The Good: Powerful in all conditions, durable and quality built. Bleeding them is a breeze
The Bad: Perhaps weight compared to some of the new SRAM stuff especially with the carbon levers and they are pricey ( but you get what you pay for)
I've been running the Saint brakes for 2 seasons now and have had no issues whatsoever. As most reviews mention, these brakes have a crap load of power and I totally agree. These brakes definitely give you a bit extra confidence coming into corners fast or letting off the brakes on steep sections as you can be confident that when you dab the brake the stopping power will be there. This extra power also helps a lot with arm pump, by only needing one finger to use the brake it really reduces the amount of arm pump – at least it does for me. I’ve ridden Whistler on Hayes brakes and then on the Saints and the difference was quite drastic in both stopping power and arm pump as well.
There has been some feedback from people that the modulation is not as good on these as with the Avid’s but I don’t really find that to be the case.
In terms of quality these are definitely best in class and are built with Shimano tested quality. I’ve crashed on several occasions and the levers are still in place and there is no play in the lever whatsoever. The brakes are simple with no extra gimmicks besides the free stroke and lever reach adjustment which I personally don’t use too much but they will be handy for riders that like to setup a more personalized feel to the brake and also to allows to move the lever farther or closer to the bar if required.
Changing pads as with most other brands it pretty easy, just have to unscrew the safety pin and then push out the pads.
One thing I would recommend when changing the pads is to not skimp out on the cheaper sets or other brands pads, stick with the original Shimano Saint pads as I chose the cheapo route and the pads just didn’t feel the same and wore a lot faster than the Shimano brand.
In terms of bleeding the Saint brakes, this is one area where I think Shimano has really raised the bar in terms of ease. To bleed the brakes all you need is Shimano brand mineral oil and a hose + a cup for the old oil plus a couple of small tools, there is no need to fancy tools, syringes or any complex steps. I just recently bled the Saints myself and it literally took me less than 10 minutes to bleed both front and back brake. I didn’t even have to remove the pads (which is probably not recommended) but they are so easy to bleed. Essentially all you need to do is open the brake cap and pour in the new oil while the old oil comes out via the hose at the caliper. I’ve bled Hayes and Avid’s before and it took way longer and they ended up feeling worse than before with a spongy level whereas the Saints were painless to bleed and worked like new afterwards.
Price: Yes they are expensive but they are comparable to all the other higher end brake sets from brands like Avid, Formula or Hope.
Overall Summary: I think any of the higher end brake sets at this price point will work similar and will provide loads of stopping power but things like the quality, durability and consistency of these brakes is what separates them from the rest. Add the bonus of a easy bleeding process which is so much more user friendly than the other brands and you get a really great brake that will last you a couple of seasons. Can’t wait to see how the new Saint brakes work.