Review | Shimano SH-XC901 SPD Carbon Soled MTB Shoes

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Jason reviews the latest go-fast SPD MTB shoe from Shimano; the S-Phyre SH-XC901

If you’re serious about riding bikes fast and going faster than other people, you’re probably going to be interested in the S-Phyre SH-XC901 shoes (or the XC901 if you want to keep your teeth in) which are right at the top of Shimano’s range of off road cycling shoe range.

Uncompromising, stiff and lightweight, are they any use for anything other than racing?

Shimano S-Phyre XC9 shoe
So bright they glow.

Shimano XC901 Construction

Available in black, a rather nice electric blue and this bonkers shade of green (which my camera really struggled with), the XC901 can be had in half sizes from 36 all the way through to 48. There’s also a specific ‘wide fit’ version too.

The uppers are made from an extremely-well vented and perforated synthetic leather upper that looks great but being lightweight, is unlikely to survive too many close encounters with pointy rocks. There’s a bit of thicker material around the toe though, should you have a bad race and decide to give your bike a good kick.

Shimano S-Phyre XC9 shoe
Boas only, no velcro.

There are two Boa IP1 dials on each shoe that are the only method of adjustment (no Velcro here), the forward-mounted dial pulls on a ‘powerzone’ wire that nips up the forefoot while the rear dial makes the shoe opening nice and snug. Adjustment is much easier than Velcro and the dials are easily dismantled and serviced/replaced/cleaned should you need to.

Getting your foot out of the shoe is also dead easy and requires you to pull upwards on the dials to release them. I was never much of a fan of Boa-type dials in the past, but these seem to be really tough.

Fit & Adjustability

The overall fit, while it’s narrow, isn’t like putting your feet in a vice and fit for a given size (in my case 43, a UK 9 in old money) is spot-on.

There’s a layer of one-way material inside the rigid heel cup which is a bit like shark skin – smooth one way, rough in the opposite way. It means that your socks are gripped and held in place, so your heels don’t ‘lift’ on the upstroke or when you’re trying to gracefully run…

Shimano S-Phyre XC9 shoe
Rubber outsole gives grip, despite the stiffness.
Shimano S-Phyre XC9 shoe
Space for spikes.

Unsurprisingly the XC901s aren’t brilliant for walking and hiking in. That’s to be expected of a thoroughbred race shoes such as this, but I’ve walked in much worse. The Michelin rubber outsole provides a load of traction and stability when you’re walking or standing around on rough surfaces and helps your foot stay reasonably secure if you’re unable to clip in. It also protects most of the carbon from getting trashed. There’s a reinforced spike mount at the toe-end of the sole so that you can use them in a muddy ‘cross race.

Shimano helpfully supply a couple of different-sized inserts for those of us with weird insteps who need to tune the fit of the insole so with any luck you won’t need to fork out even more money for some of those. Which is fortunate, because these shoes are over £300.

On The Trail



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Review Info

Price:£319 / $449 AUD
Tested:by Jason and Wil for 3 months

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