On paper, Shimano hydraulic brakes have always been rather simple to bleed, but in practice little things such as getting the hose to stay on the bleed nipple offered room for improvement.
Shimano recently released three new bleed tools aiming to smooth the process of bleeding its brakes, and while they’re still made of plastic, they offer some notable (but small) improvements over the old.
A new syringe and bleed fitting
Starting with the new syringe (TL-BR001), the big update is the small metal insert at the end of the hose that provides a guided fitment between the hose and the bleed nipple. The fit is now simple, secure and precise, and it doesn’t require the use of a ring tool to squish the outside of the hose in place.
Currently, the little metal bleed insert is only available with the large capacity plastic syringe, and there’s simply no hiding that it’s expensive for what it is. Holding a generous amount of fluid, the syringe features a Luer-lock fitting that allows you to easily disconnect it for gravity bleed purposes while keeping the hose attached. Meanwhile, the hose now features a clamp to seal the flow, a feature that’s long existed on SRAM’s bleed kits, and is also found on those from Park Tool and Jagwire.
The syringe does the job but is on the flimsy side given the high asking price. Really the only reason to buy this syringe is for the teensy-weensy bleed fitting insert, and annoyingly this insert really does ease the bleed process. I’d recommend sticking with a simple syringe and hose for those bleeding their brakes once a year (or less), but those doing a bunch of bleed work will probably find value in this new item. Just take care as it’s not the most robust workshop item.
New bleed cups
The next pieces of the puzzle are the wholly new bleed cups. Previously Shimano had just the one bleed cup (M5 fitting) and then relied on a threaded adapter to fit most road brakes (M7 fitting). Now there are two cups with dedicated M5 (TL-BR003) and M7 (TL-BR002) fittings respectively. And of course, you can still add the old ST-R M7 adapter to the new TL-BR003, or you can run the cup specific to your brake.
These cups offer a larger capacity than before. Perhaps most useful is that they now feature a lip insert that lets you tip the cup at more extreme angles before fluid spills over. The dedicated thread sizes mean you can now use the supplied stand to hold up your road brake bleed cup. And while it could be in my head, I swear the threads are more defined and durable, too.
However not everything with the new bleed cups is an improvement. The bigger capacity means the new cups are larger to store. And where the old version’s stand doubled as a lid, the new versions lose such a feature.
Perhaps the biggest downside to these new cups is the increased price. The old bleed cup was amazingly affordable and so it didn’t really matter that the threads wore out, and while these new ones are better, they’re also nearly double the price, too.
Yay or nay?
All up I’m happy to see these improvements. The star of the show is certainly that little bleed fitting in the end of the syringe – I’m sure it won’t be long before someone copies it. The lip seal on the bleed cups mean you can get the bike at more extreme angles to better work the air out of the levers. And the larger capacity syringe and cups mean that you can be sure you’re flushing out all the old fluid in one go.
However, these tools are still pretty basic, especially the build quality of the syringe, and so it’s a bummer to see such a significant price increase. If you’re in the market for lower-cost Shimano bleed tools then now is the time to pick up the old ones.
- TL-BR001 syringe: US$38 / AU$60
- TL-BR002 (M7, e.g. R9100/R8100-series): US$19 / AU$23
- TL-BR003 (M5, e.g. M9100/M8100/M985/M785/etc.): US$19 / AU$23
- TL-BR (professional disc brake bleed kit, including the above items and various bleed blocks): US$74 / AU$NA
For comparison, the pre-existing BT03-S consumer bleed kit is US$33 / AU$40 (including a basic syringe and M5 funnel).
For more information view Shimano’s recommended bleed process.