Among mountain bikers, Formula are well known for their brakes, but less so for their suspension. The 35 has been around for three years, but has remained a rare beast with little public exposure. Why would a brake manufacturer start making a fork? Well, the brand has been building motocross and moto trial suspension for years, so why not take that technology and experience and shrink the package into something suitable for modern day enduro racers? The brand has re-invented both the 35 and its image for 2016, and added some new employees and products. A quick ride at the Riva Del Garda Bike Festival showed that they're on the right track. Chassis Details:
• Intended use: Enduro performance
• Travel: 29" 100-140mm / 150-160mm
27.5" 100-160mm / 170-180mm
• 35mm Stanchions
• Integrated Locking System
• Compression Tuning System
• Offset: 44mm or 51mm
• Axle: 15QR axle with Integrated Locking System
• Colors: matte black, matte white, Ultraviolet
• Weight: 1790 -1860 grams (claimed
• Price: €988 - €1040 ($1120 - $1280 USD)
• Contact: Formula
Formula have chosen a 35mm stanchion for their forks, the same as a RockShox Pike and nestled in between Fox's 34 and 36 forks. 27.5" and 29" options are available with a standard 15mm x 100mm hub, though a boost version will be an option later this year. There is a choice of two offsets, 44mm and 51mm for either wheelsize. Weight wise, the claimed 1790 grams suggest it is one of, if not the lightest enduro racing capable fork on the market. Breaking tradition, Formula will offer its premier enduro fork in a number of colours: "ultraviolet," matte black, and white - with a range of decal options in matching tones.
The 35's designers focused on not making the fork overly stiff, as they believe that some flex is needed for traction. A taper in the right stanchion locks the axle there and the disc brake side is fixed with a threaded, 4mm Allen key or Formula's ILS lever. To avoid internal friction due to chassis flex, Formula devised a unique cartridge design. More about that later.
Formula's 'Integrated Locking System' lever is simply a means to tighten an internal 4mm Allen hex. The lever assembly can be removed, or left in place when riding and it can also be used as an emergency Allen wrench elsewhere on the bike. Watch the following video for a detailed description:Internals
The 35's internals see a complete redesign for 2017, with a wide range of external adjustments. The air cartridge uses a coil-spring bottom out bumper, and instead of using plastic tokens to reduce air volume, Formula adjusts the oil level with a range between 5cc and 30cc. Compared to a Fox Float 36, for example, that works out to four tokens. The advantage of using oil for this purpose is that the range is not indexed by the size of token so finer adjustments can be made. Weight is the same, as plastic is basically oil in a different form.Compression Tuning System:
To ensure that customers can attain the perfect tune, the 35 features three pre-valved compression modules called the 'Compression Tuning System.' These small valve heads can be switched within a few minutes with an Allen key. Blue flexible prongs prevent over-tightening by bending before the ham-fisted among us can cause any real damage. The three valve heads change the compression rate from soft to firm (grey - blue - red).
On top of this, low-speed compression can be changed using the gold lever on the right fork crown, which has 13 clicks of adjustment, from open to completely locked out. An optional remote lever can be had (€62), which allows the rider to choose any of the 13 indexed compression settings on the fly. It does this by rotating the entire hose, which operates the compression dial like a vintage speedometer cable. Formula’s lever allows fine tuning of ride height damping when needed, while most handlebar remote levers only provide two or three adjustment options.
To keep the fork compliant during lateral loading, Formula created 'Internal Floating Technology.' On the spring side, this means the air cartridge is structurally merged with the lowers and uses a ball joint head on top of the bottom out springs. On the damping side, the cartridge is designed to move smoothly even when bent under load, Formula say "this, more than stanchion coatings decreases the overall friction of the fork allowing for more travel usage and greater tuning for better trail control.'Impressions
I managed a quick ride on the fork in Riva Del Garda, certainly not long enough to give a solid impression but two things did stand out: With their standard, out of the box settings, the 35 offers more support than its competition combined with a suppleness and sensitivity I've yet to find elsewhere - at least without some heavy tweaking. Formula's asking price isn't extortionate, considering its performance and build quality, but I would like to see the CTS kit included for $1280 USD, rather than having to buy the kit separately. That goes for all manufacturers too: if you have tuning options I want to find them in the box when I open it.
There is a Formula 35 in the post coming for long-term testing and I can't wait to see what the fork has in store when settings are dialed into my liking. But, for now, here's a video edit of the new 35 in action: