Shimano Zee Brakes - Review

Aug 21, 2013
by Mike Kazimer  
Shimano Zee brakes

Shimano Zee Brakes

Shimano's Zee gruppo has been touted as Saint's little brother, and for good reason. Many of the features from Shimano's high end freeride/downhill group have made their way onto the Zee line of components, but at a lower cost. The Zee hydraulic disc brakes are no exception, sharing the same four piston caliper design as the Saint brakes, but without the tool free lever reach and stroke adjust, and priced $70 less, at $229.99 for the caliper and lever (rotor not included).


Details
• Dual diameter, four ceramic piston equipped caliper
• Short, textured lever blades
• Mineral oil
• Weight: 306 grams (front brake, caliper and hose without mounting hardware).
• MSRP: $229.99 (single caliper and lever)
Construction
The Zee brakes use a short, textured lever blade designed to maximize stiffness. The texture comes from numerous small circular indentations, a feature intended to improve grip in wet, slippery conditions. A split clamp design allows the levers to be removed without taking the grip and shifter off the handlebar, and the lever reach is adjusted via a 2mm hex key located at the front of the lever.

Shimano Zee brakes

The Zee brake's levers are compact, with a slim mineral oil reservoir and a dimpled lever blade to prevent slippage during wet weather.


The brake caliper uses four ceramic pistons, with a larger diameter pair located towards the front of the caliper to improve modulation. Ceramic is used because of its insulating properties, which helps protect the system from overheating during periods of extended hard braking. Shimano has made heat management one of their top priorities for their brakes, with the ultimate goal being move heat away from the caliper as quickly as possible, helping to prevent the possibility of brake fade caused by an overheated system. The use of radiator fins integrated with the brake pads is another step Shimano takes to keep things cool and controlled. Since Shimano sells their rotors separately from the lever and caliper, riders could choose to use the Saint-level, three layer ICE rotors if they wanted even more heat management technology. We tested the brakes with Shimano's two piece RT66 rotors, rotors that fall in line with the more budget conscious intent of the Zee gruppo.

Shimano Zee brakes

Four ceramic pistons, with a larger pair in the front, provide the brake's stopping power.


Installation
Installation was quick and easy, aided by Shimano's excellent pad clearance, which makes getting a rub-free setup a no-fuss affair. Because of the short lever design, we ended up running the levers positioned closer to the grip than what we're used to with offerings from other manufacturers, but there was still enough room to position a shift lever or dropper post lever in between the grip and lever if necessary.

On The Trail
The Zee's full power doesn't hit you over the head immediately; rather, it remains in reserve towards the end of the stroke for those emergency, full stop moments. Sure, give 'em a good pull and you can skid to your heart's content, but it's not as immediate as on other brakes we've tried – there seems to be more of a delay between when the pads contact the rotor and when the full power arrives. Don't get us wrong, the power is there, it just occurs deeper in the lever stroke. We've spent extensive time on Shimano's SLX and XT brakes, and where those brakes can feel almost grabby from the start, the Zees seem to have more of a ramp up to their power, with more modulation available before full lock up.

It was on long, committing rock faces and extremely steep sections of trail where speed needs to be controlled without losing traction where the brakes' excellent modulation was most apparent. On terrain such as this the ability to find a balance between locking up the rear tire and careening wildly off into the bush is a must, and the Zee brakes more than earned their keep, remaining fade free even after extended periods of brake dragging. In wet weather the metallic pads were relatively silent, with only the occasional squeal, and the stopping power remained consistent.

As far as overall durability goes, we did manage to have a couple over the bar moments during our time on the brakes, usually caused by stuffing the front tire where it didn't belong, but the levers emerged unscathed, without any bending despite having several solid encounters with the ground. There were only a few cosmetic scratches on the reservoir cover bolt to show for our less-than-smooth moments.

Issues
We've had an excellent track record with Shimano brakes being low maintenance, but we did end up needing to bleed the rear brake after a month or so of use. It started acting up when we traveled to Whistler, exhibiting an inconsistent lever feel, and lacking the power we had come to expect. Luckily, bleeding is a simple procedure, and the fact that Shimano uses mineral oil makes it a much more skin and paint friendly procedure compared to dealing with DOT fluid. How did air work its way into the system? We're not sure, but it's entirely possible that there was still an air bubble or two remaining from when we shortened the line during the initial setup, and that going up 4000 feet in elevation caused it to change position and affect the brake's performance. Again, bleeding was quick and easy, and fixed the inconsistent lever feel.

The only other quibble we had with the Zee brakes is that a tool free lever adjust would be much appreciated. For riders who are particular about their brake lever position, it's especially nice to have the option of quickly turning a dial as opposed to digging for a multi-tool.


