No question, Shimano’s road shoes are always top-of-mind when discussing race-ready road shoes. That reputation has come from Shimano’s methodical improvements and raving fans in both the professional and amateur ranks. Introduced in early 2021, the Shimano S-Phyre RC902’s have been great shoes for road testing this summer.
Shimano S-Phyre RC902 Features:
- 360-degree surround wrapping uppers
- Anti-twist stabilizer heel cup
- Refined toe box to accommodate more foot shapes
- Dynalast carbon fiber sole (12/12 stiffness)
- Dual BOA Li2 metal dials
- Powerzone lace guides
- Function-specific fit zones
- Drain port in heel
- Weight: 340 grams (each, size 45)
- MSRP: $460
The ultimate power (and comfort) grab
Stiff-soled race shoes just feel fast. With an ultra-responsive fit and a carbon sole that transmits every movement, they make you feel fast. While some studies have shown that the stiffer soles don’t necessarily transmit more power, there’s no denying the feel they provide. It’s very much the same experience going from a lower-grade carbon fiber bike to a higher-grade one — you get the feeling of more zip and power.
Shimano’s S-Phyre line provides the ultimate performance they have to offer. After testing, and loving the Shimano S-Phyre XC9, I was ready to see how the road versions would perform. The recipe is similar, but the execution is absolutely catered to riding on the road. What remains the same is the hallmark dual-BOA fit and foot wrap design with a low stack height. That combination delivers the best foot-cradling experience you’ll find.
With BOA’s top-of-the-line Li2 metal dials, you can micro-adjust both directions and independently pinpoint forefoot and instep fit. For a high-performance fit, dual BOA’s are a must. But, not just any upper design benefits from those double-dials. As expected, these shoes take full advantage of BOA’s capabilities. A quick dial to start, then a few clicks more once you’re on the bike and the fit remains golden. Should your feet swell mid-ride, backing the dials off is a breeze.
Lower-end shoes will have a single dial and some will opt not to include the plastic lace guides. In my experience, those guides are key to a smooth cable pull and they also allow riders to change from the traditional pattern to crossover layout to further pinpoint fit issues. When it comes time for removal, the uppers pop open like the winged doors of a Tesla Model X. No other shoe is as easy to get on or off as the RC902.
Yes, I have exclusively tested the RC902’s with the Wahoo Speedplay POWRLINK cleats and pedals. Speedplay cleats are much more involved than a set of Shimano or TIME cleats, but they installed just fine after I figured out how to move the red cleat position holders on the shoes. Just know that whatever road pedals you choose, these shoes will play nicely.
After some initial tests on the Stages SB-20 Smart Bike, I took them outside aboard the BMC Roadmachine X ONE and then the 2023 Trek Domane SLR. The fully-wrapped uppers provide a wraparound fit unlike anything on the market as these shoes immediately become an extension of your feet. Every movement, every pedal stroke and every turn is met with precise and immediate leverage. Standing efforts and hard, seated pushes alike are rewarded in spades.
Shimano is keen on the Anti-twist Stabilizer Heel Cup and it works wonders. The combination of an external cup and Achilles-stabilizing grippers really locks in your heels. Consider your foot stabilized to the hilt.
While there are vent ports on the upper and outsole, I do feel like breathability could be improved. They aren’t terrible, but on the hottest days, my feet did wish for a little more airflow. And, on those wet, soggy days, there is a drain port in the heel to expel water in a hurry. It does a good job of not allowing water to build up during torrential rains and the uppers do a good job of preventing water entry in the first place.
As far as durability goes, the uppers are holding up quite well, with no real signs of damage or abuse. The heel tread is wearing nicely and walkability is good.
These do feature Shimano’s updated fit and I’ll just say that they are much narrower than the S-Phyre XC9’s in the midfoot and forefoot areas. Some riders have lamented the new fit on the RC902’s, but I like it overall, with one small niggle. I do get a little bit of pressure after the longest of rides on the outside of my left foot, just behind the sixth-toe area. Admittedly, I get that pressure with a few different road shoes, but it’s definitely livable here.
- Power transmission you can feel
- Transmits every inch of road to your feet
- Foot-cradling uppers offer an outstanding fit
- Dual BOA Li2 dials offer the ultimate personalization
- Easy on/off
- Locked-in heels
- Wide options available
- Breathability could be better
- A touch of pressure behind sixth-toe of left foot
The Bottom Line: Shimano S-Phyre RC902
When you want top-of-the-line performance, it’s easy to recommend the Shimano S-Phyre RC902’s. With dual BOA dials and a 360-degree wraparound upper, every movement is translated to your pedals. It’s easy to understand why these shoes are so popular. And, just this week, Shimano released the new S-Phyre RC903, with revised uppers and improved fit. Stay tuned for a review of those. Meanwhile, you’ll find the RC902’s on sale at a variety of retailers.
Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist.com