Formula has been on a disc brake market for a very long time but their breakthrough to the top league has not really been successful. Now, however all should be different. Just over a year ago, the brand went through a major makeover. They don’t only have a new brand identity with a new logo, but also released a completely new brake – the Formula Cura. Designed from scratch to match the requirements of Weekend Warriors, Enduro riders, and World Cup Downhill racers. Does the Cura brake keep its promise? Let’s find out in our test!
Visually the Italian brake is very pleasant. The brake lever and the caliper are made of forged aluminum, they look precisely processed and thus make a very high-quality impression. The simple rounded shape combined with the noble black color scheme (alternatively available in polished aluminum) make them, in our eyes, one of the prettiest brakes that are currently on the market. In addition, at only 490g (without brake disc and adapter) they are fairly light.
The brake lever with integrated reservoir is very plain. The narrow, simple shape ensures a tidy cockpit. We did not have any problems with brake/shifter setup. For those who like it even simpler, there is so-called MixMaster clamp available, with which you can attach SRAM or Shimano shifter directly to the brake levers.
When developing the brake lever, it shows that Formula engineers paid a lot of attention to ergonomics. The matte black lever itself is a bit longer than on many other brakes from the competitors, yet it looks neat and feels very good. Small blemish – the lever surface can get a bit slippery, especially if you are riding without gloves in wet conditions. A small bit of grip-tape could be a quick and easy solution for this minor issue.
The Cura is equipped with a lever reach adjustment. However, it is one of a very few details which in our opinion could be optimized. The adjusting screw is a thin, very slightly milled barrel and is located on the lever body between the lever and the handlebar. It is not easily accessible and not intended for tool-free adjustment. This means, that in order to turn the barrel and adjust the reach you will need to use a 2mm Allen key. The mentioned lack of space unfortunately leads to another problem – you cannot perform the adjustment with just about any multitool, as the Allen key has to have a certain length. A bulky multitool with a short Allen key simply won’t fit between the lever and the handlebar. This type of adjustment turned out to be a bit impractical. Quick adjustments “on-the go” can only be done with a proper tool. This of course does not affect the performance of the brake. The Cura does not offer pad contact adjustment, but to be honest we didn’t miss it. Throughout the whole test, the free-stroke remained constant at about 20mm, even when the pads were already significantly worn out. Here we have absolutely nothing to complain about.
The caliper is also made of forged aluminum and is very stylish and precisely crafted. The braking force is transmitted via two oversized pistons, each with diameter of 24mm. This increased surface area is resulting with more braking force. The factory installed organic brake pads are mounted from the top of the caliper and are secured with a bolt. If they need to be changed, they can easily be taken out.
A special feature of the caliper is the SpeedLock cable connection. Formula describes it as follows: “Speed Lock technology allows for the disconnection and connection of the hose multiple times without losing fluid or introducing air into the brake. The Speed Lock hose is the best option for internally routed frames, the traveler who packs their bike, or anyone who is constantly assembling/disassembling their bike.” Even though it isn’t a feature which we would use on a regular basis, we still found it very useful. Decoupling and reattaching really works as advertised and does not allow any air to get into the system. Here we see certain advantages in service and maintenance, especially during races where quick repairs are crucial.
We opted for the 2-piece, 6-hole brake discs in the size of 203mm for the front and 180mm for the rear wheel. The stainless steel brake disc with a classic look and round holes is mounted on an anodized aluminum spider. According to Formula, the spider acts a heat sink and dissipates the heat from the brake disc.
Another striking feature of the new Cura is the brake fluid. The Cura is the first Formula brake, which is filled with mineral oil. Nowadays it is rather uncommon for brake manufacturers to change the type of the brake fluid. However, Formula justifies this with the fact that customers would have wished for it, as mineral oil is less aggressive to paint and skin, and requires less maintenance than DOT. However, since Formula set very high requirements on its mineral oil, there has been a lot of research carried out for a long time until the right oil was found. For this reason, Formula advises against the use of mineral oils from other manufacturers, as it could affect the performance of the brake.
The assembly of the Cura was not rocket science. The lever is attached to the bar with a clamp and two screws, what means it is not necessary to remove the handlebar grips during assembly and disassembly. The caliper is mounted the traditional way, with two stainless steel screws. The mounting standard for the caliper is PM6. Once the caliper has been aligned with he brake disc, you need to pump the brake lever few times until the pads are at the correct distance from the disc. Once that is done, you are ready to go. Do not forget to bed-in the brakes!
According to manufacturer’s information, the Cura has been developed for every biker and every use. It should be strong enough for all-mountain riding, as well as downhill, but it should also be easy to control. Is that the case? Let’s find out on the trails!
ON THE TRAIL
At the beginning we were a little reserved and skeptical, as we still remembered the older Formula brakes, which in our experience rarely worked properly. However, with the Cura we had a good feeling right from the first meters on the trail. The bite point felt distinctive and firm, the free-stroke was just right; not too long and not too short. Also the lever felt immediately familiar. And on the trail? What should we say: the first downhill, first braking, a first WOW! The Cura really has power, but thanks to a more progressive braking force development, it is surprisingly easy to dose. If necessary, it bites firmly, but not as “digitally” as some other comparable brakes. It allows to be controlled with surgical precision. This predictable and trustworthy behavior convinced us especially when we rode playfully, doing manuals, nose-wheelies and so on. Exceptional modulation of the Cura was also very helpful when riding tight switchbacks using the endo technique.
Since the beginning of the year, the chic Italian brake has been in daily use and was put to the test in many demanding conditions and in various terrain. From typical all-mountain tours in the highlands, Enduro races in the Alps and during the epic Megavalanche race. The Mega, with its long and extreme descents was the ultimate test for the Cura. All the doubts and question-marks about the performance of this brake were definitively addressed and answered. During the whole Mega week, the Cura convinced us all along the line. It remained powerful, precise and predictable. Even on the longest descents, when you were already tired and started to excessively hang on the brake, it did not give up. It showed remarkable performance and has always allowed full control of the bike and speed. The lever feel did not become spongy and we didn’t experience any fading or other loss of performance.
After over half a year in use, we still see no need to re-bleed it. Also the wear of the brake pads has surprised us positively, because they still have about a half of the surface left. What is here worth noting, is that we are talking about organic pads, which usually tend to wear much quicker than any other options. That’s quite remarkable performance.
The brake discs still look good, but they have a quite special trait. When they are warmed up and you brake with little force, they make themselves acoustically noticeable and start to vibrate. However, the performance was not reduced by that at any time, it was just a bit irritating.
The often quoted advertising slogan stating that power without control is nothing, really fits here. The Formula Cura has a lot of power and still allows for great control. In our eyes it is more than a successful brake. If such a prestigious DH World Cup team like Specialized with Loic Bruni, relies on the Formula brake, this can certainly be an evidence of successful engineering achievement. The only thing worthy of improvement is the lack of tool-free adjustment of the lever reach. Otherwise, Formula has arrived with Cura in the top league. It is a well executed brake with a very wide range of use.
Text and editing: Cycleholix Magazin (Jakub Reichhart and Philipp Kargel)
Photos: Jakub Reichhart, Josefine Holitzka and Patrick Frech
More information: rideformula.com