January 5th, 2011
One of the reasons that it’s so easy for us to recommend the products that we sell is because we have a policy not to sell brands when we don’t believe in the product. So in order for a new brand to get accepted into FWB we usually spend a good deal of time testing their products. We’ve been testing and playing with Ashima products for over a year now and are now ready to welcome them on board with us. Over the next month or two I’ll introduce you to some of the products we’ve been testing from them and how we feel they fared in our tests. First we are going to look at the Ashima PCB disc brake. The PCB has been fairly well discussed on the internet over the last couple of years, both good and bad reviews have emerged, and I’m pretty sure this comes from the different expectations that each tester has combined with the version of the brake that they tested.
The caliper is forged from a single piece of aluminum, but the thing that really separates the PCB from other hydraulic discs is that it is piston-less. In place of pistons it uses bladders(equal to 21mm pistons) that expand and contract as fluid is moved. Fluid is transferred from one side to the other via the red transfer port that is clearly visible on the outside of the brake. This tube also serves to help cool the fluid a little, but to what extent I’m not sure.
The lever is aluminum but with some sort of plastic/resin body. The lever uses split body mounting to make quick installation and it’s held together by red aluminum bolts. Simple and effective lever reach adjustment. One of the only complaints I had about this brake is the angle that the hydraulic tubing exits the body. When used with trigger shifters it requires a bit more fiddling to get everything in just the right position. Mating it with grip shift is absolutely no problem with positioning.
These are not the lightest brakes in the world, but they aren’t really that far off either. The front brake (lever, caliper, pads, tubing and fluid) is 195grams. They also include some of the lightest steel rotors available, 85grams for a 160mm. The weight is further reduced by the inclusion of alloy mounting bolts for the rotors.
The brake we have here is the latest version, it’s the 3rd generation since the original pre-production ones were trickled out which is what many of the other reviews were based on. The latest version which just arrived in the last couple weeks has improved initial pad clearance from a modified diaphragm that also improves compression. It also got a change in diameter of the friction seal in the caliper which makes for even better modulation (on what we felt was already one of the best modulated brakes) and also for an increase in total stopping power.
One thing we liked about all of our test brakes is that each brake is individually tested before being sent out and the results are included with the brake so you can see what the changes actually resulted in. It’s my understanding the production brakes will also ship with these tests as each individual production brake will be tested and recorded.
I mounted and used these brakes on a couple of different bikes. A Titus carbon ftm, a Trek 69er and a Fisher urban trials bike, to try and get a feel for them across a range of uses.
The overall performance of the brake is really good, especially if you are looking at it in terms of a lightweight xc brake. Sure it’s not the strongest stopper on the market, but it really isn’t designed to be that. It has exceptional modulation which makes it much better at keeping traction on technical trails which require lots of small speed changes. On the ftm the precise modulation combined with the extra travel meant we were able to carry more speed through the corners than on more true XC oriented bikes. Granted the FTM is one of the fastest and most nimble of mid travel frames, the addition of really well modulating brakes seemed to improve that even more. For raw stopping power the urban trials bike was by far the best test. I swapped the rotors here putting the 180 in the rear and the 160 up front. While the brake doesn’t feel as strong as others when it comes to locking up the wheel, it did still perform the job adequately. It felt that it took a bit more to get it to the locking point but that could still be reached with a single finger. While it felt that it took more to lock up the rotor I can say that not once did it slip during a rear wheel gap. Certainly this would not be an ideal trials brake, but it was a good experience testing it this way and it made me realize that while it doesn’t have heaps of raw power, it certainly has enough.
One place where I think the brake really stands out is when you look at it as a complete package, weight, performance, aesthetics and price. With a retail price under $400 for a complete set including rotors a nice weight and solid performance, it really does start to stand out in a sea of brakes.
It’s also nice that the rotors come in such a wide range of sizes and colors all at some of the best weights and a great price as an aftermarket piece.