Review: Shimano Saint M820 Hydraulic Disc Brakes (2014)


You have in front of you Shimano Saint’s 3rd brake generation, announced in 2012, and released in 2013. Compared to the previous iteration, everything got revamped, starting from the levers and all the way to the calipers and pads, the manufacturer improving them in all regards: quality, performance and durability.

The levers follow the new Japanese design, even if they’re among the last to do so. Even if it didn’t make enthusiats fall for them, they allowed Shimano to introduce the Servo Wave technology that implies less efort in actuating them, and enough space for 2 fingers. Therefore, Saint delivers maximum braking power just by using a single finger, but credits for this feat should go to the calipers and their 4 pistons. Extra grip is ensured by the shape of the lever, while modulation allows excellent control of the power, dosing it according to your intentions. Also, you can set the distance between the lever and the handlebar by using the screw found on the component.

On the other hand, even if Saint includes 4 pistons per caliper, they do not act as brute as the Magura MT7, therefore gaining serious points as far as we’re concerned. You can choose how much of their power you want to use and they do as you wish, everytime, with no exception, and you don’t even need time to get used to them or learn their ways.

Shimano fitted the brakes with all its available technologies, beginning with the fast-cooling pads and finishing with the Ice-Tec 203mm-diameter rotors, all with the purpose of dissipating heat as quickly as possible. In real life, they do help, but we reckon that as long as you don’t push them to the very edge, like a top-level mountain bike competition would, you won’t actually feel the diference too much, because they’re built so fine from the start. We actually had a hard time trying to get them to the point of fading, and utterly failed in the process. However, we think weight-weenies won’t be very happy about the gram count, as the Saint M820 weigh 493 grams/piece, w/ 203mm rotor included.

The metal pads are as good as new even after about 50 downhill runs, so it’ll take more than this to wear them off, most likely their thick body helping a lot in this respect. Another positive aspect is that even after a year of using them, they do not require bleeding or other servicing operations, the quality that made Shimano famous being present here as well.

On short, the new Saint brakes are an excellent product, reaching a performance level consistent with a top-level component. It’s no wonder that most Downhill World Cup riders put their faith in these Saints, and if the price might deter you from buying them, you can also opt for the Zee, which is close to them in terms of performance, but lower in terms of price.

Weight: 493 gr (disc 203mm)