05 November 2007

bikefix Exclusive Review: 2007 Formula Oro Bianco

After hearing Charlie rave about these newfangled Formula Oro discs for over a year, I had the opportunity to give them a go. Note to self: listen to Charlie.

I've long been a fan of Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes. I've ridden them on my personal bikes for over six years, including a season guiding and wrenching in the French Alps. Great lever shape, fantastic durability, and modulation that Hayes and Avid couldn't touch. Plus, the mineral oil is relatively non-toxic (ever use baby oil?) and doesn't absorb moisture like DOT fluid can.

The Bianco was designed as Formula's downhill brake [still available, but replaced as a DH brake for 2008 by The ONE]. What that seems to mean is that it has a smaller (one-finger) lever and (maybe) different cylinder geometry than Formula's other Oro's. That said, it's damn light for a DH brake. When weighed without rotors or adapters, our set weighed 30g less per wheel than our '08 XTs with the same length hoses (see confusing weight table, below). A nice thing about Formula's brakes is that they're sold separately from their rotors and adapters. It makes things easier for your local bike shop and means that, if you have a bunch of rotors lying around, you've saved $40 per wheel. It also means that, if you want to run 180mm front and 160mm rear (or 200/180 or 160/140 or whatever) rotors, you can get it. The rotor kits even include the appropriate (post or IS) adapter, and as such are a killer deal. Add to that the fact that Formula's are all made in Italy rather than some sketchy factory in the far east, and the price seems that much more reasonable.

Formula (who I've been told worked with Avid to design the Juicy series) have done an incredible job with these brakes. With 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors, power is almost excessive, but sill controllable (remember, skids are for kids, eh, be nice to your trails). The single finger lever works well with Shimano's trigger shifters and there is a lever clamp available that will take SRAM's XO shifters. The levers are identical (can be run either side), fairly compact, and have easy 'feel' control, which seems to make them spongier/firmer. I left mine about in the middle and haven't touched them since. The polished finish is, in a word, pimp, and hides scratches reasonably well.

Can't all be perfect, can it? Well, no. First of all, there's really not much setting the $240/wheel Biancos apart from the $125 (plus rotor) K18s or $190 K24s, aside from 90g (per wheel), which is probably thanks to the smaller levers and lack of paint. There is also a carbon-levered, kevlar-hosed $305 (per wheel, plus rotor) Puro model, for bonus bling (same weight). Second, I'd just as soon not have to deal with DOT fluid around the house, and that's just what Oro's run on. Shame, too, as that would make these perfect in my book.

For $125/wheel, the Italian-made K18s are near impossible to beat. The Biancos are fantastic brakes, but it's hard to see where the extra $115 goes (they are hand-polished), but they're still competitive with much of what else is out there, and much sexier.



No comments: