The flagship Shimano S-PHYRE RC901 shoes feature the latest construction and technology. With a retail price of $400 these shoes also carry a premium price tag to match the features. Underneath the distinctive exterior design which features a number of eye catching colors, the RC901s have a unibody carbon fiber construction to maximize power transfer between your feet and the pedals. Although these aren’t the lightest shoes on the market, the seamless upper and stiff outsole ensure you maximize your performance on the road.

The Shimano S-PHYRE RC901 is a flagship shoe that ticks all the right boxes: Gorgeous finish, Dual BOA dial closure system, and Stiff carbon sole.

According to Shimano, the S-PHYRE product line has one goal: “to maximize power transmission by delivering more performance per gram, cheating the air, and using linkage effect to power efficiencies.” While this may sound like marketing lingo, the S-PHYRE series contains a number of unique and flagship products that stand out in a crowded market. In this review, we’ll be looking at the second generation S-PHYRE RC9 shoes. While the name remains the same with the full model name RC901, these second generation RC9 shoes promise enhanced materials, lighter weight and a more comfortable fit. 

CategoryCycling Shoes (Road)
RatingDesign:   A
ClosuresA
Comfort:  A
Value:  A
Measured Weight (in g) 528 (EUR 44)
Retail Price$400
Likes + Gorgeous color shifting finish
+ Dual BOA dial closure system
+ Direct power transfer
Dislikes– Flagship retail price
Where to Buy (US)Shimano

UNBOXING

The packaging itself is a standard shoe box with S-PHYRE logo on the top. However, Shimano has included some unique items that make unboxing the flagship RC901 shoes more exciting than a typical shoe unboxing.

  • S-PHYRE RC901 Shoes
  • Branded fabric carrying bag
  • Interchangeable arch support
  • Gigantic user manual
Shimano S-PHYRE RC901 - Unboxing
Shimano includes a bag and high-arch insert attachment

The included carrying bag with the S-PHYRE printed on it is a nice touch, and feels like it would hold up well to use. The bag has a small inside pocket for socks or other small items. The insoles have a medium arch support installed with Velcro backing, which can easily be removed entirely or replaced with the supplied high-arch support.

DESIGN

Photos don’t do the RC9 shoes justice as they don’t capture the subtle color shifting finish. These shoes are gorgeous, particularly in the blue finish we reviewed, with a clean and modern design. Constructed from a synthetic microfiber, the uppers on the RC9s are seamless with a wrap-around design instead of a traditional center cutout and tongue. These second generation shoes also feature additional venting with larger perforations on the exterior, and a nylon mesh under the toe. Although the shoes lack the aggressive vents, we found that the breathable microfiber synthetic leather and perforations worked well to regulate temperature changes. They also feature a replaceable heel pad that ensures you can continue to wear these shoes for years to come without damaging the soles.

Shimano S-PHYRE RC901 - Sole
Carbon sole with external heel cup provides stability and direct power transfer

Aside from the unique appearance of the soles, due to the unibody construction, Shimano has also incorporated an additional 11mm of cleat adjustment. The attachment points for the three cleat bolts can be re-positioned by removing the provided spacers in front and behind the attachment point. The spacers can be removed to re-position the attachment points forward and back for additional adjustment beyond the play in the cleats themselves. There are also the usual alignment markers and angle indicators on the sole to help position the cleats as well. Not surprisingly, there is no Look Keo memory eyelet on the sole as Shimano has their own SPD-SL cleats which do not have that feature.

CLOSURES

As you would expect for a flagship shoe, the RC9 features a dual BOA IP1 dial system. The IP1 dials are the top-of-the-line dials BOA offers, and provide dual direction micro adjustments to easily dial in the tension. Pulling the dials fully releases the tension in the laces to easily put the shoes on or off. Although lace shoes have had a recent resurgence in popularity, the ability to loosen or tighten the BOA dials on the fly while riding is why we think BOA dials are the ideal solution for cycling shoes. The upper dial adjusts the tension on the strap close to your heels, while the lower dial has a unique lacing pattern to adjust the tension on the lower portion of the shoe. With these two adjustment points, we found it was easy to really tune the tension of the shoes for a near perfect fit.

Shimano S-PHYRE RC901 - Closures
Dual dial closure with wrap-around upper provide all-day comfort

The other technical detail that sets the RC9 shoes apart is the single piece microfiber synthetic leather. Rather than using a traditional tongue design, where you would have a U-shaped cutout in the front of the shoes, the RC9 uses a wrap-around design. This means as you tighten the tension on the dials, the shoes gently wrap around your foot without any tension points. We found that the shoes provided a secure yet comfortable fit whether we were going on an easy ride or out of the saddle on a steep climb.

COMFORT

With an outsole stiffness index of 12, the RC901 shoes (as well as the women’s version and RC901T triathlon version) are the stiffest shoes Shimano offers in their current lineup. The stiffer the outsole, the more direct power transfer you’ll have between your feet and the bike. While this means you’ll be theoretically faster, it can also potentially mean less comfort as the shoes are less forgiving. That’s why we were surprised how comfortable these shoes were on the road. With the provided arch support options and the one piece microfiber synthetic leather upper, the shoes provided a secure fit without any tension points even on long rides.

Shimano S-PHYRE RC901 - Heel cup
‘Cat tongue’ like material on heel to prevent heel rise

Subtle technical details such as the cat-tongue like material on the heel and the external heel cup meant our heels stayed in place even on high intensity sprints. Also, with the dual BOA dials it was easy to do micro adjustments to both loosen the shoes as well as tighten them on the road. In terms of fit, we’d describe the RC9 shoes to have wider toe boxes than our SIDI shoes in the same EUR 44 size. This meant that even though we typically wear wide shoes, the RC9 shoes fit like a glove as the uppers had enough flexibility to form around our feet instead of forcing them into a position. Also as someone with high-arches, we really appreciated the included high arch insole which helped provide a custom fit without the custom insole cost.

THE VERDICT

Overall, we found that the S-PHYRE RC901 shoes nailed everything a flagship shoe should have. Particularly in the blue color, the subtle color shifting finish gives them a unique and premium appearance. The shoes also provide excellent power transfer to the bike while still providing excellent all-day comfort. Are the shoes worth the $400 retail price? No – from a purely quantitative perspective (Shimano’s RC5 or FLR F-XX II provides similar performance provides similar performance). Yes – from a more subjective perspective. The RC9 shoes feel and look special, thanks to the various carefully designed technical details and premium touches like the provided high-arch insole attachments. If the retail price doesn’t scare you away, the RC9 shoes are easy to recommend as a premium shoe that can maximize your performance for thousands of miles of riding.

Disclaimer: The product for this review was provided by Shimano. The views expressed on this website are solely those of the authors and are here to help people make an informed choice before a purchase. The authors or the blog itself does not get any monetary compensation from the product manufacturer or third-party websites/vendor links that are posted here.

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