Here's something to be glad about – most stuff is better than it was before. No, not all stuff, but in general the performance of cycling kit today has massively progressed from what it was in the past. Shimano's road shoes are a good case in point. In the last few years it's made progress in leaps and bounds to the point where these new RC7 shoes are maybe my favourite shoe I've yet tested. They're comfortable, stiff and incredibly quick to put on and take off. I reckon they look pretty good too.
In this year's range, the top dog in Shimano's product range is the S-Phyre as seen on the feet of the Giant Alpecin team in last year's Tour de France. As you might expect, they're monstrously expensive (£299) and were the first Shimano shoes to have the Boa wire closure system used by a number of other brands. Dave's been testing these, so there will be a review up here in the near future.
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A step down the ladder in Shimano's range is the RC7 shoe, which has one Boa and a Velcro strap in place of the pair of Boas used on the S-Phyres. Neither shoe is heat mouldable, unlike previous top-end Shimano shoes. Despite that, I found the fit with the RC7 was excellent, nigh-on perfect in fact. I was impressed with the fit in the RP5 shoes a year ago, and these are even more comfortable.
The RP5 shoes were unusually roomy in the toe box – these don't have quite as much wiggle room but are supremely comfortable. They are stiff too, with the full-carbon sole giving what Shimano rates as a 10 on its stiffness scale. In case you were wondering where that leaves the S-Phyre, worry not – that gets a 12. As each manufacturer uses a different scale, most of which now seem to go up beyond 10, these figures are pretty useless for making comparisons between brands. I would say that the RC7 shoes are amply stiff enough for racing in, in any case. The carbon sole looks very similar to that used on last year's RP9 which we liked very much indeed.
We've talked about the Boa closure system on a number of other shoes previously, but for the uninitiated, it uses fine woven steel wire which is tightened and loosened by twisting a dial. If the dial is pulled upwards, the wire can pass easily through, allowing for very quick removal of the shoe, especially if only one dial is fitted as here. I found I could set the single Velcro strap once to suit my feet and then never touch it again. It's a very similar setup to that used on the identically priced Specialized Expert shoe.
The reason generally cited for having more than one Boa dial is that it allows for different tension across different parts of your foot. Having done several hundred miles in these shoes and also in the top-drawer S-Phyre model, I found the RC7 to be more comfortable for my feet, and significantly easier to put on and take off. One area where the S-Phyres are better is heel retention, thanks to the use of "cat's tongue" material to grip your foot and hold it in place.
Ventilation in the RC7 is reasonable, with a mesh area on top of the toes and a small port underneath. I wasn't really able to detect whether the small perforations down the sides had a significant effect but they ought to enhance breathability to a degree. I've used shoes with more ventilation, and if I was based somewhere really hot that may sway my choice, but I'd have no concerns about using the RC7s around these parts in summer.
Shimano's styling department has taken a somewhat scattergun approach to its road shoes in recent years, resulting in a wide range of aesthetics (where previously they had been homogenous to a fault). I think the styling on the RC7 is pretty smart, both in the white and black models they sent us, and the red alternative. They are 3-bolt only for use with road pedals, but Shimano has also released a mountain bike equivalent model, the XC7.
The RC7 is offered in half-sizes between Euro sizes 38-47, as well as whole sizes up to 50. There are wide versions in all of these sizes too, so you've got a really good chance of finding the right size for you. The RRP of £169 is a wedge of cash, putting these against some quality mid-range shoes from the likes of Sidi, Giro and Specialized. It's a lot less than the price of top-end pro-level footwear, though, and that makes these decent value as they are pretty much on a par with the best.
> Buyer's Guide: The best performance cycling shoes
Shimano cites a weight of 245g for a size 42; my clown-size pair (48) came in at 604g, so they aren't as light as some high-end shoes (although are very similar to the S-Phyre), but there's really not much in it.
Superb road shoes – top-end comfort and performance at a mid-range price. Highly recommended
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Make and model: Shimano RC7 SPD-SL shoes
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?
Shimano says (shouts?): "FULL-FEATURED LIGHTWEIGHT COMPETITION SHOE FOR OPTIMIZED COMFORT AND PEDALING PERFORMANCE"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Ultra-rigid, lightweight carbon fiber composite sole
SHIMANO DYNALAST helps to reduce braking loss
Boa IP1 dials allow quick, micro tension adjustments
Powerzone wire guide with front strap hold foot securely
Lightweight and supple perforated synthetic leather upper, featuring superior fit and added cooling
Optimum linkage of air flow between upper, insole and outsole
Adaptable Cup Insole
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Lacks the carbon wraparound heel of the S-Phyre but is neatly put together and well finished.
Rate the product for performance:
Stiff and comfortable, and oh so easy to put on and take off. Pretty faultless really.
Rate the product for durability:
No issues during testing but I would like to see replaceable rubber parts on the sole.
Rate the product for fit:
These fit me superbly – better than any other Shimano shoes I've tried (including ones with heat moulding).
Rate the product for sizing:
They size up small, as Shimano shoes tend to, so I'm knocking a star off for that. I'm a size 12 in regular shoes, a size 47 in most bike shoes and consistently a size 48 in Shimano. Shimano is offering a huge range of sizes, though, in standard and wide fit, so you've got a very good chance of finding the right size in the end.
Rate the product for weight:
Full-carbon sole makes for a decent all-up weight for the money (given that these are size 48s). They don't give away much to shoes costing nearly twice as much.
Rate the product for comfort:
Among the very best cycling shoes I've tested in terms of comfort.
Rate the product for value:
These are Shimano's second tier shoes, behind the mega-expensive S-Phyre. They're certainly not cheap but I'd argue they are all the shoe you'd ever need and as good or better than other £200-300 shoes I've used.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Keeping white shoes clean is always a challenge, but the smooth shiny outer surface is fairly easy to clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – they're easy to put on and take off, very comfortable and stiff in use. I really like them.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Single Boa fastening is fast and easy to operate – why do you need more than one? Excellent combination of stiffness and comfort, plus really good fit. Unusually wide range of sizes is welcome too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Really not much.
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 are currently my favourite shoes. Dave and I swapped so I could try the fancy S-Phyre and he the RC7, and I want the RC7s back – and I think that says a lot. Top-drawer performance at mid-range pricing is very impressive.
Age: 37 Height: 188cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
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