The Shimano Saint brakes come at a great price but are harder to modulate than other four piston brakes
Increased stopping power makes brakes run hotter, so heat management is critical. As such, the Saint calipers use steel-backed, vented pads and extra-long hose banjos to help radiate heat away from the caliper.
Shimano’s Ice-Tech rotors are also designed to run cooler, with an aluminum layer sandwiched between two stainless steel braking surfaces. There’s even an option with cooling fins called the Freeza, but it’s only available in Shimano’s Center-Lock.
And it’s not just Shimano’s approach to heat management that makes the Saints special; the two lead pistons are smaller than the trailing pistons, just like on the SRAM Guide.
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This means that the extra power of the bigger pistons prevents the pads from splaying to reduce uneven pad wear. We’ve not noticed this being an issue on brakes with same-size pistons, so it’s probably not as relevant as it is with the longer pads on cars and motorcycles.
At the other end of the brake, Shimano has definitely toned down the ferocity of its Servo-Wave in the lever, and it now offers a much smoother action.
There’s still a lot of dead lever travel, though; the free stroke adjuster is all but useless, and the power ramps up suddenly, making it much harder to modulate than other brakes in this price range. There’s no arguing with the Saint’s price, though.
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