Shimano SH RX600 Gravel Cycling Shoes
618g (44 as tested) £159.99
The Shimano SH R600 Gravel Cycling Shoes are one below the marque's flagship SH RX800 and described as their budget model. They hit my sweet spot when talking power transfer and walkability, so have become my go-to's for general winter riding. Road, dirt road, off road and indeed, all three with minimal compromise.
Pros: Boa system for refined, precise fit, versatile, impressive support, stiff sole but compliant enough for moderate running and walking, shed mud efficiently, temperate, will entertain thicker waterproof socks, uppers breathe reasonably well and are easy to care for.
Cons: More consideration than con but sole not quite aggressive enough for boggy, competitive XC/’cross duties.
The RX600 (or RX6 for short) are available in Forest Green/Tan, Black, or a Brown Camo effect. I think these are all very appealing. There is also a women’s specific model, the RX6W, which is welcome. Ditto the wide version (38-48). The uppers are made from a synthetic leather with micro perforations and a mesh line for improved breathability, while theoretically, keeping the elements out.
A Velcro strap around the toe box and Boa L6K tag team make micro adjustments, not to mention entry/exits lightning quick. The RX6 also employs big S’s Dynalast. This system claims to hold the foot in perfect alignment, maximising efficiency, yet minimising fatigue courtesy of a sprung toe section. This supposedly reduces tension in the plantar, calf and hamstring, contributing to a more efficient up-stroke. More power, less fatigue...
The carbon reinforced sole is pretty much what I'd expect from the design brief and price point and is claimed to offer race-level rigidity. Its 8 (out of a possible 12) on Shimano’s scale, which is twice as rigid as the GTX I reviewed back in the summer, and still offers compliance for running and moderate walking-precisely what you want from a gravel shoe.
A wide lugged TPU outer sole continues this theme, supplying grip and stability on a wide range of surfaces. No surprise that the RX6 are optimised for use with SPD pedals, but I was interested (although not completely surprised) to learn they’re recommended for the PD M8100. I’ve also paired ours with the M540 and PD-ED 500 to see if there was any discernable difference.
They also have air channelling grooves at the heel and toe box for increased ventilation, without gulping in water. Staying with the back end, there’s some useful retro-reflective detailing, which seems effective-even at a modest tempo.
The RX6, at least in standard guise, are a long, narrow design, perfect for me, since I have long, narrow feet. I went the default, one up from street size route-44, which also proved bang-on. They’re roomier in the toe-box than profile might suggest, too and the Boa system makes for effortless entry/exit and micro-adjustment. Tighten clockwise and release by pulling the outer ring outwards. Beautifully intuitive and easy enough mid ride-assuming of course, I wasn’t riding the fixed.
Winter can be very wet. November and December have been so waterlogged, roads have resembled Paris Roubaix and the neighbour’s cat has been nagging me to build an ark! Thankfully, I’ve been able to pair the RX6 with middle and winter-weight waterproof socks, including these Gecko Calf Length Classic All Action Waterproof Socks . No hint of bunching, or similar discomfort, regardless of ride duration. Thanks in part to the tunability of the Boa system. I have also paired them with traditional merino blend cycling socks in milder conditions and to evaluate how well the RX6 fair when rains unexpectedly arrive.
Power Transfer/Sole 4.5/5
This was exactly as I’d envisaged. Regardless of pedal choice, power transfer has been impressive. Every stroke transferred into forward motion but without any painful hot spots, suggesting the sole technology does in fact displace the load evenly. Rigidity was particularly apparently when accelerating hard on a climb or snatching away at the lights.
Same story off road and in contexts where a traditional stiff sole XC shoe would induce hot spots around the toe box and heel cup. Cruising was similarly efficient- 85-90 rpm with much less effort than shoes with a more touring influence. However, given the comfort and sole qualities, I’d happily tour and commute in them.
