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Formula Di2 road discs: Good enough for Nys

Sven Nys and his team will race new Formula Di2-compatible road disc brakes on 'cross bikes; quick test is very promising

MONTEREY, California (VN) — Sven Nys and his Landbouwkrediet squad will race Formula’s new Di2-compatible road disc brakes on their Colnago bikes next cyclocross season, according to Formula engineer Giancarlo Vezzoli.

“The Colnago team will be on them next season,” Vezzoli told VeloNews today at the Sea Otter Classic, adding with a smile, “Nys has already tested them, and he likes them.”

The Formula road levers offer up seamless Di2 shifting along with the benefits of hydraulic disc brakes, making the Italian company the sole purveyors of a one-piece road hydraulic solution thus far. Hydraulic road levers are on the way from SRAM, and TRP has a sort of mechanical-to-hydraulic converter box and a prototype Di2-enabled lever, but the former is still months away and the TRP’s box is not an ideal solution.

The Formula system is currently compatible with both Ultegra Di2 and Dura-Ace Di2. “All we have to do to change which system the levers work with is swap out the tiny buttons behind the levers,” Vezzoli explained. Both the Ultegra and Dura-Ace wiring harnesses plug straight into the shifters themselves, just as they would on regular Di2 shifters.

Total weight of the current shifters, disc calipers and disc rotors is 15 grams less than regular Dura-Ace Di2 shifters and caliper brakes, according to Vazzoli. The addition of soon-to-come carbon lever blades and a few other modifications would drop the weight by a further 30-40 grams.

Formula is planning this lightened-up version in the near future, targeted specifically at the Dura-Ace buyer to match up with Shimano’s own high-end group. The current aluminum version would be relegated to Ultegra status, though both would function identically and only differ in materials used.

Rotors on the Formula setup are 140mm front and rear, which they’ve found to be the ideal size in their own testing.

“I tried 160mm, and to me it was a bit scary, to be honest,” said Vazzoli. “With the power, it is difficult to keep the front wheel from washing out.” When asked whether he or the rest of the Formula R&D department had encountered any overheating issues, the answer was an emphatic “No.”

“We tested extensively on the big climbs in the Alps and the Dolomites. 2,000 meters straight down, dragging the brake: No problems.”

As for a Campagnolo EPS-compatible version, Vazzoli said they would like to work on it but Campagnolo has not been willing to collaborate.

“You would think that Campagnolo, as an Italian company, would work with us because we are an Italian company. But they do not seem to want to,” Vazzoli said.

Availability for the version shown at Sea Otter is scheduled for July, starting on Colnago frames first. “Other manufacturers don’t have the internal routing for discs ready yet,” explained Vazzoli. “When they do, we will offer it with more bikes.”

“We have had talks with a few manufacturers recently,” he added, noting that most of the interest was centered around using the Formula discs on road bikes, not cyclocross bikes.

Details of aftermarket distribution haven’t been worked out yet.

A quick ride
A complete test of Formula’s road disc system would take quite a bit more than a ride around the parking lot and a few panic stops, but unfortunately that’s all we had time for here. Look for a complete review when we can get on a Colnago C59 disc for more time later this summer.

Nonetheless, our first impressions were quite good. Stopping power is indeed a good bit higher than with any current rim caliper system, and modulation isn’t half bad either. There is no grabbing, pulsing or any inconsistency of any kind. The performance is measured and exceptionally controlled.

Ergonomics of the hoods is excellent. The lever blades are similar in shape to Campagnolo than Shimano, with a deep curve that allows for excellent grip when on the hoods. The transition from hood to bar is comfortable, and there is plenty of space behind the levers to wrap three fingers.

The buttons are actually nicer feeling than those found on Di2, which (as I’ve opined multiple times) I find to be a bit soft and mushy. The Formula buttons are crisp and the click is solid. Differentiating between the up and downshift buttons is easy thanks to their stepped placement. Overall, we were impressed.