Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM
Product Review

Formula Cura Brakes Reviewed

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Sep 6, 2018

Feathery Feels

Several features draw me to the Formula Italy’s Cura brake system; the quality of the product and the surprisingly reasonable price*  are chief among them. The brakes use simple architecture, long proven on mountain bikes and motorcycles and they are easy to work on. Beyond that, simplicity, the master cylinder design, my preference for mineral oil, full rebuild-ability, and two-pistons rather than four;  there's a lot to like. But what I love about the Cura is the lever initialization which is the lightest, smoothest and most feathery on the market.

* For a Made In Italy product

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

The bulk of my Cura testing has been done on my Marin Rift Zone with a Suntour Durolux and X-Fusion Trace 36 HLR. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

I've also mounted the Cura on my Waltworks where  pressure control is paramount to maintaining traction.  

Some brakes have ample power but heavy initialization making them feel on or off. Worse still are powerful brakes that feel like mush leading to poor control. With the Cura, the lightest touch starts the lever traveling. Power is instant and exponential but delivery is the most refined of any brake. 

The two-piston Cura is not the most powerful brake I’ve used, a title that would go to the Magura MT 7 or TRP Quadiem, but I appreciate how it could be raced as the only two-piston brake on the World Cup circuit in recent memory.*

*Now supplanted on Formula riders’ bikes by the four-piston Cura.

Prior Art

I've been fortunate to ride a number of great brake systems, and while each represents a different takes on how to best drive the pads into the rotor, my favourites share a common characteristic: modulation without mush. One example is the massive four-pistoned TRP Quadiem which is driven by a lever blade long enough to have been stolen from 80's cantilevers. The power curve is consistent and the harder I pull the more stoppage the brakes deliver. 

Magura's Trail brakes seem entirely dissimilar with very short curved HC lever blades, but the combination of pad position, piston size, and the master cylinder architecture delivers a brake with ample power and tonnes of control. 

Both of these systems use a four-piston calliper up front, where modulation is most important, but I can look to Formula's ROR for the only two-piston system that delivers a perfect combination of power and control albeit using the magic of oval pistons and a pull-style radial master cylinder. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

My perfect lever blade would have a more pronounced curve at the end... 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

...otherwise, Formula has nailed the length, thickness, and shape. 

Like the TRP Quadiem, the Cura relies on a long lever blade and pads positioned close to the rotors to deliver instant power and fine pressure control. Perfectly bled, the Cura has a firmer initialization and more initial control for feathering while the Quadiem has more raw pressure on tap. I'd love to try the new four-piston Cura to see if it delivers the best of both worlds. At this point, I'd call a properly-bled Magura MT Trail the middle ground. 

For the bulk of the test, I used the Formulas with stock semi-metallic pads out back and a pair of Formula's sintered pads up front. I mainly experienced the TRPs with the stock organic out back and a pair of Shimano Saint sintered pads up front. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

I used the Cura with Formula's two-piece rotors and their regular one-piece steel rotors. 

I used the Cura with Formula's one-piece and two-piece rotors with no notable difference in performance. The two-piece system adds 20-grams but is claimed to significantly improve heat management. I also used the Cura with a 160mm Shimano XTR Centre Lock rotor and a 203mm Magura Storm HC rotor and they worked perfectly with both.

The sintered pads are noisier than the semi-metallic but I think they are worth it for the extra stopping power up front, especially when it's wet. That's been my experience with every brake I've tried with the exception of Magura.  

Quick Mounts

I used Formula's MixMaster replacement clamp with both SRAM shifters and a MatchMaker compatible e13 TRS+ dropper post remote to good effect. The MixMaster allows for a wide degree of rotational adjustment to uncouple the brake lever position from the shifter position. It's great for dialing in positions for those that prefer a flatter brake lever setup. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

The Formula MixMaster for the Cura brake. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

I quite like the range of rotational adjustment for the shifter position. 

