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Shimano S-Phyre SH-RC902 Shoes Review

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Shimano S-Phyre Cycling Shoes

Shimano introduced a new road shoe in October 2020, the top-of-the-line S-Phyre RC 902 which, according to the brand, is their most technologically advanced shoe to date.

It represents the third generation of the S-Phyre series which succeeds the RC901 and the RC9.

After decades in the pro peloton, primarily as a component manufacturer, the Shimano name rings quality in the ears of riders which adds to the popularity of this shoe. It’s one of the most sought after on the market.

The technology in the elegant RC902 is worthy of professionals, which explains the premium price tag. Look for the S-Phyre RC902 on the feet of professional riders from cycling teams such as Jumbo-Visma (Robert Gesink, Sepp Kuss, Wout Van Aert), Team Sunweb (Marc Hirishi) and Arkéa-Samsic (Warren Barguil).

Shimano updated the shoe with several modest details that may go unnoticed such as a rubber grip heel, a grooved tongue to prevent slippage, and a refined toe box. 

We’ll get into specifics later, but according to the brand, they have focused on improving the shoe in three areas, function-specific zones, power transfer optimization and engineered fit which defines the problems this shoe set out to solve.

Technical Specifications

  • Sizing : Standard and wide in half sizes
  • Colors : Available in four colors
  • Weight : 235g (In Size 42)

Who is the Shimano S-Phyre RC902 Shoe for?

The S-Phyre RC902 is for road cyclists who want to wear the latest premium racing-ready shoe on the market or wish to upgrade from their current road shoe.

The fit of a shoe is objective, but Shimano has gone to lengths to ensure the RC902 conforms to a wider population while providing the performance and quality the brand inspires.

Now with a roomier toe box and meticulously thought-out details in a lightweight performance shoe, if you’ve had problems finding a shoe for you, give it a try.

Shimano has revised the shoe’s Dynalast Technology carbon sole using a 3D pedaling analysis tool to improve its overall efficiency, comfort and fit.

What I Think About the Shimano S-Phyre RC902 Shoe?

Here’s a small secret.

I’m a fan of Shimano and Specialized’s shoes and I’ve been looking forward to this launch for a while now. Its predecessor, the RC901 has been on the market for almost 3 years, so it’s about time for a new release by Shimano.

My first impression with the RC902 is it’s about incremental updates.

Shimano has stuck with what’s working and further improved on them, especially the minor details such as BOA dials, ventilation, heel cup and toe-box fit, which we’ll cover below.

Pros

  • Refined toe box shape accommodates more foot shapes.
  • Dynalast carbon fiber sole with a 12 stiffness rating.
  • Dual Li2 Boa dials are low-profile and allow fast and precise micro adjustments on the fly.
  • Comfortable, engineered fit thanks to the 360° Surround Wrapping upper.
  • Lightweight and elegant, impressive numbers on the scale for this eye-catching road shoe.

Cons

  • White color may be hard to keep clean if you prefer this color.
  • Exposed seam on the shoe’s underside may be susceptible to damage.

Out of the Box Comfort

Out of the box, this shoe fits great. The toe box is roomier, a touch taller and more rounded than before. According to Shimano, they made this change so the shoe fits a wider range of feet.

This welcomed modification could be especially helpful to riders that have a second toe longer than the first. It’s fairly common, but one that can restrict which footwear and size will work for them.

The mesh material that covers the toe box is reinforced to maximize its durability. And the front of the shoe is more flexible on the sides and top thanks to its softer material. Wiggle your toes in comfort all day long while the area remains rigid up front where you need it for protection.

The footbeds are fully adjustable thanks to the included inserts that Velcro in place. Riders can choose between color-coded high and medium arch support depending upon their preference.

Improved Design

A small but important detail was the addition of a 1cm protective strip to the shoe’s toe box. It runs from the big toe at the front and follows the foot’s contour (inward-frame side) to where the ball of the foot starts. It guards the shoe against tire rub, a very smart idea, especially if white is your color of preference.

Shimano unveils the Li2 Boa dial made just for the S-Phyre RC902. They have a lower profile and a smoother feel than the lP1 it replaced on the RC9.

The new Li2 dials perform micro-adjustments (in both directions) on the fly, but in finer clicks, and release the foot quickly when you’re ready to remove your kicks. The lower of the two dials control the forefoot tension. The lace loops around a trilogy of guides to guarantee a comfortable yet firm hold.

They call this area of the forefoot the Adjustable Powerzone. To prevent slippage of the upper Boa’s retaining strap, grooves added to the tongue disperse the pressure over a larger area.

Optimized Power Transfer

Shimano has increased the shoe’s power transfer thanks to a new external heel cup, which hampers foot twist and roll when pedaling. A gun-metal color sets it off from the rest of the shoe.

This design modification came directly from studying the pedal stroke of pro riders and the forces transmitted via the shoe’s heel in powerful acceleration, such as a sprint finish.

The grey fabric that lined the inside of the heel on previous models has been replaced by a rubber webbing, the difference in hold is obvious. The heel is visually tighter, more dialed-in as compared to the RC901.

