2019 Formula Selva R pre-production first ride
Read our enduro fork test and you’ll see that we consider the myriad of tuning possibilities offered by Formula Selva R are both an asset and a drawback.
The stock damping tune (regular medium) was out for our body weight and riding style, and the coil negative spring was too light for the pressures we were running.
It was only once we’d swapped to one of the other six alternative Compression Tuning System valves and a heavier negative spring that we got close the performance we wanted.
There is plenty of information about the various CTS units on the Formula website, but each one costs €54 and the tool a further €50, so while we applaud the custom tuning potential, experimenting with your fork could quickly get pretty expensive.
In addition, Formula has an updated Selva in the works, and we had a (brief) chance to ride it in pre-production form in the Alps recently. It will be called the Selva R and it will sit above the current Selva in the range. The original version will become the Selva S. Expect the price of the new fork to be a bit higher than the current Selva, but by how much we’re not sure. If you have the current fork fear not; you’ll also be able to upgrade to the new spec should you wish – it’s completely retro-fittable.
New dual air-spring
This new Selva R uses a dual air spring set-up in place of the air positive/coil negative set-up found in the current version. This has the advantage of allowing you to balance both positive and negative chambers to tune the ride feel and ensure sensitivity off the top. A coil spring will only push back correctly against a range of positive air pressures – and therefore rider weights – while the dual air works whether you’re a whippet or a linebacker.
Rather than using a self-balancing system it runs separate chambers, and two valves. It’s pretty easy to set-up; take your body weight in kg and convert to psi. So our 70kg became 70psi in the positive chamber. Add 20-25psi to that for the negative.
After asking us about our riding style (how do you answer this question in a useful way?) Formula’s ex-Moto GP technician Luca Rossi fitted the Special Medium CTS valve and dialled up 10 clicks from full closed on compression and nine from full closed on rebound. We then headed out into the Les Gets Bike Park for some laps of Chavannes aboard Formula’s Ancilotti demo bike.
Formula Selva R ride impressions
Our test track included high speed jumps and berms peppered with braking bumps, then the classic, and outrageously rooty, Canyon track. A good mix of speeds then, with unlimited staccato square-edge hits as well as deeper drops into gullies and a real need for steering precision and grip. The only thing really lacking was anything steep.
Before we even got halfway down the first run we the palms of our hands were sore; they were getting pummelled by the braking bumps. On the more technical Canyon track the harshness was still apparent but it was much harder to stay on line and resist getting bounced from one root to the next.
So when we got back to the top of the chairlift, we reduced the compression damping by two clicks and set off again. This time it was noticeably better, but the harshness was still there. We had more control now, and the feedback was reduced, but the effects of fatigue were still evident. As such we couldn’t push as hard as we liked and grip was still sub-optimal where we needed it most; in the trees.
Returning back to the Formula support truck, we gave our feedback and, with a knowing look, Luca told us he had the solution.
Neopos: volume spacers with added squish
Off came the top cap on the air side and in went a Neopos. This is Formula’s squishy, for want of a better word, volume spacer. It’s designed to do a couple of things; make the fork more predictable in its response and reduce rider fatigue.
Because it is compressed by the air in the fork when you hit a bump, as you reach full travel it takes up less volume in the chamber and acts like a smaller spacer. This slightly reduces the ramp-up effect you’d get from a standard volume spacer. But you still get more mid-stroke support and progression than you would get without a volume spacer.
Instead of the air pressure increasing dramatically as the fork hits a bump with a rigid volume spacer, the Neopos itself compresses and the volume in the air chamber reduces at a more gradual rate, meaning the air pressure rises more consistently too.
Higher shaft speeds, such as hitting a square edge bump, will always need more force to move the air molecules than slower ones (such as body weight inputs, rounded bumps etc). A coil-spring, on the other hand, will react exactly the same whatever the compression speed, which is much more predictable for the rider.
With the Neopos installed, Formula claims the air-spring reacts much more like a coil-spring across the compression/extension cycle, and this in turn helps consistency and rider confidence.
So, did it work?
In a word, yes. Keeping all the settings the same (I hold my hands up here and admit that I have to trust Formula didn’t change anything else, as I didn’t check) there was a noticeable improvement in the grip and high-frequency response of the fork. The sore palms had gone, the premature fatigue was a thing of the past, and I could ride as hard as I wanted to through the sea of roots and washboard braking zones. Yet the fork still felt stable off drops and under braking.
I still felt like I could release a touch more grip, so I reduced the compression damping by one click and set off for another lap. At which point the heavens opened, the tracks changed completely, and that was the end of any meaningful back-to-back testing.
What did we learn? With its new dual-air spring, the new Selva R solves the problem we had with the stock negative coil-spring being too soft in the Selva S. Now you can always get the right balance for your rider weight. That’s definitely a big improvement out of the box.
On the other hand, getting the right damping set-up, even with Formula’s expert technicians and a truck full of spares on hand, was not a straightforward process and definitely needs a focussed and patient approach.
Intriguingly, the Neopos volume spacer seemed to act like a bit of a magic wand during the session. It gave a noticeable improvement to performance for a minimal outlay (€29). We’ve got some to try at home, so we’ll update with a full review of these unique volume spacers soon.
Formula has scheduled the Formula Selva R for a November release, so keep an eye out for a full review closer to that time.