Pinkbike's take:
bigquotesChoosing a set of brakes can be a difficult decision, with numerous factors to examine, including price, ergonomics, mineral oil or DOT fluid, two pistons or four... the list goes on. Shimano's Zee brakes strike a good balance between power and modulation, and we'd say their lever shape is the best on the market right now. The use of mineral oil also makes our inner mechanic happy, as does the excellent pad clearance that reduces rotor rub. At this price we would like to see a tool free lever adjust, but barring that request Shimano's Zee brakes are powerful, reliable stoppers that would make an excellent upgrade for riders looking to ditch their two piston stoppers and step into the world of powerful four piston brakes. - Mike Kazimer

www.shimano.com


166 Comments

  • + 89
 so stoked on these, good to see shimano doing some reliable midrange stuff for those of us on a tight budget
  • + 13
 Well said ^^

These are the perfect brake! Rather cheap, numerous interchangeable parts, stopping power for days, plenty of modulation, and super durable! I've got them on my DH rig and have no plans of taking them off!
  • + 26
 But I wonder why zee hasn't got tool free lever reach adjustment. This feature is available even in much cheaper slx brake... Sorry I know already. It would make zee too similiar to saint- pure marketing.
  • + 5
 tested them on a friend bike. I want them to replace my formula the one and their sh***y levers. But I have to wait a month or two, it's hard to resist.
  • + 31
 £146? for one brake? Not exactly my idea of a tight budget. What I don't get is, If you are well off enough to spend £146 on a single brake why not get saints? Its not as if they're actually that much more (In fact I saw saint brakes for the same price)
  • + 6
 i know right, branding this sort of stuff as affordable on a tight budget baffles me
  • + 8
 Bought my M820 Saints for £140-145 each, Zees were only £20 less
  • - 1
 just use slx levers? pretty sure the volume is the same...
  • + 1
 Yeah my saints came in at £280 with cooling fin pads
  • + 47
 With all the respect why would anyone need tool free reach adjustment? Tremendous majority of people set it and forget it.
  • + 1
 hahah WAKI you got in there seconds before me. Tool free adjust sucks! especially for something you will only ever set once
  • + 1
 Is that you Jesus 2.0? Will you give us the 5th gospel, specially for mountainbikers? We knew we were the chosen ones!
  • - 1
 I can't believe no one comments on the stupid amount of throw these brakes have. Both the Zee and the M810/M820 Saints require the lever reach to be set unreasonably far away so that they don't hit knuckles or grip when they finally engage. Everyone I know either deals with the flaw, or claims they "prefer it that way". I'd much rather levers that I can set closer to the bar and engage within a short distance. Also not a fan of the fact that these brakes will leak any excess fluid out of the reservoir caps until they settle back to their "ridiculously long throw" setting. Yes I own them (Zee currently, Saint in the past), yes they are bled correctly, and unfortunately they are currently on my bike. The days of reliable Shimano brakes are sadly long gone.
  • + 7
 l just can't believe that they come without a rotor. That instantly takes the price from $219 to $260-280
  • + 7
 Cause you can get a cheap or pricey rotor. Ice tech is the shit. And shimano is boss, avid = shit.
  • + 7
 selling brakes without rotors makes more sense on the stocking/selling side. how many times have you gone into the shop and thought, man i wish they had this in the other color... same thing with brakes, "i'd buy that brake in the case if it was a 203 instead of 180"
  • + 8
 I allready have a dozen of rotors on a cardboard box, so I don't really care if they come without.
  • - 1
 I have two sets of Zee brakes, on my DH and AM rides. I love them, but I also hate them.
Pros:
1] Awesome Modulation
2] More pressure equates to more stopping power
3] Good lever length
4] Quality material (Hasn't broken or bent from crashes)

