Shimano Zee Derailleur and Shifter Review

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Zee derailleur porn…

What is it?

This is a 10 speed derailleur and shifter aimed at the budget conscious All Mountain/Gravity rider. It incorporates a lot of the features of the higher price Saint line up [ie. clutch and durability] at a lower price point.

Weight = 270g [derailleur] & 142g [shifter w/ cable]

Cost = $64 [derailleur] & $42 [shifter] – costs from CRC

Zee rear view...

Zee rear view…

How was it tested?

I’ve been running this derailleur and shifter on my Santa Cruz Nomad since January this year. I mated them with a 10 speed cassette with a 36T big cog and a 32T chainring on a Shimano SLX crank. I also used a MRP chainguide to assist with chain retention and to protect the frame/chainring from impacts.

My gear range with a 11-36T cassette and 32T chainring with a 26 x 2.4″ Continental Trail King tire = 24″ – 78.5″.

Zee shifter porn...

Zee shifter porn…

Shifting

Disclaimer I am not a shifting snob. I hear people discuss the finest details and sensations they get from their drivetrain and I just don’t get it. All I care about is that when I click the shifter I get a solid fast shift. I also don’t like ghost shifts or drivetrain noise.

On all these fronts the Zee setup works great. You can shift up to 3 gears towards the bigger side of the cassette in one pull with the Zee shifter and only gear towards the smaller side.

I rarely think about my shifting or drivetrain which is a great sign in my book. It just works.

1 x10 SLX crank and MRP guide...

1 x10 SLX crank and MRP guide…

Robustness

My bike gets ridden a lot in tough terrain year round wet and dry. It gets dropped, snagged on vegetation and crashed. So far I haven’t had a single issue with this setup. No maintenance beyond lubing the chain. No adjustments. No tweaks. Just riding and shifting and more riding.

Clutch On/Off switch...

Clutch On/Off switch…

The Clutch

The main reason I had for trying out this Zee derailleur was to get the benefits of a clutch. This is a mechanism that stops the derailleur from bouncing around as you pound down the trail. The result is minimal chain movement and quiet drivetrain. This should also help with chain retention, but since I am using a chainguide I did not test that aspect of the system.

I like this clutch mechanism and can’t imagine going back to a non-clutch derailleur. The lack of chain slap is very nice.

You can turn the clutch on or off using the gold switch shown above. I have yet to turn it off. Can’t see why I would.

Zee shifter...

Zee shifter…

Construction/Finish

The Zee derailleur looks solid and well made. It looks like the derailleur Batman would use if he was a mountain biker! The shifter on the other hand looks and feels like a generic low cost plastic gadget. It works just fine, but you’ll never find yourself admiring the design or construction.

Given the cost and functionality I have no issues with how the Zee derailleur and shifter are built.

Shifter another view...

Shifter another view…

Options

The Zee derailleur comes in a wide range [max 36T] and narrow range [max 28T] version. I bought the wide range version to use with an 11-36T cassette. If you are a DH type you might want the narrow range version.

You can use the any Shimano 10spd shifter if you want more bling on your bars or already have some parts in the spares bin.

Nomad with Zee...

Nomad with Zee…

Zee Links

A another Zee shot...

Another Zee shot…

Bottom Line

If you want a tough reasonably price drivetrain Shimano Zee is worth a look. It’s hard to beat the functionality, ruggedness vs. cost here.

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3 thoughts on “Shimano Zee Derailleur and Shifter Review

  1. Can totally confirm that. Running it 2×10 (FR B-Link that allows for large cogs in the rear) with a 34t cassette + 22/36t chainrings using a slx front derailleur. Works perfect, as long as you are focused enough to not use the largest 3 cogs with the big chainring resp. the smallest 3 cogs with the small chainring (cross shifting? that what you’re not supposed to do anyway). Finding the correct chain length is a bit of a try out though but since it’s done, it works perfect. Had no issue so far, is not noticable at all and the clutch is awesome as you said. Also the shadow profile puts the derailleur reight beneath the chainstay and doesn’t stick out to the side. The short cage allows for more ground clearance, which was my first intention for getting it.

    cheers, Andi

  2. I bought a Zee derailleur and shifter last month based on this review, Vik, and I have to say that I am completely happy with it. I now have a 1×10 with a 12-42 cassette. The Zee doesn’t know that’s not in the factory range. It shifts up and down crisp and smooth. The shadow design keeps it all neat and tidy. The clutch erases chain slap, too.
    My only complaint is that the chain falls off the 42 tooth cog when I backpedal. What the hell am I doing backpedalling?
    I love the Zee.
    Thanks Vik.

  3. Sandy – glad that’s working for you. I’m also running a 42T cog with my Zee [Wolf Tooth GC]. I had back-pedalling issues using the stock B screw, but when I installed the longer B screw that came with the 42T cog that solve my problem. How it all works depends on your chainline and geo of your derailleur hanger so YMMV.

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