Wednesday, 25 April 2012

2013 Shimano Zee

Alongside its new Saint components, Shimano has also announced another gravity-oriented group pitched at a lower price point. It's called Zee, derived from "zero" apparently. "ZEE will give their riders a sense of freedom when they hit ‘zero gravity’ on the extreme trails!" it says here. Let no-one say that Shimano isn't down with the kids.

This isn't the first time that Shimano has launched affordable freeride parts. Hone was launched the year after the original Saint into a similar position, with a similar axle-mounting derailleur and through-axle hubs. Like the original Saint it was only a partial group, and never really took off -- other than the rear mech, the rest of Hone was a bit too much like the same year's LX group with a lick of black paint.

Zee, though, looks like a much better effort, being a lot closer to Saint in spirit. Here's the full lineup:

Taking a closer look at the various bits and bobs, it's clear that Zee has most of the useful features of Saint -- it's very much as SLX is to XT, which is no bad place to be.

Zee mech looks broadly similar to the Saint one with a short cage and Shadow+ anti-chainslap goodness. Rather than Saint's close-or-wide ratio adjuster chip you have to choose a cage angle at time of purchase depending on what cassette you want to use, though. There'll be 11-25 or 11-28 for DHey stuff or 11-32/34/36 for more all-round use.

Zee shifter. Not much more to say about it, really. Saint-style longer levers, two-way release, I-Spec compatible so it can share a clamp with a brake lever. And there's only a right-hand one.
Zee's brakes are again superficially similar to Saint's, although the lever doesn't have a handy adjuster knob. Four-pot caliper has the same differing-diameter ceramic piston magic as Saint but you don't get finned pads or cool-running Icetech rotors. Both of those can be added later if you want, though -- the calipers are compatible with the Saint items.

Single-ring chainset looks quite a lot like the current Deore crank -- it's certainly not as single-ring specific as Saint. You get a steel axle and pedal inserts, though, with a choice of 34, 36 or 38t chainrings.

Front hub is only available in 100x20mm, while the rear can be had as 135x10/12, 142x12 or 150x12, which covers most of the bases.
No word on weights or prices yet, although I'd expect it to be somewhere around SLX money when it goes on sale in July.

Commercial Break
Browse Shimano components at Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Evans or Merlin.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

2013 Shimano Saint

Shimano's Saint group first appeared for the 2004 model year (which means it was seen in the spring of 2003) and represented the first sign of the component giant taking freeride and downhill seriously. Or at least perceiving it as a market big enough to be worth making things specifically for. Not many things, though -- at first Saint wasn't a full group, just hubs, a rear mech, brake calipers and chainsets. It didn't have its own brake levers, or a shifter, or a front mech, despite having a triple-chainring option.

Saint has acquired most of these things over the years, though. And the 2013 group has some very interesting innovations. No triple chainset, though. Or a double come to that. Here's the full lineup:

Pretty smart, I reckon. Here's a closer look at the individual parts:
Yes, it's a brake rotor. Not interesting, you say? Try this -- developing the triple-layer IceTech design, Shimano has added cooling fins on the inside of the rotor. The aluminium sheet from which the fins are formed is sandwiched between the steel braking surfaces. Shimano reckon that these rotors run 50 degrees C cooler than the existing ones. Which is a lot. 

This is the rest of the brakeset (shown here with a regular rotor), with updated levers following the current XTR/XT/SLX etc design. Still a four-pot caliper, now with finned pads too. Shimano says, "The new SAINT  brakes  have  the stopping  power  of  a  pine  tree  without  the  lengthy stay in the hospital" -- hopefully the modulation's a bit better than that analogy would suggest.

The new Saint mech has some interesting features. It gets the Shadow+ anti-bounce clutch gizmo that helps keep the chain leaping about the place, which is a welcome addition. There's also an internal bumpstop so it won't clatter off your frame, and a removable spacer round the back that modifies the parallelogram angle to work with either trail-friendly 11-32/34/36 cassettes or Saint's new DH-oriented close-ratio 11-23/25/28 setups. Which I quite fancy on an XC bike -- old school!
After feedback from World Cup racers like Aaron Gwin and Gee Atherton, the new Saint shifter has longer levers and reduced shifting effort. You'll also find all the current Shimano shifter magic -- Instant Relase, Multiple Release and 2-Way Release. So that's several gears at a time, in either direction, with different digits, quickly. 
A chainset. Lighter than the existing one, steel axle and pedal inserts, single ring only (34, 36 or 38), available for 68/73 or 83mm BB shells. That's about it.
Finally, Saint has new pedals. This is just one, the other one looks the same just the other way around. Shimano's clearly been paying attention to the way flat pedals are going -- this one's low profile, concave, with replaceable pins.
So that's new Saint. It's a lot more focussed now, with just a single ring and those close-ratio cassettes. And it's bound to work well. Available in July, it says here.

Commercial Break
Browse Shimano components at Chain Reaction Cycles (extra tenner off this weekend!), Wiggle, Evans or Merlin.