A Brief History of Formula's Disc Brakes

Mar 14, 2017
by Matt Wragg  




While you may think the story of disc brakes is a complicated one, you would be wrong. In truth, there is only one place you need to visit to find the genesis point for every major development of the mountain bike disc brake. That place is Prato in Tuscany, Italy. That is where Formula are based and their archive is, quite simply, the history of the disc brake. Don't believe it? Read on...



Formula Brakes
Formula Brakes

The Formula XXX. The very first mountain bike disc brake. With experience of producing brakes for motorbikes since XXXX it was a case of miniaturisation to produce this. It was a closed system but even at this stage there was an adjuster for lever pull. And they were anodised red With a world of silver and black brakes today Hope excepted maybe we need some of this fun in our brakes again today
The very first hydraulic mountain bike disc brake from 1987. It didn't even really have a name, they refer to it as the Formula. Naturally, there were no ready-made parts to construct this from, so for the lines they took the hydraulic lines from the controls of a construction crane and had a local knife-maker produce discs for them to get discs thin and light enough. It was a closed system, but even at this stage, there was an adjuster for lever pull. And they were anodised red! With a world of silver and black brakes today (Hope excepted), maybe we need some of this fun in our brakes again today?

They even had a pad contact adjuster - tunable with a 6mm socket.
They even had a pad contact adjuster - tunable via this nut on the caliper.

Formula Brakes
Formula Brakes

One other important technology that they even had at this stage was their fast connect system - a quick release for your brake lines so you can work on them without needed to re-bleed and re-fit the connection hardware.
One other important technology that they even had at this stage was their speed lock system - a quick release for your brake lines so you can work on them without needed to re-bleed and re-fit the connection hardware. An evolution of that technology is still used today in their latest brake, the Cura.

Back then there was no standardised brake mount and most forks weren t even disc brake-ready so they had to improvise with this bolt-on mount the spikes are display mounts not working hardware .
Back then there was no standardized brake mount and most forks weren't even disc brake-ready, so they had to improvise with this bolt-on mount (the spikes are display mounts, not working hardware).

The lever may look slightly more indistrial than its predecessor but you can see clearly the reservoir which is the hallmark of all open systems.
Formula Brakes

Of course anybody who has used closed system brakes will tell you how bad an idea they are as soon as your brakes start to heat up. Formula agreed with that and followed up one year later with this the XXX the first open disc brake system.
Of course, anybody who has used closed system brakes will tell you how bad an idea they are as soon as your brakes start to heat up. Formula agreed with that, and followed up with this in 1993, the first open disc brake system. By this stage they had moved away from cannibalizing parts from other applications and began making their components in-house in Italy, something they still do today.

By this point the lever shape and adjuster placement looks much like what we still run today.

Formula Brakes
Formula Brakes

Formula Brakes

The next problem for mountain bike disc brakes - what if you need more power because you re riding DH A 4-piston brake is the commonly-accepted solution today and once more Formula were the first to prodce a 4-piston brake for a mountain bike the 4-Racing which was released in XXXX.
The next problem for mountain bike disc brakes - what if you need more power because you're riding DH? A 4-piston brake is the widely-accepted solution today and once more, Formula was the first to produce a 4-piston brake for a mountain bike, the 4-Racing which was released in 2002.

Formula Brakes
Formula Brakes

Anybody who ran disc brakes more than about 5-6 years ago will atest that reliability is a relatively modern addition to the recipe. Arguably this is open to debate of course Formula were the first to crack this too with their Oro brake. This brake had a cult following among riders who spent much time in the big mountains. They were a little quirky the set I ran needed to be dragged constantly to keep a little heat in the system but they were one of the few options that would work consistently all the way down a big mountain descent. In fact the design was so good that when Avid SRAM came to enter the world of disc brakes they enlisted Formula to design their first brakes. The result of that collaboration were the Juicy 5 and 7 brakes.
Anybody who ran disc brakes more than about 5-6 years ago will attest that reliability is a relatively modern addition to the recipe. Arguably (this is open to debate, of course), Formula were the first to crack this too with their Oro brake. This brake had a cult following among riders who spent much time in the big mountains. They were a little quirky, the set I ran needed to be dragged constantly to keep a little heat in the system, but they were one of the few options that would work consistently all the way down a big mountain descent. In fact, when Avid came to enter the world of hydraulic disc brakes they enlisted Formula to engineer their first hydraulic brakes. The result of that collaboration were the Juicy 5 and 7 brakes.

When Honda entered the DH World Cup they had no sponsorship ties and simply chased after the best possible brake They chose Formula. From this partnership came this the Greg Minnaar edition Oro in an impossibly sexy chrome finish with an equally impossible price tag to match.
When Honda entered the DH World Cup they had no sponsorship ties and simply chased after the best possible brake, They chose Formula. From this partnership came this, the Greg Minnaar edition Oro, in an impossibly sexy chrome finish, with an equally impossible price tag to match. It was molded specifically to his hand - a service they actually offer to the general public, so you can get brake levers ergonomically customized to your hand.

Formula Brakes
Formula Brakes

There is one final twist to the Formula story one that is somewhat overlooked. Despite being the company that introduced the 4-piston brake they decided that it wasn t a particularly good solution for providing more power so they went back to the drawing board. They came back with these the R0s which sport an oval piston replacing the 4-pistons. They are confident that this provides more power than 4 although the influence of the oval piston may be smaller than their previous firsts as it is a proprietary design so you are unlikely to see it on other brakes any time soon.
There is one final major first to the Formula story, one that is somewhat overlooked. Despite being the company that introduced the 4-piston brake, they decided that it wasn't a particularly good solution for providing more power, so they went back to the drawing board. They came back with these the R0s which sport an oval piston, replacing the 4-pistons. They are confident that this provides more power than 4, although the influence of the oval piston may be smaller than their previous firsts as it is a proprietary design, so you are unlikely to see it on other brakes anytime soon. This design is currently used in their ROR DH brake.



