If you’re looking for the top-of-the-line cycling shoes, you don’t have to look any further than Shimano’s S-PHYRE RC9 shoes. Not only are these one of the most beautiful shoes on the market, but they leverage Shimano’s vast experience for a precise fit and power transfer. These are the third generation of the S-PHYRE shoes and have subtle improvements to optimize the fit. The Shimano S-PHYRE RC903 shoes retail for $450 and feature a dual BOA Li2 dial closure system. These are one of Shimano’s stiffest cycling shoes with a full carbon fiber outsole and anti-twist heel cup. Shimano has refined the toe box shape for a more comfortable fit and added a ribbed rear design that highlights the subtle color shifting finish. As with previous iterations of the RC9 shoes, the RC903 has an integrated seamless midsole and upper construction for optimal power transfer.
The Shimano S-PHYRE RC903 are the third generation of Shimano’s RC9 shoes and offer next-level design and performance
|Measured Weight (in g)||503 (EUR 44 Wide)|
|Likes||+ Gorgeous color-shifting finish and color options|
+ Dual BOA Li2 dials provide easy adjustments
+ Integrated design and carbon sole have excellent power transfer
|Dislikes||– Premium price|
– Fabric carrying bag is no longer included
|Where to Buy (US)||Shimano|
The Shimano S-PHYRE RC903 comes in a simple cardboard shoe box with branding printed directly onto the cardboard. Inside the box you’ll find:
- Shimano RC903 shoes
- High-arch foam inserts inside an envelope
- Cleat installation instructions
- BOA tags
Despite the $25 dollar increase from the Shimano RC902 shoes, the RC903 shoes do not include a fabric carrying bag which is a bit of a surprise. Otherwise you do receive the replaceable insole arch supports with the medium attachments already attached to the shoe and the high arch attachments included in the envelope. These are a simple yet clever way to adjust the fit and can accommodate a variety of feet shapes.
FIT & FINISH
The S-PHYRE RC9 shoes are Shimano’s top-of-the-line shoes and showcase the latest technology and materials. These are the third-generation of the RC9 shoes and are more of an incremental update than an evolution so they look quite similar to the previous generation RC902 shoes. Shimano offers the shoes in four color options: white, red, blue and black. Even though the color names don’t have exotic names, all the colors have a pearl finish which creates a subtle color shift. That means even the simple white versions have a rose color shift to make them stand out. We have the classic Shimano blue color in this review which shifts to a purple color depending on the angle of the light. In our opinion, these shoes are one of the best looking on the market, with the DMT KR0s being a close second, thanks to their functional yet flashy design. Note, Shimano even offers a limited edition $475 special edition RC9 shoe with a champagne color with metal BOA Li2 dials.
In terms of construction, the RC903 features a lightweight microfiber leather with perforations for ventilation along the front. Shimano has utilized an integrated seamless midsole and upper construction which uses a wrap-around design instead of a traditional tongue. The material wraps around the sole and has slits on the front that tucks underneath itself and provides an optimal fit. Shimano has also rounded out the front toe box shape with the RC903 shoes in response to rider feedback. We have the wide variation here but even the standard width variation has a well sized toe box that has generous sizing. On the rear you have an updated anti-twist heel cup that is more integrated and features a ribbed appearance. Raised edges on the rear and additional padding keep your heel firmly in place even during high-intensity sprints.
The RC903 shoes feature dual BOA Li2 dials which have a low profile and offer micro adjustment for loosening and tightening. Shimano was one of the first to use the Li2 dials with the S-PHYRE shoes and even though they’ve become pretty ubiquitous in high-end shoe models, they are still one of the best dials on the market. The top dial is connected to a wrap-around strap to adjust the ankle fit while the bottom dial adjusts the toe box. What’s also new here is the cross over lacing pattern that is designed to reduce pressure points while providing micro-adjustability. The dual setup allows you to fine tune the fit and easily make adjustments mid-ride.
The RC9 shoes feature Shimano’s full carbon soles that are one of the stiffest in their lineup. These have a stiffness index of 12 out of 12, which would make even Spinal Tap (i.e. turn it up to 11) jealous. Despite being a full carbon sole, there isn’t much carbon fiber on display here with most of it hidden underneath the upper material or the replaceable heel bumper. You have a standard three bolt SPD-SL / Look Keo cleat compatibility with fore-aft adjustment and some interesting graphics to help you position the shoes. There is no Look Memory Eyelet compatibility here, but there are removable plastic spacers to prevent the cleats from rattling. For ventilation there is a large front vent to funnel air into the shoe and a rear vent to allow it to exit.
ON THE ROAD
Given the beautiful finish and design of Shimano S-PHYRE RC9 shoes we were reluctant to even ride with the shoes and risk scratching or damaging them. Thankfully, Shimano’s materials and placement of rubber bumpers keeps the RC9 shoes looking new even as you rack up miles as long as you occasionally wipe it off. We were immediately impressed with the comfortable fit and wrap-around design which makes you forget you’re even wearing the shoes. Even on multi-hour rides with our muscles burning, the wide fit and excellent ventilation meant our feet still felt fresh. While we also enjoyed the standard width RC902 shoes in our previous reviews, the wide RC903 are a noticeable improvement with an even larger toe box. It’s on par with our Bont Vaypor S wide shoes with a generous toe box that prevents wider feet from feeling cramped.
On high-effort sprints or climbs the S-PHYRE RC9’s stiff carbon sole gives you direct power transfer through the pedals. The heel cup and wrap-around upper keep your foot firmly in place without feeling constrictive. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe in words and something that should be experienced. If you’re more of a recreational cyclist or spend more time on the trainer the RC9 are overkill, we’d recommend nylon soled shoes such as the Van Rysel RoadR 520 or Shimano RC3 which have some flex, but if you value performance and long-distance riding the premium price of the RC9 shoes is well worth it. We also want to point out how easy it is to put on and take off the shoes as releasing the tension from both dials creates a large opening. Despite the wrap-around upper material, you can put the shoes on with one hand and then tighten down both dials to lock-in the fit.
Overall, we found the Smith S-PHYRE RC903 shoes to be high-performance and comfortable shoes. Shimano has incorporated numerous incremental improvements that make the already excellent RC9 shoes just a bit better. We found the updated lacing pattern and toe box shape provide excellent power transfer with no pressure points. The stiff carbon soles and integrated upper design make you feel directly connected with the bike and keep your feeling fresh even after multi-hour rides. As always, the beautiful color-shifting paint finish gives the S-PHYRE a distinctive look that helps justify the high price. The only real negative of the shoes is the premium price tag and that Shimano doesn’t appear to include a fabric carrying bag anymore. That said, if you’re looking for high-performance carbon cycling shoes with no compromises in fit or design then the Shimano S-PHYRE RC903 are one of the best on the market.
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.