Cons:
1] Inconsistent bite point
2] Hardest brake bleed ever (Bleeding my car brakes are easier).
3] Mineral oil is quite expensive
4] No bite point adjustment
  • + 1
 mine are really great. however i did notice that i did get a bubble in them after about 1 month of use but again that's probably my fault from when i shortened the lines when i first got them. besides that they are the best brake on the market, really easy to bleed, super comfy lever, and very powerfull. oh and for those who are saying that its the same lever as slx they are not even close!
  • + 10
 1) shimano brakes are the easiest brakes to bleed on the market. Try again, if not, don't try working on your bike ever.
  • + 1
 @Waki if trouble start to happen halfway a long ride (hit the hose or brake it, pads get worn, air in the system), at least, I want to be able to have control of the point of contact of the pads. Btw Im really picky about the feeling of my brakes. For me saint look ideal
  • + 5
 For all of you worried that the price is too high, you have to shop around a bit. There's a new online store called TBS Bike Parts that sells the Zee brakes for $149 and you can get the Zee rotors for just $25.
  • + 5
 Mine felt great after I bled them, but fluid started leaking out around the reservoir and the lever feel quickly went to shit (i.e. all the way to the bars). Anyone else have this problem?
  • + 2
 @abzillah hardest brake bleed ever??? Are you kidding??? I mean, turn 2 bolts, using a syringe and clean all things is that hard?
I don't know on what point exactly it was hard for you but for me it's probably the easiest brake to bleed(I had SLX, but the system is the same)
  • + 6
 OMG Jenson USA has these brakes for $129.99!!!!!, Just ordered my self a pair... can't wait!!!!
  • + 2
 killer brakes!! although i splurged for the new m820 saints...
  • + 2
 Just checked TBS Bike Parts and it looks like they got the Zee brakes down to $128. Such a sick deal!!
  • + 4
 i have Saint and Zee. the Saints are totally solid, the Zee have been problematic. leaking fluid, inconsistant, etc. if you can swing it, get the Saints.
  • + 7
 To the people saying their brake levers go all the way to the handlebars, bleed the brakes. To the people saying they are too hard to bleed... Learn to bleed your brakes! If the lever feels like it has more throw than you want, a little trick you can do it remove the wheel and don't put anything between the pistons or brake pads. Remove the reservoir screw and pull the brake lever while adding in a little brake fluid. When you release the lever it will pull a little extra fluid in. This will set the pads closer to the rotor therefor requiring less pull on the lever.
  • - 2
 Wow, my comment is neg propped... Oo some pinkbike users raised a whole new level of dumbness...
  • + 12
 Wow Aksel31 - you have one negprop now - call me I'll tell you how to deal with -145 on one post, and -500 in total under one article.
  • + 9
 Waki, maybe if you weren't a moron, you wouldn't get neg propped so much
  • + 2
 No matters anyway, i just noticed that somes have neg propped a fact, but hey, we are in Democracy, so let it roll! Smile
  • + 1
 @NittyGritty I know, that's exactly what I do. But a pretty large amount of fluid seeped out of the lever and made them useless. How good is shimano with warranties?
  • + 1
 @ahembomb, I have never dealt with Shimano directly as I go through QBP for all my needs. But did the fluid seep out while riding and under pressure? Make sure the little bleed screw on top of the lever has the O ring around the screw...
  • + 1
 I bought saints, to get sure I buy a good set of brakes, but know i feel Zee's would be enough, cause the free stroke adjustment does nothing noticeable on the brake, but, the cooling finned metallic pads are so great that me who brakes a lot after 5 bike park days they are just a little bit worn, i think they will be good nearly 2 seasons for me.. Smile
I will buy a Zee crankset in this month, they are in excellent price/value range too
  • + 1
 If you put too much oil in shimano's current levers it will pour out from under the reservoir cap when you pull the lever hard until there's the right amount. The only thing you can do is bleed them with the bite point adjust right out then screw it in after...
  • + 1
 Well said... Just like to add u can also pump the leaver while the reservoir screw is out, this will pump all the air out & just add more oil, easy as......
  • + 60
 I've got these but I couldn't tell you if they're any good or not because I don't brake.
  • + 7
 If you can stop to let a pretty girl cross the road when you cruise at 1000km/h in town they are good brakes.
  • + 31
 No tool free leveradjust for me please. Less adjusters means less to break. What makes Shimanobrakes so great, is the fit, forget, go ride.
  • + 32
 Better get me some of zees
  • + 0
 i zaw what you zeez there.
  • + 8
 People seem to like what they Zee with these brakes.
  • + 22
 These should be sold in Canada with the name "Zeds"
  • + 16
 The most important thing is SRAM have nothing to do with these brakes! Rock on Shimano. The whole Zee groupset is spot on. Resently tried the new SRAM Trail 4 pot on a brandnew 2014 Nukeproof mega AM at the launch show, the levers went straight to the bars! ZEE all the way!!
  • + 46
 That's why SRAM riders r so fast......
  • + 4
 Haha lol, i thought they had skills....
  • + 1
 nothin wrong with my sram Trail 4 pots?
  • + 11
 if you like them thats fine, after all England has world class medical care...... so should be fine ! I prefer Hope M4's but only because the ambulance takes 30-40 minutes to show up....
  • + 0
 That's probably because the stroke was adjusted to have a long throw. Either that or the reach adjustment was all the way in
  • + 9
 Lol, @Justincs, do you often choose your bike parts according to the skills and the speed of the med cares?? Anyway, choose what you want, since you're happy riding it! Wink English people always do the opposite of the common sense, so there must have lots of avid brakes outta there!( attention please, this is just a joke, i don't want to repeat the mistakes of Napoleon..^^)
  • + 3
 @slamman, don't judge any product exclusively by a test on a demo bike, they get hammered and the mechanics don't have time to make sure everything is working properly. I have a pair of Elixirs and they are fantastic and Sram service is great too. (I snapped a brake at crankworks and the guys in the sram tent gave me a new one, upgraded to elixir 7 from 5, free of charge.)
  • + 1
 Ohhh, that story is interesting! Good guy SRAM! Smile
  • + 4
 sram derailleurs rock ! Sram brakes are real proper shite !!!
  • + 14
 Thought about 'em, then just bought a pair of Saints used on this very website for $200 for the pair and put in new brake pads. I love all the hand-me-downs from all the cool cats who what this years newest thing!
  • + 10
 I bought the Zees this spring, my friend bought the Saints, I can't feel the difference in power, they're both really powerful brakes. He can do both bottom up and top down bleeding, gets the finned pads as standard and tool free-adjustment of the levers (which does have to be done quite often on the Zees to keep the lever feel consistent) is useful on the Saints. Just done eight days in the Alps on my Zees and didn't feel them fade once, even at Champery which is an exercise in constantly scrubbing speed. It only takes quite a deft touch on the lever so I don't get sore hands/forearms half as much in braking bumps as I did with my Hope V2s. Very impressed.
  • + 11
 The review failed to mention that the finned padsgp for about $70 per pair.
  • + 4
 I like Zee. It's awesome high end stuff that's understated in appearance and relatively easy on the wallet. I'm not a big fan of strapping all the top, WC standard stuff to my bike, I want the performance without the "Look at my mega expensive gear" look, and Zee seems perfect.
  • + 3
 I ran XTs on my trailbike for over a year, then switched to Zee when I built my new bike. I love the Zee so much it was the first thing I put on my DH bike when I got it. I dont think the Zee are any more powerful than the XTs, but they sure do modulate a ton better. In dry loose conditions it was VERY easy to lock up the rear with the XTs. They have a very ON/OFF feel. The Zee on the other hand can be feathered very easily and ramp up more smoothly to full power. XT=light switch, Zee = dimmer switch.

