Shimano's highly impressive race-orientated RC7 shoes have had a significant redesign for 2019, gaining dials and losing Velcro completely. They're still a very comfortable, secure and well-vented option (with a great fit), but while the carbon soles are stiff and vibe-free, they could be stiffer still without sacrificing comfort.
The new RC7s – technically RC701s – are easily distinguished by their twin dials. The mid-foot one allows you to tune security very precisely, creating a fit that's both firm and unconstricted in seconds. I never missed the ability to cinch the toebox with a Velcro strap, which the older style had, and I appreciated the extra room it leaves around my toes for thick socks.
The uppers and tongue are heavily perforated, and while I've only used these in winter, I can confirm that cooling is effective despite the sole offering just a single toe vent... the RC7s got cold noticeably quicker than my various other shoes, even underneath toe covers. They're likely to prove a good hot-climate choice.
That sole is carbon and rates a 10 on Shimano's stiffness index, but before you get too excited, note that the scale goes up to 12 (because of course) to accommodate its top-end RC9s. It's also not comparable to other manufacturers' scales. Handy.
According to Shimano, stiffness isn't everything, however, which is why the RC7's Dynalast design engineers in a certain amount of toe flex. This helps, it claims, with power transfer efficiency and smooth pedalling.
While the RC7s are certainly stiff enough to resist significant flex whether you're pushing or pulling hard at the pedals, they're not so stiff that it really stands out. They're definitely not bendy, they just have an edge of compliance. Doubtless that helps reduce fatigue over really long rides, but for me they could be just a little stiffer without sacrificing comfort.
And they are very comfortable indeed. The sizing is spot on, and the initial cleat setup is made easy by the newly expanded range of adjustment and clear alignment markings. Walking is aided by the rubber heel and there's a toe bumper to protect the carbon sole there, too.
The strap where the upper Boa L6 dial sits is broad enough to spread pressure, while a deep notch in the tongue stops it digging in as your ankle flexes (position the notch wrongly and you quickly discover it's effective). I never suffered with hotspots, while the midsole dial worked perfectly to prevent my least-favourite thing – toes jamming into the front of the shoe, losing blood and going numb – from ever being an issue.
Even the standard insoles are impressive, with firm cushioning and well-judged arch support, while the heel cup is deep and secure... Basically, you just do up the RC7s, forget about them and ride. Lush.
The pricing is firmly mid-level, but quality is high. Inevitably this white pair shows dirt rapidly, and the slick synthetic leather marks where they rub the crank, though just a cloth and water gets heavy black marks down to mere shadows. Dirt wipes away very easily. They're quite easy to care for.
Look closely and you'll see there's a pattern embossed in the entire surface, too – subtle. If you don't like the 80s disco hero look, there's a dramatic metallic red fade option or a more conservative matt black version too.
Despite terrible weather conditions, the RC7s seem durable (and dry quickly), though they have lost a chuck of heel leather to some impact I never even noticed, so they may be a little vulnerable to crashes (I've not tested this yet... uh, sorry?).
Perhaps the most obvious competition comes from the original RC7 design, which is still available for as little as £120. Of the current models, Bontrager's Velocis is very similar to the outgoing RC7 – if potentially a lot more bright orange – while price (£180) is also mid-range.
If you do want more stiffness, the unforgettably named FLR F-XX.II Strawweights offer twin dials and super-rigid carbon soles for £180, though sadly the only legible part of the name is wrong: they're barely lighter than the RC7s. Specialized's new Torch 3.0s, meanwhile, are also very stiff but otherwise match the RC7s in every area, and come in an even brighter yellow than Bontrager's orange.
The Shimano RC7s are very easy to recommend, as they do everything you want for the price and arguably look even better. Slip them on, give them a twiddle and you're free to enjoy anything from an epic to a sprint to a race. Ideal.
Updated mid-range road shoes get a tidier design – and hold firmly to excellent comfort and performance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RC7
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Shimano describes these as "Full-featured competition shoes optimised for comfort and pedalling performance."
There's no doubt they're race-ready and very comfy.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
UK distributor Freewheel lists their features as:
Fully featured lightweight road competition shoe
Optimised for maximum comfort whilst delivering maximum performance
Ultra-rigid, lightweight carbon fibre composite sole
Shimano Dynalast to reduce braking loss and increasing pedalling efficiency
Two Boa L6 dials allow quick, micro tension adjustments
Adjustable Powerzone wire guide holds foot securely
Lightweight and supple high density perforated synthetic leather upper, featuring superior fit and added cooling
Sole stiffness 10
Weight: 490g a pair (Size 42)
Solid build and great details.
Great sizing, great fit and easily adjustable for comfortable, efficient pedalling.
Mystery gouge makes me wonder how the soft synthetic outer would cope with a fast crash. Accident damage risk aside, they're solidly put together.
Still excellent, with finer adjustment than before.
Sizing is spot on.
Hard to compare with our previous test pair or even the claimed weight because of size differences (48 and 42 respectively, while these are 45), but the redesign appears to have only affected weight by a few grams. They're certainly not heavy.
They look and feel at least as good as their mid-range price demands – and probably better.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
These white ones inevitably show marks easily (they're also available in black, and red), but the smooth fabric wipes clean pretty well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Comfortable, efficient, secure and forgettable while riding, in exactly the right ways.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Just about everything.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The sole is stiff, but could be stiffer.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are a fair few options at this price, and the RC7s match or beat them all for spec and performance. And with returns diminishing as prices rise further, this bracket represents great value.
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 RC7s were great before – especially at the price – and they're still great now.
About the tester
I usually ride: GT GTR Series 3 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, mountain biking