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First Look: Shimano RX801, RX8R ‘Featherweight’ Gravel Cycling Shoes

shimano gravel shoesThe updated Shimano RX8 gravel racing shoes; (photo/Shimano)

Shimano gives its racing gravel shoe a makeover while adding a new model with an integrated gaiter for extra-rowdy rides.

It wasn’t too long ago that gearing up for a gravel competition meant choosing either a stiff pair of road shoes or the blocky boots of mountain biking. But gravel riding has grown in recent years, with style-specific shoes that balance road racing and trail riding.

Shimano has not only updated its race-ready gravel shoes but also added a new model designed for even dirtier adventures.

When GearJunkie reviewed gravel shoes last year, we chose Shimano’s RX8 shoes as our top pick for race day. The Japanese bike component and accessory company released the updated RX801 model this week. It’s more breathable and comes in half sizes, offering more flexibility for customers who want the perfect fit.

Then there’s the new RX8R model, which aims for even more adventurous racing while keeping your feet dry and pebble-free.

shimano rx8
Shimano raised the price for the RX8 shoes by $25; (photo/Shimano)

Shimano RX801 First Look Review

The updated RX801 offers a broader contact area and built-in heel stabilizer, making it a solid choice for either smooth gravel routes or uphill riding on rugged terrain.

Its BOA dial “delivers precise micro-adjustments.” The shoes still have a carbon composite sole and the same lightweight design. But Shimano now offers the model in half sizes from 39.5 to 47.5.

GearJunkie lauded these shoes last year for their “killer price-to-weight ratio.” That ratio is slightly reduced this year, as the shoes now cost $25 more (for the same weight).

  • Materials: Synthetic leather and mesh upper, TPU
  • Weight: 9 oz. (per shoe) / 1 lb. 2 oz (per pair)
  • Colors: Black, Silver, Tropical Leaves
  • Closure: BOA dial and Velcro
  • Price: $275

We rode the updated RX801 around Bentonville, Ark., singletrack the day before the launch. Though we only put about 25 miles on the shoes, we got a feel for their performance while hammering on climbs and off the pedals — both hike-a-bike trails and ordering post-ride brews.

The carbon sole provides road shoe-like stiffness and will feel familiar to anyone who enjoyed the original gravel shoe.

The upper provided almost sock-like comfort and breathability. Though we didn’t log full-day efforts to test the shoes’ comfort on true endurance rides, the synthetic leather offered an outstanding balance of support and suppleness, which can be a rarity in many off-pavement cycling shoes.

The lightweight carbon outsole endured some superficial gouging and laminate scraping. So far, this is merely cosmetic and hasn’t impacted performance, though we will update its durability with further testing.

Finally, the lugs, though not as aggressive as bulkier mountain shoes, gave just enough traction on hike-a-bike sections and prevented most of the dreaded “coffee shop clack” that can distract most aprés ride gatherings.

shimano rx8r
Shimano added an integrated gaiter to the RX8R, or rally shoe; (photo/Shimano)

Shimano RX8R: Details

If you dislike getting your feet wet, then the rally model, or RX8R, was made with you in mind.

These offer all the same features as the RX8 but with the added protection of an integrated gaiter. This knitted ankle cuff eliminates the space between foot and shoe, reducing the chances of sand, rock, or water finding a way inside. Compared to the RX8, they’re slightly pricier ($25 more) and heavier (1 ounce).

“The RX8 Rally concept was inspired by my favorite local ride called the Trabuco Creek Trail, which is jam-packed with jungle-cross singletrack, multiple creek crossings, and so much sand,” Jessie Gascon, Shimano Soft-Goods Product Manager, said in a press release. “Sometimes, I would avoid the route to keep my feet dry and pebble-free, but not anymore.”

  • Materials: Synthetic leather and mesh upper, TPU
  • Weight per pair: 1 lb. 3 oz.
  • Color: Metallic Orange
  • Closure: BOA dial and Velcro
  • Price: $300

Learn more on Shimano’s website.

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