- Shimano Saint brakes
- £69.95 (160mm); £79.95 (203mm)
The quoted prices look cheap, but don’t be fooled. Until the 2005 Saint stuff arrives there’s no such thing as a Saint brake lever, so you can’t buy a fully-assembled brake – you’ll need to add the price of a lever, hose and fluid and possibly whatever a shop charges to put it all together. Doing it yourself is reasonably non-scary, though, and worth doing if only so you know how to bleed them. Shimano uses not-too-unpleasant mineral oil in its brakes, so it’s tricky to do too much damage to anything. We assembled the calipers to a pair of XT levers, but they’re compatible with any Shimano hydro lever. An XT lever and cuttable hose is going to be an extra fifty quid an end, so the price isn’t all that alarming.
There’s not actually anything hugely innovative about the Saint brakes. The calipers are essentially the same one-piece, two-pot design used by the XT and XTR groups. The rotors are different by virtue of being bigger, both in diameter and the size of the Centerlock fitting – the use of a 20mm axle up front means that the splined mounting has to be larger, so XT/XTR and Saint rotors aren’t interchangeable. You can choose between 203mm and 160mm rotor diameters. We’d anticipate that most people will opt for 203 up front, but not all frames will take such a big rotor at the back. You’ll need to take a bit of care with the big rotors, too – they’re quite easy to bend if you just chuck frames and wheels in the back of your car willy-nilly.
To get the calipers in the right position, there’s a range of brackets to suit various rotor diameter/caliper mount combinations. The caliper itself is a direct fit on 74mm post-mounts if you’re using a 160mm rotor up front, but anything else will need an additional bracket. Setup is as easy as we’ve come to expect from post-mount style calipers – loosen bolts, pull lever, tighten bolts, done.
The calipers come with both sintered and resin pads. You’ll get better stopping power from the resin pads but save them for dry conditions, they disappear quite quickly in the grot. With either pad option they’re pretty mighty stoppers, though. We’ve always liked the feel of Shimano brakes and the Saints continue the tradition. They’re firm at the lever, which is easy to mistake for abruptness, but fine control is very easy once you’ve got used to them. 203mm rotors at both ends is probably overkill for most sub-Alpine applications, but you certainly don’t have to pull the levers very hard…
The brakes’ versatility is enhanced by the continued availability of suitable six-bolt rotors – you can happily run these calipers on the old XT 160 or 203mm discs and you choice of hubs.
Positives: Stonking power, great feel, lovely finish
Negatives: Price starts to add up if you need six-bolt rotors
Verdict: It took Shimano a while to come into the disc brake market, but it’s hardly put a foot wrong. The Saint brakes are powerful, controllable and reliable. Works for us.