Shimano Zee brakes – first impressions

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!

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11 Responses to Shimano Zee brakes – first impressions

  1. garanhuw says:

    Those brakes sound excellent, what price are they, and if you want to increase your stopping power you should try some DHC organic pads, the saint pads were heavily tested in the alps this year, in the dry and the wet and got a resounding thumbs up 😉

  2. dhmadness says:

    Hi!
    Nice review! It made me buy a pair!
    The thing is that when I installed them the first thing I noticed is that they have quite some travel (servo wave?) and that they feel a little spongy. I like my brakes close to the bars and to byte early but those feel too close to the bar while braking and spongy.
    Do you feel the same?
    I can lock the rear wheel and the front feels firm but I couldn’t test them on a big descent.
    Thank you.

    Nice job!

    • There’s an easy fix! Take the wheel out, fit the bleed funnel to the lever. Put about 1/2 inch of fluid in and slowly pull the lever 2-3 times. This puts a little bit more fluid in and gives that firmer feel you’re after!

  3. dhmadness says:

    Hi!
    I’ll give it a try!
    Should I put the red separator on the caliper or not?
    Thank you!

    • Nope – leave the spacer block out so that the pistons can fully travel – it “tricks” the caliper into a better position this way. Neat little pro mechanic tip I learned! 🙂

      • dhmadness says:

        Fine! Thanks!
        I’ll try it as soon as possible.

      • dhmadness says:

        Hi! I tested your solution and it worked very good! It seems those shimano have lots of travel until pad contact. Now i can have my levers closer but without the pads touching.
        The only thing I couldn’t improve is the feel. It is kind of flexy and although I press it several times it is still the same feel so I start to think that is the normal feel ( if bleed incorrectly they will tighten up)

        Well thanks again!

      • No worries – glad you like them!

        You’ll soon get used to the feel – and all the amazing power means you will end up braking lots less……

  4. milim says:

    Hi,
    nice review. Did you need to bleed brakes as soon as you get them? I saw samewhere that you need to blled them as soon as you get them to get full power.

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