Shimano's AM9 shoes have a storied lineage that dates back well over a decade. There have been numerous revisions and model name changes over the years, but the overall concept remains the same - it's still a flat-soled, clipless compatible shoe with a lace cover that's aimed at enduro and DH riders.
It's the catchy-sounding AM902 that's reviewed here. Compared to the previous model (yes, it was called the AM901) the amount of toe protection has been increased, and the uppers have more perforations to increase the breathability.
Still having trouble figuring out the whole loop, swoop, and pull thing? Never fear, the AM9 shoes have a speed lace system – all it takes is one pull to cinch everything down. A velcro panel covers the laces to keep dirt and water out, and a strap at the top of the foot is the final layer of security.
Shimano AM902 Details
• Speed lacing system
• Asymmetric padded collar
• Lace shield
• Extended cleat adjustment range
• Colors: black, navy
• Sizes: 36 - 48
• Weight: 522 grams (per shoe, size 45)
• MSRP: $160 USD
There's a wide range of possible cleat positions, with plenty of room to get the cleat further back towards the mid-foot. There's also a channel in front of and behind the cleat that's designed to help make it easier to clip in by guiding the foot into position.
The AM9s are available in black or navy, in sizes 36-48. MSRP: $160 USD. Performance
I've had these shoes in the rotation for the last six months, which means they've seen the whole range of riding conditions, everything from Pacific Northwest mud and snow to a couple weeks of sunshine and sharp things in the Arizona desert. Shimano's shoes typically fit my feet very well, and these were no exception, although the fit is a little narrower than it used to be. I had some discomfort around the sixth toe area early on in the testing period, but they eventually broke in and that faded away. All the same, riders with wide feet may not get along with the fit.
Along with being slightly narrower than previous versions, the sole is also stiffer, even though Shimano still gives it a 5 on their scale. That extra stiffness is actually a good thing – it allows the use of pedals with a smaller platform, and keeps them comfortable on longer rides. There's still flexible enough that walking around off the bike feels natural, and there's enough grip that it never felt like I had ice skates on my feet.
The durability has been excellent, and considering how many hours I've spent in them they've held up very well. Other than a few wear marks around the ankle cuff there really aren't any indications of the hard life these shoes have had. That hard life included plenty of mud baths and rainy rides, which is where the AM9s have the edge over shoes without a lace cover. Although they're not waterproof, and deeper puddles are going to dump water over the ankle cuff, that cover does a good job of providing a barrier against moisture and mud, and even when they're fully saturated the AM9s don't retain that much water. Toe to Toe: Shimano AM902 vs Bontrager Rally
Shimano's AM9 shoes and Bontrager's Rally shoes both fall into the same enduro / DH / do-it-all shoe category, and they're close in price, so it's worth taking a moment to see how they compare. Weight:
The Rally shoes are lighter than the AM9s by a whole 50 grams, a difference I didn't find to be noticeable in the slightest. Fit:
Fit is obviously going to be subjective, but the Rally shoes have a roomier toe box, and more padding around the ankle cuff. I'd say the Rallys feel closer to a skate shoe, while the AM9s have a slightly more performance-oriented fit that also happened to be slightly less comfortable, at least for my feet.
The Rally's sole height is a little bit taller, which does dull the pedal / shoe connection feel a little bit. It's like the difference between wearing extra thick wool socks versus thin cycling socks – the Rally shoes have a more 'muted' feel to them.Weatherproofing:
Neither shoe is overly airy, but on warmer rides the AM9s have the edge due to their better ventilation and thinner padding. That thinner padding, especially around the ankle also means the AM9s are quicker drying and soak up less water in general than the Rally shoes.
Very well constructed +
Quick drying, lace cover provides weather protection+
Excellent pedal compatibility, especially with Shimano pedals
May not work well for riders with wider feet