Zee can be found for $230 a set if you shop around, and that's not much more than XTs go for. Plus the all black Zee look much better than the shiny chrome XTs!
  • + 5
 I've also had problems with my Zee's with a inconsistent lever feel. I thought they were great brakes untill the problems started.
  • + 2
 Have you ever tried spacing your pads in closer. Shimano brakes require this to counter pad wear...
  • + 3
 not yet. But i did pump more fluid into the system to push the pistons out to reduce the pad contact. It worked and both brakes felt equal in bite point and were solid and were amazing brakes again. It seems to be a problem for the front brake (for me anyway). But after two rides the front brake lever started to pull closer into the bars again. and are not used that hard any more because i took them off my DH bike and are now on the heckler. I personally think their are defects with the reservoir. I'm fairly experience with hydraulic brakes (I'm a motorcycle technician).
  • + 3
 So many confused people here.

Greater pad area does not affect power. It gives longer pad life.

4 pistons do not inherently have more power than 2 pistons. Piston area is what matters. If the master cylinder piston remains a constant and a 4 piston caliper with 4 smaller pistons has the same area as a caliper with 2 larger Pistons, power will be the same. Usually a 4 piston caliper has more piston area thus more power.

Different sized Pistons are not used for better modulation in a 4 pot setup. The trailing piston will be larger for one reason..... For more even pad wear. Different sizes pistons have nothing to do with modulation.

The Zee brakes do have considerably more power than XTs. Take a look at piston area between the two and they share the same sized master and you have your proof. XT, XTR, SLX, and Deore all have the same power. Only the Zee and Saint brakes have more power than the rest. The only variable is the lever.

Rotor size, pad type, and rider weight should always be mentioned when comparing brakes but somehow the most important information is usually left out.

EVERY Zee brake I've used or installed has needed a bleed. That's only 4 with two of them on my personal bike but still..... I bought my front and rear separately from different vendors and my friend's ZEEs were from yet another vendor. We had the usual inconsistent bite point and feel. The culprit was a bad factory bleed but not so bad it was immediately obvious. The brakes are amazingly consistent now on both bikes.

Shimano mineral oil is NOT expensive. It's $20 for 1L. This is enough for one person for a lifetime.