204 Comments

  • + 276
 Once again pinkbike...Never let Matt write these articles because nobody age 34 should be publishing make-believe histories so full of errors when it comes to the developments of bicycle technology, especially for mountain bikes because not only was formula NOT the first disc brakes for mountain bikes (let alone bicycles in general terms) but they weren't producing them in 1987 with red annodizing (as the purple craze hadn't even happened yet, let alone any other colors).

The first disc brakes for mountain bikes were the Mountain Cycles Pro-Stop cable-actuated hydraulic caliper brakes, which were available either intergral to the Mountain Cycles Suspenders inverted-suspension forks or for a version of the Answer Accutrax Rigid forks...in 1989. Formular the COMPANY was founded in 1987 but they didn't start offering bicycle disc brakes until the early 90s.

But the first FULL hydraulic bicycle disc brakes were even older than that...and were invented, produced and marketed by Shimano in the early 1970s. They were were open-master cylinder brakes with alloy levers and clamp bodies, plastic upper reservoirs (just like car brake systems use) above the master cylinder, and had stainless steel rotors which threaded onto compatible shimano hubs, and the calipers fitted to compatible frames and rigid forks. I used to own an NOS rear one but I traded it to the president of Magura USA for his personal collection.

This is a photo of one on a 1970s bicycle.

classiccycleus.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Mid-70s-vintage-Shimano-hydraulic-disc-brakes-300x238.jpg

And for that matter, by the time Formula began to offer bicycle disc brakes...MAGURA had already been producing hydraulic rim brakes since 1988, and thus proper hydraulic lines and fittings would have been easily sourced straight from their parts catalog with no need to modify pieces from other sources like cranes and besides Pro-Stop rotors, Hope had a mechanical disc brake, and Amp-Research had their D-1 cable-actuated hydraulic caliper disc brakes also which including manufacturing their own rotors...so no need for some knife maker rotors as Matt claims in the article. So as I said the last time he had one of these articles...leave the history lesson stories to RC, as he isn't likely to make such glaring errors.
  • + 118
 I agree, sponsored content sucks. Especially if it's sold as a history lesson.
  • + 35
 Followup.... this is an ad from a 1991 issue of MBA for Mountain Cycles Suspenders forks, pro-stop disc brake and announcing the addition of rear pro-stops being available.

mombat.org/991ProStop.jpg

Formula hadn't even entered the world of bicycles yet.
  • + 16
 Yea the dates and developments seem a little out. Pretty sure the red evoluzione's were from 95 (I have the same model but in black on an old 97 Sunn Radical) the open system was out in 99 and I can tell you first hand they were terrible.
Hope had quad piston in 99 (3 years before formula 2002) as did Shimano with the m755 in 2000.
Honestly, Formula were pretty bad brakes to have back in the day, thankfully they seem to be haze on their past and are now producing good brakes.
  • + 43
 Feel free to drop your resume off to these guys.

www.pinkbike.com/about/jobs
  • + 8
 @deeeight : In fact Formula did not even invented the first disc brake with oval pistons as they claimed them selfs with the release of the RO brake,back in the Honda era the Japenese brake manufacturer Akebono had a 4 piston oval brake for the Japanese market on downhill bikes.
  • + 23
 If you're going to do a sponsored content,get your facts correct. This only bad reps Formula.
  • + 165
 @deeeight
Hi deeeight,
first of all thx for your comment, you’re a true MTB fan and it’s very interesting to have a chat about disc brake history.

Formula was the first company to produce a “full hydraulic disc brake for mtb”. And this statement is 100% legit. The Pro Stop was a cable-actuated brake, which is closer to a mechanical brake than an hydraulic brake. With a mechanical actuation you lose all the advantages of a full hydraulic system (power and modulation).

The National Hyma (Shimano) from the '70 was not for MTB use but for utility bikes, which makes that brake not powerful enough for MTB. The National Hyma was a single piston brake, good for utility bike but not powerful enough for off-road abuse. That brake never came into production for MTB use, MTB pushed the needs of a powerful brake way further compared to utility bikes.
Magura was producing a hydraulic rim brake and not a disc brake. What is in discussion here is the first full hydraulic MTB disc brake.

On top of that please do not forget that Formula was the very first company to do mass production of that brake, which is a completely different step from prototyping samples or small production.

This said, we would like to clarify that we have a HUGE amount of respect for all the companies you mentioned. Their job was inspirational for us back than and it’s the same today. This is the good side of competition. But we’re talking about history here, and the Formula was the very first full hydraulic disc brake specific for mountain bike use.

Thx again for your comment.

Cheers,

Formula staff

P.s: @fantaman thx for your comment, our Oval design is patented. Cheers.
  • + 12
 @mylespotter: I laughed! But check out Formula's reply above... Hmm
  • - 4
flag Benito-Camelas (Mar 14, 2017 at 4:38) (Below Threshold)
 so... Formula was the first company to produce a FULL hydraulic mtb disc brake but... Formula was NOT the first company to invent a hydraulic or mechanical mtb disc brake Formula was NOT the first company to produce a hydraulic mtb disc brake
  • - 20
flag RedRedRe (Mar 14, 2017 at 4:53) (Below Threshold)
 @deeeight ... you said that matt can not write an artichle because he is 34 and it was not around then... how old are you lol? You are so full of it.
By the same logic, you can't comment on formula because they been around since the 70's.
Your missing basic logic. Get a life foo. Stop pretending to know this and that because you spent time reading mtbr vrc. You were not riding bikes when all of this happen.
  • + 24
 @Benito-Camelas: This is hundred percent correct.
Formula was the very first company to produce and sell a full hydraulic disc brake for mtb, which nowdays is the standard on almost single mtb out there

Thx a lot for your comment.

