What's Up Top?
Formula's high-end RO Racing brake is a two-piston stopper that's been designed with downhill riding and racing in mind, or for those who are looking for more power than they might find on tap from a more traditional two-piston offering. What sets the RO Racing brake apart from other options is its radial, pull-style master cylinder that, thanks to a repositioning of the lever pivot, works in the opposite direction to the push-style systems you might be used to seeing. There's also a set of oval-shaped pistons, as well as a whole bunch of titanium hardware that all make the RO Racing brake seem exotic - and pricey - compared to more common brakes.
A single RO Racing brake goes for $350 USD, and a front brake with an 880mm long hose weighs 372 grams, including an 180mm rotor, adapter, and all mounting hardware.
RO Racing Details
• Pull-style radial master cylinder
• Two-piston, one-piece caliper
• Oval-shaped pistons (25.4mm equivalent)
• Tooled reach adjustment
• No contact-point adjustment stock
• Aluminum lever
• Titanium hardware
• Sintered (stock) and semi-metallic pads avail.
• Six-hole and CenterLock rotors avail.
• Weight: 372 grams (front, 180mm rotor, all hardware)
• MSRP:$350 USD per brake
The RO Racing brake uses the same two-piston caliper found on some of the Italian brand's other offerings, but it's up top where things are drastically different from the rest of their range. Formula's other brakes, along with everyone else's, employ a standard push-style master cylinder that, as the description suggests, pushes the master cylinder's plunger in as you pull the brake lever. This is what you'll find across the board from Shimano, SRAM, Magura, Hope, Formula's other offerings, and anyone else who sells hydraulic disc brakes.
The RO Racing brake, however, works in the opposite way. Because the brake lever's pivot is on the opposite side of the plunger pivot, the brake's master cylinder's plunger is pulled out and away from the handlebar when you squeeze the brake lever rather than being pushed in towards it. Neato.
But why? Formula cited two reasons when we talked to them during the brake's debut at Eurobike last year. First, it allows them to bring the lever pivot in closer to the handlebar for improved ergonomics. And, second, they say that it also makes for lighter lever action due to the pulling motion of the plunger through the master cylinder not binding as much as when you're pushing it. For what it's worth, I think it also looks pretty cool.
Besides the radial, pull-style master cylinder setup, the top end of the RO Racing brake has been pared down to the absolute minimum. There is no in-line dial to adjust the brakes contact point (Formula refers to this as their 'Feeling Control System
') although this can be installed as an aftermarket hop-up, and reach adjustment requires a near-microscopic 2mm hex key. And just in case the RO Racing brake isn't trick enough compared to the veritable sea of Shimano and SRAM brakes, it also comes stock with titanium hardware from the factory. Caliper and Rotor
The bottom end of the RO Racing brake might not be as interesting as what's happening upstairs, but Formula is hiding one trick inside of the brake's forged, one-piece caliper: two oval-shaped pistons. Why go with egg-shaped pistons when pretty much everyone else uses the tried and true round shape? To increase the piston's surface area, of course, which is said to therefore increase braking power. Formula says that the oval shape is the equivalent of a 25.4-millimeter diameter piston.
The stock sintered brake pads load through the top of the post-mount caliper, with a threaded collet pin holding them in place, and the banjo bolt can be loosened to be angled to best work with your frame and fork. One-piece steel rotors or fancy looking two-piece rotors with alloy spiders are available (my test brakes came with the latter), and the alloy spiders are said to be able to act better as a heat sink by pulling temperature away from the brake pads and the DOT fluid. Cooler running temps mean there should be a more consistent feel and less chance of fading. Setup and Ergonomics
With a split perch and post-mount calipers, the RO Racing brake installs just like any other system on the market, although I did run into some setup issues after using them a handful of times. While it only took a few minutes to align both the front and rear brake calipers to run drag-free, this would usually only last for a single ride before the rotors would start to gently brush one of the brake pads on both ends of the bike. The rotors stayed straight, mind you, and everything was tightened to spec and bled correctly, but the light contact would always return regardless of what I did.
Lever reach is adjusted by using a 2mm hex key to turn a recessed screw at the front of the lever, with firm detents that keep the lever's position from ever migrating in or out during use. Other than the reach adjust, the lever's angle and its position on your handlebar are the only other remaining adjustments.
There is no contact-point adjustment dial as found on Formula's RO and T1 Racing brakes (the Feeling Control System can be installed on the RO Racing brake but doesn't come stock), but the engagement point for the RO Racing brake is exactly where I'd have it if even it were adjustable. I had a Shimano XT shifter and 9point8 dropper post remote up against the RO Racing perches and had no issue with compatibility, and it looks like they'd also play nice with every other shifter or dropper post remote on the market. Power
I'd exchange a bit of power for some extra control and modulation, but Formula may have taken that trade a bit too far. There's appreciably less initial bite from the RO Racing brake, regardless of either pad compound I tried, which is something that could be a benefit in low-traction conditions if you're a glass-half-full kind of guy. That said, they certainly have less power than what you'll find from Formula's other brakes, especially their powerful The One stopper. I found myself spending less time on my bike's rear wheel because of this - I wasn't confident I could bring the front-end back down as required - and they don't exactly instill confidence when you're riding at ten-tenths.
Multiple sets of semi-metallic and sintered brake pads were installed, the stopping surfaces were not contaminated, and the brakes were bled correctly during my time on them. Regardless, my tired hands further confirm a lack of power, and it would take about three minutes of solid descending before my mitts started to complain. There wasn't a single hint of them pumping up or fading and losing power, however, so at least things stayed consistent.Modulation
The RO Racing's lack of outright power does mean that it seems as if they have more modulation than previous Formula offerings. Anyone who's ridden Formula's brakes is probably aware that they definitely have a unique feel to them compared to a SRAM or Shimano brake, and that's still true of the RO Racing. That distinctive lever impression - some have referred to it as "wooden" - is still there, but it's been greatly reduced. This is very good news. I was also happy with the rather firm lever feel once the pads made contact against the rotor, with there being not even a hint of mushiness that can make one wonder if their brake levers are going to pull up against their grips in a panic situation.
I crept down some scary steep rock faces while I had the RO Racing brakes on my bike and can't recall a single ''Oh shit!'' moment when I locked up by accident and then struggled to take control again. Formula has definitely improved on the modulation front, although I do suspect that some of this might down to their lack of stopping power. Either way, the control is there, even if the power isn't. Pinkbike's Take:
|A lack of outright power means that the expensive RO Racing brake is hard to recommend compared to less expensive, better performing systems on the market. Yes, Formula has improved lever feel over their other offerings, but they'll also need to improve on the power output before I'd consider the RO Racing brake for my own bike. - Mike Levy|
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