Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: April 20, 2016
Manual transmissions are a dying breed. One quick glance across the industry and it is obvious that the stick and clutch combo is going the way of the VHS. Thankfully, there is a silver lining in all this – only enthusiasts are picking up stick-shift vehicles. A staple in the enthusiast culture has always been about customizing their ride and giving it a flavour that is unique to the owner – a perfect opportunity for design oriented companies like Raceseng to flourish and drive the enthusiast community forward.
Founded by a father and son duo in 2005, the brand approaches the wants of the enthusiast community with a laser-like focus on products that enhance performance without the chintzy boy racer look. We looked them up and fell in love with the Ashiko shift knob. We had to get our hands on one.
(Full disclaimer: We reached out the Raceseng about their Ashiko shift knob, and to our surprise, they listened and sent us one for Project 1.)
We received the item within a week of our order. It arrived at our mailbox in a small unassuming little white box. Literally the second we lifted the box, we realized just how heavy the knob was. Wrapped in foam cut to the measures of the shift knob, it was quickly evident just how committed Raceseng is to delivering quality at every step of the product life cycle.
We chose the translucent charcoal finish for our BMW 135i. Since our BMW’s stock knob use a non-threaded fitment, they also sent us their threaded adapter. The adapter is precisely cut and slides over the shift lever. It grips onto the lever via four allen screws that you tighten at the base of the adapter. The weighted shift knob then screws onto the adapter.
Speaking of weight, I’ve mentioned before how substantial it was. My initial impressions were that it might have been too heavy to wield. Once installed however, the 735-gram Ashiko knob felt just right. The translucent charcoal powdercoat finish on the stainless steel material looks beautiful. It constantly gives off a look of wet paint, particularly during sunsets when it radiates.
Fitment is very exact; something you want so it doesn’t slip off with a fast gear change during a pull. It does take a bit of effort to screw onto the adapter but once it’s on, it’s on for good.
With all that bling sitting pretty in the car, how does it feel in operation? Well, the added weight made shifting an effortless process. You only need two fingers and just enough force to overcome the inertia –the heavy Ashiko will do the rest. It also helps that the 135i shifter is a smoother, less notchy one. First gear going into second was always a bit rough with the ZF S6-45 manual transmission but with the new knob, sliding into second gear was a lot easier.
However, I couldn’t help but imagine how much better it would feel if I had a notchy-er short-shift kit installed. I can already picture the weight of the knob helping the lever slip from one gear to the next with a satisfying shink-shink. Perhaps that may be a future update for Project 1.
Now, the knob isn’t perfect. There are a few drawbacks and chief among them is the heat. As with all steel products, they warm up in the sun. It’s early April at the time of writing, and the Canadian weather is being finicky. That being said, after a few hours in the sun the knob already is rather warm to the touch.
Luckily, I’ve got a number of lens pouches lying around at home. A simple cover when leaving the car for extended periods of time solved that problem. In fact, Raceseng sells their own branded version for the exact same purpose. Lastly, the other drawback is the exact opposite. During frigid days, the knob is ice cold. Again, the pouch saves the day.
Prices start at $90.00 USD (around $116 CAD with today’s outrageous exchange rate) for the Ashiko without an engraving. A 5- or 6-speed engraving adds $30.00 USD to your total, and the BMW adapter adds another $20.00 USD. We opted out of the engraving – we liked the cleaner look. All in, our review unit costs $110.00 USD (around $142 CAD), a solid investment if you’re looking for a heavier knob that looks beautiful, feels great in the hand, and serves a functional purpose.