Cheers,

Formula Staff
  • + 9
 @rideformula: you forgot the " MICRAPHONE DROPPED" ...."BOOM WITH SQEALLING FEEDBACK (like my brakes when used too much)"!!!!!
  • + 14
 @Bird-Man: all I can hear are crickets.....
  • + 1
 My first were Pro Stops on my San Andreas Mountain Cycle. God they sucked. Still have them and their medical like tubing
  • + 7
 @RedRedRe: being he is 45 (presumably turning 46 this year) he could've been riding in the seventies since he would've been born in 71. As well there are people on this website who are old enough to have lived (and rode) through all of that. My father for instance was born in 1966 (51 in June) so he did live and ride through all those advancements.

All in all, just because you're young (like me and many others) doesn't mean that absolutely everyone else on this site is.
  • + 7
 @mattwragg: Here's a little pie in your face on "National Pie Day"!
  • + 23
 It sure sounds like you guys are all pumped up about this brake issue. Good thing you're not in the same room together or I think someone would end up bleeding.
  • + 4
 Hey, I am 34 and I have been into MTB since 1990. I used to live in bike shops and magazines. I am aware of the massive Pro-stop brakes, dia-compe, white industries, Grimeca/Shimano evolution. It just makes it so I basically look at pictures when guys that have been riding for 10 years are writing.
Lame.
Zap, RC and other OGs are practically the only people worth reading for anything of this sort.
That said, I have never had any luck with Formula brakes, whether OEM or aftermarket. Pretty yes, low maintenance and reliable- no.
However, their service is TOP NOTCH.
  • + 0
 don't go ruin the formula marketing article!
  • + 1
 Word...... For all of us who survived racing in the early 90's, we saw all these parts come to life, usually at the manufactures booth at races....We'd ooh and aah, wishing we were cool enough to ride those early prototypes.... Thank you for setting this article straight....
  • - 7
flag scottlink (Mar 14, 2017 at 6:33) (Below Threshold)
 @rideformula: So, you're saying ego is important than facts....
got it!!!!
  • + 4
 @TBLeldarado:
I am 51. If this guy is 45 he maybe started riding in the 90's. If he did. Regardless I do not see his point.

Disk brakes on bicycles have been around at least since the 60's.
Hydraulic rim brakes have been around since the 50's.

So before he goes on and bash and article/writer he should check his own knowledge.

Formula was the first to package the whole thing. Big deal? Not for me.
However I do not see so many people being nit picky with company like Sram that supposedly invented everything such as 1x (LOL) N-W (already used on bicycles in the 70's) and not even going to continue with boost, metric etc. etc.

There is a book anybody should get... it is called the DATA BOOK. Hundreds of drawings. Then you realize that EVERYTHING it has been done before.
  • + 1
 Ups....thanks @deeeight for the history lesson!
  • - 6
flag weebleswobbles (Mar 14, 2017 at 7:21) (Below Threshold)
 @rideformula: power and modulation is available in your working man's hands, ride avid mechanical and spend zero time bleeding your brakes
  • + 2
 Right to the point Deeeight!
This "formulazation" of the disc brake history is, at least, strange.... After all the title of your article is "A Brief History of Disc Brakes"... So, where are the early mechanical ones!

And yes. There are older riders than 32-35 years old, that HAVE NOT lost their memory!
  • + 11
 This is the most fun I've had in the comments section in a while.
  • - 10
flag Narro2 (Mar 14, 2017 at 8:01) (Below Threshold)
 what a bunch of entitled oldtimers, it is just an article, if you dont like it, dont read, if you dont like what's being posted on pinkbike, go search other website then...
  • + 2
 @mylespotter: nah, I can't bring myself to support some of the shit brands these guys have to promote in return for beer tokens. f*cking liars.
  • + 8
 @Narro2: I think if people are posting articles that are false they should at least be commented on. Also, if you don't like whining you should avoid comment sections then...
  • + 1
 Not directly at deeeight, but to anyone interested, Duke's Cycle in Toronto, Canada has this fork and these brakes on a bike in their front window above their door. It survived a fire and is a little rough, but really cool to see in person.
  • + 2
 It'd be interesting to see some proof regarding any of these facts or dates. For example, Hope were producing 4 pot brakes from 1999, and here are people reviewing them!

www.mtbr.com/cat/older-categories-bikes/olderdiscbrakes/hope/dh4/prd_350682_1520crx.aspx#reviews
  • + 7
 @rideformula: for all disc brake design in the "early" years they all sucked!! That was until Hayes came along. Wade yes that Wade, built my first set when he was a kid working for Chaz at the Cove bike shop. These brakes actually worked on the shore through rain ,sleet and snow. And yeah I had formulas as well as magura hydraulic rim brakes on mavic ceramic rims just to date myself lol.
  • + 3
 @deadbeat: THANK YOU!!!!! I had a pair of Hope DH4 4-Piston discs in 1999. You can imagine my frustration reading the lie about how Formula had the first 4 piston disc.
  • + 6
 The article is actually correct, in an alternative facts sort of way.
  • + 6
 @JesseE: there is no problem with commenting, the problem is the entitlement "because nobody age 34 should be publishing make-believe" my dad is 60 and he rides bikes, he has no idea about diskbrake history but according to that logic he is a better candidate than Matt to write the article, he is probably the best candidate since i dont see that many 60 yo riders....
  • - 8
flag deeeight Plus (Mar 14, 2017 at 11:38) (Below Threshold)
 @rideformula:

I love how stopping a 40 pound utility bike loaded with 50 pounds of cargo and the rider as well isn't powerful enough to stop a mountain biker...because...well...company paying for this sponsored ad says so....

What is in discussion is how you're paying Matt and pinkbike to write and publish this cutesy article where dates are changed to make it look like Formula was doing it all first and before everyone else thought of it, in order to sell more brakes. Yes magura was producing a hydro rim brake...I said that already. As to the pro-stop and the amp brake...actually the power and modulation was fine with those brakes if you matched the lever's cable pull to the master cylinder piston travel properly. But of course that knowledge doesn't help you sell your full hydraulic systems. If you tried pulling a short stroke pro-stop/amp caliper piston using a long pull lever then yes the power/modulation will suck because you're only using a tiny amount of brake lever travel. But a short-pull lever and them and they were amazing. Dia-Compe SS-5/7 levers = great... Shimano DX/XT SLR 2-finger levers and any V-brake lever = BAD.
  • + 17
 @deeeight: why are you so pumped about this? from Formula's response, it seems it's statement is technically correct, albeit some facts (or even the wording of the phrase) that you can argue wether correct or incorrect.

