shimano zee disc brakes – Review
The Zee groupset is sold by Shimano as the little brother to their downhill race specific Saint. They say “Zee is available at a price that even guys with a part–time job can bankroll.” Maybe true of the crankset at £110 (SLX being £155), but the same can’t be said of the brakes. XT brakes are £110 per end, but these Zee brakes are £145 each (Saint and XTR are £195), so the group as a set is difficult to peg in relation to Shimano’s more usual offerings with the prices spread about between other trail and XC based groups. Not so much of an issue of choice if you’re a downhill only rider, I guess.
DIRT ISSUE 133 – MARCH 2013
Words by Rick Twomey. Photo by Ben Winder
Whatever, the brakes themselves are based on Saint with some detailed machining missing from the caliper and the free–stroke adjuster from the lever, but that’s it. So, you still get the four ceramic pistons in the calipers and nice dimpled, short, servo wave assisted levers. The ceramic pistons help to prevent brake fade by stopping heat passing back into the caliper and hydraulic fluid. The dimples on those lovely dinky levers are nice and tactile and do seem to give a little extra grip in the mud that we’ve had for the past four seasons.
They were set up Euro style with the front brake on the left when I picked them up, so this gave me a good excuse to check the reports on how easy these are to bleed after swapping the hoses over. And they really are quite simple. With the proper little funnel it was a 10 minute job and with the brakes using mineral oil there was no risk of taking paint off my bike too! One–way bleeding for the win.
So, despite them being aimed at more downhill orientated biking I’ve been using them on my trail bike. The weight of these brakes is excellent in comparison to XT and SLX, so to have them on a trail bike may seem overkill at first glance, but there aren’t any trade–offs in the weight department. These weigh 310 to 330 grams depending on front or rear hose length, and I weighed a set of SLX on my old kitchen scales and there was nothing in it. XT is slightly lighter, but there’s certainly less than a packet of crisps between all three in terms of weight for both ends together. Pretty good for a 4–pot set–up.
In use they have a deftness of touch with plenty of power. Arm pump should be a thing of the past as the Servo–Wave system adds the extra punch and sensitivity with a gentle pull of one finger. When I dropped the brake in for the photos, it was pointed out to me that there’s a very faint resistance in the first few millimetres of lever movement. Back in the bike shed I had a go, and yes it was there if I pulled the lever really slowly, but I’d never felt it out on the trail. Even though I know it’s there now, I still don’t feel it when cranking…
I’ve been spoilt with these brakes. No weight penalty but superb power and modulation with increases in power just a gentle baby squeeze away. Confidence inspiring precision with no niggles and a doddle to bleed. What more do you want from your brakes?Price: £144.99 each (incl. levers, calipers and hoses)