FORMULA Thirtyfive Suspension Fork – First Impressions: by c_g

Wow – what a fork! 3 weeks into riding the FORMULA 35 on my ROCKY Instinct and it is about tome to tell you about my first impressions of them. For the intro with all the specs and technologies featured, simply click here.


By now I can already say that the fork has me thoroughly impressed, both by weight and performance, but it had not been so from the beginning on. At the beginning the fork had felt super supple standing, but was very reluctant on a series of bumps, and despite not using more than 75 % of the travel … overall I was rather disappointed and whatever I did – it never felt good. Then I discovered, that FORMULA had forgotten to fill the 5 ml of BALLISTOL into the air chamber (likely after setting the travel at 130 mm according to my request). So I added the BALLISTOL and immediately the FORMULA 35 was transformed big time – it became super supple, wonderfully controlled and comfortable as can be. It was so good, that I immediately was reminded of the top notch performance of the ROCK SHOX Pike. Root infested trails are smoothed out very effectively. The faster you go, the better the FORMULA 35 gets. Even after this short time, I am confident to say that the fork is of the kind that loves a more aggressive riding style and lives to be ridden fast – maximum comfort and maximum control.


Which brings me to the only point where I would not credit the 35 a full mark: Slow speed technical riding. There I felt like it would dive too deeply into its travel on slow drops. I plan on taking the fork on a few trail adventures in the near future, and discuss the matter with the folks at FORMULA during the Garda Festival this week. Given the performance so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if we found a remedy by one of the many tuning options.


But before we get any further I wanted to tell you about the set-up process and what I learned there:

FORMULA only gives assistance in recommending air pressures by rider weight for their forks. I found these recommendations quite useful. I always ended up in the lower portion of the recommendations, but I was always within their range. At a rider´s weight of 87 kg (about 192 lbs) I found about 5.0bar or 72.5 psi to work perfectly for me –giving me about 20% sag and good use of the complete travel. Regardless of the air pressure – the initial stroke is always buttery smooth – no doubt thanks to the coil negative spring.


Both Rebound and compression damping have a much wider range of adjustment, keeping the very sensitive and active ride characteristic under control with ease. One can choose from almost undamped to a real slow-motion action, so it should serve every riding style and weight easily.

After some experimenting I ended up running the rebound damping somewhere in the middle range (about 9 clicks out of 20 on the red knob at the bottom of the fork´s right leg) and compression damping about 2/3 closed (10 clicks out of 15, blue knob at the top of the right leg) which to me felt perfect for most trails that I usually ride. When things get more trial style, slow speed and technical I would usually add about 2-3 clicks in compression damping to keep the fork ride higher in the travel and when running very fast and flowy downhills I would sometimes decrease compression by about 2 clicks for an even more active ride. Thankfully the knob is easily turned and has a nice indexing, so the adjustment is dead simple.

The lockout threshold is adjustable via the small black knob and can be engaged by the golden lever. For me and my riding style, I have little use for a really hard lockout as the 35 has, but running the threshold only 1 or two clicks from open will actually give me a ride feel not much away from a very strong platform damping – perfectly calm under hard pedaling efforts, yet still able to work on medium to big hits. While this may not serve the standard definition of a lockout lever, FORMULA officially confirmed, it would be OK to run the fork this way and by this the system gains another useful feature for a wide range of riding styles. So by now I have found what I believe the optimum settings in air pressure, and damping settings, and have found every single setting to be useful for the rider, -even the lockout which initially I had my doubts about. The only thing I haven´t tried yet is the air volume which may just be the piece of the puzzle to make this excellent fork even better.


Coming to speak of its precision and stiffness – the 35 mm chassis puts the fork into yet another level of riding – when compared to 32mm siblings. Compared to the ROCK SHOX Revelation and the MAGURA TS8R, it surely adds quite a bit more precision which can become very useful when pushing really hard. I am not saying a 32mm stanchion fork is too flexible for aggressive riding, but as so often –having something better to ride will only make you realize that before you had been perfectly happy with a bit more compromise than necessary. So overall, the riding quality only benefits from the added stiffness, and double so, as the FORMULA 35 comes at almost no weight penalty depending what you compare it to. The screw-type 15 mm axle may not offer the same level of convenience as quick release type axles do, but it works perfectly well, and since it can be opened and closed with aw 5 mm allen key, the necessary tools will likely be handy anytime.

First Impressions / Mid Term: While the beginning had not been perfect, the sample addition of the BALLISTOL oil in the air chamber has turned the FORMULA 35 into a very sensitive and potent fork, that rides just about as good (if not better) than most other 29″er forks out there. Especially the low weight and steering precision are exceptional. At this point the only thing I wouldn’t give it a perfect score for was the slight tendency to dive in slow technical sections, but that may be helped with a bit of assistance by FORMULA still. Every one of the multiple setting options have proven to be very effective and useful – for the rebound-/compression settings it was their wide range that is unusual, while the lockout and adjustable lockout threshold actually ads a default platform setting to the fork – besides the hard lockout, should you desire that – and has proven to be very useful for me. So far the FORMULA 35 had treated me with a suspension performance far above the average and if it prooves to be this good on the longer run, has a high potential for becoming a very favorite fork of ours in the 100 to 140mm travel league. More on the FORMULA 35 when I have some serious All-Mountain riding with the fork.