Shimano AM9 Shoes
With the input of the Atherton clan, Shimano has developed a successor to the AM45 clipless shoe – the AM9. Like its predecessor, it is aimed towards the gravity oriented sub-genres of mountain bicycling – DH, enduro, aggressive trail, etc.
Out of the box, I was impressed by the light weight of these kicks. They’re nearly half a pound lighter than the AM45, and coming from a shoe of similar weight, the difference was quite noticeable the first time I strapped them on. With cleats installed, this pair of size 44 clogs weighs 980g on my scale.
To accomplish said weight, construction is unsurprisingly minimalistic. The sole is quite thin; there’s not much material between the cleat surface and insole, and what’s there is heavily waffled. The cleat plate is open to the inside of the shoe allowing serviceability if it gets stripped out, to the detriment of water sealing – it’s surprising how rapidly water can come through the open cleat holes (I realized on my first wet ride). Adding a bit of Gorilla tape to the inside is in order if you like to splash about.
My feet are of somewhat conventional shape, and they fit these shoes well. They were comfy out of the box with no hot spots. The laces allow for good fit tuning, and the lace cover plus velcro strap keep things locked down. I’d describe flex out of the box as medium stiff – good mid-shank stiffness to the cleat with a bit softer toe for walking comfort. They do soften up a bit with use. I’d give them a medium flex rating now (at least in the realm of clipless shoes). AM9s are than a bit softer than what I’ve used in the past, but they are comfortable on bike and off, and still seem to offer adequate support when putting the watts down. The tread isn’t very deep, but it offers good grip on sloppy walking surfaces.
The extended cleat groove in the sole – called the “Pedal Channel” – is a great idea. Occasionally you get into a hairball scenario where you come unclipped. With a conventional shoe, you’re perched precariously on the slippery SPD mechanism. This groove accommodates the SPD bits, so the sole can grip the outer pedal body and behave more like a proper flat pedal, while the encapsulated SPD mechanism provides extra resistance to slipping off the pedal. Brilliant. Unsurprisingly, the channel fits the shape of my Shimano XT Trail pedals perfectly. There’s also a large range of fore-aft cleat adjustability. I like my cleats a fair bit rear of the ball of the foot, and this gets the job done with room to spare.
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Tron-esque graphics, and I think lace covers look dorky – but they do keep the laces clean, secure, and contained, and the shoe better sealed from the elements. Function over form, I guess. Resigned shrug. The Perry Pro Model would be black on black and would feature a removable lace cover for warmer / drier weather.
They’re nearly half a pound lighter than the AM45, and coming from a shoe of similar weight, the difference was quite noticeable the first time I strapped them on.
I’ve used these for about 4 months and they’ve been solid; no excessive sole wear, and all the glued & stitched connections are still intact. No complaints. The verdict? I like these shoes. My only misgiving being aesthetic, but it’s a subjective nitpick. They’re not completely heinous abominations; I can live with them. MSRP is $179.00CAD / $140.00USD.