Shimano TR901 Review (2020 model) : Shimano TR9 vs. RP9

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Shimano TR901 Review – SH-TR901 2020 Model

I decided to produce a Shimano TR901 Review to justify another Imelda Marcos-like addition to my triathlon wardrobe – triathlon shoes. Generally speaking, I would say that triathlon shoes are a waste of money unless that is, you are more seriously competing in a triathlon. The rest of the time they could be a bit too cold and a bit too NON-aero for true roadie usage. So let’s have a close look at whether or not it’s really worth getting a pair of triathlon-specific shoes and, I mean, they’re just bike shoes right? How can they possibly be THAT much different? Let’s see…

What is a Triathlon Shoe?

Shimano TR901 Review

Apart from the obvious & witty answer (I’m not going to say it), the triathlon shoe does need to perform some very specific tasks, some of which are also highly relevant to a duathlon. These are

  • Triathlon – Dry quickly for comfort. Lakewater & seawater inevitably runs down your leg into your shoe.
  • Triathlon – Comfortable enough to be worn without socks
  • Triathlon/Duathlon – Save Time. Quick, safe and easy to put on and take off
  • Triathlon/Duathlon – Save Time. Able to be correctly attached to your bike before the race starts
  • Triathlon/Duathlon – Save Time. Able to be left on the pedal at T1 mount/T2 dismount and run alongside without shoes hitting you or the ground.
  • Triathlon/Duathlon/Bike – Save Time. No loss of power nor a notable increase in drag

The downside of a triathlon shoe is that it probably isn’t as efficient for pedalling as a road shoe. Over an Ironman I would imagine that any small timesaving in transitions would be lost through drag/minor pedalling inefficiencies whilst actually cycling…say 30 seconds, as a guess.

Another downside of any bike/triathlon shoe is that for sprint triathlons/duathlons, you will probably find that running shoes will be faster overall (Google: Pyro Platforms or use a simple, traditional pedal). Having said that, if you are really competent at flying mounts, then a tri shoe is still worth considering for a sprint race.

In the absence of your own personal experience to the contrary, you can definitely consider a tri shoe to be potentially beneficial for a standard duathlon, Olympic triathlon, longer duathlon or HIM.

For me, my RP901 (Shimano road shoes) are absolutely NOT suitable for a triathlon. They are awesome for cycling but I had to attend a 6-week evening course to figure out how to get them off in less than 5 minutes. Combine that with the desire for hygenic shoe rotation and ‘the need to get a new tri toy’ then some new tri shoes became an obvious addition to my tri-arsenal.

Here is a summary of the review and if you page down further below, there are all the details of this full Shimano TR901 Review plus links to some great retail stores if you want to get a pair, which also supports my work here and your occasional entertainment here. Thank you.

Shimano TR901 Review, TR9 2020
  • Price - 85%
    85%
  • Suitability for high-level performance - 95%
    95%
  • Build Quality & Design - 95%
    95%
  • Features - 95%
    95%
93%

Shimano TR901 Review Summary

Shimano has taken the previous TR9 (2016) triathlon shoe to new levels. It’s marketed as a pro-level triathlon shoe and everything I see supports that assertion.

These have performed well for the longest rides as well as the shortest brick workouts. I’ll report back as the Covid-restricted, 2020 race season gets underway.

I’ve tried hard to find fault with them but mostly failed. Other than the colour options, Shimano confirms my suspicion that some longer-distance triathletes prefer road shoes for their greater pedalling efficiency so then my only criticism is that if I pull the strap a bit too hard approaching T2 it comes out…which is easily remedied by not pulling so hard!

The TR901s are comfy, they are warm enough for spring/autumn usage and they are nicely ventilated. Couple those positives with many well thought-through details and they add together to make a great tri shoe that puts the power where it’s meant to be – through the pedals. Nice job.

 

LONGTERM UPDATE: Bizarrely these have cured my occasional right knee pains. They are good without socks (over 20 rides performed). Only downsides would be that a) your foot circumference is less without socks and so a tight strap can sometimes have the strap end dangling annoyingly, and b) the bare skin on the top of your foot can sometiems get caught when strapping up, and c) I would recommend talc to help them slip off slightly more easily.

