Following the success of the Shimano R320 road shoe, the Japanese giant has just announced a new flagship model – aptly named the R321. In addition to the R321, there is a new mid-priced 'look-alike' version called the R171, replacing the previously popular-selling R170 model. Amongst these changes, it's surprising to see the in-between option – the R260 – continue on unchanged from 2014.
Note: This article was updated on 10 September 2014 with news of the R171 shoe.
The redesigned top-end shoe features Shimano’s new covering ‘Surround’ upper. Made from Teijin Avail 100 ultralight fabric, the new upper and pivoting buckle is designed to improve fit over the previous model while also providing additional support under power. A large area of smooth material on the inside of the foot, combined with low profile buckles and straps, implies the shoes will be slippery in the wind.
Vents in the toe cap and heel along with 3D mesh panels should keep the funk of sweaty feet at bay.
The arch and upper instep of the R321 incorporate the same heat-malleable ‘Custom Fit film’ we have seen in previous Shimano shoes. The combination of interchangeable arch-supports and Shimano’s custom fit insoles should provide for added comfort.
The R321 shoes also feature an anti-slip heel lining, and external heel cup to keep the wearer's foot firmly planted in the back of the shoe.
The R320’s lightweight, Dynalast shaped carbon sole has been carried through to the new model, with a Shimano benchmark 12/12 stiffness rating given. Dynalast optimizes the footbed by increasing the angle at the toes, something that's said to offer a more efficient pedal stroke and less strain on ones plantar flexors, calf muscles and hamstrings. Also continuing from the R320's is the dual cleat plate, allowing an additional 11mm of fore-aft cleat adjustment.
Shimano is claiming its new range topper weighs 489g in an EU size 40. Hitting the market in November, pricing is AU$419 with UK and US prices to be confirmed.
While the R321 leads the range, the new R171 (US$TBC / £TBC / AU$229) will be the most intriguing and exciting for most of us. It has the same Surround upper design as the R321, so it's difficult to distinguish the two at first sight. A closer look reveals that the R171 does away with the custom fit technology, including moving to a simpler insole. The sole is still carbon and keeps Shimano's Dynalast technology, but drops to a 10/12 stiffness ranking.
Despite the radical difference in price compared to the R321, the simpler insole and slightly more pliable construction has lead to a small weight drop – the R171 shoes weigh 486g per pair for a EU size 40.
We hope to get our hands on these two models in future to find out whether the performance difference can justify the gap in price.