If speed kills, then do brakes save lives?
In my quest to build the ultimate XC racing machine I have tested quite a few brakes looking for a set that was responsive hard biting and modulated well. Most importantly I wanted to feel immediate feedback with little space between the engagement point of the pistons depressing and the pull of the lever. In the last four years I have tested the following brakes and none of them have met my standards:
The above brakes have varying price points the most expensive being the Hope Mini X2 brakes. I have been dealing with brake dissatisfaction for many years. Last season I decided to try out a pair of Formula R1 brakes. Much like my obsession with tires I have a very particular set of preferences and will not rest until perfection has been achieved, after all that is what a bike build is to me a quest for perfection. There is no greater feeling then ripping a trail in half on a perfectly tuned bicycle.
The Formula R1 brake set is definitely at the top of the pricing pyramid however quality does come at a price. The company is Italian and like all things great in cycling the Italians know how to build the best components in the world I would put Formula up there with Campagnolo and Sidi. The factory is based in Italy and along with distribution they have an office here in the states located in California.
I have had technical questions as well inquires on Formula’s current product line up and have always had emails returned in a very timely manner. Formula has great customer service and is sure to keep their retention of loyal cyclists for many years.
I found installation to be as straight forward as most other brake installs. Formula does suggest bleeding the brake system off the bike. The brake set has a very strong braided line which does make it stick out from the crowd in a good way. It takes standard DOT4 brake fluid and utilizes a syringe bleeding system identical to the Avid hydraulic systems.
The R1 brakes came from the factory with organic pads. I changed them after a month of use to Formula’s sintered pads, which come with a little more noise but a snappier bite. The forged master cylinder and integrated high capacity reservoir make the lever feedback feel better than any other brake in the world. The power of these brakes is quite surprising considering it is one of the lightest brakes on the market. The brake system has never shown any sign of fluid breakdown in its season of use. The lever feels sharp and crisp and never gives any inkling of fade or system pressure loss.
The R1 system is very well balanced and offers an even distribution of power. I am running the 160mm rotors on my hard-tail which works perfectly for XC riding. Although this brake is considered XC it has been seen in use by the all mountain riders with larger rotors. It is a true rarity to see a brake system span the spectrum of XC riding as well as downhill.
The R1 brakes have proven to be extremely reliable and powerful and I am looking forward to years of consistent performance. I recently upgraded the levers to carbon fiber as I have been using carbon levers for years and prefer the feel of carbon over aluminum. Formula also offers a match-maker setup which combines the mounting of your shifters and brakes to one mount reducing your handlebar clutter to a minimum.
If you are in the market for a light powerful and most importantly reliable set of brakes check the Formula R1 out.