 

Pros

  • Quick shoe entry/exit
  • Comfortable even in bare feet
  • Lightweight
  • Seems to give excellent power transfer with a stiff composite carbon sole
  • Sufficiently well-ventilated, sufficiently warm for autumn/spring usage
  • Prices seem sensible

Cons

  • Limited colour options
  • The strap can fully pull out before T2 dismount
  • Limited Aeroness/pedalling efficiency (like other tri shoes), though seemingly better than many judging by strap design and material choice.

Shimano TR901 Review Specs, 2020 2021 TR9

Shimano TR901 Review Summary

First up the colour. this is always the key factor in any gadget or apparel purchase for a self-respecting triathlete and, yes, I do realise that they are very blue. In my defence, I have Shimano blue cleats and several mostly blue tri suits. Ok, they’re totally different shades of blue, I get it. The TR901 does also come in a ‘Black Pearl’ colour but then you run the risk of ending up looking like Batman if you keep choosing neutral black kit. Decisions, decisions.

Shimano TR901 – Product Background and Product Purpose

The TR901 is the 2020-21 model and follows on from the TR9 from a couple of years earlier (announced 2015 for 2016). It’s quite a different-looking shoe and Shimano have made it aesthetically prettier and functionally better, most notably with changes to ventilation and strapping on the upper.Β  The mesh ventilation seems to have been generally removed from where it likely would have caused more drag. Basically the TR901 just looks a more appropriately made shoe for triathlon bike racing. That said, Shimano’s headline for this shoe is “PRO TRI RACING SHOE DESIGNED TO SHORTEN TRANSITIONS AND OPTIMIZE POWER TRANSFER” and so these are the key features that Shimano claims to offer with the TR901:

  • T1-Quick strap and extra-wide upper opening simplify and quicken transitions.
  • Lightweight, rigid carbon fibre composite sole efficiently transfers power.
  • Water-resistant microfiber synthetic leather with strategic venting.
  • Breathable 3D mesh breathes great and dries fast.
  • External heel cup stabilizes heel.
  • The large heel loop is easier to grab to quickly secure the shoe during transitions.

 

Shimano TR901 Aesthetics

I’m not too bothered about aesthetics when it comes to a race day shoe. Shimano has certainly improved the looks when compared to the TR9 which, let’s face it, looks a bit like an MTB shoe. The newer TR901 has more of a ‘road+velcro strap‘ feel about it with sleeker lines than the earlier model coupled with a smoother, more aero fabric and more discrete and functional mesh breathing panels. Yet I can’t help feel that this 2020 shoe still has a slightly dated aesthetic to it – compare it to my dirtier RP901 (road) which I think look nicer despite being a year or so older.

 

Fit, Ride Comfort & First, General Rides

The fit for me is great but that’s clearly a personal call

My feet are probably wide for my size and the velcro straps nicely accommodate that. There is a lot of room for adjustment to fit all widths. When my feet are in the shoes the two parts of the upper are not pulled together by the velcro and I’m assuming that this is intentional. I guess if they met then one may be pushed down and into the skin of my foot, so it’s probably alright how it works but it doesn’t look super aero.

I never tend to touch the smaller end velcro strap. It’s a strap..it seems fine. It’s perhaps interesting to note that this strap fastens the opposite way to that on Shimano’s RP901 road shoe.

The larger strap holds your foot nicely in place, it secures on the inside of each foot. That’s probably more aero but on your drive side, this means that the end of the strap is perilously close to your chain and chainrings and the strap-end will rub unless properly pushed down. You have to make sure to fully fasten it.

Shimano TR901 Review Specs 2020 2021 TR9

My first ride in these was a fairly chilly 4-hour hilly ride. It was less than 10 Celcius (50F) for the first part of the ride but that temperature was no issue. I’ll come back to insoles and cleat positioning later but I seem to have struck lucky with the cleat position which seems to have totally stopped a mild aggravation to my right knee. Perhaps there was more foot movement allowed by the upper? but the carbon composite sole was rock solid and seemed to perform exactly the same as all other carbon soles seem to for me…ie awesomely.

