Review: Shimano Zee brakes

Brakes are one of those things that you barely notice when they’re working well, but it’s bloody terrifying when they’re not.

Shimano have made big improvements in their braking line up in recent years, coming up with the best lever shape I’ve used and a new design which features a prominent rectangular reservoir across the range.

Zee brake
I really like the matte grey finish on Zee stuff.

 The Zee brakes are the lower of their two gravity bike offerings, featuring a chunky four-pot caliper and carrying a bit more weight (a shade over 300g for one lever, hose and caliper) than their trail bike offerings.

But what you get in return for that minor weight penalty (SLX is about 290g per end) is a disproportionate chunk of extra power – and even better – much improved modulation over the single-pot brakes.

I’ve been riding a pair for more than a year on my Patriot and they were fault-free for the first six months ago, before the front lever began pulling back to the bar – needing to be “pumped up” so it would work normally again.

This indicates a rogue air bubble in the system, but being a bit pressed for time I held off bleeding them until one day I forgot to pump it before dropping into a steep descent with a turn at the start and promptly came a cropper.

zee caliper
Chunky four-pot caliper.

A quick bleed using the excellent video posted online by Shimano mechanic “Magnus” fixed this and they’ve been fine ever since.

In terms of outright performance these brakes are easily a match for my previous favourites – Formula’s The One – but they seem much more reliable and easier to work on.

And that’s before you get to the fact that you can pick a pair up for £130 to £150 (without rotors).

It was only when doing this write-up that I discovered how close they actually are in weight to the SLX on my other bike, so since I’ve just been paid you’ll have to excuse me while I head off to buy another pair for my trail bike…

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