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Formula the One's - problems!

Harry BarnOwl

Monkey
Jul 24, 2008
169
37
Posting on behalf of a couple of mates - both of them have experienced problems with their brand new The One's. For a while they couldn't understand why their brakes didn't seem to have a lot of power. It turned out that the piston seals were leaking a some fluid and contaminating the rotor and pads. What's weird is this has happened to all four brakes, has anyone else experienced this? One pair is still in warranty so he's sending them straight back, I've never seen a piston seal go in less than 4 months of use.

The next problem is actually servicing them. Silverfish (UK Dist.) won't provide the bore cap tool, but weirdly enough will sell you piston kits, seals etc. So is it possible to replace pistons/piston seals without taking the bore cap off? Has anyone done this before and is it easy to do by yourself?
 

Udi

RM Chief Ornithologist: “I Brake for Birds”
Mar 14, 2005
4,842
1,037
You shouldn't take the bore cap off to replace seals, it is only supposed to be fitted once from factory.
The job is straightforward if you follow these steps:

1. With system bled, hold non-drive piston and pump out the piston on the bore cap side until it falls out.
2. Remove the hose bolt and hose from the caliper, and use compressed air (with nozzle fitting) to blow out the remaining piston via the hose hole. Use a towel to catch DOT mist and wear gloves, goggles etc. Note the piston design and orientation as they are removed, they are L/R specific and one piston has a crown pattern on the back so you know which one is which.
3. Remove old seals carefully with screwdriver or pick, being sure to not damage its seat (critical), and fit new seals after cleaning the seat and applying the included grease to the seals.
4. Fit new pistons after lightly coating with grease and ensuring correct orientation.
5. Bleed - can take a while given the high air content at this stage, but after a reasonable effort at filling the system with fluid, drawing on the caliper bleed syringe with the lever bleed screw installed / closed will help draw air from caliper, at which point you can let go of the syringe to replace that air with fluid - repeat as required.

The '12 seal kit fits the '11 and likely older The One's also, they may be improved. I'd request them if not what is already provided.
 

Pslide

Turbo Monkey
I had the same problem on The One's I purchased ~4 years ago. Glad to see things have improved... :rolleyes:

I sent them right back, they repaired (did not replace), and they've been mediocre ever since.

I now put Shimano brakes on my bikes. I guess when it comes to brakes, I'll take the Toyota over the Fiat.
 

norbar

Turbo Monkey
Jun 7, 2007
9,892
493
Warsaw :/
I had the same problem on The One's I purchased ~4 years ago. Glad to see things have improved... :rolleyes:

I sent them right back, they repaired (did not replace), and they've been mediocre ever since.

I now put Shimano brakes on my bikes. I guess when it comes to brakes, I'll take the Toyota over the Fiat.
What about all the people who claimed old formula is gone and the newer 2010+ models work very well. Tbh I was very tempted to go from saint to formula but if the new ones are as bad as my old oro's than no way.
 

-C-

Monkey
May 27, 2007
296
9
I had the same problem on The One's I purchased ~4 years ago. Glad to see things have improved...
I had a set of the older style The One's which were truely junk. Eventually they got swapped for the later (current style lever) brakes.

I've had them for what, 3 years now. The only thing i've ever done to them is change the pads. They must have done nearly 3 months in the Alps, 2 Megavalanches on a little bike and loads of DH & enduro races. They are still brutally powerfull & still right up there in the XC racer lightweight catagory.

I was sceptical of trying them after the experience I had prior, but they are my one zero thought, go to product of choice. I recently bought another set & put these on my wife's bike as an upgrade over her old brakes. New ones are just as good :)

I liked Shimano brakes, not so sure on the new style stubby levers, they don't seem to fit my hands properly. Also Shimano are a PITA if/when something does go wrong as you can't buy spares for them, so it's new caliper time if you pop a seal...
 

Racebike

Monkey
Jul 28, 2008
463
4
Sweden
I currently have 5 R1/The One brake units (customer brakes, not mine) in on warranty repair at the distributor because of leaky caliper seals/bad pistons. 2011/2012 models.

4 out of 5 brake units were in really good shape and the fifth was almost brand new. I say Formula still has a problem with this.
 

IH8Rice

I'm Mr. Negative! I Fail!
Aug 2, 2008
24,548
492
Im over here now
I currently have 5 R1/The One brake units (customer brakes, not mine) in on warranty repair at the distributor because of leaky caliper seals/bad pistons. 2011/2012 models.

