Formula 35 Fork - Review

Jun 22, 2017
by Paul Aston  
Formula 35 Review


Formula 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
www.rideformula.com
Formula 35


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

Formula 35


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.

Formula 35
The 35's sealed cartridge can be removed and serviced independently of the fork.


Formula 35
Formula's coil negative spring is key to the fork's velvety smooth damping in the beginning stroke.
Formula 35
Different CTS units to changes the whole feel of the compression damping circuit.


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.

CTS
This chart shows the compression damping differences between the different CTS units.


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.

Formula 35 Review
The 35 uses a single air chamber with a negative dual coil spring. Air volume can be adjusted incrementally by adding up to 30cc of oil through the Schrader valve opening.
Formula 35 Review
The gold lever is the lockout. the black dial next door tunes the lockout threshold. The blue compression knob has 12 clicks of adjustment. The Compression Tuning System sits below the top cap.



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.


Views: 4,304    Faves: 3    Comments: 1


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
bigquotesThe 35 is an incredibly smooth trail bike fork that offers a huge range of tuning options to suit almost everybody—plus, it can be easily serviced and maintained by its owners. Harder and heavier riders, however, may want to wait for the beefier Selva model. Paul Aston







MENTIONS: @rideformula




98 Comments

  • + 17
 Do they really use a presta valve for the air spring? I'm guessing this is a typo, or do you have to use an adapter or a proprietary shock pump?
  • + 18
 There's no presta valve on mine, just a normal schrader valve.
  • + 7
 It's a typo.
  • - 34
flag ddj1985 (Jun 22, 2017 at 13:34) (Below Threshold)
 As soon as I saw who the author was, I skipped the article and went straight to the comments to see what he got wrong this time. Low and behold, incorrectly naming a valve standard, twice. We all make mistakes, but I do expect more from a Pinkbike review.
  • + 36
 @ddj1985:
It's "Lo and behold". Just in the spirit of pointing and laughing at others mistakes.
  • - 31
flag onemind123 (Jun 22, 2017 at 19:51) (Below Threshold)
 Yup and 11 hours later they haven't put the bong down to fix what was missed during the proofing period.
  • + 31
 @onemind123 @ddj1985

I envy people who have the time to read these articles but shit all over them over silly stuff like this.
F**k outta here, no ones making you read this -- go literally anywhere else with your negativity.
  • - 52
flag onemind123 (Jun 22, 2017 at 21:37) (Below Threshold)
 @strider114: Go sit on yomammas rotten fish smellin dildo
  • + 2
 @strider114: you're right it's silly to expect people to do their jobs correctly. If you don't want your grammar corrected and picked on than don't be a journalist/reporter if your not interested in proofing your work. But alas we shouldn't be held accountable for our errors because everyone else should have known what we meant to begin with.
  • + 2
 @zonoskar: Thanks for clearing that up. It's corrected in the article now as well.
  • - 1
 @lifeofloon: You're absolutely right, as humans we never make mistakes and it's unforgivable. /s
  • + 3
 @lifeofloon: *then...*you're but I know what you meant...
  • + 0
 @COnovicerider: haha. Good call. Good thing that wasn't a bad nail in one of my horses hooves or I may have lost an account. One reason I never pursued a career in writing but I'll happily be an anonymous commenter on the internet.
  • + 1
 @lifeofloon: *you're*
  • + 11
 This is -by a good margin- the favorite fork I have ridden (pike, 34, dvo, stage) However you STILL can not buy the new stuff from Formula in the States.
The brakes, Cura, were ace as well.
I would replace fork (pike) and brakes (guide) on my bike, if these were available online.
Wake up Formula, no point to advertise in the US market if we can't buy the stuff!!!
  • + 9
 BTI carries formula now, most bike shops can order through BTI.
  • + 2
 @RedRedRe Hi, thx a lot for your comment. Formula is now distributed in the US by BTI (www.bti-usa.com). Our products are already listed on several shops in the US like Bikeparts.com and Universal Cycles. Cheers, Formula staff.
  • + 8
 I LOVE mine! It's 180mm and either on my Nomad 3 or my Knolly. My friend is constantly trying to buy it off me. He's pushing Two-Fitty and needs to wait for the Selva though...
  • + 2
 Cool! Out of curiosity did you long shock your nomad to bump up the rear travel as well?
  • + 4
 I am 210 pounds and the formula thirtyfive fork was easily stiffer than the pike I have on my bike.
  • + 0
 @SoDiezl350: I did try it for one ride but then just long shocked the Delirium... it took it much better. I then use an 11.6 on the Nomad paired with the 180mm Nomad. Check the pics of it in my profile. Killer setup.
  • + 5
 i totally agree with all above in the review!

