Big news from Shimano today, the company has launched a completely overhauled Saint groupset, designed for downhill riding and racing, and introduced Zee, a more affordable version of Saint.
Saint gets Shadow+
Let’s start with Saint. It’s been around for getting on a decade now, and is the groupset designed specifically for the rigours of extreme riding, which in most books means downhill racing.
The new Saint was developed extensively with Aaron Gwin and Gee Atherton, the feedback from these two demanding riders proved invaluable input “hat was critical to improving SAINT on the race course."
The main changes centre around Saint going to 10-speed – well it was only a matter of time wasn’t it – and the inclusion of a Shadow+ rear mech, following the success of the XTR Shadow+ rear mech. The derailleur has a switch at the pulley cage to activate a stabiliser that counteracts the forces of up and down chain momentum in rough terrain.To change the rear wheel the switch needs to be in turned ‘off’ position.
Shimano also added a bump stopper to the rear derailleur to reduce hitting noise. Should lead to a lot less dropped chains and a much quieter ride, as the chain won’t be slapping against the swingarm at all. The mech can be switched between a downhill ratio setup (11-28) or freeride (11-32).
With the extra gears comes the need for a new shifter. The shifter action is 37% lighter, claims Shimano. The paddles are a little longer now too: the main lever is 6% longer and the release lever is 10% longer than the current M810. Multi-Release has been added which means you can shift multiple sprockets at a time, and with 2-Way Release technology you have the option of pushing or pulling the shifter paddle, and Instant Release to shift gears as soon the lever is activated.
Finally, there’s a new chainset. They claim it’s lighter now at 919g. It seems the weight savings have come about with a revised four-arm spider. A new steel axle and steel pedal inserts have been added to give added durability. Chain ring options will be 34t, 36t and 38t.
Ice Tech carries over from XTR to Saint. A 203mm rotor with a radiator fin should dissipate heat much more effectively, with the sandwich construction of the rotor and the new cooling fins (how cool do they look?) combining to cool the rotor an extra 50 degrees Celsius. The four ceramic pistons of the calliper help to lead to 20% more stopping power
A very similar lever design to XTR looks great, in our books. Allows for easy one-finger braking, reach adjustment via a nicely knurled dial on the front.
And lastly, a brand new flat pedal design. The MX80’s are a replacement for the old DX pedals and the main changes are that they’re lower profile and wider. The concave shape of the DX has been pushed even further on these new pedals. A nice improvement on an already good pedal.
- SAINT shift lever (SL-M820): 123 gr.
- SAINT shift lever Ispec (SL-M820-I): 114 gr.
- SAINT rear derailleur (RD-M820): 280 gr.
- SAINT crank (FC-M820): 919 gr.
- SAINT brakes (BL-M820 + BR-M820): 302 gr.
Can’t afford Saint? Say hello to Zee
For 2013 Zee is the new little brother to Saint, offering much of what Saint offers but with less impact on your bank balance. If anyone here remembers Hone, a previous attempt at Saint on a budget, well this is a replacement for that groupset. Should help to make affordable off-the-shelf downhill bikes more commonplace.
The rear mech is about half the price of Saint, but you still get the important Shadow+ technology. It does lack the B bracket rubber bump stop, but that’s of a minor consequence in our books. It’s 10-speed too like Saint, but doesn’t have the mode (downhill to freeride) adjustment that changes the cassette capacity.
There’s a Zee shifter to match the rear mech. Very similar to Saint but doesn’t have multi-release. Still offers 2-way release and I-Spec integrated mounting.
The new Zee cranks come in at a pretty reasonable £110 with a 36t chainring and bottom bracket, with crank arm options of 165, 170 or 175mm arms. A solid crank arm rather than Shimano’s Hollowtech technology will obviously ramp up the weight.
Visually identical, the brake levers are stylish look units. They lose the bite point adjuster dial. A ceramic 4 piston calliper makes do without the Ice-Tech fancy stuff. Easier to bleed like Saint too.