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Formula Cura-E brakes tested: The Formula Cura-E brakes are based around Formula’s latest braking platform, and use a mineral oil based system as well as a two piston calliper. Formula has been using this platform on the World Cup downhill circuit for some time, so there is no doubting the pedigree that the Cura-E is based on. We spent time testing in Punta Ala, Italy, Bike Park Wales, UK and around the hills of the Isle of Purbeck in the deep south of the UK, during which we put the E-Bike brakes through their paces and discovered what’s on offer in the Formula Cura-E package – can two pistons be powerful enough for an E-Bike?
Formula Cura-E – In Brief
2 pistons – 2 fast 2 furios
Brakes in general have improved significantly in recent years, especially as the needs of enduro users took hold. Long winding descents, which encouraged riders to drag their brakes more, interspersed with short technical sections, test power, long-term heat performance and modulation characteristics more than ever before. In our experience the ideal brake needs to have bite and also immediate power control ability that remains constant. These are the same characteristics that E-Bikers need as well. With a higher average speed and higher system weight, rider momentum is generally greater – the need for a finely controlled, sensitive, yet powerful stopping force is ever present. The Formula Cura-E uses a powerful calliper combination and well researched lever design to give users a brake that is one of the best performing units we have used so far. In addition to this the Cura-E can be rigged to the electronics of the bike, so that it cuts the power of the motor whilst braking.
Formula Cura-E – Technical Information
- 2 oval pistons (ø = 24 mm)
- Aluminium lever with reach adjust
- Brake pads: sintered
- MixMaster compatible (SRAM/Shimano shifters)
- Speed Lock system for easy connection and disconnection of the brake hose
- Hoses: 100 cm front, 165 cm back
- Electronic connection to all major motors
- Weight: 359 g (85 cm hose, 160 mm rotor & adaptor)
- Price: 149 € (per brake, w/o rotor & adaptor)
Formula Cura-E – Hands On
A quality component with an excellent finish.
The higher system weight of most E-Bikes requires by law the bikes to have brakes that respect the EN 14764 standard. In practice most brakes meet this standard – however, if you wish to ride faster and more aggressive or with greater control, upgrading your brakes is sometimes a consideration. The Formula Cura-E is a natural choice, based on its technical criteria and our riding experience. Installation is made easy with its Speed Lock system, which allows the cables to be disconnected from the calliper without introducing air into the system or leaking oil anywhere. The electronic motor cut-out switch is only meant for low end E-Bikes, therefore on normal E-Bikes with wheel rotation sensors the attachment is not necessary.
The Formula Cura-E also fits most bar systems without fuss. E-Bikes tend to be pretty crowded in the cockpit area, due to the extra power controls. The master cylinder is axial, it sits parallel to the bar with the brake hose exiting the end of the cylinder. This design allowed Formula to forge the master cylinder, saving weight and cutting cost over casting. The axial layout also gives a traditional feel to the lever. The choice of having the reach adjust as a screw behind the lever means that the lever has a very slimline look to it as well. With nothing sticking out if you crash, you are also less likely to damage the adjustment screw. Pivot hardware and bleed hardware is of very high quality and well positioned.
We also liked the ease of changing the brake pads, which can even be done with the wheel installed and with a normal bike tool. Setting up the calliper is pretty easy, but should be done with an assistant for best results. The brake pads are specific to the Formula Cura-E: rather than the more organic leaning pad material of the normal Cura, the material is some way to being a fully sintered metallic pad. The idea is to increase braking performance for the greater bike weight when dragging brakes on long descents.
The Formula Cura-E calliper is a design that has been used on previous Formula brakes. It consists of a novel oval 24 mm piston – according to Formula this negates the need for four pistons, as the acting surface area of the piston is greater. The calliper has the unique Speed Lock system installed on it and is composed of two forged parts screwed together. The connection banjo is fixed in position or really part of the speed lock system, therefore the brake hose exits the calliper at a constant angle. We noted that the hose is flexible enough and the connection port well positioned for this to work on most E-Bikes.
