Formula ROR brakes: Teardown
Powerful, beautiful, lightweight, and exotic: Formula’s Italian-made brakes have long had a sleek and distinctive appearance. The ROR brakes use a pull-style master cylinder to greatly improve on the reach adjustment of past Formula levers. Preserved is the light action and impressive power generated by the radial master cylinder and the unique oval pistons – housed in gorgeous one-piece calipers.
Formula’s ROR brakes. Manufactured in their Italian factory with beautiful details like their one-piece caliper, lightweight but high volume flip-flop lever body, and unique oval pistons and pull-style radial master cylinder.
Super sleek one-piece caliper with oval pistons. Formula has been using the same pads in all their brake models for some time now which is convenient for dealers to stock in terms of finding spares.
After a romantic evening admiring the sweet curves and features of the Formula ROR brakes under some soft lighting, it’s off to see Jeff at Bikeroom for some help understanding the finer technical points. This will be a two-part review opening with this teardown followed up by a riding review of the brakes once they are bedded in, broken in, and thoroughly beaten.
The name of the game with the ROR brakes is attention to detail. Oh, you’ve heard that before about every product from every company making bike parts? Insert a 2mm allen key into the reach adjuster and turn it: ‘click,’ ‘click,’ ‘click.’ Who has detents on their brake reach adjustment? Formula. Necessary? Nope. An example of detail oriented design? Absolutely.
Sweating the small details: Formula’s reach adjust screw uses a spring in the barrel and grooves in the screw to provide detents for reach adjustment.
For how small and light the ROR brakes’ master cylinder appears to be, the fluid volume (DOT 4 if you’re wondering) is massive. The side-loading bladder and cover are much simplified from past designs.
The pull-style master cylinder relies on a u-cup seal to pull fluid towards the exit port in the lever body. A beefy spring smoothly moves everything back into place when you release the lever. The u-cup, also known as a one-way seal, opens under pressure to hold fluid and then collapses on its return for the smoothest and fastest action.
HUGE master cylinder fluid volume. An easily accessed bladder and cover side load in place on the ROR brakes.
The U-Cup, or ‘one-way’ seal on the end of the piston pulls fluid towards the exit port of the master cylinder. The large return spring moves everything back into position fluidly when you let go. Action is smooth.
Since this is a teardown, with on-trail test writing period to follow, I want to note that I’m repeating rather than substantiating claims about Formula’s Oval piston.
The idea behind the unique Oval piston is to provide the power and power curve, of a four piston brake while also maintaining the simplicity and durability of a two piston system. First impressions suggest the ROR offers more modulation than the very ‘light switch’ like on/off feel of some of the other powerful Formula brakes I have tried.
There is a huge difference between the ‘meh’ braking force of the nice feeling SRAM Guide series of four-piston brakes and the deep power curve and huge braking power of a Magura MT-7 four piston set-up. I am very interested to see how the ROR brakes compare.
Unique oval pistons but a round seal. Guessing there is some math in there somewhere!?
A couple of quick notes on fitment for the ROR. Like an increasing number of stems’ face plates, the lever body’s handlebar clamp is designed for one bolt (upper in this case) to be bottomed out and then the second bolt is tightened to preference.
I like my levers to spin on my bar in a crash. Generally, this prevents damage to either the lever or the bar and in my worst case crashes it damages the bar instead of the lever, which is a much cheaper replacement. With the ROR brakes its hard to find a happy medium between tight and loose. Personally, I would love to see all brake levers use a rubberized clamp insert like Shimano’s XTR brakes so they can be tightened enough to stay in place but will move easily in a crash.
Mounting the lever to the bar: the top bolt gets tightened down so the clamp is flush and then tighten the lower bolt to preference or spec. Mounting the lever blade to the master cylinder: install the long pin from the top and the bolt from the bottom. If things come loose and you don’t stay on top of your bolt checks at least the lever will still work.
Jeff recommends putting the long, female, lever retaining pin in through the top and then the male bolt in the bottom. That way if you aren’t inclined towards regular bolt checks (get on it) and your lever retention bolt comes loose the pin will still hold the brake lever in place.
Formula designed the lever pivot to float and the pin and bolt do not bottom out on each other which ensures smooth action and no force being placed on the bolt heads themselves. Here’s the detailed advice straight from Robert at Formula: “I always suggest to remove the bolts when performing the annual bleed; clean and apply medium Loctite. With the Loctite still wet, tighten the pivot hardware until the lever blade binds then back off until the lever is freed. Then the Loctite needs to cure for a couple hours before riding. Here at our service center it’s part of the bleed service.”
Do I tell great jokes or bleeding brakes is a lot of fun? Either way the only thing prettier than Jeff’s smile, in this room, is the ROR master cylinder.
There was one issue with our tear down, which was the compression olive getting stuck inside the master cylinder when pulling the line out to cut it down. Jeff took care of it in short order – after we took a five-minute break to enjoy some beer and relax before proceeding – but it was a surprise either way. Take your time when pulling those lines out to shorten.
Because you can: Jeff used a Formula bleed kit for the rear brake and a SRAM/Avid bleed kit for the front. Both worked equally awesome. I think it’s a selling feature if you already own a SRAM/Avid bleed kit as it’s one less tool to buy. Also good to know that any bike shop anywhere should be able to bleed them for you if you prefer.
Formula has taken some big steps forward in terms of the serviceability and support of their brakes. Firstly they use the same pads across all their models which makes it easy for any dealer to have a couple of sets kicking around. Secondly, they are now as easy to perfectly bleed as a set of current SRAM brakes which, with no offense intended to Shimano’s or Magura’s very clean bucket style bleed method, is the simplest and cleanest way to get a perfect bleed.
If you don’t have a Formula bleed kit you can even use a SRAM/Avid version as all the fittings interface perfectly. Good to know you don’t have to buy any proprietary tools to bleed these brakes.
Mild soapy water post bleed to make everything nice and clean. SRAM/Avid bleed blocks because it’s always a good idea to remove your pads before bleeding.
You can also use SRAM/Avid bleed blocks if you have them kicking around. It’s always a good idea to remove your brake pads before bleeding your brakes.
Also, not to beat a thrice dead Schwinn, don’t forget to spray everything down with some mild soapy water after you bleed your brakes.
Ready to ride. Full brake test article to follow in the future. I have a few hours on the brakes now so feel encouraged to ask any set-up, maintenance, or ride questions in the comments and I’ll answer as best I can.
Formula ROR Brakes
I always like to fully bleed my brakes before bedding them in and then taking them for their first ride and thanks to Jeff these Formula ROR brakes will be ready to stop after a brief trip down a steep local road hill. We all know that looks aren’t everything (does form mean anything if function is absent?) but these are an example of truly beautiful design and production.
How do they ride? It’s early days but the power seems to be excellent and the lever feel is awesome. I have small hands so I welcome the increased range of adjustment and I think the brakes are gorgeous. They have a more metallic sound and positive feel compared to the Magura MT-Trail brakes I have been running but the feel is far superior to the On/Off sensation of previous Formula brakes I have tried.
Please watch this space and I’ll have more to follow.
Awesome appearance, easy bleed, great braking ergonomics, huge range of lever reach, and improved feel. Bello?