on my bikes where all of the big names, and a view of the smaller ones..all had their pro's, contra's and should be's... and where good..

but... now i'm super happy with the selva ex on my spindrift!
it's the first fork i can ride near the suggested pressure for my weight and riding style.. that doesn't bottom out on every bigger hit... and to top that off, on the first rides, i checked my front tire not only once if i had a flat (on firerodes) because this fork reacts on everything!

all at all.... just meeeega happy with my choice!!! ???? ✌️
  • - 17
flag mhoshal (Jun 22, 2017 at 13:10) (Below Threshold)
 Lmao so a fork making you feel like you have a flat is a good thing? That's a pretty retarded statement!!!
  • + 4
 @mhoshal: it is just that plush on the beginning of the travel that makes you think
my friend has one(don't know if it is stock as he is a formula sponsored rider) and "testing" the bike on the parking lot t was way harder than mine and almost not using travel, but it was way smoother than my 36
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: tiagomano got the point! ;-)

there is absolutely no fork i have ridden that feels like my selva ex on the beginning of her travel!
and, yes, the fork has this feeling out of the box... just added a view ml of fork oil for the progression...
  • + 3
 "oil can be added to the single, positive air spring to adjust the fork's feel" - This is pretty unique, except for every other air spring on the market. \s People have done this to every air spring ever made if they want to modify spring rate curves. The benefit of Tokens is that you don't have to do this anymore (make a mess or cobble together a syringe setup).
Maybe some very dialed people need finer tuning than ± 1 token, but overall i think it's a pretty good solution. This seems like they either forgot or couldn't get around a patent. Calling it a feature seems lame.
  • + 2
 They're not the only ones who don't offer tokens. Not sure if it's a design constraint or something else (such as a patent issue, as you suggest).
  • + 3
 you can't put oil in the positive air spring if there is a negative air spring, except "dual air" likes.
  • + 4
 I think the coil negative springs could be the superior way to make an air spring if they came with a couple springs rates. Like small for 135# riders, medium for 165#, and large for 200# or something like that.
  • + 2
 Negative air spring is the way to go, ive played around with negative springs on my fox 36 with some success, but the new fox 36 with negative air spring is the real winer
  • + 6
 DVO uses a pre-load adjustable coil negative spring. It seems like each fork on the market these days has some nice features and some others that could be improved.
  • + 3
 This is where Push Industries will come into play soon, surely?!
  • + 2
 Fox used to offer different negative spring rates before they went to air, but it's a pain to change out for most riders.
  • + 3
 @BoneDog: rs dual air all the way!!
  • + 2
 The DVO adjustable coil negative spring is amazing.
  • - 3
 @BoneDog:
Negative spring is there to counter static friction, which is constant and independent upon weight, terrain and riding style. When the fork is sagged it has a minute effect. Why would you want to tune it instead of adding progression and lowering pressure in the positive spring?
  • + 4
 @Ynotgorilla: Negative spring has nothing to do with static friction, but has everything to do with static pressure. no negative spring means the fork would rest hard up against the travel limiter, resulting in a very harsh fork which would require substantial initial force to over come the static pressure. With a negative spring, the forks static pressure between both negative and positive chambers is balanced, the fork is more active and plush.

You can add and tune your progression and positive spring as much as you wish, but you will always in every case need a negative spring to overcome static pressure. The ability to adjust a negative spring is actually much more useful than you think.

Read up:

www.pinkbike.com/news/Tech-Tuesday-negative-spring-air-shocks-2012.html
  • + 1
 @dthomp325: They did this only for the 40 and you had to ship it to a service center.
The 36 never had any (readily available) aftermarket negative springs, which was it's bane - it either suited you or lost travel or lost plushness, depending if you were heavier or lighter than intended...
  • + 2
 The coil negative springs always work great for me because I weight 165 lbs. It would be nice for everyone else to have my experience without having to go on a lemon diet or taking BeefCake 4000.
  • + 1
 @Ynotgorilla: negative spring is to reduce preload. The air spring is trying to push the fork/shock apart even at 0 compression, that's what preload is. The negative spring counters that by pushing back in the opposite direction. Auto-adjust air negative springs like those used in RS and Fox current gen have 0 preload.
  • + 7
 Your axle lever position is driving my OCD mad. Please re-clock.
  • + 3
 Come on! Who downvoted the MRP guy??? I thought it was funny!
  • + 3
 Progressive damping on the regular valves? C'mon...they need more choice on the "special" valves, which shouldn't be special, but standard. Which fork employs progressive damping nowadays, weird...
  • + 1
 The "special" valves are only called special, they were added to the line later, I guess the guys at Formula noticed, that many people look for a linear spring these days.

