It seems like we waited an eternity for the chance to review the Shimano’s new flagship road shoe, the S-Phyre RC9, such has been the demand after it hit the market last autumn. Apparently its success has eclipsed all forecasts.
Thus, it goes without saying that I kicked off the test immediately upon receipt of the shoes, in total disregard of the awful weather we had at the time: temperatures of around 5℃, with limited sunshine, stormy winds and drizzling rain. As luck would have it, a 10 day training camp in southern Europe allowed me to review the shoe thoroughly in milder temperatures…
And given all the markings on the sole, adjusting the cleats is a “walk-in-the-park”.
Shimano S-PHYRE RC9 Technical Features:
1 Dual independent Boa IP1 dials with Powerzone wire guide lacing
2 Supple, stretch-resistant and highly-breathable Teijin Avail microfiber synthetic leather with dimple perforated drainage/vent holes
3 Asymmetric eyestay pattern
4 One-piece surround upper
5 Elimination of the lasting board reduces weight and enables a lower stack height
6 Ultra-rigid lightweight carbon sole
7 Low stack height
8 Extra 11 mm of cleat adjustment range
9 External curved heel cup construction
The S-Phyres are meant to be out and out competition shoes; the top level engineering, hi-tech construction and sleek design mean it’s a narrowly focused product. Though equally perfect for long distance and general training, the target demographic is definitely racers – and very ambitious racers at that, those that expect the highest level of efficiency with, at the same time, a certain amount of comfort.
Shimano benchmarks this shoe with a stiffness rate of 12. This is not an industry standard, however it is comparable with its predecessor, which was a genuinely stiff shoe that I happen to have a lot of first hand experience of. Subjectively, the S-Phyre successor isn’t stiffer, but the stiffness distribution is more evenly spread across the sole, meaning the power transfer is remarkable, most noticeable when hammering out of the saddle.
This phenomenon is even more pronounced thanks to the one piece, wrap around upper construction and the BOA-IP1-dial which aid power transfer considerably. If properly closed without any hotspots, there is no perceptible power loss. In fact, I have the notion that the whole system [taken all those aspects into context], may be way too stiff for some riders, who are better off reaching for Shimano’s 2nd tier shoe, which is still very competitively designed. However, with regard to power transfer and stiffness, I am completely on the same page as the Shimano S-Phrye, and I didn’t experienced any discomfort.
I was very inquisitive about the S-Phyre’s much hyped Shimano Dynalast, a last design with an optimised toe-spring section intended to promote pedalling efficiency and reduce energy loss. I believe this is a unique way to tackle the challenge of making an utterly stiff shoe more usable and it makes total sense in my book.
They have managed to lower the shoe weight (just 486g per pair in size 42!) and the shoe stack-height. I was incredulous that this thin carbon ‘plate’ is able to withstand the brutal ‘smashing’ under the stress of the shoe/pedal interface. Only long term use will show us whether the thin carbon surrenders and the stiffness lessens a bit, which I cannot believe it will. So far though, no sign or feeling of material weakening; pedal stability, rigidity and reduced weight all nicely united in this tiny piece of sculpted carbon.
Shoe fit is a very personal thing, and while the design and shape of the SHIMANO S-PHYRE RC’s sole will give most riders a comfortable hour of hard pedaling, most of us will be using these shoes for far longer. On lengthier rides I am usually plagued by hot spots with other shoe brands, most noticeably once the temperature rises above 20℃ and I’m 2 hours into the race/ride. I have to constantly adjust the fastenings since the pain can be unbearable.
Here the S-Phyre really scores as I just don’t get this sensation with these shoes. Admittedly, I have been using them in mostly milder temperatures of around 15℃ so far. However, even on one huge 8-hour ride I rode, I had no numbness nor any burning foot pain. It remains to be seen what they feel like in hot summer temperatures but I think the wide range of adjustability should provide a positive contribution in this department.
The Silvadur technology inside the shoe is antimicrobial, with attributes that help to keep your feet comfortable and snug.
Unlike manufacturers promoting a distinctive brand colour, Shimano have a number of colour options – black, blue, yellow and white.
In previous years Shimano provided heat mouldable customisation. I wasn’t really fond of this measure as I do believe that if a shoe manufacturer manages to get the fit right and provides different sized lasts [for narrow or wider feet], then this heat moulding is rarely needed.
The S-PHYRE RC’s ventilation is stunning. A front vent and quick dry 3D mesh, controls the moisture management and in hot summer this will come in handy. It also doubles as a built in drain, a welcome feature during pouring rain.
The S-Phyre’s one-piece outer seems to be stretch-resistant but again, only time will tell. Until now, even after a couple of hefty showers no signs of any give.
One more remarkable feature of the shoe is its manner of heel retention. The external, curved heel cup’s construction is designed to suppress foot rotation and prevent heel lift. It certainly kept my foot steadfastly in place.
When buying, my advice is to pay attention to Shimano’s rather narrow form, hence any given sized shoe might be smaller than estimated. Therefore, you may need to order one size larger than usual, just in case.
So many accolades. This shoe has already earned a ton of praise from a variety of media outlets and, despite my initial doubts, I have got to join forces with those that are more than satisfied with Shimano’s creation. I will have to test it in hot weather condition and in more races but, hitherto I would be hard pressed to find some chink in the S-Phyre’s armour.
Admittedly, the fit happens to be just right for my feet. Sure that is very personal, the weight is next-to nonexistent and the BOA adjustments are minimalistic but so effective. I am also happy that Shimano abandoned the heat moldable feature…
Downsides. If you ride in cold weather a lot, then I would not use this shoe below 5℃, unless I put on a shoe cover, but that is fairly standard nowadays, and the targeted audience is limited to very ambitious racers, who place the highest demands on their equipment.
If that’s you, give these shoes a try, and make your own conclusion; chances are high that you will agree with me and be utterly content with the outcome.
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