FORMULA Thirtyfive – Final Review: by c_g

And yet another month has passed that I was riding the Italian newcomer to the suspension field – FORMULA Thirtyfive. . For a recap of the fork´s features and specs, click here , for the intro article and for the initial ride impressions click here .

20-FORMULA-F35-e1400795677276As already stated in the above linked ride impressions, the FORMULA 35 is one of the most supple forks with a multitude of setting options, a a very good stiffness and remarkably low weight. My only point of (soft) criticism had been that I noticed a slight tendency to dive too deeply into its travel when ridden in slow speed tech sections. When attending the Garda Festival I mentioned that to the fine folks of FORMULA and was lucky enough to talk to Lorenzo Rossi, the man, who is responsible for a great part of developing the 35´s damping circuit. He suggested a twofold solution – one was to go and reduce the air volume by just a bit (as simple as adding a few milliliters of Ballistol to the air chamber) and also to swap the low speed compression unit for a firmer one.

The latter sounded rather complicated to me, but Mr. Rossi told me it was a procedure of 10 minutes tops … without having to take the fork apart, other than unscrewing the compression unit at the top and replacing it with another one. Knowing how it is done and with the right tools, this is only marginally more complicated than changing a light bulb ;). We also added 3 ml of Ballistol to the already inserted 5 ml in the air chamber – 2 minutes for that part.

25-FORMULA-F35So after about 15 minutes of working on the fork (and never having to take it off the bike) I was ready to hit the trails again. After seeing how all this was done I must say I am majorly impressed by how simple, easily serviceable, and well designed the inner architecture of the FORMULA Thirtyfive is. Kudos to the engineers, who have been able to come up with such a high performance suspension fork in such a simple package – making things simple and effective often is far harder than adding complexity. Out on the trail, I immediately noticed how much higher the fork settled into its travel when going down – given the same air pressure.


Besides some other routes in the northern Lake Garda region I also rode the identical loop I had done just before during the SRAM Demoride and later with the NINER WFO9  to give me a direct comparison … and while I felt the suppleness reduced ever so slightly (no problem, since the FORMULA had easily been the most sensitive fork of all, before) , it did a near perfect job in the techy sections and rocky switchbacks of that ride. There it sank much less into its travel, while it still rode exceptionally well on the faster and sometimes rough sections of the trail.


So with that direct comparison and about 2 1/2 months of riding riding under my belt, I think of the FORMULA 35 as being on par with the current benchmark ROCK SHOX Pike . It is every bit as supple and active when necessary, yet when set up correctly, it can be just as stable and calm when needed. In terms of steering precision it is just as stiff as the Pike and as such claims the current crown in this regard alongside the PIKE.

What is truly surprising, is that the FORMULA Thirtyfive achieves that at only 1800g (just under 4 lbs), which is nearly 250g lighter than the Rock Shox PIKE. (Though to be fair, the travel range of the Pike only starts, where the Thirtyfive´s ends 🙂 ) No need to mention again, that I feel the FORMULA Thirtyfive is a real eye pleasing piece of equipment. I loved the looks of it on my RMB Instinct.



0-FORMULA-F35Two other things had been missing until now – the quick release type axle (at this point one needs a 5 mm Allen key for mounting/dismounting) and the option to activate the lockout via remote. . I was introduced to the remote during Garda Festival and it is the simplest thing one can envision. The nicely sculptured remote lever simply turns the (empty) hydraulic hose, which then actuates the lockout knob on the fork simply by mechanical force – no hydraulics or even cable involved. The only thing I would still wish for, would be an option to lower the fork or change its travel (like the ROCK SHOX´s Dual Position or FOX´s Talas) but as it seems theses features go out of fashion and are rarely requested anymore, it probably won’t happen.


Verdict: So after more than 2 ½ months of riding the FORMULA 35, I can say that it is one of the best suspension forks I have ridden – getting very close to my current favorite, the Rock Shox Pike. The FORMULA Thirtyfive manages to draw level in almost every aspect with the current benchmark and even surpasses it in lack of weight. OK – the FORMULA 35 currently ranges from 100 to 140 mm officially, (… I have seen OE models with 150mm as well), while the PIKE is between 140 and 160mm, but in every other aspect they are near identical in performance and capabilities..

As close as they may be in terms of performance — in terms of set up- the ROCK SHOX and FORMULA are following two absolutely contrary philosophies. While the PIKE seems to reduce options to the bare minimum, FORMULA reaches out to those riders that like to work with their suspension and get the best for themselves. Looking back at the review period it is clear that the FORMULA Thirtyfive started out with a really good performance, but took quite a bit of experimenting to optimize for my personal riding style – a process not every rider will feel as fun as I did – so the multitude of options can be blessing or curse, depending on the type of rider you are.


Kudos to FORMULA for the balls to enter the highly competitive suspension market and even more so on the awesome job they have done in getting the Thirtyfive working as well as it does and keeping it as simple, serviceable, and light as it is.