It’s very expensive, but Formula’s new R0 disc brake pushes the braking power boundaries while staying trail bike light. When a downhill brake combines this much power with good modulation in a moderately light package, why wouldn’t you want to ride it on every type of ‘mountain’ bike?
Simply put, Formula’s R0 brake is one of the best mountain bike disc brakes we’ve ever used. It’s supremely powerful and, more importantly, offers the best modulation we’ve ever experienced from a Formula brake. And it’s the modulation that’s most important when you’re dealing with a brake with this much power.
The R0 features a forged radial master cylinder with a new high-capacity reservoir and diaphragm for better heat dispersion. The cylinder also has a tool-free reach-adjust dial and an easily swapable Speed Lock hose connection. The business end is an oversized, oval piston calliper with a claimed 18 percent power increase over The One. We didn’t see that much of a boost on the dyno but it’s the most powerful brake we’ve ever tested.
That power means the R0 needs serious respect at first, although fine control and feedback are fantastic once you’ve adjusted to the amount of anchorage at your fingertips. On the trail, the R0 never requires more than a single finger for operation.
Equipped with 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors, the system offers the feel of an expertly bled motorsport machine and is just how we like it – very firm. That firm feeling doesn’t mean it’s hard to pull, though. The R0 lever provides feedback that lets you know exactly where the brake is in its power band, and it takes just a few rides before this information helps you go faster.
Even at speed we were able to tell exactly how close we were to locking the wheel, whereas many brakes as powerful as the R0 give little warning. Better yet, even over the course of steep, aggressive descents lasting 10 minutes or more, we never felt a change in the brakes’ feel.
Both the master cylinder and calliper are forged
While the 375g R0 package is light compared to others with the same power, it’s middle of the trail in the grand scheme of disc brakes. Still, we’d implore any trail rider looking for an expensive, high-end brake to consider it. Because the brake is so powerful you can drop a rotor size to save more weight, further increasing modulation.
One of our past gripes with Formula is that they don’t offer the same range as other brands when it comes to reach adjustment, particularly on the narrow end, close to the bar. While we brought the levers in all the way to the stop using the tool-free reach adjust, they came in slightly closer than the RX and One have done. Still, the R0 best fits a medium- to large-sized hand, and small-handed riders will probably want a tighter adjustment.
The levers themselves are beautifully sculpted and supremely comfortable to use. They flip-flop for left or right use, and feature a removable clamp for easy installation and removal. Tool-free reach adjustment is slickly integrated with the alloy levers, and the R0 comes with Formula’s FCS (Feeling Control System) as a standard feature.
The calliper is forged from a single piece of aluminum and fit with oval 24mm pistons, which add to the increased surface area and power of the brake. The pistons are also cupped, increasing the surface area for better cooling.
The brakes are fit with top-loading, sintered metallic pads, and we tested them with Formula’s one-piece steel rotors. They’re reasonably light, 2mm thick and supremely straight. We ran 180mm front and 160mm rear variants but only the most aggressive trail riders will need the 180mm front option. Light downhillers might even be able to get by with our 180mm/160mm combo, and only the heaviest will need anything more than the 180mm rotor out back.
Both the pads and rotors have held up fine during testing, though conditions have remained relatively forgiving during our six-month usage period in the US. Ultimate performance comes at a cost though, and Formulas often need more TLC than most.