For the test we used Formula’s standard disc. The vent design is supposed to increase lateral stiffness by 40 % and reduce noise and vibration. This though, we can’t actually test out on the trail. We can say that once beaded in, the discs worked extremely well. We also tried the brakes with some other brand discs, as not all riders would want to change their discs as well as brakes. We found that even non-Formula discs worked equally well during our test period.
Most of the time we used the E-Bike-specific brake pads and have only been impressed with their durability and stopping performance in numerous wet, dry, hot, cold, muddy and dusty conditions. Long term experience plus our test on these brakes tells us Formula have created an optimal pad material. We also tried the organic pads, which worked well in muddy and wet conditions.
The electronic connection was not tested by us, as we had no need for it on our E-Bike. However, it is easy to install and fits on the apparent bleed port on the back of the master cylinder, remaining out of the way.
Formula Cura-E – On The Trail
Consistent, consistent and consistent …
The first thing to note on normal rolling trails is: The Formula Cura-E is consistent. With no excessive heating and an optimal setup, the stopping power and feel of the pad contacting the disc was always the same. We set up our levers fairly close to the bar, which worked well, because of the consistent bite point. The great thing we have always noticed about Formula brakes is, that the lever feel is superb. We were even able to feel the subtle moment the pad contacts the disc. Brakes need to be more an extension of the rider, rather than a guessing game. We did not have to think about our braking state at any time. This consistency meant, once we had set our reach with a tool, we did not have to reset it like we have had to do with other brands that we have ride experience with.
When riding short climbs or dropping down short trail abutments the brakes allow the rider to check his speed precisely but gently, as the lever action is not sudden or snappy – this is called modulation. Ideally, but also depending on rider preference, the lever travel to the pad should be short, then the feel as the power increases on the brake is a consistent pressure that gradually increases. The lever feel doesn’t get hard or spongy, which results in poor modulation and is often noted on steep descents or after arduous periods of braking.
No fade, great modulation
With E-Bikes the difference between downhill and trail performance is much smaller, as we tend to use the brakes a lot more uphill and downhill. This is because with the motor power we normally accelerate up-to-speed a lot quicker than a traditional bicycle, meaning we tend to then decelerate more often on winding trails. However on the occasion of long descents and technical sections that require braking we would say that the Formula Cura-E is extremely good. We did not experience any over heating and fade in the system – even on the very fast, winding, wet and muddy trails of Bike Park Wales. When we took in some rocky Italian Mediterranean descents, we also found braking to be up there with the best brakes we have used. We were able to rely on their stopping power whenever we called upon them to act.
Conclusion – Formula Cura-E
Brakes have been and will always be a bit of a personal choice. Since the advent of E-Bikes the extra system weight means, that brakes, with heavier riders particularly, need to be more powerful. We found in all our varied testing environments over a few weeks the Formula Cura-E to be an ideal E-Bike brake. Power is constant and well modulated even in extreme situations, which is very reassuring. Weight wise the brakes are competitive and pricing is mid-market – performance for price, though, is, in our opinion, excellent.
- Consistent and powerful
- Low profile
- Easy pad swap
- The Speed Lock adaptor doesn’t pass through all internal cable routing frame ports
- You need help to get the callipers perfectly straight during initial setup
We tested the Formula Cura-E brakes in various environments:
- Punta Ala / Italy: rocky enduro trails and flowing single track
- Bike Park Wales & Isle of Purbeck / UK: wet, muddy trails of various difficulties
Tester-profile Alex Boyce
- Name: Alex Boyce
- Height: 183 cm
- Weight (with riding-gear): 95 kg
- Inside leg: 88 cm
- Arm’s length: 69 cm
- Torso: 67 cm
- Riding style: soft, jumps preferred, every terrain, Uphill in turbo-mode
- What do I ride mainly: E-Bike, Enduro, Gravel.
- Preferred suspension: Responsive and direct steering, Plus-Tires
- Preferred geometry: Wide bars (800 mm), long frame, chainstays mid-length
What brakes are specced on your E-Bike? Are you happy with them?
Further Information about the Formula Cura-E Brakes
Text & Edit: Alex Boyce | eMTB-News.de
Photos: Alex Boyce, Cinzia Montemaggi
This post is also available in: Deutsch