The brand continues to fine-tune its Dynalast Technology carbon soles that play an important role in efficient pedaling. The optimized sole works with a rider’s anatomy to promote a more fluid, energy-efficient pedal stroke.

This efficiency is the basis of Shimano’s Pedaling Dynamics in which their shoes and pedals work together to reduce the amount of energy lost on longer rides so there’s something left in the event of a sprint finish.

Excellent Breathability

Shimano S-Phyre Cycling Shoes Toe Box
Photo Credit : The Geeky Cyclist

The mesh around the toe box that provides greater comfort and durability to the RC902 also brings improved breathability. The microfiber synthetic leather used in the upper has visible perforations over the entire forefoot, tongue and instep of the shoe for enhanced air flow.

A large vent is obvious on the carbon sole under the toe, so your foot can expel heat and breathe in extreme summer temperatures and when you’re working hard.

The RC902 comes with a replaceable rubber heel grip that serves a dual purpose. It not only lets the buyer know the shoe will be whole for years to come, there is a physical air scoop hidden under it to promote airflow around the rear of the foot too.

When the rain and colder temps come calling, it’s easy to keep any water and chilly breezes from entering the shoe by removing the footbeds and placing a piece of tape over the two vents. As a side note, the shoe’s exterior is wrinkle-free, and does a good job of shedding road crud, keeping the iridescent sheen of your beauties looking new.

Methodical Improvements for Added Stiffness

Shimano S-Phyre Cycling Shoes Sole
Photo Credit : The Geeky Cyclist

A 3D pedaling analysis tool (Bikefitting.com), a Shimano subsidiary, further enhanced the S-Phyre RC902’s design in specific zones. Together they analyzed the pedaling dynamics and foot movement of professional racers to get the right blend of support, movement and comfort.

Shimano uses a 360° Surround Wrapping Upper to create a more consistent fit over all the brand’s sizing. They call it an Engineered Fit. The microfiber synthetic leather upper improves comfort and boosts the feeling that your foot is securely held by the heel cup. I can attest to the S-Phyre’s hold and slipper-like feel.

There is no standard stiffness scale in the cycling footwear industry. The sole of the S-Phyre RC902 is rated 12 by Shimano. However, each brand has its own criteria, making it a bit of a challenge to realistically compare rigidity among models.

With any professionally rated racing shoe, you can be confident that it will be exceedingly rigid, probably more than any weekend warriors will ever need, but if stiffness is your thing, you’ll love the RC902.

Impressively Lightweight

Shimano S-Phyre Cycling Shoes Weight
Photo Credit : The Geeky Cyclist

If you are looking for one of the lightest road cycling shoes available today, the RC902 is a brilliant choice. I compared the weight of the new S-Phyre with a major market competitor, the S-Works 7, and found the weight for the two shoes to be identical in my size (42).

The textile in the shoe’s upper construction was chosen not only for its performance properties but also because it is extremely lightweight. Using one-piece of material for the shoe eliminates any excess weight that would have come from extra seam stitching.

The RC902’s ultra-rigid Dynalast Technology hollow channel carbon fiber sole provides an impressive stiffness to weight ratio which contributes to its low numbers on the scale.

Shimano fine-tuned the sole through 3D pedaling analysis which allowed them to see the zones where it needed to be reinforced or where weight savings could be achieved, resulting in the perfect combination of power and weight efficiency.

How Much Does the Shimano S-Phyre RC902 Cost?

The Shimano S-Phyre RC902 retails for :

Shimano S-Phyre RC902 Shoes Rating

  • Fit and Comfort - 9/10
    9/10
  • Stiffness - 10/10
    10/10
  • Breathability and Ventilation - 9/10
    9/10
  • Aesthetics - 10/10
    10/10
  • Lightweight - 9/10
    9/10
9.4/10

Buy This If...

You want the latest in race-ready footwear from Shimano that has an improved design, level of comfort, durability and fit in a great looking, lightweight shoe. Its anatomically correct carbon Dynalast Technology and 3D pedaling analysis has made it the ultimate road competition shoe with a supremely engineered fit and optimum power transfer.

Alternatives to the Shimano S-Phyre RC902 Shoe

Shimano RC7

Shimano S-Phyre RC701 Road Cycling Shoes
Photo Credit : Shimano

If you love the Shimano fit, but not the cost of the RC902, you’re in luck. 

The RC7 shares many features with the S-Phyre, but at a more friendly price. Both have a roomy toe box, full-carbon sole with a vent, and are extremely breathable. Two Boa dials close the shoe but clicks are only to tighten. 

The RC7 is rated 10 on their stiffness index, close to the 12 of the RC902. Don’t think twice, the RC7s is a great alternative and looks good too.

Specialized S-Works 7

S-Works 7 Cycling Shoe
Photo Credit : Specialized

If the Shimano fit just isn’t for you, but you’re looking for a premium road shoe, check out the Specialized S-Works 7. It’s a lightweight, breathable, ultra-comfortable and good-looking race-ready shoe with a carbon sole rated 15 on the brand’s stiffness index to maximize power transfer. 

The shoe’s two Boa dials are exclusive to this footwear and boast a lower profile, a CNCd aluminum body for improved durability and micro adjustments on the fly (in both directions) with ease. You can’t go wrong with this option.