brought the first disc brake to market way back in 1993 and introduced their first mountain bike suspension fork in 2012. Suspension wasn't a new venture for the Italians, as their sister brand have been producing motorcycle dampers since 1992. Their Formula 35 fork is billed for trail and enduro use for 27.5" or 29" wheels, with internally adjustable travel, ranging from 100mm to 160mm. The 35 is the lighter-weight chassis of two models that Formula makes (the sturdier Selva chassis is a new fork in the range, designed for Boost hubs and harder and heavier hitters). The versatile 35 is made in Italy and weighs 1,800 grams in the 29-inch size reviewed here. MSRP is €988 / $1,120.
Formula 35 Details
• Intended use: trail / enduro
• 35mm stanchions
• IFT Internal Floating Technology
• CTS Compression Tuning System
• 29" and 27.5" options
• 15 x 100mm axle
• Colors: black, white, or Ultraviolet
• 2 year warranty
• Made in Italy
• Weight (29"): 1,860 grams
• MSRP: €988 / $1,120 USD
Entering the market with a 100–180mm fork aimed at the trail and enduro sectors was never going to be easy, going up against the RockShox Pike and Fox 34/36. Formula joined the club with few differences: the fork is mostly made in Italy, opposed to Asia, which will appeal to some fans. Instead of using plastic tokens to adjust air volume, oil can be added to the single, positive air spring to adjust the fork's feel. The Compression Tuning System is another unique difference that allows riders to swap a compression valve in the fork's top cap to adjust the compression curve. There is also a remote lockout option with an adjustable blow-off threshold.Construction
The chassis of the 35 is nothing out of the ordinary. 35mm diameter stanchions are made from 7075 alloy with a hard black anodized finish, the upper crown is hollow-forged to save weight. The fork lower is cast magnesium and is currently offered in 15mm x 100mm hub size.
Each 35 can be built to order and consumers can choose between 27.5" or 29" wheel size, and two available offsets in 44mm or 51mm. Travel is internally adjustable and ranges between 100mm and 180mm for 27.5" and 100mm to 160mm for the 29".
Interestingly, during the construction of each fork in their Prato-based factory, laser measuring tools are used to match the best fit between installed bushings in the fork lower and the external diameter of the upper stanchions, finding the closest to perfect match for every fork.
The front axle uses Formula's Integrated Locking System, which is a quick release, 15mm thru-axle. The QR lever can be popped out to reveal a 5mm hex recess and give a cleaner look. Formula also sells an ILS tool that comprises of a 2mm and 5mm hex keys and can also be stored in the axle.Spring and Damping
On the left-hand fork leg, we find a single positive air chamber and a coil spring to control the negative side of things. Instead of using volume spacers, up to 30cc's of oil can be added to the air spring to adjust the desired curve.
On the right-hand side of the fork is where things start to get interesting. Rebound damping can be adjusted at the bottom of the fork leg, with 21 clicks to choose from. Up top, there is a gold anodized lockout lever. Next to the lever is a black dial used to adjust the lockout's blow-off threshold. (I never used this, except to see if it works, and it did.) The blue anodized knob tunes compression forces and has twelve clicks of adjustment. Below the top cap is the removable CTS module. The "Compression Tuning System" allows riders to change the entire compression characteristic of the fork by swapping out the compression valves. This is an easy procedure and takes a few minutes. There are currently five different valves to choose from, and if any more appear in the future, they will be available aftermarket. The entire damper cartridge can be removed and serviced, without the need to strip the entire fork. The takeaway here is that Formula designed the 35 to be easily maintained and serviced by its owners.
Another acronym added to the fork is IFT. Internal Floating Technology allows the air spring and cartridge to float on ball joints, this means that when the fork is flexing under load, moving parts are still free to move, at the times when you need friction the least.Set Up
Getting a base setup on the 35 is easy and requires adding air pressure, tuning the rebound in, and then you can hit the trail. Beyond that, there is a whole world of tuning available to your fingertips, if you know what you are looking for.
If you want to adjust the air spring curve of the fork, oil can be added by removing the Schrader valve core and pouring it in. Using oil gives infinite levels of fine tuning compared to changing out large volume spacers. Next, there is the compression damping, and choosing the correct CTS valve is straight forward, if you ride hard, or are heavier then choose a harder compression valve and vice versa. This is a huge advantage over standard forks that should be adjusted for riders shape and style, without the need to send the fork to a service center to play with the shims.Performance
Smooth, fantastically smooth, the 35 is one of the best forks out there in terms of suppleness. After plenty of riding time, it stayed this way, reports from other test riders suggest months, if not years of use without even cleaning the lower legs, still left them with a quality ride.
Reviewing a suspension fork isn't easy due to the massive range of tuning available, personal preference, and the fact that there is no perfect set up. I tried a wide variety of tunes on the 35. My final settings were around 60psi with 5cc of oil in the spring side. On the damping side of the fork, I settled upon, the red (hard) CTS module and 8 clicks of compression, with rebound set on the fast side. I did have the chance to try a 'special firm' CTS unit on a test day with Formula, and that, by far, was my favorite setting. The custom module held the fork higher in its travel and allowed me to run a little more sag. Sadly, at the end of the test session, the engineer took the module it home, as it was a prototype. (these are now available aftermarket.)
The reason Formula pushed to develop their internal floating technology was to keep their fork flexible and compliant to a degree and still work, and boy does the 35 track well through rough cambers, root sections and at lower speeds. There was never any noticeable binding or spiking however rowdy things got. Using my firm setup, the 160mm travel 29er fork felt too flexible for my taste. It was not as direct feeling and predictable in hard riding situations, and under hard braking. I adapted by backing off my attacks in those moments and enjoyed the compliance and tracking in the other sections. For aggressive 29er riders, the 35 should provide a more rigid feel in a shorter overall length (140/150mm travel). Those looking for something to support heavier loads at full travel should look to the new Selva.
Some heavier riders suggested that due to the negative coil spring being a fixed rate, that when they inflated the fork up to and over 70psi, they found the initial travel too harsh, this was with the red CTS, the heaviest tune at their time of testing. Formula suggests that anybody in this range will need to move to the newer green or orange CTS units, to allow them to balance sensitivity and ending stroke performance.Pinkbike's Take