On the subject, Shimano mineral oil has a boiling point of 536F, beating out even DOT 5.1 minimum spec (518F) and destroying DOT III and DOT IV.
  • + 2
 The inconsistent lever feel will be due to pad wear. The master cylinder isnt big enough to cope and means once your pads get past half way the lever needs pumping or the set up needs bleeding. my dad had this issue in france and thats what we were told by one of the mechanics up in the alps. Its apparently a very common problem out there and causes big issues with replacing pads even more often than normal. I managed to wear my formulas pads down to the metal in pila with no real issues felt at the lever. i will however say that the zee's feel a nice brake but after the issues on dads my next brakes will be more of italy's finest.
  • + 5
 I used SRAM many years. I bought this year brake Shimano ZEE. I am very satisfied. ZEE are the best.
  • + 4
 Too be honest. My v brakes on my worlds fastest dh bike can stop me quicker than a baby thrown at a wall. I'm not going near those disk brakes. It's a goocher man
  • - 2
 *to *world's no
  • + 1
 if you're looking at full retail price comparing Zee to Saint, there should be a pretty damn noticeable difference. full Saint brakes at dealer cost are freakin expensive. Zee brakes are an awesome way to get into powerful Shimano brakes without spending the money on Saints.
  • + 1
 I have these brakes on my 2013 Ghost Cagua 7000. Being a heavier rider (16.5 st) the stopping power is immense and as the review suggests is a nice gradual braking application allowing nice control on technical decents but pull on hard and they stop very very fast. Even with continued heavy braking on long DH sections I have experienced no fade what so ever.
  • + 1
 I love these brakes! Well, I assume I love them. Ive run saints and these are pretty much the same just without the tool free adjust. No tool free adjust is an upgrade if you ask me, you set them once with a tool, and then they stay there forever, or until you sell them. What is the point in being able to adjust your lever reach on the fly????? my hands dont change size while im riding. Tool free adjusters are the worst thing to happen to mtb in years if you ask me. just another thing to snap off, self-adjust or just get fiddled with by some bell-end just before your big race. allen key adjusters ftw
  • + 1
 I've been using those brakes for 2 months without any problem, including long DH descents. The only thing that I don't like is that you need lots of lever travel for them to start working. I finally used spacers on the pads to avoid that much travel. Without the spacers the lever comes too close to the handlebar.
  • + 2
 I thought about buying these, but JensonUSA has the Saint M820 on sale right now for $180 a brake front or back, you CANNOT frigging beat that price for brand new Saint M820 complete w/o rotors!!!
  • + 2
 They also proportionate savings on the Zee on sale for $129. That $100 is a big deal to some people.
  • + 3
 Very true, I had to think hard about before hitting the "submit order", hundred is no penny change.
  • + 2
 Wot brakes would be better these new zee brakes or a set of formula rx's? I have rx's and when I say stop they stop super powerful, I couldnt imagine a brake being more powerful.
  • + 1
 I had saint stuff all round for years, wanted to freshen the whole set up when i got a new frame so i bought ZEE everything except brakes as my old brakes were still ok. I could not be happier with the Cranks, drive train etc. Brakes are DEFF the next on my shopping list! Thanks for the input folks!!!!!
  • + 1
 Can anyone explain what the heck is I spec A and I spec B and hot does that afect the brake? I´d like to buy a couple of these, but I heard some people ended up changing the complete groups on their bikes having to invest quite some.

My shifters are sram5, rear derailleru SRAm 7 (9 speed)
  • + 1
 i spec is like sram matchmaker, if you're using sram shifters don't worry about i spec
  • + 1
 you mean I can use the Zee just fine with the SRAM shifters?
  • + 1
 You can use Zee brakes, but not the rear mech, they have different actuation ratios. Just stick to X0 DH or something.
  • + 3
 Got these brakes and we all carry a multi tool anyway so bollox to the tool free adjustment. Great stopping power and very reliable.
  • + 1
 As someone who's owned Hope tech levers, I've realised I couldn't give a fuck less about tool free lever adjustment, it's just one more thing to snap off in a crash. Loved the feel of the hopes, but I'm using shimano at the minute and plan to continue doing so.
  • + 2
 Only thing with these is the cost of new "fin" brake pads....if they was alot cheeper or let other companys make them also sales of this group set and saints would go through the roof..
  • + 3
 Go to one of the German online retailers such as bike-components.de. About half the price.
  • + 1
 What realistic advantages does using 4 pistons have over the XT or SLX's 2-piston design for an AM rider? I ask because I seem to see a lot more enduro riders using XT and SLX brakes on the EWS. If 4 pistons is a quantum leap over 2, then why are less people using it?
  • + 5
 AM riders demand less power for less amounts of time than DH, and modulation is more important than raw power for them. Also a slight weight difference.
  • + 3
 Because it is mainly marketing, an slx brake with a 203mm ice tech rotor will be just as powerful as a zee with a 160 or 180mm stamped rotor and a lot cheaper
  • + 18
 4 pot brakes have a lot more power than 2 pots. I have XT's on my VP-Free, my mate has Saint 4 pots on his. Admittedly, the XT's work well, in all conditions, but the Saint's are of another magnitude of power altogether, awesome stopping power, true one finger braking. My mate needs 'em, cause he's a huge fat bastard, lol.
  • + 1
 Thnx for this good information.
  • + 6
 More pistons does not necessarily mean more power. There is a whole lot more at play than piston count when making brakes powerful.
  • + 1
 The main reason for the extra stopping power is the increased surface area of the pad in contact with the disc
  • + 6
 Sladevallydh - you won't be a good atheist, you're bad at physics. There are different types of Friction but one in brakes responsible for braking power has nothing to do with surface. It is type of touching surfaces times force squeezing them together. Larger contact in brakes has to do with heat dispersion and pad wear so only indirectly has something to do with braking power.
  • + 4
 The most important part of the braking system is the tyre on the wheel, don't forget that.

