Overall, Shimano has tinkered with, rather than overhauled, the latest version of the RC7, but that’s largely no bad thing.
The sole is more flexible and the Boa dials are less sophisticated than on the pricier S-Phyre RC902s, being only adjustable one way.
The insole doesn’t come with the S-Phyre RC902’s adjustable arch inserts.
But the RC7 does have the S-Phyre RC902’s wraparound closure system, and it remains a brilliant all-round road cycling shoe at £130 less.
Shimano RC7 shoe specs and options
The RC7 carbon fibre composite sole registers at 10/12 on Shimano’s own stiffness index. The S-Phyre RC902 scores 12/12.
The shoe’s Boa L6 dials turn to tighten, but you have to pull up to undo them and start again to make them looser.
The Boa Li2 dials on the S-Phyre RC902, on the other hand, can be rotated both ways to allow fine adjustments more quickly.
The RC7 is available in standard and wide fit from sizes EU38 to 50 and in half sizes from EU38 to 47.
Colour options are black, white or red in less glossy finishes than the S-Phyre RC902.
The RC7 is priced at £189.99 / €199.99 / $240, which is £20 more than the previous Shimano RC7.
Weight has crept up too, from 541g to 580g in size EU45. The S-Phyre RC902 is lighter (538g, size EU45).
But the RC7 is not much chunkier than the similarly priced Specialized Torch 3.0 (564g, size EU45).
Try before you buy
Based on my experience, you may need to size up if you can’t try the RC7 on before buying in your local bike shop. I usually wear size EU45, but I needed a size EU46 in these.
The lower dial controls the tension of laces threading diagonally through eyelets over the instep.
The higher dial folds a strap across the tongue, replicating the wraparound upper on the S-Phyre RC902.
This is one of my favourite features of the shoe. The strap lies on top of a section of black padding for a comfortable and secure hold on your foot.
The heel cup doesn’t contain grippy fabric, but this doesn’t seem to matter. My foot didn’t slip even when sprinting out of the saddle.
Initially, the lower lace eyelets would occasionally dig into my feet when pressing through the shoe on the pedal upstroke, especially while riding in the drops.
However, slackening the tension of the adjustable lace guide deepened the toe box and resolved this issue.
Lastly, the RC7 has a pliant synthetic leather upper, which swaddles the foot. This is good for comfort, but less so for ventilation (more on this later).
If you prefer more give in your road cycling shoes, the RC7 may strike a chord with you.
As their 10/12 stiffness rating implies, the carbon soles are pretty rigid. However, they do not behave like slate tiles underfoot.
When riding hard in an aero position on the flat or grappling with a grippy gradient, the soles do yield but not so much as to strain the feet or leg muscles or seem inefficient.
Such characteristics are fine for the majority of road riding, though, and while racers, or those with competitive aspirations, might prefer a stiffer sole, the evidence suggests cycling shoe stiffness doesn’t directly influence power output anyway.
Much of my testing was while commuting. The RC7 was ideal for a blend of traffic-filled urban streets and longer stretches on open roads.
The RC7’s more flexible soles are also slightly easier to walk in, and therefore less awkward to wear off the bike than rock-solid cycling shoes.
Another practical feature of the RC7 is the adjustable cleat bolt holes. These give you more placement range for installing and adjusting cycling cleats.
Removing the red plastic blocks from around the cleat bolt holes lets the holes move freely, so you can position them further forward or back before screwing in the bolts.
A little less ventilation
The RC7’s well padded and snug construction does bring a bit of bulk.
However, a ring of vents around the toe and several sections of mesh netting in the instep permit air flow.
Moreover, there are ventilation gaps on the sole at the heel and toe.
These shed water well too, as I found on a couple of soggy commutes when my feet got drenched, yet not cold.
The relatively mild conditions will have contributed to that, but most of the water that entered the shoe also flowed out through the vents in the bottom and didn’t slosh about inside for too long.
The shoes also dried out very quickly post-ride.
The RC7 was less good when the dial swung to the opposite side of the barometer, though.
With the temperature nudging 20 degrees, after six hours of hills my feet were on the verge of overheating.
Therefore, I’d class the RC7 as a three-season shoe suitable for the UK winter (provided you wear overshoes).
For long rides in hot conditions, though, I’d prefer a cycling shoe with lighter and cooler uppers.
Shimano RC7 shoe bottom line
If you can do without the bling of top-of-the-range cycling shoes (or want to save your best pair for weekends), the Shimano RC7s are a great option for a much lower price.
Although the RC7 arguably isn’t the best at any one thing, it does lots very well.
The shoe looks the part without being a sleek jaw-dropper, and strikes a balance between practicality and performance.
There’s a wide adjustment range for your cleats, the uppers are cosy and ventilation suffices for all but the hottest days.
The materials all feel high-quality and used cleverly for a secure and comfortable fit.
The relatively stiff soles and respectable weight don’t undermine more intense efforts, either.
The RC7 is the kind of shoe I’d pick if I needed a good-value option for all of my road riding. It’s hard to fault at this price.
The size and width options should also suit most feet. But I would recommend trying a pair for size before you buy, if possible.