You may not have heard of Ashima. The brake and brake parts manufacturer has only been with us for three years – it’s based in Taiwan but was founded by a Brit. Impressively (or perhaps startlingly), Ashima makes over a million brake pads a month and supplies various aftermarket and OE brands worldwide. For 2009 it’s got a whole load of new stuff coming out, and is pushing beyond its core business of brake pads.
The Airotor is already on the market (although coloured versions are new for 2009). It’s claimed to be the lightest stainless steel rotor available – a 203mm one comes in at 136g and a 140mm one just 68g. It’s not hard to see how that weight has been achieved – the Airotors are mainly hole. Ashima makes big claims for performance, wear and heat dissipation, although for some riders we suspect that ultra-low weight and funky looks may be enough on their own…
The first of Ashima’s two new disc brake systems is the APVS “Powervalve” brakes. The most obvious design feature is the Cybermanesque external pipework, but the really clever stuff is hidden inside. Despite looking like twin-piston brakes, the APVS actually has four. Uniquely, the smaller pairs are inside the larger ones – on each side of the caliper there are coaxial 14 and 22mm pistons.
Initially just the 14mm pistons move, giving light, controllable braking. Start heaving the levers, though, and the increase in pressure brings the toroidal outer pistons into play for maximum power. A similarly cunning arrangement of pistons inside the lever smooths the transition between inner and outer caliper pistons, but usefully you can still feel when the bigger ones are coming in through the lever.
Those external pipes are supposed to help keep the fluid cool too, although we can’t help suspecting that ease of manufacture may be a factor too. The brakes certainly look good and the lever is a pleasant shape. What they’re like on the trails we don’t know as yet.
The second brake is the PCB, or “PanCake Brake”. This was conceived as a budget hydraulic brake with ultra-simple construction. Ashima realised that actually brake pistons don’t need to move that far, and that it might be possible to do without them completely. So the PCB pushes its pads out with a diaphragm seal each side instead. A magnetic insert at the face of the seal keeps the pad in place, while the shape of the caliper itself maintains pad alignment.
Slightly ironically, the no-piston design boasts more actual pad movement than conventional brakes, with 0.7mm clearance between pad and rotor when fully retracted. More obvious to the eye is the very narrow profile of the caliper – it’s just 25mm wide. Again, we’ll have to wait to find out how the PCB performs in real life, but they should be very competitively priced.
Also new from Ashima is a simple answer to the oft-asked “sintered or organic pads?” question – both at once. Reasoning that each type of compound has advantages and disadvantages, and that every advantage comes complete with some other disadvantage, Ashima’s SOS pads use sintered pad material at the ends and organic in the middle.
The claims for the SOS are certainly bold – cold performance of an organic pad, high temperature performance and wear characteristics of a sintered one but with three times less heat being passed to the brake piston. According to Ashima the SOS is a truly universal pad. It’ll be available to fit most of the popular brake systems.
And for fans of the old school, Ashima’s even launching some very early-90s looking forged/CNCed V brakes and levers. The company already makes about a bazillion different kinds of brake pads for rim brakes, so it’s a natural development.
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We fully expect to see a lot more of Ashima in the future – it’s clearly not short of ideas or ambition. Ashima stuff is distributed in the UK by Zyro (www.zyro.co.uk) or find out more at www.ashima.com.tw.