The Good: Tons of stopping power, durable, great modulation, easy to bleed
The Bad: Not as light as some of the new DH specific offering from SRAM
Right out of the box the M820 has a solid look and feel to it, the brake looks very tough and durable and doesn’t have any plastic feeling parts. Both front and rear pre bled hoses come in at very long length, allowing the brakes to fit any bike, I assume even extra-large frames should have no issues with the default hose. Compared to the M810 brakes, these new Saints have definitely shed some of their bulk, both caliper and level are a lot smaller and sleeker, thus helping to reduce some of the weight seen with the old M810s. Installation is a breeze and both removal and installation of the pads is also very user friendly and can be done so very quickly.
The brake includes an easy to use reach adjust nob, that is big enough and easy enough to access even while riding allowing you to customize the level reach while mid ride. The brake also has a free stroke bolt (requires a screwdriver), although I have played around with this I really have not noticed any difference in brake feel.
The Servo Wave level has a very ergonomic feel to it, it’s very compact and has a curve to it that helps reduce the chance of your fingers slipping off the lever. Overall the level feel is very solid and comfortable, and allows for one finger braking.
Riding performance: I’ve had the chance to use these brakes in various conditions and they have performed flawlessly. Regardless if you are riding in super dusty conditions or mud or even snow, these brakes provide tons of stopping power. Some people mention that the Saints lack modulation, that they are simply power ON and power OFF but I haven’t found this to be the case, the M820 offer lots of modulation allowing the rider to brake as much as needed. In terms of long hot descends, the M820 really shine and provide consistent performance and stopping power regardless how hot they get, I haven’t noticed any fade. Overall these brakes offer a lot of confidence on the trails and really allow the rider to push themselves as you know that you will have strong braking power when needed. As with the old M810, the M820 can also get a bit loud in wet conditions, but I think most other brakes do the same so not really a negative but they definitely do howl when they get wet.
Bleeding: This is where Shimano and specifically the M810 really excelled, in the past with the M810 there were times where I didn’t even have to remove the wheels or pads before bleeding the brakes. The complete bleed process could be done in less than 10 minutes. The M820 definitely also allow for a pain free, easy and simple bleed process. The bleed process is a bit different as it requires the addition of a funnel that gets attached to the level and then oil is bled into the caliper but overall the process is very easy and very quick.
Would I recommend the brakes: When I was upgrading my old M810 I knew I wanted to stick with Shimano so it was a toss-up between the Saints and the Zees, overall it looks like from a performance perspective they are both very similar, the Saints however comes in a tad lighter, offer on the fly level adjustments and have a bit less bulk to them on the calipers. Regardless of how much you throw at these Saints they offer consistence braking power in various conditions, modulation and quick and easy bleed process, overall I am very happy with them and would strongly recommend this product.