That said, I don't think there is a fork on the market, that is not progressive out of the box. Only the degree varies.
  • + 1
 @FuzzyL: If by 'progressive' you're talking about the damping force increasing with speed, every damper is necessarily progressive since damping force is proportional to speed, or to some monotone (increasing) function of speed. That's why most graphs of damping force versus speed in this article are almost linear after they enter their high speed modes (probably by use of shim springs).

I think what @ArturoBandini is trying to say is that the low speed damping is too low compared to the high speed damping forces for the regular dampers.
  • + 4
 @WaterBear: You are right in your assumption, but progressive damping shouldn't need an explanation, there really is no room for interpretation on that term. Fuzzy was talking springs for some reason, so completely missed my point. I am not talking about spring curves.
And just an increase of damping force with shaft speed does not mean progressive. That could be any continuous function.
Progressive means progressive, so yeah, over-proportional increase of damping force over shaft speed. And it is widely accepted and can be felt that that sucks for offroad cycling application. I hope I could make my point more understandable...
  • + 1
 To add one piece of information: Of course those curves only represent one unmentioned clicker setting (LS) and with a more closed low speed needle the damping curves become more digressive. In the end the resulting curve out of oil weight, clicker setting and shimstack (plus piston design) is what counts, so it gets more complex than just damping curves of the stack...
  • + 1
 @ArturoBandini: I (though I) understood what you meant. FuzzyL seemed confused, which is why I was addressing him.

What's really interesting are the 'special' damping curves. You can pretty clearly see the regular curves are almost perfectly linear in low and high speed regimes (which is what you'd expect), with significant curvature only when transitioning between the two. The special curves are not really linear, especially in the low speed regime, and I'm curious how they did that and how to model it.

(Maybe just a really high damping coefficient at low speed and a fairly low one at high speed?)
  • + 1
 ffs Pinkbike
mmbhof.org/portfolio/1974-first-mountain-bike-with-a-disc-brake-tankagnlolo-and-first-mountain-bike-in-the-pacific-northwest

