With the latest pads fitted, the Formula Cura 4 is a fantastic brake. Its sleek design masks its raw power and it’s also proven to be 100 per cent reliable.
Let’s get one thing straight right away. Above all else, I’m looking for consistency from a brake system. So while raw power and the ability to modulate that power are both important, if you want to ride close to the limit of traction or control, constancy is key. It’s why I find the variable bite-point of Shimano’s latest brakes so irritating.
In the hunt for consistency I’ve looked to Formula, a brand that’s been making hydraulic disc brakes for mountain bikes since 1993. Its latest Cura 4 brake is an elegant four-piston design with a distinct lack of headline features.
When it comes to fitting, the symmetrical split-clamp lever makes the Cura 4 a breeze to swap between UK and European set-ups, where the optional Mix Master clamps make it easy to mount your shifter and dropper remote directly to the brakes. Just be careful not to chop too much off the rear brake hose before running it through the frame though, especially if you have an XL bike, or one with progressive sizing, as the stock 175mm hose length doesn’t leave much wiggle room.
Lever reach is the only adjustment on the Cura 4, so set-up couldn’t be easier. That said, I had to run the levers slightly further out than I’d have liked, just to get the firmer, more progressive lever feel that I prefer. And, if I wasn’t so obsessed with consistency, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the very gradual creep of the bite-point on longer, steeper trails where the gradient forced me to drag the brakes and drive lots of heat into the system. I should stress that the overall change in bite-point was less than a couple of millimetres and it happened very gradually, only returning to the original lever position once the brake had completely cooled down.
Initially, I thought it was caused by the mineral oil expanding in the hose, but after speaking to Formula, I discovered that it was actually the second-generation organic pad compound that was expanding and changing the bite-point. I’ve since ridden the Cura 4 with the third-generation pads fitted, and I could not detect any change in bite-point even though I was desperately trying to induce it.
In that respect, the Cura 4 is a lot like a Hope brake, but that’s where the similarities end. Formula’s brake components are forged rather than machined, and for a given rotor size they put a lot more power at your finger tips. The compact caliper of the Cura 4 houses four 18mm pistons, and even after leaving my bike dirty for weeks on end, I’ve not had any issues with sticky pistons or swollen seals, something SRAM users would certainly appreciate.
With the latest-generation pads fitted, the Formula Cura 4 is a fantastic brake. Its sleek design masks its raw power and it’s also proven to be 100 per cent reliable. What makes the Cura 4 even more impressive though, is that Formula has managed to achieve all of this while still producing one of the lightest high-powered brake systems on the market.