If you are paying Pinkbike a $200,000 Harvard tuition to get "history lessons", then O.K, get all fired up for being fed fake stats, but jeez, it's just an article that hurt nobody.

Pinkbike needs payed articles in order to survive and keep this site running. If you like PB, enjoy its content, and would like to keep visiting this website, you need to accept the fact that eventually some payed articles will show up.
  • + 4
 @SK250: what this guy said!!!! I have the new ROR and I had hopes before............the ROR are the catz ass!!!!!!!!
  • + 4
 Wait this sounds like fact checking how dare you fact check alternative facts. Fact checking = fake news.
  • + 4
 Sponsored history? Putin and the Russians must be behind this
  • + 2
 @rideformula: first brand to make a 4 pot brake in 2002?
Errrrr, you sure Hope, Grimeca,Magura and Shimano (just the first 4 I could think of) hadn't already done that?
  • + 1
 If your brakes are that good, then they will speak for themselves. For you to provide a history lesson to try and justify, show's otherwise. BTW I have a free pair of 2012 formulas that work like a game of roulette, if anyone is interested.
  • + 3
 @jervis: "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
  • + 6
 Hey deeeight, I saw Formulas response... Hang in there, bud.
  • + 2
 Not to forget Sachs Power Discs offered from 1993/94 on: www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=212685 (even if on a 95 Manitou 3 Fork in that link // FYI Sachs Bike division was bought by SRAM in 97)

Anyway, I have formula brakes on all my bikes (apart from DH -> ZEEs) & love them!
Especially THE ONEs.
  • + 1
 @deeeight: Thanks for posting the ad and the history lesson. I worked at Duke's Cycles in Toronto for a long time a long time ago, and they have a OG Gary Fisher (with a genuine Mert Lawwill rear end) dually with a whopping 2 inches of elastomer sprung suspension on display. Suspender fork with Formula disc brakes, 1 1/4 Chris King headset (purple ano of course!). Ahh the good old days!
  • + 1
 @ridestuff: I love these days so much more. Every article I read about old tech I realize how much I take for granted the far FAR superior performance of our bikes today. Brakes stop, pretty much always; tires are grippy as hell; shifting is easy and reliable... and that's all there is to compare cause 30 years ago bikes were just rigid & steep haha.
  • + 1
 @Rider656: free shipping?
  • + 69
 Came here expecting an interesting article on the history of the disc break. This is sponsored content folks. FAKE NEWS. Sad.
  • - 42
flag mattwragg Mod Plus (Mar 14, 2017 at 0:29) (Below Threshold)
 "Brake".
  • - 40
flag CraigBrownie (Mar 14, 2017 at 0:34) (Below Threshold)
 "Fake news", you sound like Trump.
  • + 56
 @CraigBrownie: pretty sure that was the idea.
  • + 5
 @BiNARYBiKE: Not sure about you, but I'd hate to sound like Trump.
  • + 35
 @mattwragg: autocorrect + tiredness + lack of a f#cking edit button
  • + 2
 It's disgusting!
  • + 3
 @rsbromley: why is it the mobile site locks your post, you can't edit it?
  • + 6
 @rsbromley: Should have just played it off like it was a "British thing." tyre... colour... the way you guys say aluminum... etc...

You coulda snuck under the radar just fine.
  • + 2
 @bizutch: Don't know, but it's bloody annoying when you haven't had your first coffee of the day!
  • + 2
 It's just alternative facts
  • + 4
 @rsbromley:

Hit the show desktop version of site and you get an edit button. Kinda lame, but that's what you have to do.
  • + 23
 @UtahBikeMike: when I get in the office this will no longer be an opinion, it will be a fact! When I will become the first troll president of bike internet, I will make 4X great again. I will bring 26" back, not to roadie immigrants, not to the rich carbon rim owners, but to the stoked people. Yes I will bring 26 back and I will make UCI pay for it!
  • + 2
 #altnews
  • - 1
 @WAKIdesigns: keep bad "trollers" away
  • + 6
 @Narro2: these trollers that come here from Vital or Bike Radar are not all nice people. They are roadies, negproppers, rapists, some are weight weenies. I, as president, will keep them out. I will keep Enduro out of Pinkbike. I will build a 26" bike, with 63 head angle, and 500 reach, IMBA will pay for it! And tell the president of Trek that the boost just got smaller! Things have to change, not by the end of first term, they have to change now. And I, as president, will do it!
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns:

