New to Shimano’s road shoe range for 2015 is the premium RP9, designed to “bridge the gap between competitive level performance and new road cyclists”. Sitting just below the ‘performance’ R321 shoe, which we reviewed earlier in the year, the RP9 retains a number of features from the flagship model, the key being the heat-moldable insoles and uppers.
I picked up the shoes the night before a fondo and only had enough time to fit cleats. With no time for the fitting process they were straight out of the box and into 120km of mixed roads and climbing. I have a slightly wider foot, and as the day warmed I did find myself loosening off the middle velcro strap ever so slightly.
After the fondo, and with another similar day of riding planned the next day, it was into the Shimano van to experience the fitting process. My experience with heat-molding was always the DIY-in-your-kitchen-oven kind, but instead of simply heating the insoles, the upper on the RP9 is also moldable. After fitting the shoes with pre-warmed soles the entire shoe was baked. Once back on the feet a vacuum bag removed all the air and the shoe was ‘sucked’ onto my feet.
I didn’t have huge expectations given my previous experience with heat-molding, but given I had just ridden 120km in the shoes prior to the fitting, the change was quite noticeable. Where my wider feet were causing some hotspots the shoes now sat comfortably. Overall the feeling was that the shoe really conformed to my feet.
One other change I made before riding that second day was to shuffle the cleats forward towards the toe-box. When I had been rolling to the start of the fondo on the first day the toe-overlap was significant. Sometimes if the toe just clips the wheel you can ‘push through’ it, however in this instance the overlap was great enough that it caught the shoe and prevented low speed manoeuvring — something that I kept in the back of my mind for the first ride!
Shifting the cleats forwards removed the overlap, which seems to have been due to a combination of a slightly pronounced protective toe cap, as well as the 25mm tires I was running on the bike.
Another nod to the R321 is the stiff cross-weave carbon sole (Shimano rates it an 11/12 stiffness), and there certainly seems to be no lack of power transfer particularly when climbing.
Aesthetically the shoes present very well, drawing comments each time they have been ridden. A leather-look synthetic white upper features a subtle white-on-white honeycomb pattern enhancing a pleasing minimalistic design approach. Two velcro straps and a third with a buckle take care of fastening the shoes.
On first inspection the ventilation appears minimal but even after a few hot rides this doesn’t seem to translate into a hot foot, potentially due to the addition of toe-cap vents. The shoes have also been out on some frosty Melbourne mornings and I didn’t notice particularly cold feet, so the ventilation balance seems to be right.
The insole is comfortable and has the provision for alternative thicknesses of arch support (Shimano’s Tuneable Arch Support) which come boxed with the shoe. Interestingly the insoles are ‘mint-scented’ and although I couldn’t quite detect that, I also wasn’t hit with the alternate aroma …
The 538g (size 40) RP9 comes in black or white and retails for AU$329.
For more information visit the Shimano website.