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MONTEREY, California (VN) — Shimano calls their new Zee component group the “gateway to gravity” component line, offering much of the technology found on the top-tier Saint group, including ICE Tech discs and a Shadow Plus rear derailleur, at a much lower cost. On initial inspection, they appear to have hit the mark for gravity seekers on a bit of a budget.
Saint gets a bit of a makeover for 2013 as well, with improvements in brake heat and drivetrain control thanks to updated ICE Tech and a new urethane bump stopper on the rear derailleur.
The Zee rear mech gets Shimano’s Shadow Plus tech, which drastically reduces chain slap and improves drivetrain control. We’re huge fans of the Shadow Plus XTR derailleur, and the technology is even more important for gravity riders. Two spec options will be available, one for a standard mountain cassette (11-36), and one for a road cluster (11-23, 25 or 28), both in 10-speed.
The new 10-speed Zee shifters take some of the best features of the XTR shifters and adds them to a more robust package. Dyna-Sys actuation offers a linear shift effort across the gear range, super easy setup, and a 2-way release paddle allows for thumb or pointer-finger shifting. The upshift paddle can move up two gears in one throw whether its being used by the thumb or pointer-finger. New paddle shapes with a deeper scoop should allow for even better control.
The Zee brakes will be four-piston, and use Shimano’s heat-dissipating ICE-Tech. The lever blades are shorter, with a new pivot location and dimpled for better control and ergonomics.
The Zee cranks are thick-wall aluminum for extra durability — low weight is certainly not the goal here. They feature a steel axle that is a claimed 30% stronger than similar trail cranks. Options include single ring 34T/36T/38T; FC-M640 68/73mm BB and FC-M645 83mm BB, and the set is Pressfit compatible.
With a price tag of $820 without hubs (add $160 for the pair of hubs) Zee is at an extremely competitive price point that will appeal to a breadth of gravity and park riders who don’t want to spend as much on stuff that they know they will crash.
With the introduction of Zee, Saint can further narrow its focus on gravity racing. It no longer has to pull heavy trail duty, allowing Shimano to go all-in on performance features and with a price tag of $1,660 before hubs or pedals (add $340 for hubs and $120 for pedals), the group is now for the rider who wants every last drop of performance.
The all-new 10-speed rear derailleur gets Shadow Plus as well as a high-durability urethane bump stopper between the derailleur and the dropout, which drastically reduces impact noise. A super wide rear parallelogram link adds stiffness and stability, and the whole setup can be easily swapped between road and mountain cassette ratios.
The shifters get slightly longer, DH-specific paddles and four (instead of two as on Zee) high quality bearings to reduce shift effort by a claimed 37%. An I-SPEC bracket option will be available to help reduce bar clutter.
The new Hollowtech II cranks are hollow forged “Duraluminum” (whatever that is), and are both lighter and stiffer than the previous version. The single-only setup uses aluminum hardware and is available in three lightweight chainring options (34T/36T/38T) and in two crank sets: FC-M820 (68/73mm BB) and FC-M825 (83mm BB). Both offer Pressfit BB compatibility. A steel pedal insert adds durability at the pedal interface.
Shimano is going all in on the crankset design and we spotted a prototype chain guide, called only Modular Chainguide for now. We spotted the chainguide with no markings. It is apparently the only one in the US. The roller guide is spring actuated creating a smooth and quiet system.
The Saint brakes get an update as well with an improved pad compound that is intended to reduce the initial “bite” and make them smoother across the pull of the lever. The pistons received some upgrades to deal with the overheating, including 30mm longer banjos and ceramic pistons, both of which help isolate the brake fluid from pad and rotor heat.
Shimano is debuting new, wider Saint flat pedals as well. The new flats are 3mm wider with an 8.5mm lower profile, and easily replaced pins. Fans of the old MX30 can rejoice, as the new MX80 retains the same concave platform as before.