You can see the heel cup on the image below. I was a little concerned that the heel cup seemed identical to the road shoe. With Shimano road RP901 shoe (and these TR901s) it is that feature which feels great for holding the foot in place when cycling but which potentially REALLY stops the foot coming out when you’ve finished the ride. As it turns out, the shoe-off is not affected by the snugness of the heel cup due to the velcro creating significant space to easily remove your foot when undone, plus the flexible material above the heel cup is very slightly different when compared closely to the Shimano road shoe giving a little more foot extraction ability that it first seems.

Shimano TR901 Review Spec 2020 2021 TR9

 

Apparent Performance

Nothing to say here about power transfer. It was transferred.

As far as increased drag goes, I’ve no idea what the loss is compared to a regular road shoe. As I said earlier, I would imagine that any small loss would become more of an issue when compounded on longer-duration Iron-distance races.

Cleat Setup, Sole Setup

Getting an exactly correct cleat position can be difficult. However, if you have had your optimal position previously determined on Shimano shoes then dialling in the same position on a new shoe is super-easy.

I took the same fore-aft position from some LOOK cleats I have on another well-fitting Shimano shoe and that position worked well. A good tip to then check that your cleats are installed symmetrically on each shoe is to balance the shoe on its cleat the end of a table with the toes pointing up. You will then look at the uppers side-by-side and the shoes should hang symmetrically.

The shoes come with easily changeable arch supports. It takes 10 seconds to swap the yellow one for the red one which has the higher arch. They are fastened with a velcro-like material to the underside of the insole.

Other – Ventilation

There is some toe ventilation at the end of the shoe in the insole, which is copied across from the design of the RP901 (road). From my experience with that shoe, the ventilation does work for road usage to the point where I wear Castelli Toe Thingies in the winter to take the chill off my toes. However, for this triathlon shoe, I don’t reckon the underside ventilation does much at all in comparison to the cooling from the significant ventilation in the upper mesh material.

Shimano TR901 Review Spec 2020 2021 TR9

As you can see in the images below, there is plenty of ventilation above the toes and to a lesser extent at the side of the shoe. People with wider feet, like me, will get further ventilation from the gap on the upper not fully closing when the velcro is fastened.

 

 

Shimano TR901 Review – Triathlon-specific Issues

The triathlon-specific issues are clearly important for a triathlon-specific RACE shoe. If you are super-keen to do well in a triathlon/duathlon (like me) then this section covers several important triathlon race considerations. However, if there are more important things in life to you than triathlon then just get some road shoes and wear socks…it won’t make that much difference. But it will make some…

Heads Up: this review is written in June 2020 so there are no races yet. I’ve ridden hundreds of miles with these shoes and simulated transitions in my brick workouts for the review but I’ve not got my feet wet in a race with them…I’ll update this section later in the year (if I forget please ping me below in august 2020).

Sockless Riding

I regularly marshall transitions in local tris and I sometimes joke with the triathletes who are not taking things too seriously and who are drying and talcing their feet before putting on socks in T1. Putting socks on wastes quite a bit of time…

Personally, I don’t wear socks for Sprint and Olympic tri’s yet I do for HIM/IM races as a) I’m a wimp and b) I get blisters when RUNNING >HM if I don’t. Sorry if that admission has lowered your opinion of me πŸ™‚

The Shimano TR901s are designed with sockless riding in mind. I’ve done a couple of smaller rides specifically with no socks and they are comfortable with zero chaffing.

Running With Your Bike – Tri Shoes On Your Feet

Some people run with their bikes in T1 and/or T2 whilst wearing tri shoes. Really, you should be using your bike shoes if you’re going to do that. It’s just as difficult to run with these shoes on as it is to run with road shoes on, the cleats are a PITA in that respect. The loops to the rear of each shoe would help you get your shoes on very slightly quicker but will make a tiny difference as you will still have to tighten them up as they would come off more easily when you run.

