Formula Cura Brakes | Two-Piece Lever Blade Upgrade
The Year Was 2019
I've lost track of how many bikes these Cura 4 brakes have been on. Or how many sets of pads I've worn out. Or how many times I've pushed fluid through them. I've had the pistons out of the calipers for a full rebuild once. For shits & giggles, I later split the calipers fifty-fifty with a pair of black ones I'd bought years back to upgrade a pair of Cura 2 brakes.
Since 2019, the only issues I've had were a fluke split in a rear brake line from a crash, and the eventual development of an unrideable amount of slop in the brake levers that's brought me here today. I've installed enough brand-new Cura brakes in the last couple of years to say with authority that as worn-in as these might be, lever blade slop aside, they function perfectly.
These new CNC machined 2-piece lever blades promise increased stiffness, increased leverage, increased tunability, and, for those who care, actual tool-free lever-reach adjustment. They're not inexpensive at 200 CAD a pair aftermarket or 120 when purchased with a new brake set.
FCS adjusts the distance between the lever and pushrod pivot, varying the amount of leverage that the brake lever exerts on the lever piston." - Formula Italy
The Install Process
Circlip pliers are recommended for installation but some folks press headsets into multi-thousand dollar frames with a hammer and a block of wood, so don't let me tell you what to do. I used a pick to remove the circlip, as with some SRAM brakes. Then for the installation I used circlip pliers, but I've done the same job using a pick in both directions. If in doubt, and you're purchasing these blades from a shop, I imagine they'd happily install them for a minimal fee, especially if you're due for a brake bleed at the same time. It's a very quick job. Formula has put together a video on the process for those thinking of tackling it themselves.
A brake bleed is not mandatory as part of this process but most riders are overdue for a full flush anyway. Chances are it's not a bad idea. I was also installing a new rear brake line to replace the damaged one so I did bleed the rear brake, but my front was done only a few rides ago so I left it.
Once installed, it's now truly a tool-free process to set the lever blade reach, so that's quick and easy. I run my Formula brake levers almost as close to the bars* as they go so I dialed them in and then it's a matter of setting the Feel Control System (FCS) dial at the front. More on that below.
The Braking Difference
Other than the slop that's developed through years of use, I had no complaints with the stock setup on the Formula Cura 4. It's a fantastic braking system. I would have been quite happy to replace the lever blades with the stock units, I just wanted everything to feel fresh-from-the-box tight.
I know folks who lamented that the Cura 4 brakes did not feel as initially crisp as the Cura 2 system, which runs a two-piston caliper with the same master cylinder assembly. This new lever blade resolves that issue. I know others who felt the depth of power and lever action that the Formulas delivered didn't match the best brakes from Hope, Magura, and Hayes. This new lever blade resolves that issue.
The brakes feel more powerful through the full FCS setting range and the action feels lighter. These lever blades are a serious performance upgrade.
I have not had the opportunity to test these lever blades with a set of two-piston Cura 2 calipers. I still have a pair of Cura 2 brakes that live on my gravel-commuter and I'd like swap lever blades in the future.
It would be interesting to compare the Cura 2 brakes with the new 2 pc levers against the Dominion T2 brakes I reviewed recently. This could be a project for my Waltworks V2 when it comes back from repair.
Cura 4 Conclusions
Are the new two-piece levers worth 200 CAD for a pair? That's going to depend entirely on perspective. For someone with a current set of Cura 4 brakes in good condition, seeking more power or a lighter action, I'd make the min-max argument for buying the brakes you already own. The tunable FCS system and real tool-free reach adjust are nice too. It's a bonus that the fresh levers made my heavily used set feel like new and also boosted brake performance into the realm of the best brakes I've ridden.
For someone buying fresh brakes, the new lever blades take the Cura 4 brakes from 250 CAD per end to 310. Comparing SRP, that price is still right in line with the Hayes Dominion A4, and it's fewer Canuck bucks than comparable high-end systems from Hope and Magura. That's for a fully serviceable brake system that's made in Italy.
Value is always a personal decision, but if I was buying a fresh set of Cura brakes I'd certainly spring for the difference to get the 2pc levers, and if I was pining for more power and lighter action, the value of just upgrading the lever blades would capture my dollars as well. If I had a current set of Cura 4 brakes and I was stoked on them as is, that's 200 CAD I could spend on something else.
Height - Steve Buscemi-ish
Wait - Patiently
Ape Index - T-Rex
Age - The same as DOS
Favourite Song(s) this week - I'm Your Man. Nick Cave (covering Leonard Cohen)
Favourite Colour - Cosmic Lilac
Bar Width - It depends
Reach & Stack & ETT - It depends
Crank Length - 175mm except when it's 170mm
Wheel Size - Hot For Mullets