Mistake in the first pp again on Formula. Some kids will lap this up and repeat. Do we want everybody to sound like a trump in the coming years?
  • + 1
 I replaced my Talas 32 Factory with a Formula 35 setted at 120mm on my Jet 9 Carbon....feeling much stiffer , more plush and anyhow still approx 100gr lighter than the Fox....
  • + 2
 The floating ball joint internals and swap-out valves sound like some pretty cool engineering. I'm afraid to ask how much these cost...
  • + 16
 Luckily you only have to read the article where it lists the price. No need to ask.
  • + 2
 @bsavery: thanks man, i missed that the first time..
  • + 1
 I love the idea of the different CTS units. Maybe it's because I was recently in whistler and was reminded that my stock suspension settings are not for a place like the bike park haha.
  • + 1
 I can only say that I like the fork on my Specialized Enduro. It may be easy to service, but it is hard to open because you need the proper tools, since the topcaps don't have a hex interface.
  • + 3
 sorry... what you said??? I assume your Enduro uses a formula fork??? Cheers. Beer
  • + 2
 @smoranc: yeah, I forgot to add I have this formula 35 29er, 160mm on my Enduro.
  • + 2
 I may be wrong, but I believe you can just use a 12 pt. socket for the top caps.
  • + 2
 Seems like a great fork. How's their customer service (in USA)? Has anyone had experience?
  • + 2
 They recently got picked up but BTI so I would expect US representation to improve drastically
  • + 2
 @Co2x2: Hi, thx for your comment. This is right, BTI is our new distributor in the US (www.bti-usa.com). Cheers, Formula staff.
  • + 1
 @rideformula: and what about other markets??? I'm trying to contact you to distribute here in Mexico. Hope we can connect. I really like your stuff but can't buy here. I would gladly like to sell tour products here.
  • + 1
 $1100 fork and no IRT type secondary air piston for tuning mid-stroke on the air spring, but the best damper on the market, hands down!
  • + 1
 adding or subtracting oil to alter the air volumes seems like a messier way of adjusting your fork vs tokesn . but I guess there are those cts units
  • + 3
 It actually is super easy: unscrew air valve, add oil with tiny seringe, screw it back on
  • + 1
 I thought the same thing. Infinite adjustability (within a range) is kind of nice, but not really needed. Some tokens that are 1/2 or 1/4 of the size of a regular token would be more than enough adjustability and be way cleaner/easier to swap.
  • + 4
 It's easy to get oil in, but the oil will get less over time, and also it's a little tough to get the oil out again once you added too much
  • + 1
 Looks to be something that should have been done a long time ago. Its nice to see. The travel adjustment is really cool. The lockout lever looks like the Vorsprung kit.
  • + 1
 Axle-to-Crown Measurements? Did I read it right, you can get a 29" model with 44mm offset in 160mm? Can it (the 29" model) fit 275x3.0 tires?
  • + 1
 I think that the 35 can't fit plus tires since it isn't Boost but only 15x100. The Selva on the other hand is the 35 internal with Boost spacing and can accept plus tires. I saw that Paul wrote that Selva isn't available yet, but I think I saw it on Bike24 (German online store), not sure tho.
  • + 1
 @vid1998: There are plenty of 15x100 29" forks that fit 275x3.0 tires, depending on the rim. It's the 275 forks where things get tight, which is why many manufacturers upped the maximum tire width once they went boost.
  • + 1
 @vid1998: The Selva is available (at least in Europe, don't know about the U.S.)
  • + 2
 Found the details: 29" model - 566mm +/- 5mm at 160mm of travel and 61mm max section width for tires. By comparison, a Pike 29 (older model) is 571mm A2C and can fit a max tire of 66mm width (but will fit a 275x3.0).
  • + 1
 @PHeller: I guess you are right, since I don't have any longer experiences with that kind of forks, so I stated information of manufactures (who will say that something won't fit another product in order to sell more).
  • + 2
 I really want to build a purple bike now
  • + 2
 Are you going to give a review on the Pole?
  • + 2
 @wlvJC: Thank you very much! I missed that one.
  • + 1
 Possibly one of the most exotic mountain bike in the world, yet you wouldn't be that surprised to see it. Kind of a strange superstardom.
  • + 0
 @Kramz: or rather attitudedom Wink and I mean it in a good way. Pole is like Björk, Scandinavian and edgy, I personally would prefer riding Katy Perry, ummm sorry I mean SWorks. But we need edgy, we definitely do. Even Ellsworth started looking too normal
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: "Scandinavian" Big Grin Go take another shot on geography
  • + 0
 @hemski69: I don't understand... which is non Scandinavian - Björk or Pole? Do you have some ethnic angle on Scandinavity of Iceland and Finland?
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Pole is from Finland, which is not part of Scandinavia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavia
  • + 1
 @hemski69: Ok... honestly... I failed fighting for purity of Scandinavian nations...
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Some swedes still thinking that Finland is part of SE... smh
  • - 2
 Lol, good to see more forks out there but "manufactured in Italy" rather than Asia is kind of a joke. Italy is famous for having poor production standards, compared to Asia which makes a ton of really good quality gear. A lot of cheap stuff but the prices always match the quality..unlike some other countries.
  • - 1
 With that ball jointed piston thingy, can it be possible that the lower white plastic part of the piston end up rubbing the insides of the chamber causing micro scratches therefore shortening the life of the O-ring?
  • - 1
 Interesting concept with the different compression valves, but other than that it looks to be same-same as other forks. I'll stick to my DVO that can actually handle heavy riders due to the adjustable negative air spring.
  • + 1
 will it blow up after 5 rides, with no Canadian after sales service like their hubs?
  • + 3
 Their new Canadian representation should be released soon, also make sure you are not confusing this Formula with Formula hubs www.formulahubs.com/product.php?t=3

Two different companies...
  • + 2
 @tomgibson Hi, we will announce a brand new distributor for Canada (Whistler) very soon. Their Facebook page is already up www.facebook.com/albadistribution. We can’t wait for the official announcement. Stay tuned, Formula staff.
  • + 1
 Can't find any pun... Well, fork it.
  • + 18
 But the Formula was right there for you to spring into action. You still have time to rebound and adjust those pun settings. Sorry
  • + 0
 I hope it comes in an adjustable travel version. The fork looks great, but I am adicted to TALAS travel adjust.
  • - 1
 Hope had disc brakes in '91
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