In the world of cycling drivetrains, Shimano is known as an innovator and as a company that is leading the pack with their Di2 electronic shifting. But their footwear line has been somewhat stagnant, particularly with respect to the design trends of the cycling industry. The RP9, however, is positioned to change that. Evoking comparisons to some of the more design-forward cycling companies, the RP9 is the lead shoe in Shimano’s effort to reboot its road shoe styling. You won’t find any bright, flashy colors. You won’t find any cheap-looking, shiny synthetic leather. The RP9 has an understated, modern-looking appearance, with the performance features to back it up.
Released in late 2015, Shimano’s RP9 is the Japanese brand’s newest performance road shoe that occupies the space just below their race-oriented Road Competition line. The RP9 features many of the same performance features as shoes like the R321, but toned down ever so slightly, both in fit and aesthetics. Traditionally, Shimano’s shoe line has looked, for lack of a better word, dorky, but the RP9 is the start of a trend for Shimano: catering to the more style-conscious rider who also demands the highest performance out of his shoes. The RP9 comes in at a lower price point than flagships like the R321 ($275 compared to $380), without sacrificing many of the performance features that make it great.
The first thing that you notice about the RP9 is that it looks sleek. In fact, it echoes the design concepts of the Rapha GT shoes, which are a beacon of style and design in the cycling world. No bright, flashy colors. No racing stripes. No pro-team branding. No cheap-looking shiny plastic. It is unassuming in its appearance. It comes in two colorways, all black or all white. Even the Shimano branding on the shoe is minimal, with the black version getting a very small, glossy black Shimano logo on the tongue, barely standing out against the matte black synthetic leather.
Upper Material: Synthetic Leather
Sole Material: Carbon
Weight: 538 grams (size 40)
Perhaps the best R321 feature that trickles down to the RP9 is its heat-moldable insole and upper. While all Shimano shoes have heat-moldable insoles, the RP9 is only the second shoe to get the brand’s Dynalast Custom Fit heat-moldable upper and the first shoe outside of Shimano’s road competition line. The heat-molding process helps the shoe to contour to the shape of your foot, providing give where needed and eliminating dead space for a more snug fit. Out of the box, the RP9s are comfortable, but the heat-molding process takes it to the next level. This process is best done at a certified Shimano dealer, but if you are adventurous enough, it can be done at home in your oven with careful preparation and execution. The buckle can be relocated higher, towards your ankle by roughly half an inch, to help the flap closure fit your foot more snugly. It also adjusts the angle at which the buckle is tightening, which can help to further dial in the fit for some foot shapes. The two velcro straps below the buckle allow easy adjustments on the fly.
The sole from the RP9 is also inspired by the R321. Made from an extremely stiff cross-weave carbon, Shimano rates the stiffness of the RP9’s sole an 11/12 on its scale. For reference, the R321, Shimano’s stiffest shoe, is rated 12/12. The RP9 delivered consistent power to the cranks, whether I was climbing, sprinting, or just keeping a good pace on the flats. One vent port underneath your toes keeps your feet cool along with vents in the protective toe cap. I did find that they were a tad bit chilly on cold winter days, but overshoes easily solve that problem.
If you’re looking for a shoe that provides all of the technical specs of the best-performing road shoes without all of the flash or pizzaz, the RP9 is an excellent choice. Compared to shoes of a similar aesthetic, like the fi’zi:k R3B Uomo, the Giro Empire ACC and the Specialized Audax, the RP9 offers more customization paired with a similar level of performance. For the weekend warrior who likes to escape the city at every opportunity and demands the highest performance out of his shoes, the RP9 makes the decision easy.