Shimano’s RP9 shoes sit at the top of the Japanese firm's 'road performance' range, and although that premium performance comes at a price - £219.99, to be exact - the RP9s set a serious standard; they are extremely good for racking up long miles on the road.
To understand fully where the RP9 shoes from Shimano are pitched, a little understanding of the range is needed. Where the race-bred shoes carry the ‘RC’ (road competition) tag, the ‘RP’ (road performance) shoes are pitched more towards the everyday rider, who wants good long-distance comfort married to rewarding performance.
The models are then ranked handily in odd numbers ranging one to nine, making the RP9s on test here the £219.99 daddy of the road performance family (the RC range tops out with the £319.99 S-Phyre RC9s). For that kind of money, you should rightfully expect a serious level of performance, comfort and fit. Thankfully, the RP9s deliver.
The sole is made from carbon fibre and measures ten out of 12 on Shimano’s stiffness scale. That’s largely meaningless when comparing to other brands but provides some context within the Shimano range. Essentially, you get a very stiff sole which isn't quite as rigid as a maxed-out 12/12 model (the S-Phyre RC9, for example).
- Price: £219.99
- Sizes: EU 36-52
- Size tested: EU 47 (UK 11.5)
- Colours: Black; blue; navy
- UK distributor: Madison
- Website: Shimano
In reality, having spent a good month with the RP9s, it’s plenty stiff enough for pretty much any situation even a high-performance roadie will experience, while it is remarkably comfortable over a long ride.
The RP9s are not exactly heavy either – Shimano claims a feathery 224g per shoe in a EU42 (UK8), while ours registered 271g apiece in an EU47. In fact, the 224g claimed weight is actually lighter than the all-singing S-Phyre RC9 shoes (243g).
The heel is narrow – supported with an external cup – without being restrictively so, but as the shoe gets to the arch area, it widens out. This provides tangibly more room than you get with, say, Sidi’s Genius 7 shoes in the same size, which are aimed at a similar kind of target rider. This continues to the toe area, which is far more accommodating than those shoes.
The overall effect of this, in tandem with plush padding around the upper, is a great level of comfort around the foot, with 100km rides and longer ticked off with ease.
Shimano’s ‘Dynalast’ concept could be at play here, too. It's integrated into all Shimano's premium shoes, and is said to maintain efficiency of the pedal stroke through a shaped footbed.
"Having spent a good month with the RP9s, the carbon sole is plenty stiff enough for pretty much any situation even a high-performance roadie will experience"
My overall impressions are so good it’s likely I’ll opt to wear the RP9s when I take on a 200km audax later in the year, overtaking the Genius 7s in the pecking order.
It also helps that Shimano provides medium and high-arch supports to help the shoe mould to your foot. I used the high arches, and while they’re not as ‘lumpy’ as my specialist bike-fit insoles, they’re definitely capable of providing good levels of shape and support off the shelf.
That’s not to say they’re the equivalent of loafers, though. Put the hammer down and you’re never left with a sense of disconnect with the pedal or lack of power transfer, so it’s actually easy to forget that you’re not wearing the absolute last word in performance.
While the RP9s are not in the same league as my personal favourites for hard riding, the Sidi Shots (race shoes if ever there were any, with a £350 price tag to match), but compared to the Genius 7s mentioned earlier, which I've also tested recently, they’re a cut above.
They do feel warmer than the lightest and most airy shoes, but airflow is still very good thanks to perforations in the leather upper, added to a vent hole under the toes. The upper is also treated with something called ‘Silvadur’, which is claimed to reduce bacterial build up.
I can’t quantify that specific claim as we don’t have a bio lab in our office to perform actual testing, but I did notice foot freshness and comfort over long rides remained high, even when wrapped in a shoe cover on milder days.
"Put the hammer down and you’re never left with a sense of disconnect with the pedal or lack of power transfer"
A single Boa IP1 dial pulls and releases crosswires over the top of the foot to secure it down, although you don’t need to over-tighten it to compensate for the extra space in the shoe itself because the heel is so well shaped around the back of the foot.
You can leave it a click or two shy of your normal tightness without risk of pulling out, and that only adds to the overall level of comfort if you’re going to be wearing them all day long.
There’s also a velcro tab over the toes for additional adjustment, although I was content to leave that alone. It doesn’t do too much to the lower front of the shoe when you adjust it, except to keep it fixed into place.
Finally, Shimano has also thought of café stops and feed zones too, with a sizeable heel cover and toe reinforcement to help with grip on the ground. It’s a small thing, but I did find them relatively easy to walk around on what would normally be slippery surfaces.
The Shimano RP9s are pitched as the Japanese brand’s flagship shoes for sportive and long-distance riders looking to maximise comfort without sacrificing too much performance. Whichever viewpoint you come from – endurance cyclists wanting to upgrade long-distance shoes, or racers wanting an arguably less-harsh shoe – you’re going to be impressed here.
Worthy of particular mention is the comfort and forgiving fit without losing important power transfer through the stiff carbon sole. The RP9s are certainly not heavy or cumbersome despite the extra space they give and are an all-round great option as an all-day performance shoe.
- Comfortable fit
- Stiff carbon sole
- Good ventilation