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Gear Review: Formula Oro K24

By Rob Manning

Formula Oro K24 Disc Brakes

Formula Brake co. is a relatively un-recognized player in the field of disc brakes in todayís cycling scene. At the moment, Formula is gaining widespread recognition as producers of some of the best built and backed hydraulic bicycle disc brakes in the industry. They even built the first iterations of the venerable Juicy 7, which gives you an inkling of the skill of their design and craftsmanship. Their current brake models have made a splash with riders such as Cedric Gracia of Team Commencal and Greg Minnar of Team Honda G-Cross, and have taken several podiums with these riders.

The K24 lever is compact yet stylish.
Background Braking

Brakes on a mountain bike are something that you should never have to think about. Whether hydraulic or mechanical, they simply need to be there when you pull the lever. Regardless of circumstances your brakes should offer some kind of modulation and MUST possess sufficient power to stop you when your noggin hangs in the balance. There are literally hundreds of choices of pad, rotor, caliper, lever and fluid combinations that could be put together, and what works for one person wonít necessarily work for another.

The best way to decide what brakes to buy (or decide if you need a new system) is to look at what youíre currently using. Take stock of what you like and dislike about the brakes youíre riding at the moment. If youíre riding V-brakes, keep in mind that youíll need a few more things than just a new brake system and rotor; youíll likely need fresh wheels, assuming your frame is disc brake ready. If youíre riding discs ask yourself if the modulation, stopping power, lever feel, pad/rotor squeal (or lack thereof) and maintenance intensity of the current discs is satisfactory. If you do indeed find elements about your brakes that you dislike, perhaps youíre in the market for a change.

Formula's rotors are handsome and functional.
Once youíve narrowed it down to a new kit, research is your best friend. Spend some time finding out what riders in your area are using and what they like/donít like about those systems. Find out what your LBS recommends. Find out what people online that ride similar bikes on similar trails recommend. If you can get information on the companyís customer service, thatís even better. You never know when you may need them and if so will they be there for you?

Formula for Success?

Iíd never actually ridden Formula brakes in the past. My all mountain bike was, at the time, stocked with Avid Juicy 7s. For a three-year-old set of brakes, those Juicys were excellent performers. I had a couple complaints with them though: the CPS system annoyed the hell out of me (the caliper would NOT remain aligned on my bike no matter how much I tried). Additionally, the lever didnít have the greatest return feeling, the little red dial was prone to damage and had no stop points and the rotor had a little bit of ďturkey gobbleĒ or stutter on braking. While researching on MTBR.comís forums I had the pleasure of interacting with several members of Formula Brake USAís customer service department as well as a number of satisfied Formula users. Everyone seemed pleased with the lever feel, lever adjustment and braking smoothness of the Formula offerings.

I placed an order for a set of Formulaís middle of the road brake system, the K24. Of the three systems Formula offers, the K24 was the best mix of performance, features and weight for my application. The K18 was very comparable, but did not feature Formulaís FCS (Feeling Control System) for pad contact adjustment, and the Puro was just a weight weenie version of the K24 in a color I didnít particularly like. I chose 160mm rotors front and rear to compare directly with the 160mm J7s. The brakes arrived nicely packaged and even included spare hose fittings in case shortening the hoses was necessary.

Twin piston calipers provide plenty of stopping power.
Bolt on, bed in, brake it down.

The rotors were a straightforward installation on my Crossmax wheels with the provided T25 torx bolts. The calipers bolted nicely onto the supplied adapters and to the frame. Split lever clamps made it very easy to install the levers on the bars, which is a definite plus. With everything in place, I tightened down the levers and aligned the calipers. Both front and rear hoses were a bit too long, but without a bleed kit handy I opted to leave them long for the time being. Spinning the wheels while in the stand revealed that, with a few minor adjustments, the calipers centered nicely.

I bedded the system in a little bit by riding around a parking lot at one of my regular trails. While not fully bedded in, I was impressed with the stopping power and modulation. The FCS lever allowed me to dial in the pad contact to my own specifications and the lever return was very positive. Trail riding bedded in the brakes further and allowed me to get a few impressions on the behavior of the system.

Since it seems the most popular brakes on the market today are the Hayes HFX and Juicy series. They are all similarly designed, DOT based hydraulic brakes and since Iíve ridden them all, Iíll draw comparisons against those two:

Top end power:

In terms of top end power the Juicy beats the K24 by a slight margin (with Hayes coming in a distant third), but there is still plenty of power there to stop things suddenly.

Modulation:

The modulation of the K24 is easily on par with the Juicy, and it blows away the HFXs. It should be noted that the Juicy 7 seems to have better modulation due to its adjustable pad contact point.

The Feeling Control System mechanism allows for a wide range of pad contact adjustment.
Lever feel (return):

In terms of lever feel and return, the K24 takes a first place, with the Juicy and HFX in second and third, respectively. The Juicy (7) is slightly more adjustable due to the infinite range of the pad contact adjuster, but this was one of my personal pet peeves. Iíll still say itís more adjustable than the K24. Forget the HFX, thereís simply too little adjustment to be had.

Best Price:

The HFX is going to be the cheapest to get on your bike, costing as little as $100 per wheel. The K24s will run you around $170 per wheel, and the Juicys will set you back around $200 per wheel.

Overall:

Iíd conclude that the Juicy and the K24 are on pretty level ground against each other, and the choice of which is actually better than the other will come down to personal preference. I personally prefer the K24s to the Juicy series, but thatís just me. The K24 does suffer from a small lack of lever adjustment, but itís still enough to make it all work. The lever quality of the K24 seems to be slightly cheaper than that of the aluminum Juicy lever, but thatís a small issue (until I break one).

Final impressions:

The K24 is an excellent system for a very attractive price, but it is not without its own little quirks and issues. It could use a little more FCS adjustment, and a little larger master cylinder would give it more top end power. It would be very easy to install a 7Ē rotor on the front to give an increase in power, but 6Ē should be fine for XC work. Lever feel is a very individual preference, and what works for me may not necessarily work for you. If youíre in the market for a new set of brakes, track down a pair of these and give them a try. You just may be surprised to discover that this relatively unknown brand runs (or stops) with the best of them.

Formula Brake USA: www.formulabrakeusa.com
Formula Brake HQ: www.formula-brake.it