But that's not what I want. As part of the 1% riding a carbon 27.5 enduro bike, I just want tax brakes.
  • + 3
 @Yarlezy:
Punny, eh?
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: I'd vote for you! I might regret it later, but given the alternatives you're easily the best choice if we're going to prevent Pinkbike from being taken over by the people who despise Pinkbike the most. They say they mountain bike, but we all saw that interview where he clearly said his "roadie filth". C'mon! The interviewer even corrected him! I can't live with another 4 years of someone who would carry on his legacy of anti-shimanoism towards shoes and drivetrains.
  • + 24
 I'm about to turn 70, and have ridden every mountain bike brake system since cantilevers were the ticket. Formulas were the first hydro disc brakes I saw in person on a mountain bike, on an early-adopter buddy's Cannondale Raven during a trip to Crested Butte. Some of us rim brake users were literally melting tubes from hot rims during the long CB descents. Without getting into endless arguments about which manufacturer's brakes have the best power, modulation, reliability etc., can we all agree how lucky we are to have the variety of excellent brake systems available now? I'd give up every other mountain bike advancement I've seen before sacrificing hydro discs.
  • + 3
 Amen.
  • + 1
 Wisdom, patience, and gratitude. I can't wait to turn 70.
  • + 17
 First 4 pot disc brakes......really?
Please correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the Hope DH4 and XC4 come out in 2000/2001 and thus predating the 2002 date quoted as being the first 4 pot disc brakes.
  • + 11
 And Shimano had the four-pot XTs prior to that, around 2000 if I recall correctly...
  • + 6
 @southoftheborder: M755 was model year 2000 (released in '99). Grimeca had an ~ identical looking DOT fluid brake w/ 4-Pistons of the same vintage.
  • + 1
 You're not wrong about there being other 4-pot hydraulic calipers years before Formula. Magura Gustav's for example were 1999 if I remember correctly in their raceline yellow powdercoat color.
  • + 11
 @deeeight: Gustav M was a 2-pot design, with floating caliper, as far as I recall. Although it looked like a 4 piston, there were only 2 moving pistons on one side.
  • + 2
 When did Grimeca System 8 come out? This 4-piston design came out rather "early".
  • + 2
 @drewm: Yes Andrew, you are right. I forgot about the Grimecas. Word on the street was Shimano licensed the XT design from them.
  • + 1
 Hope DH4 was '99, or at least there are reviews for them then (I was still on V brakes....). Hope came out with the Mono6 Ti only a year after Formula's claims.
  • + 1
 @IllestT:

That was my dream bike back then. Ahhh, the memories.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Didn't Grimeca also have a brake where one lever actuated the front caliper and one pair of pistons on the rear brake and then the other lever actuated the other rear pistons?

@karoliusz: Yes you're correct, Gustav M was a floating caliper design so the caliper slides on a saddle. Their first Louise brakes were also one pot calipers. Not floating though. They simply bent the disc slightly towards the other side just like mechanical disc brakes do.

I got into mtb riding back in 2001 or so and I had the feeling there were quite some four pot systems around. Shimano Deore XT was most prominent but you also had Grimeca, even with six pot calipers.
  • + 14
 "Anybody who ran disc brakes more than about 5-6 years ago will attest that reliability is a relatively modern addition to the recipe. Arguably (this is open to debate, of course), Formula were the first to crack this too with their Oro brake."

I had to laugh out loud at that point. I never ever met a single guy who did not have reliability problems. I regularly bleed Formulas for friends, because they do not work any more. They are lightweight and powerful, but they are definitely not reliable.

It is a really bad idea to mix advertising with real articles. Sorry guys, neither pinkbike nor Formula will gain an advantage doing articles like this.
  • + 3
 I've been running Hope brakes since 2001. Never had any reliability problems. Nor any other problems.
  • + 1
 My current brakes (not Formula) are seven years old and they have been working great for seven years!
  • + 3
 I had to bleed my Formula's out of the box brand spanking new. They are terrible.
  • + 1
 My Mrs has got a set of 1999 Hope XC4's on her Specialized FSR Elite still working strong just need a bleed maybe once a year....I can live with that!! Had a set of Formula's on my old GT Ruckus for a short time had to bleed them monthly to keep them sweet, Replaced with a set of Hope M4's shortly after. The XC4's are still going strong nearly 10 years after I bought them!
  • + 0
 All my Formula brakes so far were set and forget, never gave me any trouble, and I never had any reliability issues whatsoever. Put about 10.000 km on my first set of Oros without bleeding them once. The only negative things I can say about those Oros is that they squealed horribly sometimes in the wet and maybe lacked a bit of breaking power, when compared to top of the shelf Maguras or Hopes. Nowadays I ride a R0, that definitely solved that problem.
  • + 8
 Finally formula getting some very well deserved attention. I love these brakes. Ya Shimano is widely accepted as the best brakeright now. But I think formula and hope are putting out a better brake right now. I have customers at my shop that have oros that have not been bled even once yet and customers that have hope brakes that they only bleed once every year or two. Yet my customers with Shimano are in every three no this or so with completely black and destroyed oil.
  • + 2
 "Every three months" not "every no this". Haha darn auto correct and fat thumbs
  • - 5
flag mattwragg Mod Plus (Mar 14, 2017 at 0:16) (Below Threshold)
 I switched from XTR to their new Cura brake last year and am nothing but impressed.
  • + 6
 I love my R0's, still going strong after about four years of use and I've only bled them once fairly recently.
  • + 9
 With shimano you really get more bang for your buck though.
  • + 8
 @bmxrace121: Hard to say, I don't know what US pricing is like, but here in Europe the Cura is about the same money as an XT brake, maybe 10-15 Euros more per end - and for that the Cura is made in Italy.
  • + 5
 I am tempted to try Hopes. I didn't try the latest Formulas but R1, R0, TheOne had terrible modulation making the immense power almost useless in most conditions to me. Even with 160 rotors the lever feel was on/off. I have Guides which have awesome modulation but lack power. Then Deores which are so far my favorite brake and XTs 9000 which are on the edge of being to grabby for my likes. Nice power but hey, wet Roots and granite are slippery as hell.