Off road, there have been sections where I’ve needed to shoulder Ursula and run. The midsole has just enough compliance to make this genuinely comfortable, while the TPU outer soles supply excellent stability and traction over loose and slippery sections. I also ran 2-3 miles home when flats struck and time for tube swapping at a premium. Again, though a touring model, such as the MT701 GTX are more conducive to extended periods of plodding, with less cleat clatter, I could still shift in the RX6 and without fatigue nagging or worrying about losing traction.
Being less aggressive than traditional XC shoes, or XC inspired commuter models, the soles are surprisingly good at shedding mud, so you're not hauling unnecessary weight. An obvious boon for gravel, but the occasional cyclo cross meet is well within their grasp. That being said; they didn’t have quite the same traction as soles with more obvious mtb DNA, so there are better options if you were looking for a shoe that could also handle regular competitive ‘cross/ XC riding.
I’ve not deliberately immersed ours in boggy puddles wearing traditional cycling socks but was pleasantly surprised by how little moisture the vents and perforated uppers allowed in.
The RX6 have rapidly become favourites, though it’s difficult to comment on their breathability through a scorching summer. Moderate to chill November and December, temperatures have varied between 2 and 15 degrees and regardless of ride duration, temperature, rainfall, or sock choice my feet have remained comfortable.
Synthetic leathers are improving all the time but in milder temperatures, no clamminess with basic cycling socks. The RX6’s compatibility with thicker waterproof/breathable socks is a real winner during winter. Especially off road, or along green lanes.
Not the case with more traditional cross country mtb shoes where mesh panelling and sole vents quickly lead to cold, soggy feet. Even after two hours, battling persistent rains, I’ve never returned with icy toes. I’ve been slithering along lanes caked in dung, mud and agricultural slime- this has all remained outside. Obviously sock choice and rider susceptibilities play their part.
Immerse your feet in a deep puddle wearing bog standard cycling socks and obviously, you’ll get wet feet but nowhere near as quickly as the otherwise likeable, wallet friendly FLR Rexton Touring/Trail Shoe or the Shimano MT701 GTX SPD shoes. The design’s excellent support, greatly reducing the foot fatigue that can creep in with intense effort, especially over varied terrain. Overshoes aren’t my thing, but tarmac tourists and audax aficionados may be pleased to note the RX6 readily accommodate them.
800 miles and six weeks in, though some very testing contexts there’s nothing to suggest the RX6 won’t earn their keep and keep you smiling several thousand miles hence. The uppers are easily wiped clean with a damp cloth. Ok, add a blast or two of bike wash, and tickle clean with a soft bristled brush, such as the Zefal ZB Wash Brush if they’ve got a bit crusty. Pack with old paper, or dry flannels and leave drying naturally at room temperature. I might also add the odd lick of Crankalicious Leather Lacquer to the uppers, from time to time. That's about it.
£159.99 is competitive. Quoc Pham Grand Tourer II promise RX6 rivalling performance. Easy care synthetic uppers, grippy soles and Boa lacing systems but £190- £30 steeper. Sidi MTB Gravel Shoes feature similar technology and their own take on the thumbwheel, micro-adjust system but with a little more MTB emphasis (including two toe spikes for increased traction in deep mud/ice. Might prove better value if you’re after a single pair of shoes for gravel, bike packing and competitive cross county mountain biking. However, they retail at £195.
Lake MX176 are a little cheaper at £135 and another model billed at MTB and gravel audiences. They also feature the Boa system and stiff, yet walkable soles. At the other end of the spectrum, Decathlon’s Rockrider Mountain Bike/gravel Shoes Race 900 Ocre Habu fit System are £79.99. They also feature a rigid sole and ratchet dial closure but as might be expected, are slightly heftier than the RX6-if that’s important.
I’ve fallen in love with Shimano’s RX6. Their balance of efficiency, compliance and versatility are difficult to fault. OK, so there are slightly better options if you wanted a shoe that could also do competitive cross and XC mountain biking. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for shoe that can tour, winter train and tackle rough stuff with equal finesse, the RX6 are definite contenders.
Verdict 4.25/5 Extremely efficient, yet comfortable shoes on and off road, on and off the bike.
PUBLISHED JANUARY 2023