Shimano Saint: Big Air in Whistler

Shimano hosted press test rides on their new Saint component group in Whistler last week. Whistler Bike Park to be exact. Lift assisted downhill mountain biking, yessir.

The plan? Journalists (And I use that term loosely) bring a frame, fork, shocks, and cockpit. Shimano to install the drivetrain and wheels. Well, actually, we scribes did a lot of the installing ourselves, thus becoming intimate with the parts and the way they attach to the bike.
Bike Dialing c/o Shimano
Being gravity-bike-challenged, I did not have a suitable seven-or-eight-inch-bike on hand, so thanks to Kona a Stinky was borrowed for the occasion. Since Kona provides the official rental bikes for Whistler, and they are located right down the road (construction) in Vancouver, it seemed like a natural.

So let’s get down to business. Shimano’s Saint group has been updated to address the needs of gravity riders. It has been discovered that the gravity set needs their bikes lighter as well as stronger, so this is what Shimano has been working on since the first Saint introduction in 2004.The rear derailleur now enjoys the low-profile Shadow configuration, which tucks the mech inboard, reducing the chance of being smashed on rocks. This means that guys who used to carry spare derailleurs in their backpacks might no longer need to. img_2788.jpgPlus, the derailleur is not attached to the axle as in the last version of Saint, this results in a 100 gram weight savings and much more flexibility with it’s conventional mounting method. This mech was a big hit when I brought the bike to the local shop for a little shock adjustment. It’s also worthy to point out that the spring is stronger and the mech is now designed to NOT bang the chainstay anymore. And that it’s adjustable for road or mountain cogsets, making it a good choice for downhill as well as all-mountain (still not sure what that means) applications. Shifters. The two way release introduced with XTR has found itself here. More options, more better. They worked great for me the entire two days of riding. And the positioning is easy and adjustable to either side of the brake lever.

The brakes are awesome. One need not touch them until the last possible moment, resulting in more speed for meeee. The four piston, dual diameter design has more oil in it than the previous version, allowing for better temperature management. On the trails of Whistler Bike Park, they never faltered. And I really liked the easy-to-use-by-hand reach adjustment.

Cranks? Hollowtech II is the buzz. They say 150g lighter, and now available with single (34-36-38-40-42) or double (22-36) chainrings. A matching double-specific front derailleur is also now available in Saint and SLX. While a bashguard is included, we used a E-Thirteen SRS chain retention system, which did just that.

As for the hubs, better seals and wider, angular contact bearings are the order of the day. The centerlock disc mount was easy to use as we built the bike up (had to try several different rotor/adaptor combinations).

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But what about the fun part? The ride? With a solid machine under me, there was nothing left to chance but the rider’s skill. It’s not without a few butterflies that this rider went up the chair for the first run. And there was even more trepidation as I saw Francesco Maggiorelli of Mountainbike World (Italy) break his ankle on the first run (See gallery). But managed to escape unscathed, even improving my jumping skills on Crank It Up trail. Other favorites were Devils Club, Karate Monkey, Ho Chi Min and Heart of Darkness. Thanks to Shimano and Kona.

Click here for the Saint press camp photo gallery.

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