Anyway, about power in brakes. Some basic hydraulics for you... Force = Pressure x Area. It doesn't matter how many pistons there are, the force exerted on the pads depends on the pressure generated at the lever and the total area of the pistons.
  • + 1
 I think what sladevallydh was trying to say was given that the amount of fluid displacement and leverage at the lever are the same making the pressure at the pads the same. Yes bigger surface area on the pads will make the breaking force go up. If you simply add 2 pistons to a caliper without increasing the fluid displacement at the lever then you will effectively half the breaking power. He q
Was assuming all this when he said bigger surface area=bigger bite
  • + 1
 Ok... I read a thing and two and I don't get that shit at all... as myothercasrsa2cv writes: braking power (pressure acting on rotor through pads) is dependent on force generated at the master cylinder (Force applied on master cilinder section) and then the section of the piston. Now I get it that larger piston generates less pressure on rotor than small one given the same force at piston, it's like with gears. that explains modulation. You get smoother and more precise feel if the piston surface is big. Got it. Another bit, by using 4 small pistons instead of 2 large ones, you can keep pad surface shape low, thus you don't need two different rotors for two different brakes, and such wide braking surface on a rotor would be hideous anyways, check Hope V2 - got it...

Now having both XT and Saint, both with metallic pads and same size/type rotors, knowing that both share same levers thus force at master cylinder is exactly the same, how the hell 4-pot Saint feels stronger? It makes no sense, Help me Science full of Experimental Grace, blessed is thy Logic and so is the fruit of your womb: Reason
  • + 1
 Your right, friction force is independent of surface area, but my guess is that they use 4 pistons is to have a more consistent pressure on the pads, improving feel and modulation
  • + 1
 Pretty sure you just answered your own question. Even application of pressure over a bigger surface area = more friction. Aka stopping power. What is it you don't understand?
  • + 5
 @WakiDesigns - The answer you are looking for is hydraulic leverage. The smaller the master cylinder piston for a given slave piston surface area, the greater the power. The larger the slave piston area is for a given master cylinder area (this is the case with XT vs Saint/Zee), the greater the power also. It is for this simple reason that Saint and Zee brakes generate greater power - they use the same lever pistons as smaller brakes, with larger total caliper piston area. The larger pads help heat dissipation but do not contribute to the power difference.

The problem with both of these leverage-increasing scenarios is that to gain the higher leverage, you also need more throw - which is why these brakes suffer from an excessively long throw as I detailed above, NittyGritty is completely incorrect above when he claims that bleeding will resolve this issue - it will not, as that would defy physics. Overfilling them is a very short term solution that will decrease throw to moderate levels, but that fluid will soon leak out of the reservoir topcap. At equilibrium the Saint and Zee brakes will ALWAYS have a longer throw than the XT/SLX items due to basic hydraulic theory - no matter what you do, they will revert to this scenario over a short time. Of course if this doesn't bother you - ride on. I've owned every generation of Shimano 4-pot brake and unfortunately I don't think the M820/810/640 are perfect, better engineering could reduce throw while maintaining power. Lever leaks are also very reminescent of Avid, and a departure from past Shimano reliability. I hope Shimano keeps working on their product as it has high potential.
  • + 1
 @Uuuu Thanks man!
  • + 1
 @K-59 I have had exactly the same problems with my zee. Air always seems to get into the system and cause the inconsistent lever feel others are describing. Other than this I love the brakes but I am now having to bleed the brakes to make them feel ok. 1-2 rides later it's back to the same spongy feel due to air ingress.

So I was thinking of a set of hope e4 or maybe v4s - Can anyone comment on the these brakes stopping power and modulation, specifically vs the zees?
  • + 1
 I have the previous version of the saint brakes and it is so enough that I don't have any reason to replace it. I am using 203 and 180mm steel rotors without any ice technology. This is a heavy bike, with a heavy rider during heavy riding. The brakes gain heat to become very hot at the bottom but it is really not neccessary to check it with fingers. Heat can deteriorate braking efficiency, but I haven't noticed it much using my brakes. It is good to let the brakes cool down between braking spots instead keeping the levers tight throughout the entire trail.
  • + 0
 Okay so I bought these brakese around two weeks ago and was pretty stoked. I used them very rarely in the past two weeks, as its cold as f*ck. Then, my back brake suddenly became extremely soft. Fine! I guess I'll service them. Then, one day later, teh back brake suddenly became 100% soft, meaning that it just didn't work. I tried bleeding it, following the official guide, but obviously that didn't work either.The first time I decided to buy a product new and not second hand, it decided to officially ruin my weekend, and probably the following. I could try a professional brake bleed, but thats around 50 euros, which is basically the price for a single brake. What the heck? How un-reliable is this shit?
  • + 1
 My wife's bike got an upgrade with the Zee. She is absolutely satisfied. This brake system works perfect and the price is good even it's a little higher than some other brakes in this class.
  • + 1
 I'd like to know where can I buy those icetech brake pads, coz I have the new saint brakes Icetech and it doesn't have in any store the replacement pads!!! Include in Brazil!!!!
  • + 1
 i have these brakes, the rest of the guys i ride with have saints, all 10 of them haha. but these are more than enuf to handle anything, one thing though change the pads to metallic D02S and youll be laughing !
  • + 0
 I couldn't fork out for the full system so I bought the levers and put them together with my xt calipers, then bled them with baby oil. They work a treat but the clamp bent in a crash. My mate snapped the clamp on his saint lever, so that split design is convenient but flimsy. To adjust reach on the trail, I use my red rebound adjustment knob from my rockshox fork. It has a 2.5mm allen key inside. If you don't dislike the looks, I'd say go for slx and 203 discs. That will be an unbeatable vfm setup. Zee has a better colourscheme though. The stroke adjuster on shimano is useless, but the reach adjuster is a good feature, especially if you don't have rockshox.
  • + 2
 baby oil? why?
  • + 2
 Baby oil is mineral oil plus fragrance and I couldn't find any mineral oil here. I've been doing it for two years, you can't tell the difference.
  • + 2
 Everything ok with Shimano brakes at up to 0 degrees C, below the oil thickens
  • + 1
 Just purchased a set of these, front and rear for approx £180. Search around and you can get them at a bargain price!

