CYCLING SHOE REVIEWS
- Comfortable, lightweight and stiff
- Adaptable forefoot depth
- Large variability for cleat placement
- Replaceable heel pad
- Upper strap gets annoyingly close to Boa
- Rapha Pro Team Shoes
- Bontrager XXX
- Fizik Infinito R1
Shimano’s RC9 has been a staple within the professional peloton since its emergence and it continues to be one of the best fitting and performing road shoes on the market.
We often talk about a “thoughtful” design process and by that, we mean that a shoe has been designed to both look elegant and perform well. The RC9 is exactly that.
The RC9 is built upon a sem-curved last using Shimano’s stiffest carbon-fibre. Whilst we’re not told how to specifically grade their stiffness, we’re told it’s 12 out of 12 on their stiffness rating and yes, it’s near impossible to move in our hands.
The carbon-fibre base has good air ventilation but also a nifty little escape hole for water drainage. Whilst this isn’t a key feature of this shoe, it’s a nice consideration whilst having no detrimental impact on soles rigidity and ultimately, it’s performance.
The shoes have a medium to wide fit which means they comfortably fit a D-E width foot but Shimano has also released a “wide” version for those bulkier foot types although it’s only available in white and this certainly caters for those 2E+ width feet.
The upper itself is by no means a thin and firm 2nd skin like the S-Works 7. It certainly feels more like a traditional shoe (albeit with a nice aero-like feel) but it’s a vast improvement on its predecessor. With rumors surrounding the further update of this shoe with the RC902, we wonder if the shoe will be debulked a little more once again.
Whilst not having quite the same ability to wrap around the dorsum of the foot like Fizik’s R1, it allows for generous depth across the forefoot to accommodate both a medium to bulky foot types. The vamp (the tongue section) doesn’t have huge amounts of space between the Boa’s and its buckles so it’s not going to suit the thinner, less bulkier feet too well. However, what continues to stand out with this shoe is the ability to adapt the cable of the bottom Boa to allow for greater or less tension across the shoe’s bottom section. This is not going to be game-changing, but having the ability to adjust something so simply and for it to have a noticeable effect is a clever addition that cyclists clearly like.
The plastic exterior heel cup provides a very stable and secure fit and there aren’t any noticeable pressure points. The additional of the velcro-like material in the interior heel cup is again a nice addition to help grab the heel and prevent a little extra roll occurring. The reality is that the actual shape of the heel will prevent the heel from moving and not this additional material but Shimano are all about including all the “bells and whistles” and you’re hearing no complaints from us.
If there is one thing that could be improved upon is the Boa placement and the use of the straps, particularly the upper strap. Quite frankly, it’s enormous and its size is unnecessary. By placing the Boa on top of the strap and not on the side of the shoe itself, Shimano is trying to minimise irritation points that a Boa can cause. However, it’s not uncommon to see the Boa almost hit the cable’s buckle on the side when the rider’s at maximum tension.
In the release of the S-Phyre Track shoe, Shimano have eliminated this exactly and I think it’s a smart option. They have opted to put the Boa back on the side of the shoe and the result is a much better fit.
The reality is that this shoe is hard to fault. It’s high performing and lightweight, it fits the vast majority of feet well, and all-in-all, it has beautiful design aesthetics. There is a reason this shoe is so popular amongst professionals and we’re looking forward to seeing the release of its update to see what additions Shimano thinks it needs to improve upon an already quality product. Time will tell…