Formula R1 disc brakes have a distinctly different feel to most other brands. There’s very little free-stroke, and when the pads contact the rotor, they feel rock solid and firm at the lever. Once fully bedded in, the stopping power comes on thick and fast, and it happens almost as soon as the pads contact with the rotor. Such abrupt power application for minimal lever movement can come as a bit of a shock and modulating these brakes requires some relearning if you aren’t used to the ‘Formula feel’.
With a solid lever action and plenty of initial power the Formula R1’s don’t feel like a weigh weenie brake – yes they may be light but the stopping power isn’t compromised. With 22mm pistons they aproduce similar stopping power to their ‘RX’ model which is pitched as an affordable all-mountain brake. Fit some bigger rotors and their performance woudnl’t be out of place on a longer travel trail bike.
While some may love the minimal lever pull required to reach the pad contact point, the lever sat too far away from the handlebar for my liking. This was helped by fitting the FCS adjusters. With more free-stroke dialled in, the contact point was brough in closer to the grip, which i found less fatiguing on long and steep descents. I also found that moving the lever a fair way inboard (around 30mm in from the grip) helped, as this ensures that you are pulling the very end of the lever and gaining the best leverage possible. It seems my personal preference lies with brakes that offer a softer and spongier lever feel but this really comes down to individual taste. If you like your brakes to be rock-solid at the pad contact point, then Formula makes the brakes for you.
Overall the Formula R1’s provided trouble-free performance. The pad retraction wasn’t as pronounced as on Shimano’s current offerings but it was certainly on par with most of the competition. Take a bit of care with the initial setup and they’ll offer enough rotor clearance for drag free operation. They were also reasonably quiet; the only time they became vocal was in the wet and with the first few application when cold. Once ‘warmed up’ the noise ceased and the power seemed to increase when they were up to operating tempareature. With almost continuous application on a super-steep 10-min long descent, the lever did pump up a little but the feel returned to normal as soon as the system cooled. I never encountered any heat induced brake fade and there were no sticky pistons, resonate vibrations or any other issues.
Check out Formula R1 Disc Brakes on Sale at Competitive Cyclist.