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Prototype Shimano Saint bits on Aaron Gwin's Trek Session 9.9

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Trek World Racing downhill star Aaron Gwin is hoping for another incredible season this year aboard his Trek Session 9.9 carbon fiber downhill bike.

Trek World Racing downhill star Aaron Gwin is hoping for another incredible season this year aboard his Trek Session 9.9 carbon fiber downhill bike. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Shimano brake levers aren't marked but they're similar to the current XTR Trail models with a new tool-free reach adjust that differs from the consumer version. Note the texture on the lever blade, too.

Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Shimano brake levers aren't marked but they're similar to the current XTR Trail models with a new tool-free reach adjust that differs from the consumer version. Note the texture on the lever blade, too. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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A bit of machining adds some extra finger grip on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Shimano brake levers.

A bit of machining adds some extra finger grip on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Shimano brake levers. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The reach adjuster on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Shimano brake levers differs from the current version.

The reach adjuster on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Shimano brake levers differs from the current version. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The new Shimano Saint brake calipers will apparently work with finned pads, too, but Aaron Gwin doesn't seem to be using them right now.

The new Shimano Saint brake calipers will apparently work with finned pads, too, but Aaron Gwin doesn't seem to be using them right now. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Crankbrothers Mallet pedals are fitted to Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Shimano Saint crankarms.

Crankbrothers Mallet pedals are fitted to Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Shimano Saint crankarms. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is competing with a new Shimano Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur prototype, complete with a friction band-controlled pulley cage for reduced chain slap and better chain retention.

Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is competing with a new Shimano Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur prototype, complete with a friction band-controlled pulley cage for reduced chain slap and better chain retention. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The chunky machined aluminum parallelogram links on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) prototype Shimano Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur has clearly already taken some hits but it seems to be holding up well.

The chunky machined aluminum parallelogram links on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) prototype Shimano Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur has clearly already taken some hits but it seems to be holding up well. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The look of Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) prototype Shimano Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur is admittedly a little rough but we expect production versions to look much sleeker.

The look of Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) prototype Shimano Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur is admittedly a little rough but we expect production versions to look much sleeker. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The large lower knuckle on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) prototype Shimano Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur houses the friction mechanism to control the pulley cage.

The large lower knuckle on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) prototype Shimano Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur houses the friction mechanism to control the pulley cage. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Even the seat stays are carbon fiber on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Trek Session 9.9. The chain stays are still welded aluminum.

Even the seat stays are carbon fiber on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Trek Session 9.9. The chain stays are still welded aluminum. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The Fox Racing Shox DHX RC4 rear shock features a Kashima-coated shock shaft.

The Fox Racing Shox DHX RC4 rear shock features a Kashima-coated shock shaft. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The rear derailleur housing and rear brake hose exit the down tube just ahead of the bottom bracket shell.

The rear derailleur housing and rear brake hose exit the down tube just ahead of the bottom bracket shell. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is among many racers at Pietermaritzburg running a dropper seatpost - in this case, Fox's upcoming DOSS model.

Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is among many racers at Pietermaritzburg running a dropper seatpost - in this case, Fox's upcoming DOSS model. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Trek World Racing team mechanic 'Monkey' Vasquez says Aaron Gwin's shifter pull lever is slightly shorter than normal for better access to the release lever.

Trek World Racing team mechanic 'Monkey' Vasquez says Aaron Gwin's shifter pull lever is slightly shorter than normal for better access to the release lever. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Note the textured finish on the cable release lever on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) custom shifter.

Note the textured finish on the cable release lever on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) custom shifter. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Even the stem is affixed with titanium bolts on Aaron Gwin's Trek World Racing Trek Session 9.9.

Even the stem is affixed with titanium bolts on Aaron Gwin's Trek World Racing Trek Session 9.9. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The center knobs are hand-clipped on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Bontrager tires for more straight-line speed.

The center knobs are hand-clipped on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Bontrager tires for more straight-line speed. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Stanchion stops are built into the tapered head tube on the Trek Session 9.9.

Stanchion stops are built into the tapered head tube on the Trek Session 9.9. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Some Trek World Racing downhill bikes were fitted with more production-ready versions of Shimano's revamped Saint four-piston brake caliper - but with logos blacked out, of course. Note the more open back, two instead of four bolts holding the caliper halves together, and the more sculpted body.

Some Trek World Racing downhill bikes were fitted with more production-ready versions of Shimano's revamped Saint four-piston brake caliper - but with logos blacked out, of course. Note the more open back, two instead of four bolts holding the caliper halves together, and the more sculpted body. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Gwin's prototype Shimano Saint brake calipers are attached with titanium bolts.

Gwin's prototype Shimano Saint brake calipers are attached with titanium bolts. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Shimano sticks with two-piece construction for the new Saint caliper body.

Shimano sticks with two-piece construction for the new Saint caliper body. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The differential piston diameters on Shimano's revamped Saint four-piston caliper is expected to be both quiet and powerful.

