Shimano S-Phyre RC9

When you spend a lot of time on the bike you realize pretty quickly what's important in a shoe. For me, it's a shoe stiff enough that I don’t feel the sole bending when pushing hard, but comfortable enough that I don’t develop hot spots that invariably arrive sometime during the ride.

After decades of riding high miles in a fairly broad range of bike shoes, Shimano sticks out as a favorite brand. I rode a previous model, the SH-R321, for awhile, and even though it was already a great shoe, with a neat design that intuitively seemed aero, Shimano apparently thought it could to better and introduced S-Phyre RC9.

One feature important to me was availability in the half-size, and I bought a pair of S-Phyres in 43.5 in blue (because being color-coordinated matters too).

The shoes come with a pair of socks designed to go with the shoes, but I haven’t received the socks yet. With my short legs I never ride with tall socks anyway. Although my wife immediately said, “Well, they look great if you’re going to space," I shrugged it off. What would a woman know about shoes anyway?

I hope these close-up pictures will generate some good comments about how to take care of hardwood floors, as Slowtwitch forum readers never disappoint in that area.

The first thing you notice is that they are indeed very light, announced at 243g in size 42, which is almost exactly what your HOKA Cliftons weigh.

One really neat aspect of the BOA system is how quickly it opens up, which actually makes the shoes a pretty good choice for triathlons, long distance races in particular. You might want something a bit faster for an ITU draft-legal transition, but for most of us they’re plenty fast. Another helpful feature is the marking on the soles, which makes installing cleats really easy.

The shoes are initially designed to best fit with Shimano pedals, which is the pedal more Slowtwitchers ride than any other. I mounted up some Look KEOs, they worked very nicely. Slowtwitch publisher Dan Empfield got a pair as well and it’s my understanding he intends to try them out with Speedplays, another popular Slowtwitch brand; perhaps he’ll report back.

Over this past weekend I rode 56mi on very a hot and humid Florida day. They certainly didn’t disappoint. As usual with Shimano shoes, the soles are very stiff. With that said, I didn’t feel any hot spot, which tends to be the case with other brands. They felt very comfortable, especially for a first ride, and the stiffness made the pedal stroke feel great.

I had a couple of 30min segments where I pushed the pace a little, and the feel was excellent. I know, very subjective, so feel free to dismiss this as post-purchase rationalization if you’re naturally skeptical (I am too!). But these are now my shoes, which is to say, you'll pry these off my cold dead feet.

They are a bit pricey at $400, but when I consider what it is that bothers me, every minute of every ride, when I’m not comfortable – not my chain! not my spokes! not my crankset! – they're worth it. Shoes are “contact points”, like your saddle, like your aerobar pads. The sexy parts that get all the attention aren’t as urgent to your bike riding experience; fixing contact points first is what will make your cycling both pleasurable and fast.

One word of advice. There is a warning message saying to not leave them exposed to temperatures above 50C (122F). This means that if you live in a city where planes get grounded because it’s too miserably hot, your carbon shoes are also likely to bend if you leave them in the sun when not riding. Also, perhaps best not to leave them in your car during the day even if it’s just moderately hot outside.

Shimano has once again made a great pair of shoes with the S-Phyre that will work with many, and are available in white, blue, and neon yellow.