In my experience,* the Cura brakes are also compatible with lever clamps from the Magura MT series of brakes as well as a Hope Tech lever clamp I had kicking around. For me, this opened up easy and uncluttered compatibility with a range of direct mount shifter standards as well as my favourite dropper post remotes from e13 and Wolftooth Components. 

* This isn't a guarantee. Please do your own research to ensure compatibility.

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

My Wolftooth ReMote Magura MT direct mount lever clamp mated perfectly with the Cura. 

Bleed

I bled the rear brake once when I cut the line and then had a bit of a lever-squeezing boondoggle. Luckily it's an easy, relatively quick, and 100% consistent job using the same two-syringe method as SRAM or the Formula ROR. Just don't mix up the Mineral Oil and DOT fluid bleed kits. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

The lever pivot of the Cura is as smooth now as on day one. 

Tool Free?

I haven't grown fond of the tool-free reach adjust dials. They are too small to be usable but I was happy to pull out a 2 mm hex key in the rare event when I wanted to adjust the levers. There's no lever traveling, pump-up, or fade happening here so I found the lever position was set-and-forget. 

Formula's zero-loss quick-connect hose system is brilliant way to deal with internal brake routing without a bleed, but it removes the ability to adjust the hose exit angle at the calliper. On some frames this isn't an issue while on others it leaves a cheap-looking loop of hose.

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

The Speed Lock quick-connect fitting works just like removing an air compressor hose (plus a safety wire). 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

Life made easier to compensate for the customers of bike brands that insist on internal brake routing. 

Cura Curious?

One concern that comes up with brakes that aren't Shimano or SRAM is the availability of parts, particularly pads. A lot of the local shops I happened into over this test period had a pair of compatible Formula pads hanging on the wall. While Cura hasn't taken the Shore by storm, Formula hasn't changed pads for the sake of change like many other brands. Cura pads are backward-compatible with every Formula two-piston brake systems going back a decade, before the death of the 135mm rear quick release or straight steerers. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

This simple circlip holds in the bladder and plunger assembly. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

A one-piece master cylinder body and a plunger assembly. Every part is individually replaceable. 

If you are in the Big bike, big rider camp, generating lots of heat or if you like the most power possible, there's a solid argument to be made for passing over the Cura in favour of the TRP Quadiem, or Magura MT Trail or MT 7, or potentially the new Cura four-piston.

It would be nice to see Formula offer a second lever blade option with a more pronounced hook and a more inboard minimum reach position for smaller hands. The light action will benefit every rider but this is especially true for those with more diminutive digits. For these riders, I think the best brake options on the market are any Magura system equipped stock with HC lever blades. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

The single-position routing for the housing where it exits the caliper isn't the best on some frames - and is perfect on others. 

Like the Magura and TRP, the Formulas are a bit more time-involved in terms of getting drag-free initial performance and more sensitive to a warped rotor than Shimano Servo Wave or SRAM SwingLink brakes. Thanks to quality, and the two-piston design, I didn't have to reset the pistons or adjust the caliper position once everything was set up.  

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

Bleed the Cura just like a pair of SRAM/Avid brakes or the Formula ROR. Just don't mix up the Mineral Oil bleed kit with a DOT one. 

Formula Cura Brakes AndrewM

It's amazing that Formula hasn't changed the pad shape for sake of change. These are compatible with the R1, RX, RO, Mega, The One, ROR Oval, T1, C1, CR1, CR3, and of course the Cura. 

The complete rebuild-ability of brakes like the Cura and Quadiem is an important feature to me, as long as the companies do a good job of supplying the potential wear parts. I've had great experiences with Formula's Canadian support centre, Alba Distribution

For this medium-fisted rider with a preference for a mid-flat lever position starting closer to the bar, the Cura had ample reach adjustment. The two-piston system and Formula's friction compounds delivered plenty of power consistently. No pump. No fade. And that feathery initial lever feel... There's nothing cheap about 150 USD per wheel but the Cura presents good value for all that cash. 

Fire away in the comments below if you have questions or stop-in at Formula for more information. 

Comments

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - Sept. 5, 2018, 11:01 p.m.

