Teardown | First Impressions
Formula Cura 4 Brakes Ridden
La Bella Figura
Available in the choice of a black, silver, or gold finish, I think the Formula Cura 4 is the best-looking brake system on the market. Does that matter? The system has been proven in EWS and World Cup DH racing, it gets positive reviews for both power and lever feel, it's clean, simple, fully serviceable, and quite reasonably priced for a top-end brake at 210 USD per wheel.
At least part of what makes it so attractive is the simplicity of the system. There are no magic tricks, superfluous dials, giant knobs I'll never use once the brakes are set up, or fancy copyrighted marketing terms. There are simply four 18mm diameter pistons per caliper being driven straight into my brake rotors by a long and nicely rounded lever blade.
That lever blade and the entire master cylinder assembly is shared with Formula's less intense Cura 2 brake, which I've previously reviewed, which brings up potentially the most interesting point about the four-piston Cura system: they really don't feel like Formula brakes.
It's early days in the review process but in the same way that Amaro and Chianti can both get you tipsy, the two Italian stoppers deliver different experiences on the trail. The Cura 2 carries forward the very positive engagement that Formula has been known for from the B4, to The One, to the R0R and will deliver exactly what the Formula brake lover is expecting. Because the Cura 4 is using the same master cylinder to move a lot more surface area of piston it has a much more modulated power-band that's more reminiscent of a Magura MT7 or even an SRAM Code.
Just rolling around outside Jeff's shop on the Cura 4 it's clear this is one of the nicest engaging brakes I've used but so different from the Cura 2 that it bears a strong mention for any riders who are thinking it will feel like the Cura 2 on steroids. Despite the almost doppelganger appearance the four-piston is a different animal.
Formula sells both sintered and resin pad options for the Cura 4. I'm on the sintered option but I'm also curious to try the resin for those water-cooled winter rides where rotors stay cold and the pads have a lot less chance to heat up. I'll comment on both options for the full review.
I'm also on Formula's new rotor pattern which is supposed to cut down on noise both wet and dry.
From basic Shimano MT-396 brakes, to the TRP Quadiem, to Magura's MT Sport, I'm a fan of brakes with long lever blades delivering lots of leverage and I'm keen to spend the winter on the Formula Cura 4.
The Cura 4 is not a nanny-state brake. For better or worse there are no special tools required to take apart the master cylinder assemblies or calipers. They don't even require a trip to the tool store to get some obscure security bit. That means a decent mechanic or savvy home tech can fully refresh the Cura 4 back to new with fresh seals, pivots, pistons, bladders, springs, an so on.
The mineral oil system comes in three colours - gold, black, or silver - and the master cylinder and fittings are all the same as the Cura 2 so technically a couple of calipers* are all that's needed for the Cura 2 owner to up their bite to WC DH lever.
*Nb. The lever feel changes enough that I'd recommend doing both calipers, not just the front.
There are pretty much two procedures for bleeding brakes these days. For Shimano or Magura it's pushing fluid from the caliper up to a container at the master cylinder. For SRAM, TRP, or Hayes it's a pair of syringes with one at each end. Formula brakes match the latter and the syringes in their bleed kit are the nicest I've used.
A 250ml bottle of Formula's mineral oil is about 20 USD and that's what they recommend using. There are plenty of folks online who are working on these brakes at home who are using Shimano mineral oil which can be bought in larger volumes. It's not something I can recommend and I'd expect the local shop will use the factory lubricant bu it's worth noting.
Jeff recommends always doing a full bleed when cutting the lines and that's what we've done here. For the brake we tore down to the bones we ended up bleeding it twice to get all the air out but with the two syringes, it was a quick and easy job. The Cura 4 bleed takes a bit more focus than the Cura 2 and that comes down to twice as much space for air to hide in the caliper.
The brakes easily set up drag free. I'm currently running 180mm rotors front and rear and power is good. I also appreciate the lack of adapters required. I'm running a long travel 29'er, and a bigger front rotor on my other bike, so it's always in my find to mount a 203mm for the front. The power band is of the harder you squeeze the harder they deliver variety and the Cura 4 is very easy to modulate. To reiterate, folks that love the very positive feel of two-piston Formula brakes like the Cura will have a bit of an adjustment switching over.
The quality and simplicity of Formula's Cura lineup is obvious. They look great, small parts are available to potentially extend their life indefinitely, and I hope that the performance of the Cura 4 delivers making 210 USD per a wheel a very fair price for the package. More words once I have the requisite hours on the brakes, and there's also more information at Formula.