Good to see a glowing review!
  • + 1
 Where from dude?
  • + 1
 They should put fins on the brake lines! Call em Ice lines. My god nothing worse than my brakes being less efficient when the fluid heats up. I hate that. Perhaps those cute lil gimiky fins are for lock up or extreme brake fade caused by the brake fluid getting above boiling point. The fins are dumb . The brake works great.
  • + 1
 Do those fins on the caliper really add a measurable amount of heat reduction? Not bashing anything, just purely want to know.
  • - 3
 Yah, those fins help with thermal dissipation. It increases the efficiency of the stopping power (means the energy taken out with the fins is >> then the energy taken out without the fins).. Come to think about it the fin design is actually pretty smart because the amount of thermal energy built up within the pads themselves when braking is pretty substantial.
  • + 4
 The fins don't add efficiency to the stopping power, they increase the surface area for heat to dissipate away from the caliper, pads and hose. The less heat is allowed to build up, the better the brakes perform and the better the pad wear.
  • + 0
 But the fins aren't really touching the pads themselves. The pads and disk generate the majority of heat, but how does that heat from the pads go to the fins? Heat transfer through air is nothing compared through to contact, but there is no contact between pad and fin. I mean, are the fins really subject to enough temperature change that their added surface area adds any measurable temperature reduction? Or are the fins dissipating heat from just the overall caliper and that is enough to make the difference?
  • + 1
 Huh? The fins are part of the pads. The backing plate is extended upwards, terminating in the fins. In just two to three moderately hard stops from 20 mph, the fins hit 300F or more. They definitely get heat out of the pads and into the ambient air. Couple that with ceramic pistons and the fluid stays very close to ambient. With its 536F boiling point and the heat blocking/dissipation, fluid boiling and the resulting brake failure should be practically non existent with ZEEs.

Obviously keeping the pads cool via the fins reduces the most common fade, pad fade. As a bonus the pads should last longer if they are regularly pushed hard and heated up. Generally a pad can wear quicker if it's always too cool and doesn't lay down a transfer layer on the rotor but that's rarely the case. More common is excessive wear from excessive heat. In this case, keeping the pads cooler can reduce wear. I'm boring myself so I will go now.
  • + 1
 Will these brakes be compatible with formula rx mounts and rotors? If someone could let me know I would really be greatful thanks
  • + 1
 basically shimano make the best brakes, SRAM makes the most smooth and positive shifting
  • + 2
 Have you heard of this new zee stuff? I hear its pretty good. (Have the whole set up on both my bikes) best shifting ever. I switched from xo.
  • + 2
 I have the whole SLX M670/5 2013 groupset, brakes and all but no clutch on my mech. It is all really good stuff and I can't get enough, the brakes will stop on a pin with 160mm rotors, and the cranks are strong as anything, but I went on a friend's 2012 Trek Slash 8, it had and XO mech with X9 shifters, and it felt so positive and smoother than my SLX, obviously it is a rung or 2 up and is more equivalent to XT/XTR but I definitely prefer it to mine. I guess its all down to preference though as I really didn't like his Avid Elixir 9 brakes in comparison to my SLX's. So I suppose I do prefer Shimano to SRAM as an overall groupset, but that is just my opinion.
  • + 1
 Very nice brakes, These things are almost powerfull enough to stop a medium sized motorbike. I wish they came in white.
  • + 1
 why they dumped radial piston lever action is beyond me, it was cool setup!
  • + 1
 Zee's are great. I've had great luck with them thus far, I personally like them better than saints
  • + 1
 I love it! So powerful compare to my previous elixirs 7, no issue during 5 months using, great rotors!
  • + 1
 I have these brakes and i can onestly say best brakes i have ever owned !!!!
  • + 1
 Is it just a difference in term of materials and weight or the saint brakes better?
  • + 1
 looks good those brakes ......
  • + 1
 I got my saints for $202 + shipping..thank u ecommerce!
  • + 1
 i got the saints M820 for the same price so why get Zee?
  • + 1
 Zee brakes are cool. They have great power Big Grin
  • + 1
 Thank God! This is what i needed.
  • + 1
 I bought some of these and the rock!
  • + 2
 who needs brakes
  • + 1
 These have got to be better then my Hope less brakes
  • + 1
 i can't think of a cheaper 4-pot brakes...
  • - 1
 I'm hesitant on anything to do with Shimano brakes now with all the issues I had on my new Saints.
  • + 6
 I have heard rumours about the probs with saint but shit man these zee's are the bomb they are the best brakes ive had my whole life definatly recommend
  • + 6
 Really, heaps of problems with Saints? You've obviously lucked out man, Shimano brakes have a 'best on the market' rep when it comes to their reliability, power ain't bad either. I've had 4 sets of Shimano brakes, since the early 2000's, and they were all very reliable. Sure they weren't set up wrong, or somehow defective?
  • + 2
 Defective most likely..

