As some of you have probably seen on my Facebook page, I’ve recently upgraded to Shimano Zee brakes ahead of the final round of the Italian SuperEnduro series (www.superenduromtb.com), so I thought I’d share first impressions with you all.
I’ve been running Magura Louise BAT Carbons on 203mm Superstar floating rotors (F&R) all season – they are a phenomenal brake with loads of power and modulation, but sometimes, particularly at the end of a long enduro race or uplift day, I started to find I struggled to get enough pull on the lever and avoid arm pump or stiffening up, despite all the work I have done with James Wilson’s strength programme this year. The final decider came at the Mondraker Gravity Enduro in Exmoor, where I could definitely have braked later if I had been using a brake with a bit more top end power, and so carried more speed through turns.
With Italy coming up, it made sense to make the upgrade ahead of the final SuperEnduro round so I had time to get used to them – and all I can say is wow! What a revelation these brakes are.
Zee sits just below Saint in the Shimano gravity line up – think of it as an XT to Saint’s XTR but for bikes that point down. Brakes and rear mech in particular are VERY similar to the Saint version, so much so that it’s hard to justify the extra expense of the big brother.
The Zee brake is a 4 pot version, with ceramic pistons and the same Servowave system as in the XT Trail, Saint, SLX and other Shimano brakes. It doesn’t have the £30 a pair finned pads of the Saints, but if you are mad enough and rich enough, you can fit them. Levers are dimpled for grip and sit beautifully. You lose the toolless reach adjust of the Saints, but realistically, once it’s set (with an allen key), it’s set anyway, so no great loss!
I’m running my brakes with Superstar white hoses and Superstar sintered pads (they use the same pad footprint as the 2012 Saint and 2013 Saint too, so are easy to source) – fitting the hoses and bleeding was super easy and they bedded in nice and fast.
Power is like nothing I have ever ridden before – but it’s not grabby, there’s tons of modulation and fine control, but when you need to drop anchor, believe me, the power is all there! The combination of the extra power, Servowave cam and well designed lever shape means that the action of braking hard remains in your fingers, rather than being something that transmits to your arms, stiffening you up & making you unstable.
In short, these really are the best brakes I have ever used – and at under £150 an end, even in my slightly pimped configuration, they’re a steal!