Back in June, we spotted John Degenkolb sporting an interesting unbranded pair of kicks. We took an educated guess that they were Shimano’s latest race level shoe, but it was a few months before that claim would be confirmed.
All has now been revealed and we’ve just got our mitts (or feet rather) on a pair of the new Shimano S-Phyre RC9 road shoes.
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Shimano S-Phyre RC9 highlights
- 545g in size 45
- BOA dial closures
- Replaceable heel pad
- Adjustable insole
- No heat moldability
- One-piece synthetic leather upper
- Integrated sock system
- £TBC / $400 /AU$449
Claimed to be Shimano’s lightest shoe to date, the S-Phyre RC 9 tips our scales at 545g in a size 45. While the shoe sneaks in just below the R321 (578g, size 44), it just doesn't quite compete with some of the weight weenie favorites like the S-Works (440g, size 45) and Giro Prolight SLX (410g, size 45).
The weight savings, although relatively small, are due in part to Shimano dumping the lasting board from under the insole, and shedding some excess material by bonding the upper directly to the carbon sole. This also lowers the stack height a touch.
The one-piece Teijin synthetic leather upper is dimpled and fully perforated with a mesh panel, which sits above your toes. The material is quite supple, more so than materials used in previous shoes from the Japanese brand, and Shimano says the upper is breathable and aero too, though it hasn’t offered any wind tunnel data.
For the first time, Shimano is utilizing BOA dial closures instead of ratchets or velcro. The IP1 dials offer quick and accurate adjustments as well as a quick release for getting in and out of the shoes. Shimano says its Powerzone asymmetric wire guide lacing system provides a secure comfortable fit and prevents twisting of the foot under high power pedaling.
The RC9s feature the Surround upper, which has been carried through from the the R321 and sees the upper wrap the foot like a burrito instead of the traditional tongue. A feature that’s becoming more common on high-end shoes, the inside section which forms the ‘tongue’ is anchored from the outside of the foot and the upper section is anchored from the arch. As the shoe is tightened the upper wraps further around your foot which in the past has proven to offer great stability especially under power.
The heel is also lined with the one-way silver sharkskin/cat’s tongue no-slip fabric, a feature we’re big fans of as it keeps your heel firmly planted in the shoe, but doesn’t require a shoehorn to get them off like the latest S-Works does.
Gone but not forgotten
Shimano has done away with its heat moldable panels, largely because it added weight and riders weren’t taking advantage of it. The jury is still out on whether this helps or hinders the RC9’s performance, but with Shimano offering half sizes in shoes from size 37-40, as well as normal and wide lasts, it’s probably a safe bet that even those with mangled feet like mine should be able to find a comfy fit.
The insoles come with two interchangeable arch supports (medium and high) and can also be used by those who have flat feet. Shimano is also offering a dual density heat moldable custom insole with similar interchangeable arch supports and an anti-slip surface as an upgrade.
With some cycling shoes erring on the side of a ski boot than a shoe in terms of comfort, the RC9s seem to offer a gentle yet secure fit. The toe box is roomy and even with the BOAs cranked down the pressure is uniform with no hotspots immediately presenting themselves.
Like its predecessor, the RC9 is based around the Dynalast sole, Shimano says it has optimised the toe spring angle — how much the toe curves up — by placing it slightly lower, which reduces tension on the plantar, calf and hamstring muscles and reduces lost pedaling energy in the back half of the pedal stroke by up to five percent.
Also carried through from the 321 is the additional 11mm of cleat adjustment. Governed by a removable chip, there’s a massive range of adjustability on offer.
It’s no surprise that the RC9’s carbon outsole rates a 12, the highest on the company's stiffness scale. At the back there is a hard place heel cup bonded directly to the sole, which Shimano says helps to stabilize the heel and prevent heel twist and roll.
Also new is the replaceable heel pad, something we’ve long wished Shimano would implement. The sole is vented both under the heel and at the front, and surrounding the front half two-thirds of the sole is a matte finished plastic, which should also help to protect the carbon.
Wait, really? Socks?
Something that came as quite a surprise when the S-Phyre shoes were first announced was the integrated sock system. We’ve seen socks that match shoes, a la Mavic and its yellow, but never before anything, “designed and constructed to promote efficient pedaling.”
There’s a bit of padding which sits under the tip of the BOA to relieve some pressure, but also “woven-in ankle guides ensure efficient pedaling rotation,” and a double thick heel is designed to work with the silver thread heel. We’re not sold that there’s any real benefit on offer, but hey, at least they’re tall.
Priced at £319 / $400 / AU$449, the RC9s definitely slot into the upper echelon of shoes, but that's not surprising since they’re the big dogs of Shimano’s road shoes. Only time will tell if they live up to the hype.
We’ll be throwing some cleats on the Shimano S-Phyre RC9s and putting them through a torture test over the coming months, keep an eye out for the full review.