No seminars, no power point presentations or technical documents to scrutinise. Just two days of riding, a new shoe lineup from Shimano, including our chosen test model, the RP9 (Road Performance 9) and a taste of what’s on offer around Victoria’s marvellous King Valley.
Words: Alex Malone
Photography: Jeff Curtes
Hosted by Shimano, housed, fed, guided and supported on the road by the folks at Soigneur – who had previously invited us to sample the Gold Coast Hinterland – and surrounded by a small group of likeminded riders, Cyclist took off for a weekend in Victoria’s King Valley.
The reason for our weekend trip was to get a thorough understanding of the new Road Performance shoe range from Shimano however, there would be no formal or technical seminars to accompany this unofficial launch. Our classroom would instead be held out on the road – where manufacturer’s claims, features and promises either deliver or fail to impress. Let’s face it, this is where it really matters.
Shimano had ensured we received a pair of RP9’s – the top offering in the Road Performance lineup – well in advance. We’d arrive with cleats fitted, shoes worn and ready to go at first light Saturday.
With sizing and adjustments out of the way, our itinerary was straightforward.
Friday: Arrive, meet and greet, followed by locally sourced, BBQ’ed, baked and freshly prepared dinner assembled by Daniel and Jason from Soigneur.
Saturday: Early start, devour a splendid breakfast spread, ride the Sam Miranda Gran Fondo, lunch on top of the Shimano Experience container followed by dinner in a local pub.
Sunday: Awake to another standout breakfast and prepare for a Soigneur Special consisting of a 120km ride around Tatong, lunch and fly home.
With nearly 250km successfully and comfortably completed across the two days – whilst wearing the RP9 – we thought to ask the man behind the weekend, Shimano’s Brand Manager Toby Shingleton, for a little more info around the latest model. Afterall, the weekend was dedicated to riding and experiencing the products for ourselves. The tech and details could be discussed once we’d had sufficient time to recover.
Cyclist: The RP9 was (somewhat) launched under quite different circumstances. Why choose two days of riding as opposed to tech talks? Why King Valley?
Toby Shingleton: We wanted to launch the new range of road footwear in the sort of environment for which it was designed. The King Valley region and the Sam Miranda Gran Fondo presented us with the ideal opportunity to explore some longer riders in a location that (surprisingly) not many Melbourne- or Sydney-based cyclists have ridden before. For me personally, it was a real eye opener just how much good riding there is in this part of Australia. Looking at the map on the kitchen table on Saturday night I realised we were just scratching the surface. Maybe that next time we should make our launch a week!
Cyclist: If you had to describe the ideal RP9 user, who would they be?
TS: Definitely someone who is serious about riding in shoes that let them strap in and just enjoy awesome fit and performance. The understated classic look is a reflection of the person who will choose these shoes over others. No gimmicks or clutter is the way I describe them to people.
I know a lot of our dealers feel confident about recommending and selling our shoes because they feel great from the first time your foot is in them.
Cyclist: Do you classify the RP9 as a race shoe? Or is it purely for gran fondo-style riding; comfort blended with performance?
TS: The RP9 is one of seven new models that make up our ‘Road Performance’ line. This new range includes three women’s specific models. All the shoes in the range are designed for long distance sportives and gran fondos as well as for riders who just like to get on the bike and ride whenever they can.
With the top of the line shoe (RP9) you are getting a lot of the technology from our very successful ‘Gran Tour’ stage winning R321 model without the ‘racing’ aesthetic or ultimate level stiffness.
Cyclist: How important is the Custom Fit process for the RP9? Should every user utilise this service at time of purchase?
TS: Custom Fit is the premium level of shoe fit, and our shoes are still the only in the market with a mouldable foot bed and upper. For riders who might have something peculiar about their foot or just want to ensure the shoe is shaped exactly to their foot – Custom Fit is still the best option in the market.
In terms of getting the Custom Fit process done to shoes it can be done at the time of purchase, however we recommend wearing them a couple of times before. In my experience this allows the rider to appreciate the difference and also they just seem to mould better when they have been ridden once or twice.
Cyclist: Do you prescribe a maximum number of Custom Fit heatings?
TS: The Custom Fit process can be repeated three times within the warranty period (one year). After this it can be done as many times as you like, however it will become slowly less effective over time.
Cyclist: These are very classically styled shoes. Are there rules regarding shoe and sock colour combinations?
Toby: Never mess with the rules! I had to get a black pair (RP5) and a white pair (RP9) just so I could get use out of all the great socks in my wardrobe. I am really enjoying the #sockgame that is going on in Australia at the moment, boring socks suck!
Weight: 596g (44.5EU), weighed, no cleats
Price: $329 (RP9); $199 (RP5)
Colours: White or Black
– Heat mouldable Custom Fit upper and insole.
– Two-position closure, ratchet system.
– Anti bacterial, mint aroma insole
– Vented toe cap and exhaust ports for all-day (dry) riding comfort
– Carbon fibre sole, 11/12 stiffness rating – not quite as stiff as R321 but extremely comfortable for long days in the saddle and long days with feet in shoes. There’s a difference.