The Ol’ Crank has been riding from before the internet was even a thing, and he tests stuff that he’s bought and paid for unless mentioned otherwise. If you want more info, hit me up at facebook.com/theolcrank
While these road shoes are a couple of seasons old, they’re still widely available, and they’ve been on my feet for about eight months now. Here’s a real world test of how they’ve stood up to my chubby and slow style of riding.
From: cellbikes.com.au (in store)
Weight: 680g (size 46, pair, with Shimano cleats)
Tester: Robbo, 110kg, Bianchi 928 C2C road bike
So, what’s with these shoes?
Choosing road bike shoes is as personal as choosing intimate apparel; get it wrong and it makes for an uncomfortable day out.
And even though online retailers often have great deals on footwear, trust me on this; bite the bullet and go for the bricks and mortar bike shop option when you want to get your next pair of boots.
I’d come out of another pair of Shimanos that I loved and wore to death over the course of a few years, but in that time, it looks as if Shimano has updated the way it makes shoes, with a distinct difference in sizing right around that crucial $200 mark.
The company now offers a line called Road Performance that’s topped by the RP9, and while the R171 looks to have dropped off the list, it’s still widely available online.
The R171 has a synthetic upper teamed with a carbon fibre sole. When it comes to doing them up, it’s got two wide Velcro straps that team up with a neat two-way ratchet strap.
The inner isn’t one of the fancy heat-mouldable versions, but I run my own inserts anyway. I do run the standard inner soles most of the time, though.
Worth noting, too, that the inside upper piece of the R171 actually wraps right over the top of your foot, so when you pull up on the pedals, you’re pulling against a piece of the shoe, not the straps.
Yeah, right. What’s the sole like?
It’s carbon fibre, and it’s very stiff. There’s a rubberised heel for traction and a rubber toe bumper, neither of which are replaceable. It’s is a little annoying, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Fitting cleats is easy thanks to marked grid lines, too.
And how do they fit?
Here’s where the Shimano range gets a bit weird. I tried on the then-new Shimano RP9, which was essentially the next model up – and the fit of the 46 was nothing like that of either my old Shimano or the R171. Narrow and short, it just felt all kinds of not quite right.
This suggests to me the Road Performance series is built on a new, different last (the bottom bit of the shoe) than previous gen stuff, and it’s another reason that going to an actual shop for shoes is a really good idea.
The R171s are generous in the toe box and wide through the arch, and are well sized for boofy Aussie feet. The ratchet system offers a coarse action when tightening them up, but the release lever works to fine-tune the fit with a much finer action – like a half click versus a full click.
The bottom part of the strap can also be moved; there are two mounting holes that locate the strap more forward or more rearwards (mine are forward).
It took me zero time to get used to them on my feet, with no odd rubs or irritating spots.
And how do they go out on the road?
Yeah, pretty well, actually. They’re reasonably light for their price, and they don’t run too hot in Aussie summers, either, which is great.
Wet weather performance is good, too, with the R171s not absorbing excess water over the course of a couple of hellaciously wet rides.
The sole is stiff enough to transfer your effort, but it’s also flat enough not to cramp and hurt your arch or ball over 50 to 80km/h distances. The stock inners are pretty good, too, though there’s no doubt you can improve the fit if you run your own.
The soles don’t scuff up too badly, either, while the uppers are resisting scuffs and marks admirably well.
Using Shimano Ultegra pedals, I can happily report zero issues with hot spots or numb soles – my average ride is about 60km, and I do climb off a lot, so take that as you will.
Anything wrong with them?
Not really, actually. Truth be told, the all-black RP9s do look more awesome, but they simply didn’t fit well enough for me to buy them. The black/white thing… meh. I can deal.
As mentioned, fit is subjective. These are a 46, and they are pretty roomy through the toe box, but don’t slip on the heel.
While a 45.5 would be spot on, they weren’t available, and I figured that too tight would suck more than too loose…
So… not too bad, then?
Nope. If your shop stocks Shimano, there’s a good chance they’ll be specialling these out at the moment.
Oh, and if you’re thinking of going into the shop, trying them on then buying online? Sorry, but that’s actually a pretty shitty act, and you should go away. If we don’t use shops, they go away. Simple as that.