I used to love The Ones and R1s back in the day, and still have a couple pairs of pads that would fit these. I’m not even finding the Quadiems to have as much bite as I like (and now that you mention it have been annoyed by their sensitivity to a warped rotor) so these Cura’s are probably not a good fit for me.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 5, 2018, 11:47 p.m.

Have you tried sintered Shimano Saint pads with the Quadiems? I find it makes a big difference to the initial bite just as switching to Formula's sintered pads is a notable difference on the Cura. 

I loved The Ones back in the day and I love the ROR. To me the Cura is a natural evolution - and nicely more affordable - evolution from those designs. Then again memory is funny. 

In both cases, personal preference is going to come up. I like that the systems have a more gradual - the harder I pull the harder they brake - power curve compared to SRAM or Shimano brakes that initial more boldly thanks to their initial pad-travel magic. 

Knipex, big crescent wrench, or dedicated rotor truing tool - I'm a fan of tweaking rotors to cooperate.

Reply

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - Sept. 6, 2018, 9:15 a.m.

The brakes really didn’t cut it with the stock pads. While riding with those pads in I was thinking every review should have started with “Do you need a downhill brake with not enough power?...” 

It’s still not where I want it with Shimano Pads, but I flatted my front tire second lap after putting the pads in and may have glazed them on the long fire road ride down. I’d need to do on more pad test before stating my final opinion.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Garrett Thibault
Andrew Major  - Sept. 6, 2018, 9:33 a.m.

Mine have certainly never had the fierce initial bite of the MT7 (or any Magura 4-Piston caliper with the independent 4-Pack pads) so I’m not discounting personal preference.

But, before you write off the TRPs I’d also suggest swapping out for different rotors and trying to burn in pads/rotors again. A lot of the time when I try brakes that I know should have more power than they do it’s actually the rotors that are glazed over. It happened to me with some new Codes this year and a rough sand of the pads and rotor swapped had them working impressively. (I did end up cleaning the rotors but it was the best test).

Reply

Cheez1ts
+1 Andrew Major
Garrett Thibault  - Sept. 6, 2018, 10:18 a.m.

Thanks Andrew! I will try that. I feel like I always learn something when I comment on an NSMB article

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 6, 2018, 11:47 a.m.

Cheers Garrett!

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Sept. 6, 2018, 6:17 a.m.

Timely review Andrew.. I've got on well with previous incarnations of Formula brakes (T1s, R0s) and have a set of the Cura 4s on order now for Sept. delivery... stoked to give them a try...

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 6, 2018, 7:34 a.m.

Do let me know what you think. I’m, obviously, excited about the Cura 4 because I’m certain it will deliver that bass power that’s absent compared to TRP & Magura four-piston systems.

My only concern is initial setup of pad/rotor interface.

Power is also so good on the Cura-2 I can see a lot of riders going the more-is-better route and missing out on a great package.

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Sept. 6, 2018, 7:49 a.m.

Yeah.  It would have been cool to give the 2 piston versions a try first... But I am sure the 4s won't disappoint...

Reply

Endur-Bro
+1 Andrew Major
Endur-Bro  - Sept. 6, 2018, 11:07 a.m.

> Just don't mix up the Mineral Oil and DOT fluid bleed kits. 

Are you meaning the obvious don't use a kit that's been used with DOT fluid inside it for a mineral fluid bleed? 

Or if I have a brand new SRAM Pro bleed kit that I can't use it for bleeding mineral fluid systems?

I'm considering taking a stab at the Cura2s.  My concern is that if I like them I'll be wanting the 4s as well. I need another set of brakes for my GFs bike; so she'll end up with either Saint, XTR Trail or Cura2s.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Endur-Bro
Andrew Major  - Sept. 6, 2018, 11:48 a.m.

The obvious don’t mix and match kits that have already been used with the other fluid!

Reply

Ken.a.mcmillan@gmail.com
0
Ken.a.mcmillan@gmail.com  - Sept. 8, 2018, 7:32 p.m.

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