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The new Van Rysel RR 900 Carbon Road shoes are the flagship of Decathlon's cycling footwear range and they are worthy of that accolade. With a stiff full-carbon sole, a supple upper and the use of dials for foot retention, it's a hell of a lot of shoe for the money.
Earlier this year French sports supermarket chain Decathlon dropped the B'twin branding for its cycling range and split it into two camps, Triban for the entry-level and endurance-based bikes and Van Rysel for the top-end race stuff.
Other than the bikes, there are also clothing ranges, helmets and, of course, shoes.
For their £119.99 price tag, these RR 900s include a lot of details usually reserved for shoes twice their price.
First of all, you are getting a full, 100 per cent carbon fibre sole, whereas most race daps at the £100 mark use reinforced nylon or fibreglass. This gives the RR 900s excellent stiffness for when you really want to put the power down, which is exactly what I want – one of my biggest bug-bears is flex at the pedal interface.
There's a thicker central section where it's needed, too, most notably under the cleat mount to resist any deformation.
The sole is a nice shape for comfort, having a subtle curve under the arch of your foot to offer support without being too pronounced.
A clever touch is that the cleat mounting guides are actually engraved into the sole, so they should remain in place regardless of how many miles you do. Many shoes have painted markings which, after a couple of cleats have been fitted and the soles have been roughed up from walking on gravel, can soon disappear.
While we're talking cleats, the RR 900s will accept any three-bolt setup like most race shoes, but there is no provision for two-bolt systems like Shimano's SPD or other mountain bike cleats.
The upper is made from polyurethane and it's very soft, which allows it to wrap around your foot while the two Atop dials tension the lacing across it. The tongue is stitched to the upper on one side, with the other side left unattached, which avoids any creases as the upper wraps itself over the top of the tongue.
Venting is pretty good, with plenty of holes covering the sides of the shoe and the tongue. I wouldn't mind a few more above the toes for the really hot days, but it isn't exactly a deal breaker.
There are another two vents on the carbon sole, which are supposed to bring cooler air in at the front and vent it out of the rear.
Inside there is a simple insole which offers just enough squidge for comfort, plus there are two heel pads. That's not something normally found inside shoes but it does provide a bit of extra plushness and helps to grip your heel throughout the pedalling motion.
Helping the RR 900s stay looking their best, there is a bumper at the front to protect the sole. It'd be great if it rose a little higher to protect the toe box from scuffs, but again, it's just a little niggle rather than a major flaw.
The heel cup is reinforced right the way round for protection and stiffness, and to aid walking you get two rubber blocks on the bottom of the sole. They aren't replaceable but looking at the depth they are going to last quite a while, as long as you don't drag your feet.
As I mentioned up top, the Van Rysels are quite a bargain so it's even better to see that quality hasn't been sacrificed. All the stitching is neat and tidy, and the finish is spot on where the sole and upper meet.
The only thing I can really find to criticise is that they are a little weighty at 677g for this size 45 pair. Compared to the £109.99 Shimano RP4s, which weigh 541g (size 43), that's quite a difference. The FLR F-II Pros are a little closer, 602g for size 45s (£99.99). Both pairs have fibreglass soles, though.
Overall, I really like the Van Rysels. They are great all-round race shoes that offer a brilliant mix of stiffness and comfort. I think they look good as well, and if black isn't your colour you can get them in black/white and, my favourite, the colour-changing iridescent grey.
A little hefty, but otherwise really good race shoes that deliver on comfort and stiffness at a great price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Van Rysel RR 900 Carbon Road Cycling Shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Decathlon says, "Based on extensive collaboration with cycling professionals, our engineers have developed these Van Rysel road cycling shoes for competitive and leisure cyclists who demand the highest of standards in their cycling footwear. The rigid and Italian-made 100% carbon sole has been designed to increase pedalling efficiency."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
100% carbon sole (made in Italy) for even more efficient pedalling
2 micrometric wheels for perfect adjustment
sole features two ventilation openings for air flow
Toe stiffener to prevent damaging the shoes when stopping
Quick drying 3D mesh inside the shoe
compatible with Look Delta, Keo, or Shimano SM-SH cleats
Not compatible with SPD (MTB) type cleats
100.00% Polyurethane (PU)
LINING AND SOCK OF
30.00% Polyurethane (PU), 70.00% Polyester (PES)
OUTER SOLE OF
Neatly finished throughout.
A great balance of stiffness versus comfort.
Bumpers protect the sole and the upper is pretty scuff-resistant.
A nicely shaped sole and pliable upper combine to offer a close fit.
I wear a EUR 45 in most shoes and these came up absolutely fine.
Heavier than quite a bit of the competition.
The soft upper allows a snug fit and there is enough padding throughout.
It's great to see a full-carbon sole at this price point. dhb's Aeron Carbon Road Shoes also have a full-carbon sole and are £120 at rrp, currently £100.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The outer is easily kept clean with just a wipe over.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They deliver on the two most important aspects, stiffness and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
A great quality pair of shoes for not a huge amount of money.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The weight is noticeable against other shoes, but I'll admit they tend to be much more expensive.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Considering what they deliver they are a good price, the same as dhb's Aeron Carbon Road Shoes, which also have a full-carbon sole and are £120 at rrp, currently £100. Most shoes at this price use a nylon or fibreglass sole.
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 overall score
The Van Rysel shoes really deliver on what matters. The sole is a great shape with plenty of stiffness, while the upper is pliable enough for all-day comfort. They do well on price too.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!