At least you could leave your shoes on the bike going into T2 and run barefoot to the racking point, scrub the grit off your feet at the rack before putting on the running shoes and all will be good. When you are packing away at the end you can then pretend to others that you ‘did it properly’ for the full T1 and T2. πŸ˜‰

Running With Your Bike – Tri Shoes **Off** Your Feet/**On** The Pedals

Here you’re running in T1 with your tri shoes on the pedals held to your bike and off the ground with elastic bands OR you’re running back in T2 with your shoes left on the pedals.

So what?

These two images VERY clearly show there will be a problem with these shoes or any other shoes that remain attached to your pedals whilst running in transition ie inΒ  everyone’s T2 or the same for those of you where your elastic band breaks in T1. In this case, there is a good chance that your shoe will catch on the ground at some point. It’s unlikely that you will break anything or that your shoe will come out but it can spin round like crazy, it might catch something and you might have your run with the bike slightly impaired.

 

With a decent elastic band holding your shoes in T1 you won’t have a problem.

Remember that some transitions can have several hundred metres where you run with your bike and if that is across rough ground then you might have a few mildly unpleasant moments. Pushing your bike by the seat or even holding the seat up slightly can reduce this. Of course, some transition runs could be less than 10m over flat concrete #NoProblemo.

The Shimano shoes neither help nor hinders any of these issues. The degree to which your shoes catches the ground will depend on the pedal clearance from the ground and the cleat position on the shoe.

 

Bike Setup Issues

The Shimano TR901 is well designed for an elastic band-assisted setup.

A thin, 40mm long band is fine (1.5″). Obviously it has to be the same colour as your shoes. Obviously. The strap on the rear of each shoe has a slight cutaway which holds a looped elastic band in place – a nice touch but unnecessary. You can then attach the other end to your bottle cage or, if that’s not possible, to your front mech on one side and to your rear wheel’s lever on the other. There is a chance that the band can remain attached to your bike but I find that rarely happens nor does it get caught in the front mech.

 

A more real risk is that the band will count as littering and you could be disqualified, although I’ve never heard of that happening. If you were concerned about that you could tie one end of the elastic band in a knot on the shoe’s loop.

The only real issue is that your elastic band is too long and will not break…I have had that happen to me and I have seen it at least twice in a race. People can cycle miles without realising…

The other issue is that the elastic band breaks in T1 while you are running with your bike on uneven ground but that’s one of those ‘suck it up’ moments.

Shoe Setup Issues

I mostly liked what Shimano has done here.

You can see in the following images that there is a cutaway in each shoe’s velcro, this is to hold it in position when your foot is not in the shoe ie both BEFORE your foot goes in and AFTER you take it out approaching T2 dismount.

With the velcro in this position, there is MORE THAN ENOUGH space to easily get your feet into the shoe on the bike.

I would contend that the only problem here is that the end of the velcro is not big enough. When you approach T2 and loosen the velcro you will likely pull the middle of the velcro to create space. However, this CAN AND DOES pull the end of the velcro through the loop and then you have a long flappy velcro strap to get caught somewhere. A modicum of caution stops this happening.

Foot Entry

I never thought I would write a paragraph on putting a foot into a shoe. But here goes!

I try to get my feet on top of the shoe and on top of the velcro and then start pedalling. There is SO much space here when these shoes are opened up on the pedals that I once accidentally got my foot straight in without trying, I would NOT recommend trying to do that each time though.

So, once you are pedalling and up to some speed, you can waste a little time getting your feet into your shoes because you are already moving and so you’re not really wasting time per se.

The problem I found with these shoes and my specific setup is that sometimes when I would try to get my foot in, the shoe would spin round with the toe pointing up and backwards. I then had to use my big toes to navigate the foot into the shoe. It was alright though.

Foot Exit

Pull the strap. Take the foot out and put the sole of your foot on the strap. Keep pedalling, stand on one pedal whilst half dismounted before finally fully dismounting straight to a run. Everyone should do this as it is MUCH easier than a flying mount after T1 and will save a few precious seconds.

This worked fine every time. As I mentioned previously the only issue is if you pull the velcro strap too hard.

