The Shimano RC 903 is Shimano’s highest end performance road shoe. It features the latest materials, stiffest sole and up to date BOA system aiming to offer comfort without the expense of performance.
The 903 is an upgrade over the 902 model with a few subtle changes. Biggest being lower boa wire area, lower upper venting mesh and some cosmetic touches for a smoother look.
Design & Appearance
The shoes look sleek with a minimal look. The omission of a moulded toe bumper around the front of the shoe really makes the shoe look less complex and on current trend for the minimal look, i think started in Giro shoes. The toe box has a top surface that is seamless and perforated material verses layers of meshes. Likewise the heel cups (featured as anti-twist) are very clean in design with subtle detailing that lines up with the striping towards the rear of the shoe.
The front (toe) BOA wires have been rerouted from previous versions to cause less pressure points. And a mesh has been upgraded also. My expectation is the mesh is for more venting near the toes.
Immediately noticeable on the bottom of the shoe is where the material wraps. This looks more like a soccer shoe where the upper wraps under the instep, integrating the upper and midsole. From here you see a bonded ring around the cleat area, which also double purposes and extends into a toe grip area forward of the vent.
The rear to mid of the shoe has a nice cosmetic touches of a rainbow / oilslick treatment giving a subtle iridescent look, that hopefully you can pick up in the photos
Looking inside the shoe with the insole removed you can see the full carbon plate that runs from toe to heel including the cutouts for venting, one in the toe box and one at heel counter.
The replaceable heel counter (via internal screw shown) has a small vent which passes through the carbon footplate to improve airflow along the base of your foot.
The insole at first seems flimsy and cheap, but in fact its light and well designed. It comes with several instep height adjusters. Here mine are set at yellow medium. The top material of the insole has SILVADUR™ patented polymer technology adheres silver ions to fabric surfaces and activates them in the presence of odor-causing bacteria. The idea being to stops odors before they start.
You can also see that the perforations match up with the vented areas in the footbed. Worth noting if you are going to replace insoles or swap to a warmer insole in winter.
The top of foot wrap / support is innovative in design. The mechanics show left and right pieces of material that overlap, and slide across each other. see photo 1, You can see the curvature wrap of material with the BOA which slides on top of and across the lower piece to give a snug fit. I think this was designed to avoid hotspot pressure points that sometimes the wire can cause, while retaining the foot very snuggly.
Carbon sole – stiffness L12 on shimano Scale
Synthetic Microfibre Leather upper with printed graphics
Plastics out the wazzo
Wrap over top foot strap with BOA Li2 Dials
Heel and Toe Vent
Anti twist Heel cup
Replaceable heel counter
Seamless upper and midsole integration
Available in Blue, Red, Black and of course White
Low mid and high instep counters provided.
Regular and Wide Versions available
225g size 42
In hand the material feels stiff with a soft finish and smooth. The construction is well done with no visual flaws.
I am wearing a 45 wide. I like the extra width a Wide gives in the toe box. Something I have always liked about Specialized shoes, having a little more wiggle room.
The BOA ratchets work well, have small increments and are quick to release by pulling all the way up. This assists you when tearing off the shoes after a long hard ride!
The top of foot strap feels nice and doesn’t provide any awkward pressure points, unlike some other systems.
The shoe feels stiff and efficient. The insoles took a couple of hours to bed in and fit my foot right, but feels perfect now.
No slippage of the heel was seen even under hard sprints, that’s a great thing that maybe accounts for the heel cup design and lining material.
skid marks ? 🙂 I was a little weary about not having a plastic toe bumper, since I tend to rub my shoe on my front wheel at stop lights etc. Turns out the shoe is just as easy to clean and seemingly as durable as with a toe bumper.
On my first several rides I got a fair bit of dirt on them from stomping behind trees to have a pee. But they cleaned off easily.
The RC-903 – Are they worth $400? … for context…. I still have a pair of Shimano R320’s from 2014 . They have a lot of miles on them and have been my main winter shoe this past year. That’s a testament to some great design life.
Ultimately the technology trickles down, so it might be worth having a look at the RC-702 which comes in a bit cheaper at $220
Shimano S-Phyre RC-903
White, Black, Red and Blue (red is not available in wide fitting)