I guess Hopes for the next brake then.
  • + 3
 Interesting. I saw a recent video of a Japanese guy making Kokeshi dolls, and it made me a very firm believer in buying Japanese products. He was very good.
  • + 0
 Also, there's the, "smart Asian", "Neanderthal middle aged white man" stereotypes in North America, that lead me to want to buy Japanese products as well.
  • + 5
 @bmxrace121: Formulas have spare parts available. Hell, even SRAMs have spare parts available. Every Shimano brake is simply disposable, since they lack anodizing in the inner surfaces of the master cylinder, which leads to corrosion and premature wear. That's why you'll see the oil coming out black when bleeding them every now and then. And once the MC wears out, there is no way to fix it other than changing the whole MC/lever assembly. I have seen this happen to tree-month-old brakes.
  • + 2
 Yeah man I don't know about Shimano being accepted as the BEST brake. They are GOOD brakes, but I am running a set of Hope Tech 3 levers with the E4 Calipers that are bar none the best brakes i have ever touched. Can't stand SRAM brakes. Absolute garbage in my opinion and I have had nothing but bad luck with them.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I've never tried formulas, but I have a buddy that raves about them. I'm a hope guy myself. I can't stand the Guides. Maybe I just had bad luck but i have gone through two sets and they just weren't reliable and the stopping power wasn't there.
  • + 5
 @dbarnes6891: I have Hope V4s, XTs, and The Ones. I've had other Shimanos. I've had Maguras. V4s out-do everything for sure, but for 2 piston calipers, The Ones are godamn amazing, they kinda destroy XTs to be honest. They bite like a maniac and I never had bleed problems or any problems at all over almost 4 years. If you don't like strong initial bite, maybe they're not for you, but I love it. I also come from using Brembo race master cylinders on my motorbikes, so I'm used to it. I could see how it might trip some people up.
  • + 1
 @Sweatypants: It more depends on the application. I have been considering building up a trials bike and I would totally go for something with that kind of bite on a trials bike, but for my trail bike I want the modulation. I like to bleed the speed off, but still have good power when I need it.
  • + 1
 @dbarnes6891: Yea... honestly it only takes a ride or 2 to get used to. Same thing the first time you swap out to race stuff on a motorbike that still has tags on it from stock. You roll up to a stop light all jerky and/or almost flip yourself over the front of the bike. It only lasts a ride though and like anything else, your body/muscles/brain get used to it. Just takes some finesse. Only time I ever felt like it tripped me up at all, was SUPER tight, kinda flat ground turns where you were going like 1mph weaving around some obstacle or something, and you might stab the lever a little too hard by accident. Was really rare that I found myself in that situation though.
  • + 1
 @dbarnes6891: i have seen in the last 3/4 months a lot of friends making the switch to maguras too, and can only say good things
  • + 1
 @tiagomano: I've read good things about the maguras. I haven't seen anyone at my local trails riding with them, but I have heard good things on the internet.
  • + 1
 @dbarnes6891: know a few with the top tear 4 piston brake and they say that they are the best they have ridden, but another with the midle level 4 pisto brake and he had problems with it
  • + 1
 @tiagomano: I've pretty well come to the conclusion that you get what you pay for when it comes to brakes.
  • + 13
 @mattwragg: I am nothing but impressed with your facts. Was formula the first brake company to also give you a reach around?
  • + 2
 @splayleg: ha! That's too funny!
  • + 1
 @bmxrace121: in the 40-70 range. But once you get to the XT-XTR range the hopes are by far better. The money and or time if you do your own bleeds you would save far out weighs the 20-40 dollars more you would spend over Xt brakes. And besides that they also come in different colors if you are into that than that is a bonus too.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I had hopes they were great, but they shit the bed last summer and got the brand new formula ror (DH)....they are devine...great at everything!!!!
  • + 12
 Nice formula advert.
  • + 7
 That should be titled a brief history of formula disc brakes, and marked as sponsored content.

Pinkbike journalism has been really improving & generally great lately - but that was pretty terrible. Lots of errors and apparently only ever one manufacturer did anything worth mentioning in the history of the disc brake!
  • + 6
 I've had some Oro 18k, The One, and finally RO. I love their ergonomy (each his own), and the power/dosing balance. But the standard spacing between pads should be a bit larger; getting no drag at all on your discs can be tricky some times. If they've changed that on the Cura, then I know for sure what my next brakes will be...
  • + 0
 This is something I don't get. People talk of modulation on them. I tried three different bikes with R0s and they all felt like death trap. It was impossible for me to modulate power on wet stuff. I had to pick brake spots extremely carefull, there was no way to do trail braking on bumpy patches with roots and rocks, bike was just sliding all over the place. A guy had 203mm rotors on a Cube Stereo with R0. It was wet as hell and crashed three times on a minute long track with no steep sections...And I had 4-pot Saints on my own bike at that time. Do you get used to that or how does it work? For the record both Deores and Guides allow me to brake on wet slick rock sloping well over 30 degrees.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: I had a similar experience with R0's. They came on a trail bike I bought a few years ago. Ended up taking them off and replacing with a Shimano Deore set. Was a huge upgrade. I even remember having a rant on an "all hail the great a powerful Formula" article that was written around that time that was not dissimilar to the one above...
  • + 2
 @TomShark: Deores are weird. Because they are damn good. Have always been. Perhaps Servo Wave is not the way to go? I also loved the Saints from 2010.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I know the latest Formula don't have the best of reputation in terms of predictability (moving biting point...). I never had this issue though. Funily enough, I have significant difficulties with XT brakes. I find they go from almost 0 to 100 within a few degrees o lever pull. Brakes are very much a matter of feeling I believe.
  • + 6
 @WAKIdesigns: Actually, lack of modulation has been a hallmark of Formulas ever since they came out. I actually like it and that's why I choose them over other brakes. I takes some more finesse when squeezing the lever, but the overall power really makes them worthy, at least for me.

Saints (and any other Shimano in general) feel spongy as hell (again, to me, I'm not implying I shall be the universal pattern meter or anything around that). And then you have to deal with the stupid machined but not anodized inner surface of the master cylinder, which basically makes their levers disposable...

Anyway, to each their own. As I stated above, we have a pretty good flock to choose from nowadays. Cheers to that.
  • + 1
 @southoftheborder:
I had terrible experience with Avid Elixir brakes (4 sets) and not that great one with SRAM Guide - I love the modulation, but the reliability is not there (although Guides are much better) and SRAM Guide R doesn't feel as powerfull as one would expect from 4 piston design (also i've heard horror stories how heavier guys obliterated that small wimpy caliper on long descnent).

I really don't like Shimano lever feel and the modulation - as was said, spongy feeling, no feedback from bite point...meh.

