TESTED: Shimano RP5 shoes – Bike Magazine Australia

Shimano have recently introduced a bunch of new road shoes designed to bridge the gap between high-performance footwear (costing hundreds) and its entry-level cousins (often clunky and heavy). The Road Performance (RP) range makes the connection, with four new models designed for those of us who want to look good and ride efficiently, but can’t justify elite-level cash splash.

The RP5 sits in the middle of the new range and is designed, according to Shimano, with the ‘aspiring recreational rider in mind’. I guess this is a reflection of how seriously we recreational riders take our feet, because the RP5 combines plenty of high-end tech with a decidedly pro aesthetic.

Available in matte black or white, the shoe’s minimalist, understated appearance makes a great first impression, and while by no means flashy, the ‘chalk white’ pair that Bike tested were so luminously white that they definitely attracted a few stares at the café and had us scurrying home at the first spot of rain. The women’s version has a tiny splash of turquoise, but maintain the same sleek appearance.

The RP range seeks to balance performance characteristics with comfort. While the sole is a fair bit less stiff than Shimano’s higher end footwear (The top-of-the-line ‘S-Phyre’ race shoe, for example, rates 12/12 on Shimano’s stiffness index, while the RP5 rates a flexier 7/12), sole stiffness ranks in the realm of race gains and probably won’t be an issue unless you’re trying to win your local A grade criterium. What will matter is how easy it is to wear these shoes for hours and hours of pedalling, how long they last, and how efficiently you transfer power through your foot.

Dynalast is one feature that’s trickled down from the high-end shoes in Shimano’s range and is designed to help in the efficiency department. Basically, Shimano have designed a last (around which the sole is moulded) to optimise the toe spring section of the shoe, which Shimano’s research claims creates a more efficient upstroke, helping deal with the infamous ‘dead spot’ in the pedal stroke.

While the RP5 isn’t heat mouldable like some of Shimano’s higher-end footwear, the RP5 features a ‘Surround’ upper that delivered the promised improvements in both comfort and foot security. The traditional ‘tongue’ is replaced by an elasticated inner flap that wraps around your foot as you fasten the shoe. A more secure foot means better power transfer, while the old problem of ‘tongue slippage’, where a cycling shoe’s tongue works its annoying way around to the outside of the foot, is replaced with a smooth and secure wraparound fastening.

One of the most impressive features of the RP5 is the new heel cup design, which fits incredibly snugly, but comfortably, around the back of the foot and holds the shoe firmly in place – without squeezing or rubbing. The idea is, again, that a more secure foot delivers better power transfer, and it’s good to see that Shimano have achieved this while maintaining such a plush and cushiony fit.

This is all held together with what Shimano call their Adaptable Closure System. Put simply, you can change the position of the reverse buckle to suit different instep heights by unscrewing the strap and moving it towards or away from the ankle.

Despite plenty of ventilation holes through the upper, the RP5’s airflow was offset a little by the snugness of the fit and the extra cushioning of the upper compared with less forgiving road shoes – especially on a long, hot day.

The RP5 sole is made of a nylon reinforced with fibre-glass whose stiffness is improved by the addition of a carbon fibre plate at the ball of the foot where the cleat attaches to the shoe. The sole features a couple of good-sized drainage/ventilation points and subtle rubber support at the heel to help stop you sliding when you’re walking about at the café after your ride.

At 275g for a size 42, they’re a very reasonable weight for the price point, a competitive $199 RRP in Australian bike stores. The RP5 is available in the typical unisex design, and a narrower women’s fit.

Pros: Minimalist, sleek looks / Excellent value for money / Pedalling efficiency balanced with all-day comfort.

Cons: Not the greatest airflow / The comfortable cushioned upper felt a little warm on hot days / Trading stiffness for comfort might bother some

RRP: $199 – From: shimano.com.au