The latest Shimano RC9 takes a different line in today’s race of the best 2-dial road bike shoes. As many make more room in the toebox and some do the same across the forefoot, Shimano has moved in the other direction with this model also known as the RC902, SH-RC9, SH-RC902, or any of those with the S-Phyre appendage.

And that direction is a good thing. It both improves the fit of this Shimano flagship road shoe over the previous RC9 model (RC901) and gives enthusiasts and racers who like a shoe that fits like a glove an option among the best road bike shoes.

The earlier RC9 shoes were relatively roomy in the toe box, forefoot, and heel cup for the Shimano EU size 43 prescribed by my fitter’s measurements and confirmed after trying smaller and larger sizes of the same model.

By contrast, after breaking in the latest RC9 (aka RC902, etc.) I find they hold my heels down well and wrap the balls of my feet and my toes in a way that gives me a sense that my feet and shoes are working as one.

That fit, along with a stiff outsole gives me a racer-like feel and power transfer efficiency all the time that I haven’t found with most shoes until you really crank down the dials. At the same time, the Shimano RC9 shoes are comfortable on 2-3 hour rides.

Along with black and white options, the RC9 continues to be made in a stunning and distinct blue color that has become somewhat of a fashion statement among riders that wish to stand out. The newest Shimano RC9 also features an equally brilliant, almost iridescent red that this rider is smitten by and that may suit many enamored of the red and black color combination you see everywhere in the cycling world.

As with any pair of well-fitting gloves, the Shimano RC9 takes a half dozen rides to “break-in.” I use quote marks as, for me, it was more about finding the right combination of dial settings than a modest amount of molding of the burrito-style upper to the shape of my midfoot.

The BOA Li2 dials on the latest RC9 are a step up from the clear plastic-headed IP1 dials used on earlier RC9s. Functionally the new dials are more tactile and seem as though they have less travel between clicks. While this offers finer tuning, in my experience it also requires more work to get the right fit.

While my feet don’t tend to swell over the course of a ride, I spent a good deal more time tweaking the dials early in my first half dozen rides than and I normally do and played with them more during my rides than I do other shoes.

If you’ve got a high instep as I do, you may need to go with a custom footbed for these shoes. While the RC9 comes with mid and high arch support pads that you can velcro to the underside of the provided insole, even the high pads aren’t quite enough to give me the support my feet desire over longer rides.

Yes, the Shimano RC9 gives you the fit, power transfer, and control of a racing shoe for sure. And once dialed in, it can be a very comfortable one as well. It’s a great combination that makes the high price a bit easier to swallow.

If that combination works for you, they are available at USD$425, £320, €360 through these links to recommended stores Competitive Cyclist and Tredz which provides 10% off exclusively to In The Know Cycling readers with code ITKTDZ10.

You can see how the Shimano RC9 compares to other shoes by following this link to my review of the best road cycling shoes.

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  • As always, thanks for your efforts with the review. As someone who happily owns & wears the last two iterations of this shoe, your insight is very valuable.

  • As a fan of the previous versions of this shoe, I don’t like the new version. It now fits much more like other shoes, and is narrower. I say that despite going for the wide version in this as in previous versions. The wide actually feels like a normal width shoe. I suspect this is due to changes making the toe box taller and more rigid. It’s still a very good shoe, but the magic of the previous fit is definitely gone.

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