This Shimano RP9 Review will attempt to justify the upgrade from my Fizik R5B road shoes in logical, calm language. Of course, those who know me well will know that my TT bike is white and I’m just looking for a pair of matching shoes. Shhhh.
Yes, the logical thoughts behind a new purchase of bike shoes are many and varied. The Fiziks, in this comparison, were bought at Sigma Sports (Hampton Wick, London) mainly because they weren’t too expensive at the time, they were rigid and my pre-existing pair of Specialized shoes, also from Sigma, really, really, smelled.
So there we have it: colour and smell. Why else buy shoes?
Oh yes, price too. It seems about right for me to spend £60-70 on a pair of running shoes. Maybe I’ll treat myself every thousand miles or so and go up to £100. In a moment of madness, I might even splash out twice that amount on some Nike VaporFly 4% Flyknit for a really, really special race. Bike shoes will probably last much longer than running shoes and also be worn for longer periods of time per workout, so it feels right that I’ll pay over 50% more for bike shoes and maybe £200 or more for a special biking occasion.
Let’s get serious for a moment.
The real, technical reasons for a bike shoe purchase for me are the comfort and apparent performance. If I’m going to use them in a triathlon then the ease to which they can get put on and taken off also comes into play as might a vague consideration of aeroness.
I like the BOA dial as a method of closing road shoes. It’s great for those fine, in-ride adjustments.
Both these shoes have a near identical BOA IP1 mechanism – the twisty knob on the outer side of the show. The Shimano shoes have a slightly more clever way of running the cord which the BOA tightens to close the shoes, it’s mostly hidden away out of sight. So the Shimano RP901 look to have cleaner aesthetic lines than the Fiziks and there are likely, but trivial, aero benefits too for the Shimanos as a result. But, if I’m honest, when I use these in a Spring TT, I’ll wear VeloToze overshoes so any aero advantage is irrelevant to me.
When I first bought the Fiziks I was concerned about the longevity of the cord. There was no need to worry, I must have done a hundred rides over thousands of miles…all is good. Except the BOA knob itself, I actually broke one of those but the aforementioned Sigma Sport fixed them for free without even asking for proof of purchase.
I’m expecting the Shimano RP901s to last equally as long.
Both shoes also have similarly small velcro straps nearer to the soles with the RP9s being slightly wider than the Fizik. I don’t think it matters much to me as I tend to find that the velcro in that part of the shoe seems to do very little even though I think I have fairly wide feet. I can tighten it…but…meh. Nothing.
The Shimano RP9s definitely feel comfier. But that’s almost certainly because they just happen to be better suited to my feet and obviously your feet are different to mine, so you are always best advised to try on several pairs from several brands. I did try on several pairs of the Fizik shoes and it was a bizarre experience where one of the larger sizes actually felt smaller than the smaller size – yes the shop did double-check and maybe it was due to variations in width? Dunno.
What does seem to make a ‘fit’ difference to me is the heel of the Shimano shoe.
You can clearly see the difference in the following image with the ‘heel cup‘. The Shimano model really locks the rear of my foot into place ABOVE the heel. It doesn’t feel especially comfortable, as such, it just feels that my heel is locked into a well-fitting shoe. Will that heel feature make me go faster? Probably not. Actually, it’s a bit annoying when trying to get my foot out. I have to press the rear of the shoe down quite a bit and, over an extended period of doing that multiple times, will that damage the shoes? #NotSure
As a consequence, I wouldn’t wear these in a triathlon. They take a little too much effort to get off.
I’ve been working on my pedalling asymmetries recently. They appeared almost out of nowhere a few years ago and I’ve been trying really hard to get rid of them. The harder I’ve tried, oftentimes, the worse they’ve got. A bike fit has helped.
As a result of the fit, I’ve been specifically working on engaging my right hip flexor a little and that seems to be helping my overall balance and long-distance comfort levels.
With the RPRP9s I decided to ignore my bike fitter’s advice and slip my old, grey LOOK KEO cleats back on – those are the half-floaty ones. It was probably the effect of the cleats but my first ride with the LOOKs and the RP9 felt like my leg was tracking properly for the first time in ages.
I pushed the same shoe/cleat setup out into longer rides and expected to get knee pain because both legs were being forced into a more constrained pedalling position. Nope. But what I did find instead was a slight discomfort on the outsides of both feet. I suspect that this is the Shimano shoe constraining a slight foot-rolling action that I have (I notice it slightly when running but not normally when cycling).
The RP9 seem STIFF for me, importantly, without sacrificing comfort. Both the Fizik and Shimano are a carbon composite sole, I don’t know which is stiffest.
Do the Shimano give me more power (lose less) than the Fiziks ? Should they? I don’t think they do. But they feel better.
This was a bit of a PITA but only because the Fiziks didn’t have any cleat alignment markings that I could transfer across. As you can see in the images below, the Shimano RP901 has all the markings a bike shoe owner could ever possibly want.
Other – Ventilation
My 5 rides so far (Jan 2019) have all been below 6 degrees Celcius. That’s a bit chilly for me in general but I do try to make the effort to get outside when the wind and rain subside. So, no excuses.
So it was with some trepidation that I proceeded with the Shimanos when I noticed the rather novel ventilation they have. You can see here that there is an air path through the sole and shoe inner and onto the toes. This might be great at summer ventilation and keeping athlete’s foot at bay but is it too chilly in winter?
Also checking out the rest of the RP901 you can see there are numerous black lines on the sides. In fact, these are ventilation slits that let air through to the inner of the shoe (there is a gauze that will stop some fine dust getting through).
The bottom line is that the Shimano’s when used in January ARE definitely a bit chillier than the Fiziks, especially around the toe area. I can just about wear them at the temperature levels listed earlier (5/6 degrees) but if it got down to below 3 degrees then I would probably not wear them without overshoes.
Flipping this argument around I would deduce that the RP901s will be the best option of the two when the hotter, Summer weather arrives.
Other – general walking around
The wide rear pad seemed comfortable enough…these are bike shoes after all and not designed for walking.
The carbon sole seems to have zero flex in it when walking!
Price & Availability
Depending on the size you can get the old Fizik R5B road shoes (or similar) on Wiggle.com for about £85 and the flagship Shimano RP9 (latest model RP901) comes in at £153. The RRP is £220 and those of you in the US/EU will find that the headline dollar/euro prices are very slightly more and up to about $300 on Amazon (see below)
Techy Bits & Notes
- Weight – at 224g/shoe (42) the Shimano is just over 20g/shoe lighter than the Fiziks. Hey, I’m getting slower, every little helps. Plus that 2x20g will go some way to compensating for the extra weight I carry for some extra gadget or other.
- Energy Transference – sure, a good fit is important to this but Shimano’s DYNALAST technology supposedly adds support and reduces energy loss, targetted at longer rides.
- Compatible with SPD cleats if you use the SM-SH41 adapter (not tested)
- The earlier Shimano model had velcro-only fastenings. ie the BOA is new
- The upper is synthetic leather and it feels very supple
- RP is ‘Road Performance whereas the other top Shimano model is the RC or ‘Road Competition’
- A removable arch support is also included for each Shimano shoe.
So far so good. They’re comfy for long distances and seem to transfer the power well. More importantly, they don’t smell yet AND they match the colour of my TT bike – note the Shimano RC9 is probably a better choice for out-and-out racing.
I have NEVER used these in a triathlon. The heel cup makes them a little too slow to take off.