Since pro sightings back in April, there have been rumours circulating of a new high-performance road shoe from Shimano. We saw many Shimano-sponsored WorldTour riders wearing the latest creation during the Tour de France, and now Shimano have unveiled details of their new S-Phyre RC900 (RC9).
The shoes are set to replace R321 with a number of new features, significant weight reduction and plenty of colour choices. There's even MTB and Cyclocross versions.
We've broken down the top ten things you need to know about the new Shimano Road Performance shoe.
Significant weight reduction
Shimano's shoe range has typically sat on the upper end of the weight spectrum, but the S-Phyre RC9s seek to fix that. In order to reduce weight, the RC9s remove the cardboard-like lasting board that sits beneath the insole, and instead bond the upper directly to the underside of the carbon fiber sole, removing redundant material. In addition to a weight saving, the new approach also reduces stack height by 3.2mm relative to the previous mode.
For a size 43, the RC9s have managed to shed 60g from the R321, weighing in at 500g for the pair, which includes the inner soles. While they're not as feather-light as some of the latest releases from Specialized or Giro (weighing closer to 400g), they are still competitive.
Four colour options
As you can see from the image above, the RC9 comes in four colours: pearl white, metallic blue, high-vis yellow and stealthy black. The branding is subtle, which will please most riders, with only a small 'Shimano' label on the upper strap and an 'S-Phyre' label on the side.
It's unclear exactly what options will be available to Australia, and in what quantity. However, exclusive dealers are the only ones expected to sell the metallic blue, high-vis yellow and stealthy black versions in limited numbers.
Improved aerodynamics and ventilation
Shimano claim the RC9 has improved aerodynamics over the R321 and immediately evident is the new perforated dimple construction of the RC9 upper, which has a lot to do with that. The upper resembles the dimpled surface of a golf ball, which significantly reduces drag over a smooth surface.
The perforated dimples also help with ventilation. The RC9s don't have vents directly at the front of the shoe like the R321s, but do have vents in the front and back of the carbon sole and the perforated upper that provides enough air flow to remove moisture. The lack of thick straps like the R321 also aids in ventilation.
Gone is the ''Custom-Fit'
Previously, Shimano has offered a 'custom-fit,' which allowed the footbed and portions of the upper to be slightly modified via heat mouldable technology, as needed for a more precise fit. It's debatable if this technology offers a significant benefit or if riders used the technology, but either way it's gone from the RC9.
The new upper is more subtle than previous versions: half-sizes are available in a 37-47 range, normal and wide lasts are available, and the Dynalast fit is still in play, which should be enough to eliminate the need for custom moulding anyway.
If you do require a specific custom feel, there is a new premium Custom-Fit inner sole as an aftermarket option, which features a deeper heel cup and heat mouldable EVA foam sections.
BOA features for the first time
Finally, some might say Shimano has incorporated Boa’s simple and effective reel-and-cable retention system. Each shoe offers two IP1 dials for easy micro-adjustment in both directions, and a simple and incredibly fast pull-to-release for when it’s time to get out of them.
The first dial uniquely sits on the top strap, as opposed to the more traditional placement on the upper of the shoe, while the second dial sits mid-foot, crisscrossing its way down toward the front of the shoe for mid- and forefoot support.
Dynalast and optional arch wedges
Shimano's "optimised shoe last," the 'Dynalast,' features in the RC9. The technology is based around improving pedalling efficiency and reducing the tension in your calves and hamstrings.
The flatter last can be altered with two arch wedges of different heights, held together with a Velcro-like material that come with the shoes.
New heel pad and heel cup
A new replaceable heel pad features on the RC9 that is held in place with two small Phillips-head screws that are fed in from the inside for a seamless appearance. To ensure a perfect fit, a hole runs through both the pad and the carbon sole, and then lines up with vents in the inner sole for improved water drainage and general ventilation.
Stabilising and providing a firm hold of the heel is the new plastic heel cup that is bonded to the bottom of the carbon sole. A similar design is seen in the likes of Specialized’s highly-praised S-Works 6 shoes, although initial reports are of a slightly more relaxed fit for the RC9s.
The S-Phyre range also includes the RC700, a replacement for the popular R171.
Exact details are scarce, but as you can see from the image above, there will only be one Boa dial, the second replaced with a conventional hook-and-loop lower strap and a less dimple-perforated upper. It's also safe to assume a slightly softer carbon sole, perhaps a downgrade of a few of the special materials too.
The RC700 will retail for AU$259, a significant saving from the RC9 and no doubt a popular cost effective alternative.
There are MTB and Cyclocross versions too
Mountain bikers and Cyclocross riders haven't been forgotten with the new range. Shimano will be replacing its XC90 and XC70 shoes with the S-Phyre XC900 and XC700, respectively.
Again, details are scarce, but we do know there will be a Michelin rubber sole, which should prove to be an extremely good upgrade over the plastic-like outer sole used on previous Shimano SPD XC/CX race shoes.
The S-Phyre XC900 looks to have three colour options: black, hi-vis yellow and metallic blue, while the XC700 featured above is black, but more colour options may be on the way.
They have specific socks (seriously)
In what has to be an industry first, Shimano have provided specific S-Phyre socks that have been designed to work optimally with the S-Phyre shoes.
Here's what Shimano say about the sock / shoe relationship; ”By looking at the shoe/sock interface and applying our Linkage Effect approach, S-PHYRE socks combine thermoregulation, comfort, ankle roll stability, and heel slip-resistance with an extra-tall cuff that’s guaranteed not to droop. Asymmetrical structural weaving of proprietary fabrics provides guiderails for proper foot alignment through the entire 360-degree crank rotation.”
Take from that what you will, but it's clear Shimano have spent plenty of time and resources refining and developing the S-Phyre range.
Price: AU$449 (add AU$60 if you want Custom-Fit inner soles).
Sizes available: Wide and Regular widths in 36, 37-47 in half sizes; 48.
Availability: From late September.
For a more-depth view of the Shimano S-Phyre RC900 visit cyclingtips.com