The differential piston diameters on Shimano's revamped Saint four-piston caliper is expected to be both quiet and powerful. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The more open back of Shimano's next-generation Saint brake calipers should help keep the pads cooler than the current version.

The more open back of Shimano's next-generation Saint brake calipers should help keep the pads cooler than the current version. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is running a tight 12-23T Shimano Dura-Ace cassette on his Trek Session 9.9.

Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is running a tight 12-23T Shimano Dura-Ace cassette on his Trek Session 9.9. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is running his Trek Session 9.9 in the higher setting at Pietermaritzburg.

Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) is running his Trek Session 9.9 in the higher setting at Pietermaritzburg. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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165mm-long Shimano Saint crankarms are fitted with a single 36T chainring and a custom Gamut guide. According to team mechanic 'Monkey' Vasquez, Gwin prefers the slider block instead of the stock rollers for their improved durability in mud.

165mm-long Shimano Saint crankarms are fitted with a single 36T chainring and a custom Gamut guide. According to team mechanic 'Monkey' Vasquez, Gwin prefers the slider block instead of the stock rollers for their improved durability in mud. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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You can just make out the three different mounting hole options for the new Fox Racing Shox DOSS dropper seatpost remote lever.

You can just make out the three different mounting hole options for the new Fox Racing Shox DOSS dropper seatpost remote lever. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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(Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Twin levers are used on the new Fox Racing Shox DOSS dropper seatpost remote lever so that riders can choose their drop amount.

Twin levers are used on the new Fox Racing Shox DOSS dropper seatpost remote lever so that riders can choose their drop amount. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Trek Session 9.9 isn't intended to be run with a dropper seatpost so like most teams out here, mechanics have to get creative to run the housing.

Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Trek Session 9.9 isn't intended to be run with a dropper seatpost so like most teams out here, mechanics have to get creative to run the housing. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The Trek Session 9.9 frame can be run with either internal or external routing.

The Trek Session 9.9 frame can be run with either internal or external routing. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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A big rubber plate guards the down tube of Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Trek Session 9.9 from rock impacts.

A big rubber plate guards the down tube of Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Trek Session 9.9 from rock impacts. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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New bright blue seals are features on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Fox Racing Shox 40 downhill fork.

New bright blue seals are features on Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) Fox Racing Shox 40 downhill fork. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) wears the number one plate for the opening UCI World Cup round in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) wears the number one plate for the opening UCI World Cup round in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Trek World Racing team mechanic 'Monkey' Vasquez says he's played with hot knives in the past for tweaking tires but prefers diagonal cutters for their greater precision and the sharper edges they leave behind.

Trek World Racing team mechanic 'Monkey' Vasquez says he's played with hot knives in the past for tweaking tires but prefers diagonal cutters for their greater precision and the sharper edges they leave behind. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)

This article originally published on BikeRadar

Shimano isn't set to launch its revamped Saint gravity group until later this year but Trek World Racing downhill sensation Aaron Gwin's Session 9.9 offered an early glimpse at what's to come: a new Shadow Plus rear derailleur, new levers, and new brakes.

As expected, Shimano will bring the excellent Shadow Plus pulley cage control from XTR over to Saint using what appears to be the same friction band mechanism neatly hidden inside a removable molded plastic cover. While downhill bikes already have good chain control with their short pulley cages and full front chain guides, we expect the new Saint Shadow Plus rear derailleur to offer even better control and security along with quieter operation.

Gwin's machined aluminum prototype was admittedly a little rough in appearance but you can still imagine what the final, forged aluminum version will look like. As on the current Saint, we expect well-armored parallelogram plates and a beefy knuckles top and bottom for impact resistance. Just as on XTR, there's still an on-off toggle switch for the cage control mechanism, too, for easier rear wheel changes. It's more hidden away on the prototype version and finished in black instead of gold, however, so it's difficult to see unless you look up close.

The differential piston diameters on Shimano's revamped Saint four-piston caliper is expected to be both quiet and powerful

Also new on Gwin's machine are new four-piston Saint calipers. The new model is still a two-piece design but uses two bolts to hold the halves together instead of four and the backs are far more open for better airflow. Differential piston diameters are carried over from the previous version for both quiet and controllable power.

Gwin's brake levers weren't marked but it appears that he's running either a modified set of XTR Trails or a next-generation set of Saints that will borrow much of their design architecture from Shimano's flagship cross-country and trail group. Key features include the lower-profile layout with an inline instead of radial master cylinder, adjustable pad contact, adjustable reach, hinged clamps, and textured aluminum lever blades for a bit of extra grip.

Even the shift lever is custom made for Gwin. The main body is borrowed from a standard Shimano Deore XT shifter but the aluminum pull lever is slightly shorter than usual. According to team mechanic 'Monkey' Vasquez, Gwin prefers the shorter length for easier access to the custom cable release paddle, which is aggressively textured front and rear for surer operation.