These entry-level Shimano RC1W SPD-SL Women's Shoes, built with a female-specific last, offer a reasonably stiff ride considering the outsole isn't carbon, but bear in mind the fit favours a flatter foot rather than a higher instep, and the sizing is on the small side.
The RC1Ws are constructed from synthetic leather, perforated to allow for ventilation, and the tongue is fixed down one side, to avoid unnecessary overlap and uncomfortable compression at the top of the foot.
The fixed tongue does make for a secure fit, keeping slippage to a minimum even when you're pulling up hard, but the shape of your foot could be crucial. My fairly average foot has a pretty standard arch, and yet these were slightly too low volume for me, and fastened without much in the way of overlap of the tongue.
The shoes also come up small. My usual size in cycling shoes is 39 (38.5 in 'normal' shoes) but I'd be inclined to go up a full size in these (half sizes are not available anyway). The width is standard to narrow. The overlapping tongue does make for good comfort at the top of the foot, though, thanks to a reduction in possible chafing points, with less chance of it shifting.
The synthetic leather upper keeps out a fair amount of road grime and extraneous water, but the perforations and the vented forefoot of the sole mean that in really wet weather these are not the best choice. On milder, drier days, they offer good levels of comfort in terms of warmth and protection.
The outsole is reinforced with glass fibre for added stiffness, and allows for fairly decent power transfer, particularly for a shoe at this entry-level price. The three Velcro straps do give some flex at the top, though, resulting in some movement of the foot when riding vigorously.
Being road-specific, they take a three-bolt cleat, with fitting guidelines there to help with placement.
A heel pad helps with walking comfort and stability, but I still found them quite slippery to walk in, with virtually no traction. Still, that's not hugely unusual for a shoe of this type.
Available in both the black as tested and also a navy and turquoise option, these are conservatively styled shoes, but not unattractive.
The RC1Ws have gone up by a tenner recently (although they seem to be almost exclusively available for £69.99 or less), but even at £79.99 they're pretty good value compared with what else is out there.
You can get cheaper entry-level road shoes from the likes of Decathlon with its Van Rysel RCR500s at £49.99, which take two-bolt cleats as well as three-bolt, and the FLR-F35.IIIs at £64.99, but others are another £10-£15 or more.
dhb's lace-up Dorica road shoes are now £85 (but currently on sale at £68), while the Giant Phase 2 Road Shoes are £89.99, though they do include a ratchet strap, and the road-specific Specialized Torch 1.0s are now £95, but they come with a Boa dial.
Overall, I'd say the Shimano RC1Ws offer a fair whack of performance for the budget-conscious or novice road rider, provided that the fit suits. If so, it's a comfortable road-specific shoe that delivers a decent performance.
Budget-friendly shoes offering comfort and decent non-aggressive ride performance, but check the size and fit
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RC1W SPD-SL Women's Shoes
Size tested: 39
Tell us what the product is for
It's described by the manufacturer as a women's road cycling shoe with race-inspired style and features.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Freewheel (Shimano's UK distributor) lists:
Surround wrapping upper structure reduces overlap and provides a glove-like fit.
Synthetic leather with mesh texture creates a comfortable fit and an exciting racing profile.
Three durable hook & loop straps evenly spread tightening force across the top of the foot.
Lightweight glass fiber reinforced nylon sole for power transfer.
Durable, wide heel pads provide walking stability.
Women's specific last for a natural, comfortable fit.
Offset strap relieves tension at highest point of the foot.
Available in sizes EU36-44 (full sizes only)
Very sturdily built and nicely finished.
As an entry-level road shoe it performs very well. A bit too much flex in the Velcro straps and the fibreglass reinforced outsole for really aggressive riding.
Should last pretty well, as the upper won't soak up water and dirt, but the Velcro straps do stretch with prolonged use, particularly if you're cinching them in tight.
The fit is best suited to those with low arches or a low volume foot, and on the narrow side of average.
Significantly smaller than expected from the stated size. I'd go up a size. Half sizes not available.
Pretty light considering they are quite sturdy and not carbon soled.
As long as the fit suits, these are comfortable shoes.
Pretty good value for money for a road-specific shoe with decent performance.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to look after. Outer wipes clean nicely. Removable insoles can be handwashed or replaced.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed very well for the price/entry level.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Price, ease of adjustment, durability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Fit is best suited to low volume, narrower feet; sizing is smaller than expected.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At £79.99 it's pretty good for an entry-level shoe. Van Rysel's RCR500s are cheaper at £49.99, and the FLR-F35.III Road Shoe are £64.99, but others are more expensive, such as dhb's lace-up Dorica road shoes, now £85, the Giant Phase 2 Road Shoes at £89.99, and the road-specific Specialized Torch 1.0 at £95, although both the Giant and Specialized have superior closure systems.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not, the fit wasn't ideal for me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if the fit suits them.
Use this box to explain your overall score
I'd say these are above average, delivering a decent performance at a decent price. They're not brilliant in really wet weather, and the sole is too flexible for more aggressive riders, but if the low-volume fit suits, they're worth considering.
About the tester
I usually ride: Liv Invite My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.