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Shimano's new RP9 shoes are a really excellent race and performance shoe that brings much of the quality and fit of the pro-level 300-series shoes down to a much more affordable level. It's less of a trickle down, more of a flood. They're great.
I've got a pair of Shimano R315 shoes from the Ultegra Di2 launch back in 2011 and they've been my favourite race and fast riding shoes ever since. At the time they were Shimano's top shoe, and since they've been superseded by the R320 and the R321, which are both excellent. They should be, at a penny under £300. The RP9s manage to bring pretty much everything that's good to the table, at not much more than half the price. That's some effort.
The RP9s use a very similar carbon fibre sole to the top-end shoes, with Shimano rating its stiffness as 11/12 on their own scale. Certainly it's plenty stiff enough for racing, but it's not uncomfortable for it. That's got a lot to do with the insole, which is excellent, and also features an adjustable instep section with two different heights to tailor your support. The sole is drilled for a 3-bolt cleat only, and there's plenty of fore-aft adjustment available. There's a vent at the front and decent rubber bumpers that do a good job of keeping the sole free of scratches.
The upper, like Shimano's Pro race shoes, contains a thermoplastic that allows it to be moulded to your foot shape. The process is pretty straightforward: you just heat the shoe in an oven and then wear it while a vacuum bag applies pressure to it as it cools. I've tried the process in the past and it's very effective; I haven't moulded the RP9s because straight out of the box they the most comfortable race-oriented shoes I've tried. The toe box is slightly more generous than the R315 which makes them size up slightly bigger around the toes, which I was grateful for, and they're just the right height to be supportive over the whole foot without having to do them up very tight.
The two Velcro straps are complemented by a buckle, which unusually is on the strap that pulls over the shoe, rather than attached to the outside of the shoe. Why? "It was developed with the R321 race shoe and launched for with the R321 and R171", Shimano told us. "It allows us to add the extra bolt hole at the bottom for increased adjustment based on mid foot volume and foot length. It also means we can tuck the strap away under the wrap around upper giving a cleaner look which is also more aerodynamic as tested via CFD [computational fluid dynamics]."
Certainly it's an easy to use system; you have to re-learn the release because the buckle isn't static but it's soon second nature. I moved the strap to the second bolt hole, further towards the back of the shoe, because I found it put the strap in a more comfortable position and also meant I didn't have to do it up quite as tight to make the shoe secure. It's good to have the option to move it, and the fact that the ratchet strap tucks under the buckle gives them a nice clean look when they're done up. There's no need to trim it if your buckle position is a long way round the shoe, like there might be on a standard buckle. The buckle is replaceable if you damage it; they're prone to taking a knock in a crash.
I've used the the RP9s for racing, long leisure rides, chaingangs, commuting... pretty much everything. Functionally I'd say they're more or less indistinguishable from the R315s that I've spent three years using. They're light, comfortable, easy to fasten and adjust, and the fit is customisable if they don't feel right straight out of the box. My shiny white ones have remained shiny white; For the most part I've had them under overshoes but on the times I've got them mucky a quick wipe down has restored them to shininess, and on the one time they got *really* filthy a quick run through the washing machine left them good as new with no ill effects. If white isn't your thing, they do them in black too.
£174.99 isn't cheap for a pair of shoes, obviously. But these RP9s are very nearly as good as the 300-series shoes that get worn in the Tour de France and cost nearly twice as much. You can pick up a pair for less than £150: that doesn't make them a bargain exactly, but it's money well spent. If you're looking for a performance shoe with great comfort, they should definitely be on your list.
Nearly as good as Shimano's pro-level shoes at not much more than half the price.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RP900 shoe
Size tested: 48
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
RP9: Flagship Road Performance shoe designed for long days in the saddle.
Much like its brethren in the competitive road category this beautifully crafted RP9 brings heat-moldable custom fit technology on the upper and insole to give you a superb fitting shoe for maximum pedaling efficiency.
Its aesthetic appeal is taken care of with a distinctive, minimalistic look, avoiding the clutter of an over-designed shoe. The textured Surround upper pattern together with air vents on the toe cap provide the perfect balance of holding power and all day comfort.
Fastening is taken care of with two hook and loop straps and a reverse buckle, providing a sleek and clean look.
The ultra-rigid, weaved carbon fiber SPD-SL compatible sole has an 11/12 stiffness rating for powerful power transmission.
An added feature of the RP9 is its anti-bacterial, mint aroma insole. Together with the air intake and exhaust ports you'll have no excuse for pungent pedaling.
The RP9; redefining the balance of aesthetic, comfort and power transfer.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Flagship Road Performance (RP) shoe designed for long days in the saddle
A beautiful piece of craftsmanship that redefines the balance of aesthetics, comfort and power transfer
Superb fit for maximum comfort and pedaling efficiency
Adaptable closure system adjusts to various instep heights and shapes
Surround upper pattern provides the perfect balance of holding power and absolute all day comfort
Air vent on toe and exhaust ports on sole help to keep feet dry and fresh
Minimalistic upper avoids the clutter of over-design with a clear focus on function and performance
Efficient power transfer thanks to the ultra-rigid weaved carbon fiber composite sole
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
They're looking pretty good in spite of some mucky rides. They went through the washing machine with no issues
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well: these are excellent shoes
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfortable, well made, light
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
These feel a lot like Shimano's top-of-the range 300-series shoes but they're a good deal less expensive. Recommended for racing and performance riding
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.