When Mathieu van der Poel returned to racing World Cup cyclocross over the weekend, he did in fact show up with a shiny white pair of next generation prototype Shimano S-Phyre mountain bike shoes, and proceeded to get them nice and muddy. Overall, they look quite similar to the current XC9s that many other racers were wearing. But the new kicks sport a few key differences that suggest Shimano has another incremental update in the works.
Prototype Shimano S-Phyre XC9 MTB shoes of van der Poel
At least one of our eagle-eyed readers noticed through the mud & motion blur of MvdP pedaling furiously to another Cyclocross World Cup win on his custom rainbow-painted Canyon Inflite that something was off with his Shimano shoes. I figured that they might slip past most people as I dug out a few more photos to show the differences a bit more clearly.
So what’s different?
Comparing van der Poel’s prototype shoes (white) with the current production XC9s (blue), two key updates stand out. First, these prototype shoes look to use a different premium Boa dial than before. It looks like it could be a larger diameter & flatter than the high-quality standard IP1 dials the current XC9 uses, but it still appears to be similar (but like the machined aluminum S3 dials found on Specialized shoes.) These dials also include a small fixed guard that protects the rotating dial from impacts and maybe mud?
Second, while the two Boa dials look to be in generally the same position as the current shoes, MvdP’s Boa dials are both fixed to the side of the shoe’s upper. The current XC9 fixes the upper dial to the tongue strap. I’ve ridden quite a bit with the road version of the S-Phyre, and that upper strap does tend to flop around under the weight of the dial when the shoe is loose, but it never was a real issue for me.
This next version however, will feature a shorter upper strap over the tongue connected to the dial with a single Boa wire. Presumably, the same fit range will be available, but Shimano will likely have had to revise & reinforce the upper tongue area of the shoe to prevent pressure under the wires (the current system alleviates the pressure issue, by running the wire loop down the side of the shoe, away from the sensitive instep.)
Note: MvdP doesn’t appear to be using the extra loop in the wire across his toes as is standard with the S-Phyre, but the extra loop routing appears to still be there.
Will these S-Phyre prototypes be a spring 2020 update?
The current XC9 was actually introduced in spring 2018 as a subtle update to the original S-Phyre XC9 again two years earlier in 2016. Shimano is pretty regular with product cycles, so it seems reasonable to expect a new version in 2020. But, Mathieu van der Poel was the only rider we spotted racing in the prototype shoes, among a swarm of blue XC9s, so these could still be quite a long way off.
Even more interesting, these new white shoes aren’t as new as we thought…
Czech photographer Michal Červený shot these last three photos of MvdP back on the XC World Cup Mountain bike circuit as early as Val di Sole, where van der Poel was already racing in his new custom next gen kicks.
They’ve been race-proven on the XC World Cup for half a year!
I even unknowingly photographed them myself all the way back in May at the Nové Město XC MTB World Cup, when MvdP was racing XC on a pair of prototypes in standard pro-issue Shimano blue…
I noticed the different red rubber of the Michelin sole, but not the new Boa configuration at the time.