d like to see a second Boa dial added in its place for a more secure fit.
Moving to the back of the shoe and a redesigned heel liner with an external heel counter keeps the foot locked lower in the shoe than its predecessor. A synthetic suede-like lining on the heel has a gripping effect on the heel, the only downside here is that they are a little harder to get on and off.
Having taken delivery of the RP901 in late 2017, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with these capable shoes. From my first impressions, sliding the smurf blue shoes out of their box and slipping them on my feet, through to riding through the Adelaide hills in the scorching summer sun, up and around the Victorian high-country in the rain and joining me on my local loops three to four days a week, the RP901’s haven’t skipped a beat.
Having preferred the look and fit of laced shoes previous to taking delivery of the RP901’s, the addition of a Boa dial was welcomed due to the simple and secure fit they provide. The micro adjustments worked well with my feet and allowed for the natural expansion and contraction that occurs in the foot during exercise. The velcro strap down towards the toe did its job, however, it must be said that the sizing of the RP901 may come off as a little odd to some people. Having a more rounded toe shape, and preferring my shoes to fit to size, I didn’t have too much issue with the additional volume of the toe box, however, for those with a narrower, or shallower foot, it may present some issues with the foot moving around inside the shoe.
The perforated synthetic leather upper provided a snug yet supple fit on the top of the foot. This is due in part to the very nature of synthetic leathers being pre-softened and having a limited amount of stretch. This meant that the shoe never felt like it was at risk of becoming too large, despite being exposed to all weather conditions.
It’s worth noting that the upper of the shoe also breathes exceptionally well. Despite its airy, heat dissipating ways, it never felt too cold when using the kicks on my local beach-side loop as temperatures dipped down into the single digits.
The updated heel collar and external heel counter provided a nice and snug fit for my foot, however, the depth at the heel felt a little lacking coming from a more competition based shoe. Despite being a little shallower than I’d previously been used to, the shoe never felt like it was on the verge of slipping off, even during hard out of the saddle efforts. When compared to Shimano's S-Phyre racing shoe, it's clear this has been done on purpose, and clearly, it aims to create a shoe that more gently holds the foot for long hours in the saddle.
This is also thanks in part to the stiffness of the sole. Whilst it isn’t what you’d call jarringly stiff, the shoe translated my efforts in the saddle, through to the cranks with ease, never feeling like it was lacking on power transfer.
Moving to the inside of the shoe and the liners (inner soles) are supplied with additional arch support. The support works with the use of wedges that attach via velcro to the bottom of the liner itself. In my opinion, these are the lowest point of the shoe. The arch support never quite felt high enough, despite my flat feet, it felt like the support itself was out of place for where I typically need it. This is only a minor gripe, however, thankfully shoe liners are easily removed and replaced.
As far as cycling shoes go, there’s a lot to like about the RP901 and very little to fault. Slip them on, clip in and you soon forget you’re wearing them at all. They hold the foot securely, transfer power with ease and are temperature efficient enough to deal with most conditions.
Save for some issues with the stock footbeds, the fact I ended up buying my own pair will attest to the fact I was a fan of these kicks. Priced at AUD$350, the cost of the shoes may seem a little high initially, but on paper, they more than stack up to the (often more expensive) competition.
So if you’re looking for a lightweight and comfortable shoe with a sleek aesthetic capable of taking you from a full day in the saddle to your local crit, the Shimano RP901 is definitely worth considering.
Thanks to Shimano for providing the product for this review. The Shimano RP901 is available right now and carries a MSRP of $249