by Andy Holloway
Looking for reliable brakes that won't vaporize your wallet? At $159, Formula's new C1 brakes may be your answer. Developed as the entry-level counterpart to the popular R1, the C1 is a bit heavier and lacks adjustments such as the "Feeling Control System" found in the more expensive big brother. We put the C1 to the test to see how much is left in the tank after this feature diet.
Formula C1 Brake Highlights
- Master Cylinder Cartridge Technology
- SpeedLock Hose Quick Connect Inline
- One-piece caliper body
- 140mm - 203mm depending on rotor mount (1-Piece Rotor 6 Bolt IS or Center Lock, 2-Piece Rotor 6 Bolt IS, and 2-Piece Rotor Center Lock)
- Titanium caliper and rotor bolts
- Sturdier rotors for 2014
- Weight: 346 grams per side
- MSRP: $159 USD per side
Right out of the box, this brakes is light and minimalist looking with a low profile and a slim look and feel. Despite the entry level pricing, the C1's build quality hasn't suffered and it looks just as polished as its higher-end counterpart. No cheap plastic or parts you immediately recognize will break after a few hard riding sessions here.
Mounting the C1's was a breeze with no shifter spacing incompatibilities. An added bonus for SRAM users, the C1's offer a custom mounting perch for shifters to help you clean up your handlebars.
The most notable design aspect of the C1 is the replaceable master cylinder. This makes servicing quick and easy without having to tear into the internals. I did remove and re-install the master cylinder to see if it was as easy as Formula claimed and it simply slides in and out in a couple minutes. Out on the road or in a hurry, this is a very nice feature, especially for those less mechanically inclined. In terms of ergonomics, I also noticed that the pivot pin of the brake lever has moved closer to the bars, making the brake feel very compact and low profile. And with these initial inspections out of the way, time to hit the trail to see what the C1's were really made of.
On The Trail
Break-in on the C1's only took one ride. After just a handful of descents they started delivering full power. The lever has a bit of a mushy feel to it when the pads initially begin to contact the rotor, which I personally didn't mind - but I can see this lack of a crisp contact moment feel being a disadvantage to some riders. However, in keeping with high build quality mentioned earlier, the perches of the C1 are very stiff and won't flex even with excessive force pulling on the lever.
While not the most powerful brake, in XC and All Mountain applications the C1 provides more than enough stopping power for most situations. The lever pull is also predictable and ramps up nicely, with confidence-inspiring modulation, making it easy to ride the brake on that fine line between maximum braking power and locking up.
The brake pads and rotors remained quiet in a variety of conditions from hot and dry to caked in mud. There was the occasional chirp when they were wet on long descents but nothing ear piercing nor sustained. The lever is comfortable on longer rides, and we should point out again that the main pivot point sits closer to the handlebars compared to some other brake designs - perhaps a contributing comfort factor.
Things That Could Be Improved
The C1's aren't very adjustable, so if you're one of those riders who prefer a very specific brake feel, these may not cut it. And while it wasn't an issue on my setup, there is no pivot on the caliper for the incoming hydraulic line. On bikes where the caliper is at a different angle relative to the cable mounting point on the stays, this may cause issues with line routing.
Long Term Durability
After a couple months out on the trail, the C1's have held up well without incident and haven't required any servicing. Reassuring for the more aggressive riders, the rotors have been made a little thicker and wider for more stopping power and an overall sturdier design. Even though these are entry-level brakes, durability hasn't been sacrificed. As with Formula's other brake models, you access the brake-pads from the top of the caliper, making them easy to replace with minimal tools (just a single retaining bolt to remove). We did not notice excessive pad wear during our test, but we would need a bit more time on them to fully evaluate this aspect.
What's The Bottom Line?
If you aren't looking to customize the feel of your brakes and just need something to slow you down on a budget, the C1's are a great choice. With a lot of research and development trickling down from Formula's R1 brakes you know that despite being entry-level, they perform and last like their more expensive counterparts. With the replaceable master cylinder and speed lock quick hose connectors, servicing is also kept quick and simple - and as you know, less wrenching means more riding!
For more details, visit www.formula-italy.com.
About The Reviewer
Andy Holloway has been riding bikes ever since seeing New World Disorder 3 back in 2003. Inspired, he immediately began sculpting dirt jumps and pump tracks that have a unique and technical style while keeping it flowy. After competing in a handful of professional level slopestyle events and a blown up knee in 2007, he decided to switch gears and focus on having fun while being the behind-the-scenes guy sculpting dirt and covering the Colorado scene over at 970Biking.com. Dirt sculpting highlights include the construction of Boulder's Valmont Bike Park, Rhyolite Bike Park and a host of private pump tracks. Recently, he has discovered the adventure and sense of accomplishment from trail riding and is one of those riders who will choose the jump-transfer over the faster line - after all, it's all about keeping it fun.