I bought Formula CR3 just to test them and it took few rides to adapt to the different lever feel - the bite point is pronounced and it takes more finger power to jam pads into rotors, and once the pads are there, the lever will not travel that much when applying more and more force - way different feel that Shimano. No problemws with modulation after getting used to he lever feel.The whole kit is quality feel wise levels above SRAM Guide or Shimano. I see why they are kinda acquired taste (if you prefer levers touching bars, these are not brakes for you), but I kinda fell in love with them. Yeah and they have system allowing to connect and disconnect hose from caliper without bleeding. Smile
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Yep. Old Saints were great. Had them on my DH/Freeride bike a few years ago, then some low life stole it...
  • + 6
 I have a feeling that tomorrow Formula will be introducing a new disc brake. This has a whole VW sells adventure vehicles that appeal to MTB riders vibe to it.
  • + 4
 A lot of negative posts out there for a company that was there or thereabouts at the start of the scene. They are the Ferrari of brakes, a little finicky to set up, but super light and super powerful. They don't mention R1 racing being the lightest on the market with DH power. Yes they're and arse to bleed right first time, but now done 5000km and 2 seasons racing without a bleed.
  • + 3
 @rideformula I had some dealings as a consumer with Colin Malhe your rep over here in western Canada. That was the best customer experience with any bike component company ever. I haven't had the dough to splurge on new stoppers, but you guys stood behind your product and helped me out when you didn't have to.

cheers.
  • + 6
 I tried formula and returned to hope. Hope for me, easy to service and bleed.
  • + 4
 Way way back in the day, a mate got some 'Formula cable discs' however his Indy Cs didn't have disc brake mounts. He tried welding some on and quickly found out that Magnesium doesn't weld so good.... lol
  • + 1
 No not the magnesium alloys used for fork castings...but there are weldable magnesium alloys that have been used for bicycle frames. Google "Litech" if you want pictures/info.
  • + 1
 I had a cracked Domain lower welded up by someone who I was told could weld that weird kind of magnesium alloy ZK06K or something. It didn't go so well, making the porous metal even worse! It was worth a try as a last resort!
  • + 5
 Sponsored ad unfortunately Frown pinkbike shouldn't be pressured into writing fake articles by companies offering big bucks. This alone is sad news
  • - 3
 Like a hooker getting pressured into sex to feed her family? It's a choice. Got to pay the bills.
  • + 2
 The One, that was hell off a brake. Juicy7 were great but when I moved to formula bought directly in their shop... Everything from modulation to power was astonishing. After a year of using when I took them for re-bleeding the dot was clean and no air bubbles. Hope brakes are awesome but even my friends (huge hope fans) said that formula has more power. Now I will test the new XT brakes from Shimano. I expect them to be satisfying.
  • + 1
 Jesus dude, your buy/sell page reads like a museum. Please tell me you ride some pimped out pre-2000 Cannondale or something.
  • + 2
 Had red ones and silver then two different colors alternating front and back. Lever mech wore out instantly too. But was worth tbe trouble because they were so much better than rimbrakes. 2mins of downhill, stop and cool off and they would last the season. Thanks Formula for making downhill possible in early 90ies.
  • + 2
 I realize this article is about "full hydraulic mountain bike specific disc brakes" but I think something that can get kids of today to understand the true value of such a "leap" in Mountain bike tech isupport this:

Do a Google search for " Diacompe Speed check disc brake" . I can't post an image link because the file is gpne....there is just an archive photo. Kids, a friend of mine actually HAS this brake in his garage still. It's INSANE!!!

So, yeah....for what we were doing at the time, the full hydro did represent a big step forward because we had some really, REALLY dumb stuff to.ride.
  • + 2
 Still have some Formula The Ones on one of my older bikes. Best brakes ever but a pain in the @$$ to bleed...LOL. If I could afford their newer ones I would probably have them on all 3 of my bikes.
  • + 1
 FUCK ALTERNATE FACTS. Get the Tshirt here and PooBike. Editor Facepalm. This is such a painful time especially in a day and age where most have not even read a real book cover to cover. Not even having spent the time trying to find books and doing proper cross reference research. And please do not forget Sachs and their disc offering.
  • + 1
 I have a set of XT M755 four piston brakes, originally spc'd on a bike I bought in 2002, now being run on my old Titus - Motolite which I still ride occasionally..........and they still work awesome!!! I cut my teeth mt biking on these brakes.....very good power and modularity. The ONLY thing these need are more lever adjustment. But the calipers......perfect. Totally dismayed why this very design is not still sold today.
  • + 1
 My only experience with formula brakes was on a used ibis mojo Hd I picked up (and subsequently sold shortly thereafter) that has "the ones" on it.

Arguably the worst feeling brake I've ever used. I don't claim to be the most knowledgable about bike components nor the most handy with them, but I've been riding and racing for 10yrs, so at least can be considered better than average on the Joey to Gwin scale.

Was this just a one-off experience? We're the formulas I had just a bad batch? Or is formula known to be a brake that you either hate or love?

I've heard a LOT of decent things about them ever since, but never had a reason to give them another try as I love my preferred brakes (not going to make this a competition as its a formula article and I'd like to show some respect!)

Not trying to be a dick here, just curious what others think and if I should give formulas another shot if/when I need a pair of brakes

Cheers
  • + 4
 Shimano M755 were also released in late 99 so also before the formula 4 piston
  • + 0
 Ok ive had formula brakes, the hydraulic systems they have are super reliable and feel great, however their brake pads suck. The pads are always noisy and lack stopping power. If they fix the pad issue I would use them on all my bikes
  • - 1
 Ditto. My TO's were powerful as all hell, but impossible to prevent the disc rubbing the pads.
  • + 2
 @Tarekith: get some EBC Truckerco or Galfer pads. The EBC and TC are cheap and wonders for those brakes.
  • + 0
 @southoftheborder: Already tried those, no go. After two years of messing with those brakes and driving all my riding buddies crazy with the noise i gave up. I'm on XT's now, couldn't be happier.
  • + 1
 @Tarekith: Yup, the disc rubbing could drive you mad in a long ride. You are absolutely right. But I fell in love with the supposed lack of modulation of Formulas. I'm an "on-off" guy, and like to have a lot of power on tap. Modulation lies at my fingertips.

