"A user-friendly brake with ample stopping power and a very bank account friendly price tag."
We think of Shimano Zee as Shimano Saints younger brother. It essentially shares the same genetics but has a few differences in order to keep the cost down. Shimano Zee brakes are aimed at the downhill racer who doesn’t want to break the bank but still wants high end and reliable performance.
We wanted these on our long termer, they were our first choice. Everyone knows just how good Saint are, they are high end, high spec, high price. But often the budget minded kit gets overlooked and can be seen as a stop gap until you can recharge up your credit card sufficiently to buy the top end stuff you really want, but we reckon Shimano have nailed it with the Zee and found the right balance of price, performance and quality.
The Zee brakes share the same four piston calliper design as the Saint so stopping power shouldn’t be lacking, particularly if you are upgrading from two piston set-up. Out of the box they brakes are immediately striking and like the rest of the Zee kit available they don’t give away their low price point. The super short lever blades particular look the business particularly with their textured surface, designed to aid grip in less than dry conditions. Nice little extra feature. Lever adjustment is achieved with a 2mm allen key rather than a tool free adjuster, which isn’t something that’s going to cause sleepless nights.
Rotors aren’t included in the set-up so bear that in mind if you buy a set of these. We opted to fit a set of Shimano RT81 Ice-Tec Rotors, although we will be fitting a pair of RT66 Rotors at a later date to compare and to keep in line with the budget credentials of the brake set.
Fitting was simple and we had no issues at all with obtaining a rub-free set up. The hoses did need shortening and using Shimano’s bleed kit the process is very simple and hassle free. We did consider using the tried and tested no bleed technique and it does indeed work well but we wanted to ensure we gave the brakes a fair test with their performance optimised so a full bleed was carried out during the hose shortening process. With the bleed kit, the whole process takes a matter of minutes and the included barb fitting block with each brake makes the worst part of the procedure very simple.
When it comes to brakes, jumping from different brands or indeed from different models within the same brand can be a shock to the system. You become so used to the feel of a brake, its nuances, good or bad that initial runs on new brakes can be an unpleasant affair. Minimally I was expecting the first runs on the Zee’s to be exactly that – unpleasant. Waiting for them to bed in firstly and then finding the sweet spot without throwing myself over the bars or into some trees – the usual experiences for me with new brakes. Up to this point I’d been using Saints and Avid Elixirs on the trail bike. Very different but equally very comfortable.
As I braced myself for my initial runs on the Zee’s I was surprised just how natural and flawlessly useable they were. Unlike my first time using Saints and finding myself bouncing my brain on the inside of my skull every time air touched the lever, the Zee’s didn’t have that super hard hit but instead had a far more progressive stop. They certainly have plenty of power but not the punch of the Saints. They are unquestionably a user friendly brake which will forgive you of your over zealous braking moments. Pull on the lever hard and they will stop you dead but where the Saints require an excess of finesse to get the best out of them the Zee’s can tolerate a heavy handedness (or Fingerdness) without chewing you up and spitting you out. Which is what, for me, made them such a great brake. They are so easy to use. For experienced racers and riders they will give you all the stopping power you need but for novice riders they won’t do anything to scare you either.
So far they’ve only been used on short downhill runs of less than 2 minutes but we’ll be getting them on some longer trails to see how they hold up.
On first impressions Shimano seem to have got the balance absolutely perfect. A user-friendly brake with ample stopping power and a very bank account friendly price tag.
"High power and great value"
Shimano's Zee brakes is the ultimate cost-effective stopper. It uses an almost identical four-cylinder calliper to Shimano’s flagship Saint brake, and actually fractionally outstopped its more expensive sibling on the dyno.
ServoWave cam leverage gives outstanding modulation and the extra pad retraction simplifies set-up. While you don’t get finned Ice Tech pads as standard, heat tolerance is still fine and you can always upgrade.
You can add conventional or Ice Tech FREEZA radiator rotors to the £109.99 brake or run your existing kit. Inside-edge hose routing plus Allen key reach-adjust make it uplift tough, and huge power and control plus easy upgrading make the Zee brake a bargain too.
"Almost the same smoothly delivered heavy-duty power as Saint for a much lower price"
SHIMANO'S 'MINI SAINT' brake offers serious stopping power but it's expensive for the features it has. The Zee lever is a rebadged SLX unit with the same short crooked dimpled lever but swaps the external reach adjust knob for a more crashproof Allen key adjuster.
The chunky four-piston calliper at the far end is almost identical to Saint except that it's cast rather than forged. You get almost the same smoothly delivered heavy-duty power as Saint for a much lower price though. The extra pad retraction of the Servo Wave lever cam means more clearance and easier set-up than most four-pot brakes too. You don't get Ice Tech pads (which you get with cheaper SLX) and Ice Tech sandwich rotors are extra too.