For starters, the brakes let air into the system too easily ( I had it bled twice btw, each time it had an air bubble in the line)

Secondly, I had very inconsistent bite points and a brake that completely changed how it felt half way through a run and the levers were WAAY too stiff, to the point it hurt my damn fingers and had to brake two fingered to get any power out of it.

I ended up having to bleed it for a 3rd time but brought the pads in closer to the disc for a better bite point which resulted in them been too sensitive and twitchy. But most likely putting them back a bit more would probably result in stiff brake leavers and inconsistent bite points again.

I never had any issues with my old pair of saints.

Also, I'm not an isolated case. A lot of other people have had the same issues as I did..
  • + 1
 They don't "let air in". Every symptom you described is related to a bad bleed. It reminds me of what happened when I tried to bleed without pushing the pistons all the way in with the bleed block when I was being lazy.

It doesn't matter how many times you "had" to bleed them because they were never done right. When I begin having those sorts of repeating issues I step back and try to figure out what I'm doing wrong because it's probably human error on my part.

As I've stated before the factory bleed on the ZEEs sucks. It's good enough that some don't recognize they need a bleed so they trash the brake on the internet for an inconsistent bite point or excessive travel.

I know it's easier to leak air than fluid but don't you think that if these brakes let air in so easy even though they're not under vacuum, they might possibly leak fluid when the brakes are applied and the lines are under a couple hundred psi?

Changing how they feel part of the way through the run can be the friction coefficient changing as the pads heat up. It can be from a master cylinder that's overfilled from someone trying the very bad method and bandaid gimmick of "resetting" the pistons and topping off the fluid.

I guess it really gets under my skin when people don't understand something so they blame the product and never doubt their own knowledge and skills.
  • + 1
 I don't know man, but you'd think after the second bleed they'd have figured it out.
  • + 2
 They definitely do let air in, I have had 3 new sets of Zee brakes on warranty from shimano now and every single time the same thing... Install brakes, use them once, leave my bike hanging in my my garage. Then when you come back next week, air bubbles galore, and you find you have a nice spongy and completely useless set of brakes, woooo hooo! awesome way to waste 3 months and too much money. And these are pre-bled and I have not cut the lines down yet either, so it can't be me bleeding them badly or anything like that either.

I suspected it might be something to do with the way I store my bike as it seems to happen while the bikes in storage between rides. So I asked Shimano the second time I returned a set if hanging your bike vertically from it's front wheel, like on an uplift, would cause problems or air to get in? They said no and gave me a new set of brakes again. Then the same thing happened so I did a search for similar problems with Shimano brakes. As far as I can tell Shimano brakes have a tiny release valve/hole in the caliper that can let air in/out. Usually when you are riding the bike is upright so the hole is at the lowest point on the system and air doesn't get in. But if you turn the bike upside or store it hanging from the front wheel, the valve is then at the highest point in on the system and air gets in!!

So as much as I love the lever design, look and feel of these brakes, the fact of the matter is if you store your bike vertically or upside down, you can forget it. Unless you really really like bleeding your brakes regularly, like every single ride! So now I've learned to love the feel of the zee lever, but have no choice but to get rid of them and find something else, which I really don't want to do, I really really wish I had never read any of the reviews for the zee, and unless I move and start storing my bikes upright again I will definitely not be buying anymore Shimano brakes!
  • + 1
 @ K-59 my zee's have been exactly the same. Their power and modulation are amazing but they constantly feel spongy at the lever and accumulate air. I bleed all the shimano brakes I have in the same way, others are xt and have no problems.

After a year of putting up with this I'm thinking of a new brakes altogether as I've not seen any remedies.

Can anyone make any direct comparisons between the zee and hope e4 or hope v4? In particular comparison of power on extended descents, modulation and lever consistency?

I'm worried the e4 might not have the same stopping power which I really like about the zee...
  • + 1
 @marvintheandroid: Mine too on my DH bike I store hanging from the rear wheel as don't have room to store it propped against a wall. I bleed them, ride them all fine great brakes. I hang the bike up then when I next get it down rear (front is always fine) will pull to the bar. I bleed again ride and it's fine. My bike I use the most I don't hang up and that has Zees as well and I never have any issues, they remain consistent. Definitely something to do with how the bikes stored.
  • + 0
 I dont always use brakes, but when i do i prefer avid codes
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