Luckily, we have a myriad of options to choose from. Glad you found your match!
  • + 1
 To bad the brakes still work like the first set they made. But hey if you like to eat up the trash some of this writers from Pinkbike put up. Then yeah sure formula made the first disc brake. Junk!!!
  • + 3
 the ORO -> since 2007 i ride with this brake (silver polished).. Awesome
  • + 0
 Whatever their history, I've never got on with Formula brakes, or avid, or sram fir that matter. Once you've tried hopes you'll never look back. Got hope tech 3s on both my bikes now and they're absolutely fantastic. A massive upgrade on the shimano xt's I was previously running.
  • + 2
 Early gremice/xt were the shit.12 years on a Titus quasi moto a few bleeds never a problem would still run them today.still have 2 sets in my museum the garage
  • + 0
 My 'brief history' with Formula brakes started with them coming stock on a Specialized some years ago, and ended up with me having to low-side to get stopped before I went with the bike over a cliff, 'cuz the Formula brakes sure as heck didn't stop me in time. Since then, I've had no problems with Saints, Zees, and now, Hope V4s
  • + 1
 Uhhh, Shimano made disk brakes in the 1970's. Here's a link to some sources on those.

www.rodbikes.com/blog/tag/1970s

Also, using Avid brakes as an indicator of reliability?!
  • + 0
 Bit off topic but I always wondered why the formula brakes supplied with the marzocchi shiver minibike forks were SO BAD. If the formula staff are reading this please put an old racer out of his misery because they truly were the worst brakes I have ever had!
  • + 2
 @rideformula Is all that history the reason why a new cable for my Formula RX's are $65-75 ea? I dig the brakes, but not the price for parts.
  • + 1
 Think you got the dates wrong. I remember having first Formula disc brakes back in 1999, so they must have been first produced in 1997, not 1987. And the Evoluzione model was developed in 1999, not in 1993.
  • + 2
 So many memories... I got all of them. Great brakes, great people @Formula. Otto is the man...
  • + 2
 Quick connects!!!! This should be a standard!!!! Oh wait that would make too much sense, never mind
  • + 4
 Formula For Life....
  • + 2
 I don't care who came first. That's history. But those sexy red calipers and lever bodies. Nice. Sign me up.
  • + 3
 first disc brake? STOP the press..
  • + 0
 Pink Bike is dead. This takes the piss for advertorial content littered with inaccuracies and marketing bull shit.

Just hurry up and change the name to "will lie for cash" and be done with it. f*cking liars.
  • + 2
 Remember Hydrophobes? One stick and your brakes are toast duuude. Wonder if they are still on V-brakes.
  • + 1
 It is easy to hear when someone coasting with Formulas around, ching-ching my rotors bent and there is no free stroke but i'm bling...
  • + 2
 Surprised not a mention of Hayes releasing the Mag in 1997. Open system from day one.
  • + 3
 To this day, the Hayes mags are the only brakes I never ever had a problem with.
  • + 1
 Edit the story before publishing. So many grammar errors in the first two paragraphs that I stopped reading.
  • + 2
 I didn't find that new R0's silly PULL STYLE lever, interesting.
  • + 0
 Its brief cuz if they told you the whole history you'd be worried they know what they're doing. But then again that can be said about all these toy manufacturers.
  • + 2
 Reading that article really stopped me in my tracks.
  • + 2
 Dont turn all mushy and spring a leak on us. Pull your sh#t together.
  • + 1
 Pathetic! What you haven't taken into account is that your readers know a couple if things also.
  • + 1
 Wow Pinkbike. This is bad and you should feel bad. Absolutely pathetic attempt at a Formula advertisment.
  • - 2
 I like how Matt changes the title to "A Brief History of Formula's Disc Brakes" after we who know better correct him, but forgets to change the bold text over the main photo which still reads "A Brief History of Disc Brakes".
  • + 0
 Why don't you take your garbage attitude and self fulfilling Wikipedia page about whatever is in your head somewhere else @deeeight I bet you use Strava to judge others around you.
  • + 2
 Article about Formula's History and not a word about B4? Seriously?
  • + 2
 I'm bored, can't wait to ride after work!
  • + 2
 formula ? never again! Razz
  • + 1
 They should fallow this advertising with another Cam Squamish Car Ad. What the hell happened to this site.
  • + 0
 Lol history of disc brakes? More like history of Formula Brakes. What a joke of an article
  • + 1
 my first dh bike was a foes weasel whit those red brakes!!
  • + 1
 Formula 4 life baybay!!!!
  • + 1
 Well, that escalated quickly....
  • + 1
 formula? you say for my sister bike brake? Big Grin
  • + 1
 I want some display spikes for my disc brakes
  • + 1
 The RO are the best brakes that ever made..
  • + 0
 The 1987 disk brake has "Patent pending". So the patent is just expiring?
  • + 1
 Shimano Boom!!!!!
  • + 0
 I have only ever dealt with Formula C1 brakes and they are quite terrible.
  • + 0
 What a fail of an article
  • + 0
 I will stick with my saint brakes thanks
  • + 0
 1987 brake caliper, still patent pending lol.
  • + 0
 An alternative facts history of disc brakes.
  • + 0
 Can't wait for wireless brakes!
  • + 1
 I'm still waiting for electro-magnetic brakes. Mark my words, it will happen.
  • + 1
 You might be disappointed to know that this is actually quite common. Hydraulic brake hoses don't contain a wire inside (unlike cable actuated brakes). Coaster brakes are wireless too. Kidding aside, I get what you meant to say. Wireless this, wireless that. People expect to operate everything with their cellphone. Operating your brakes with a cellphone sounds silly to an old guy like me. But considering so many kids around here ride around operating their cellphone with both hands I guess I should open my mind and accept that if that's what you call for, it must be a great idea.
  • - 2
 That's was pretty cool. Didn't know they had so much do to with modern disc brakes.
  • + 5
 according to this they were the only disc brake pretty much haha
  • - 1
 !!
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