Other – general walking around

The wide rear pad seemed comfortable enough…these are bike/tri shoes after all and not designed for walking.

Shimano TR901 Review Spec 2020 2021 TR9

The carbon sole seems to have zero flex in it when walking!

Shimano TR901 Specifications (TR9, SH-TR901, 2020, Shimano TR901 Review)

Gender Men’s
Segment/Category ROAD/Triathlon
Product name TR9
Colour Black pearl, Blue
Size Standard: 36, 37-47 in half sizes, 48, 49, 50
Cleat type SPD-SL
Last type SHIMANO DYNALAST
Stiffness index 10
Best match pedal PD-R9100
External heel cup Yes
Technology: SHIMANO DYNALAST Yes
Technology: Silvadur Yes
Closure Quick strap
Upper Material Microfiber synthetic leather+Mesh
Outsole Material Carbon fibre composite
Standard insole High-density cup insole with adaptable arch pads
Men’s Actual Weight (Size: 42) 230 g

Buy Shimano TR901 Review | Price & Availability

These are sold as a ‘pro’ triathlon racing shoe and are suitable for most levels of triathlete to buy. At these price levels, available just after launch, I’d say they are fairly reasonably priced for those of you considering a top-end pair of road shoes, you could easily spend more.

Typical Selling Prices (June 2020): Eu160,

UK: GBP165 (Wiggle),

USA: US$260

 

Shimano TR901 Review – Techy Bits & Notes

  • Weight – at 230g/shoe (42) the Shimano is a fairly lightweight tri shoe.
  • Energy Transference – Shimano’s DYNALAST technology claims to add support and reduce energy loss, targetted at longer rides.
  • Compatible with SPD cleats if you use the SM-SH41 adapter (not tested)
  • Shimano Product Coding – TR is ‘triathlon’, RP is ‘Road Performance whereas the other top Shimano model is the RC or ‘Road Competition’
  • Removable arch support is also included for each Shimano shoe.

Shimano TR901 Review – Take Out

These Shimano triathlon shoes are a great option for anyone wanting to potentially shave a few seconds from their overall triathlon race time. They seem to have got just about every detail right. They come in black too…


Shimano TR901 Review, TR9 2020
  • Price - 85%
    85%
  • Suitability for high-level performance - 95%
    95%
  • Build Quality & Design - 95%
    95%
  • Features - 95%
    95%
93%

Shimano TR901 Review Summary

Shimano has taken the previous TR9 (2016) triathlon shoe to new levels. It’s marketed as a pro-level triathlon shoe and everything I see supports that assertion.

These have performed well for the longest rides as well as the shortest brick workouts. I’ll report back as the Covid-restricted, 2020 race season gets underway.

I’ve tried hard to find fault with them but mostly failed. Other than the colour options, Shimano confirms my suspicion that some longer-distance triathletes prefer road shoes for their greater pedalling efficiency so then my only criticism is that if I pull the strap a bit too hard approaching T2 it comes out…which is easily remedied by not pulling so hard!

The TR901s are comfy, they are warm enough for spring/autumn usage and they are nicely ventilated. Couple those positives with many well thought-through details and they add together to make a great tri shoe that puts the power where it’s meant to be – through the pedals. Nice job.

 

LONGTERM UPDATE: Bizarrely these have cured my occasional right knee pains. They are good without socks (over 20 rides performed). Only downsides would be that a) your foot circumference is less without socks and so a tight strap can sometimes have the strap end dangling annoyingly, and b) the bare skin on the top of your foot can sometiems get caught when strapping up, and c) I would recommend talc to help them slip off slightly more easily.

 

Pros

  • Quick shoe entry/exit
  • Comfortable even in bare feet
  • Lightweight
  • Seems to give excellent power transfer with a stiff composite carbon sole
  • Sufficiently well-ventilated, sufficiently warm for autumn/spring usage
  • Prices seem sensible

Cons

  • Limited colour options
  • The strap can fully pull out before T2 dismount
  • Limited Aeroness/pedalling efficiency (like other tri shoes), though seemingly better than many judging by strap design and material choice.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments