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Shimano's RC5 SPD-SL is a light, very secure and efficient clipless shoe with striking looks and impressive construction. Large and effective vents keep them very cool, but they're tricky to get on and off – and only truly comfortable once you've figured a knack for the basic closure system.
It took a few rides to get used to the RC5s, but now I've figured their quirks they're proving an extremely comfortable and effective choice – especially as the air is finally warming up.
The main issue is that closure, which combines a single Boa L6 dial with a Velcro strap across the toe. Simply tightening the dial leaves the furthest loop of wire a little too slack, leading to movement, friction and heat across the ball of the foot after an hour or so.
On the plus side, this does demonstrate just how smooth and flat the inner sole is – there are no high points to create hotspots, and it feels broad and stable across the pedal. Tightened properly, the RC5s are very secure and comfortable for many hours (stick a thumb under the tongue, tighten the dial, pull your thumb out and wind out the slack. #shoehack).
They're a little awkward to get on until you figure out which bits to hold, too, as the part that wraps directly over your foot is held by an elastic strap running into the sole. It's easy to get tangled or find the opening too small. Also, the top of this tongue sits as high as possible, and can dig into your ankle if you overtighten the Boa – tensioned correctly, it's perfectly comfy.
The result of all this palaver is a shoe that's close-fitting and extremely secure, with an excellent heel cup that allows no lift.
The synthetic leather/TPU upper is heavily perforated for strong airflow – the holes are big enough to clearly see the mesh – while the vent beneath the toes is large and very effective. Even when they're mostly blocked with toe covers, cool air is noticeable under your toes. On hotter days (low 20s during this test) they stayed perfectly cool and comfortable no matter what, with a breeze that's pleasantly noticeable both above and below your toes.
Shimano rates the carbon-reinforced Dynalast sole at 8 out of 12 for stiffness, and that feels accurate – it's responsive and strong when you stand up and sprint, but not so rigid that there's any issue with vibration or discomfort. Determined sprinters or serious racers might want a bit more stiffness, but for most riders it's a great balance.
The various seams and heatwelds are extremely neat, too, for a wraparound look that leaves no slippery carbon exposed when you're walking. You get thin, plastic heel and toe bumpers for a bit of protection and a minimalist tread pattern, and the RC5s are as surefooted as most. As in, not very.
That Dynalast carbon insert also gives plenty of cleat adjustment, even for my weird feet, with properly useful raised alignment marks that (unlike graphics) won't rub off.
If you don't like this fantastic blue because, well, you're wrong, the RC5s are also available in black or white. But seriously, this metallic Shimano blue...
At £140, the RC5s are cheaper than a lot of the shoes we review, yet stack up against them extremely well for training, general riding and even racing. You can get lighter, but when even pro-level options like Time's Osmos 15 are comfortably over 500g, the RC5s don't give away that much at 555g. There are stiffer options too – the Giro Trans Boa at £180, for example – but the RC5s are probably more usable. And while you can have both cheaper and stiffer, such as with Van Rysel's £120 RR 900 Carbon, you're also going to get heavier. And less blue.
The Shimano RC5s are a bit of a faff to get on and tensioned correctly, but once done it's absolutely worthwhile. They're well made, good looking, very secure and comfortable for long, hot rides, while offering good stiffness for hard efforts. The mid-range price is a big bonus. Oh, and did I mention that blue?
Stiff, light, cool and comfortable – if a bit of a faff to get fitted
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RC5 SPD-SL Shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Shimano describes this succinctly as a 'LIGHTWEIGHT, HIGH-PERFORMANCE MID-RANGE ROAD SHOE.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The company list these features:
-Surround wrapping upper structure reduces overlap, provides Glove-like fit.
-Low stack height midsole helps stabilize foot, maximizes power transfer and efficiency.
-Integrated sole and upper construction sets a new level of fit, stability, rigidity and lightweight performance.
-Mesh/TPU/Synthetic leather composite upper provides comfortable fit and better breathability.
-Light carbon fiber reinforced nylon sole for power transfer.
-SIZE 36 - 50
Very well made.
Comfy, stiff, efficient and secure.
Very neat seams and stitching bode well.
A well-shaped, close fit.
Very good – so long as you've figured out how to tension it effectively.
Great performance for a relatively low price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
If I say the colour I'll sound shallow, so... the quality build.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Getting the mid-foot tension right is awkward with the single dial.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They sit right in a relatively unpopulated mid-range – the majority we test are either considerably more or a fair chunk less.
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 RC5 ticks every box and comes at a mid-range price. They're very good, though not unique or exceptional, making them a very solid 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,