Shimano has produced pretty much every component that you could imagine when it comes to drive train in every category. One of the Unsung heroes of their component lists though has to be the ZEE Group set. Aimed at gravity riders, the performance price ratio is a key feature of ZEE components. We tested over the last year the ZEE Crankset, one part of the group set. We tested mainly on Enduro Trails around the Enduro World Series trails in Punta Ala.
Testing cranks might be considered a bit strange, by the fact that there is not a lot one can do with them to test them. Well the best thing to do is to ride them, then ride them some more and see how they stand up to everyday gravity trail use.
Shimano were obviously thinking of this when they designed this crank set, built of Aluminium alloy in a robust configuration, the aim was to create something that lasts.
The crank arms themselves are not hollow tech, so they do carry a small weight penalty compared to say SLX or XT cranks. The finish though is pretty good and still gives a feeling of quality.
Due to the intended market of ZEE being gravity based the cranks can only be set up in a single ring format. The included chain ring was a 34T ZEE ring, but we swapped this out for out 32T front ring to match our 1 x 10 set up, It is possible to fit a bash ring to the outside, just no small inner ring. So it’s big or bigger if you want to use it as a 2 x 10 setup. Shimano do not quote any weights, due to the nature of where these cranks are supposed to be used. We did not weigh them, but compared to other components we have used they are on the higher end of the scale. Our bike set up though did top in at 13.4 Kilos with pedals, so they did not add any huge penalty to our ride although a lighter crank set might eliminate a few hundred grams..
On the trail
We rode this ZEE crank set in all conditions all year and have experienced all types of situations including hitting rocks, pedalling uphill, jumping, changing pedals frequently and just generally using the crank system to the limit. It was considered our workhorse part of the bike. We did not change the bottom bracket all year and washed the bike frequently.
The cranks feel stiff with their steel axle and smooth when pedalling and gave good feedback through our carbon framed bike. We did not feel any perceptible flex or movement. Also when riding the trail we did not even worry about if we hit rocks or crashed into anything. We just took it as it came, normal trail riding and Enduro. We can honestly say after 9 months on the bike these cranks have lasted incredibly well. Even the paint finish has remained fairly well compared to other cranks we have tried in the past. With regard to rock strikes, we have had other cranks bend in the past with the slights kiss of a rock on the trail, in this case we did not notice any distortion or perceptible damage from collisions, these cranks are tough.
The bottom bracket lasted well and also demonstrated no signs of excessive wear, obviously this depends on the prevalent trail conditions in your area, if its wet and muddy all the time, it will make the bearings suffer no amount of sealing will keep all the dirt out. Saying that they are still smooth and have not required any adjustment.
Swapping pedals frequently also showed the threads lasted really well, being steel inserts we noted that there was no wear despite numerous pedal changes and dirt in the threads. The reliability of these crank threads was without fault.
Shimano have done an excellent job with their ZEE cranks. The price for performance ratio and reliability is very high and if you are a rider that hurts/takes your bicycle to the limit frequently then these are really one of the top choices of cranks to consider. Tough and dependable, exactly what we need in the gravity segment.