Now here is something really unique. While bouncing a few emails back and forth with Wayne Moore, General Manager at Ashima, we started talking about some really cool up and coming products. Ashima is best know for their replacement brake pads and rotors for almost every brake out there, but in about 6 weeks time, or however long it takes to clear customs, Ashima will have a new MTB brake set in their line up: the Ashima PCB (pancake brake).
The $229 PCB is a departure from the normal piston-type braking system designs on the market today. Taking a quick glance, you probably can’t spot the difference, though you may pick up on the solid forged, one piece construction of the caliper body and its external fluid transfer port (ala Brembo / AP). You may also pick up on the top drop pad installation, but the lack of pistons – it’s easy to miss. One giveaway is the tight, narrow body of the braking mechanism. It honestly took me a few minutes looking at these brakes carefully to notice that the transfer tube / brake hose and bleeder are not part of the main caliper body but integrated into the bore caps, hiding the true width of the brake which is 25mm wide.
The test samples I received feature a semi-metallic pad; however, the production version will get the SOS+ pads (multi-compound pads using sintered-organic-sintered material). Unfortunately the production pads were not available when the test unit was shipped of to me.
The brake lever and master cylinder are also hiding a few secrets to keep weight low. The levers are alloy with reach adjustment and feature a split mount design so you can easily mount them up to your bars and alloy hardware. And the engineering-grade reinforced plastic master cylinder body (not aluminum as you might expect) has a super smooth inner bore that doesn’t require a sleeve.
All this adds up to less than 310 grams per wheel, including caliper/lever, 160mm rotor and bolts. Sure, this isn’t the lightest brake set on the planet but pretty close, and from what I hear, at a budget price which many folks can afford. To top it all off, you get a 2-year warranty and each individual brake gets tested and the performance data is placed in the box. The test data information is also saved and converted to a unique code that is etched as a bar graph on each brake (my photo shows “test sample” in place of the unique code).
Installation was a snap and nothing out of the ordinary. Just follow the set-up instructions – getting the right torque is about the hardest thing you’ll have to do. Thanks to the larger spacing between pads, the whole procedure is a breeze. I used the Feel’R gauge from Hayes for added precision and speed, though it’s certainly not necessary. Just remember to burnish in the pads by applying the brakes a good 20 times to get the pads set in (basically stopping with medium force). The AiRoToR must be properly torqued and you can install the rotor with the spider forward facing as in the photo above or rear facing. Torque the bolts to 55- 60 inch-pounds and remember to use a star pattern when adding torque.
Hitting my usual XC loop with the PCB brake took a little getting used to. Unlike other brake sets I’ve been using for years, the PCBs have much more modulation. They’re not mushy at all but rather they build braking force slower than other brakes. Total braking force is also a bit lower than others on the market but for those who ride super technical courses with tight, twisty turns where you need to control your speed, these fit the bill nicely.
Because the PCB doesn’t act like a light switch, I was able to drag and control my speed without locking up while controlling the bike and I got more precision without the bike bucking around. Now for those who want to do stunts like manuals, these are not the brakes for you – they simply won’t lock up that quickly. Although the AiRoToR is super lightweight, I found it generated a bit of pulsation due to the rotor pattern. I ended up using a familiar rotor that I have had good consistent results with and got a better brake feel.
Keep in mind the PCB brake I tested is a pre-production unit and did not have the new pads that the production units will carry. The production SOS+ pads should generate more bite compared to the semi-metallic pads that are on the test unit.
I will keep you posted on this very promising braking system from Ashima. The pancake design is a great idea and could possibly eliminate issues with pads generating drag due to retraction issues. You may even see other manufacturers taking a few hints here and there based on the innovations featured in the Ashima PCB (like the SOS+ pads). Only time will tell…
A quick thanks to Wayne at Ashima for sending up these brakes for testing and evaluation.