4 out of 5 brake units were in really good shape and the fifth was almost brand new. I say Formula still has a problem with this.
by your sample survey it would seem so but from the 20+ we've sold in the past few months (some stock on SC bikes) we havent had any come back. so by my thorough research, they dont have a problem
 

Huck Banzai

Turbo Monkey
May 8, 2005
2,526
21
Transitory
They seem to be trending towards hope on the consistency front; with some having 'no' problems, and the other half having nothing but.

Grain of salt - I run Shimano and some old Juicy's (which work great, but the rotors suck b****s)
 

Udi

RM Chief Ornithologist: “I Brake for Birds”
Mar 14, 2005
4,842
1,037
I've replaced one set of caliper seals (rear) on a set of '11 The Ones after 2 years - one full season in the Swiss alps, and one full season in Whistler (and a lot of steep runs around the rest of BC).

Not saying you should have to do that - I never had to on a Saint brake (the way it should be) - but having run the Saints for two seasons prior, I preferred the Formulas because they stayed more consistent in terms of bleed / lever travel, and had a consistently shorter throw.

I got sick of the Saints engaging right near the grip (not confidence inspiring on long steep runs where some variation occurs in any brake), and from what I've seen the newer style lever is even worse. Hopefully they get it together in the future as they are nice powerful brakes otherwise.

I don't think either are perfect, but I decided I'd rather replace wearing parts once every two seasons rather than have them annoy me on a regular basis.
 

Kurt_80

Monkey
Jan 25, 2016
298
241
Perth, WA.
Massive grave dig, but that's a function of the vintage of brakes I'm using.

My 2014 T1s (basically OEM The Ones) are starting to leak at the calipers, so I'm going to have to replace the seals. The kit is easy enough to find, but I'm looking for a video to supplement the instructions above- I've never tried to replace a piston seal. Does anyone know of any? Or is it actually more straightforward than I'm thinking?

While I'm at it, should I be doing stuff to the levers?

FWIW, I've had a good look around the official Formula YT site, as well as other forums. Nada.

Thanks for any input.
 

Kurt_80

Monkey
Jan 25, 2016
298
241
Perth, WA.
I guess I'll crack on then.

My bike shop can get the T1 ECT piston kit, but they know sweet FA about it, other than it means Enhanced Caliper Technology. Anyone have any experience with this? I assume it's an upgraded version of the old pistons, and can go straight in?
 
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Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
10,560
2,721
AK
Same year as the C1s that came on my Specialized. Holy-f*ck those were bad brakes. They did the same pump-up thing as the shimano brakes in extreme situations...but all the time. Like the system couldn't reset after a lever pull.
 

Udi

RM Chief Ornithologist: “I Brake for Birds”
Mar 14, 2005
4,842
1,037
My bike shop can get the T1 ECT piston kit, but they know sweet FA about it, other than it means Enhanced Caliper Technology. Anyone have any experience with this? I assume it's an upgraded version of the old pistons, and can go straight in?
The ECT was a slight modification of gland geometry (and also a minor seal/piston update) to give a little more rollback and rotor clearance - still very low which is more of a good than bad thing these days. From memory the updated ECT seal/piston is fine to use in the older caliper, you don't get the full benefit but they still work fine. Just make sure the piston diameter is the same (24mm IIRC).

Actually fitting / inserting the new pistons is the only hard part of this job, take your time and be gentle - you don't want to cut or damage the new seals. As a bonus the lever/hydraulic action is usually nicer after a caliper seal/piston change. If the lever is working fine I'd leave it for now and just see how you go with the calipers.

It does take some time to bleed the air out of the empty caliper, my tip for that (after initial fill attempt) is to tape the lever to the grip (so that the weaker reservoir seals are removed from the hydraulic system) and then use gentle pull/vacuum + push/release cycles to replace air with fluid at the caliper syringe. With a brand new lever you can pull harder at caliper, however with an older lever you need to pull more lightly as the seals won't resist so much vacuum (otherwise you just pull air in at lever end).
 

Kurt_80

Monkey
Jan 25, 2016
298
241
Perth, WA.
......however with an older lever you need to pull more lightly as the seals won't resist so much vacuum (otherwise you just pull air in at lever end).
Aha, this is where the air was coming from when I did a major piston service.
 

Kurt_80

Monkey
Jan 25, 2016
298
241
Perth, WA.
Alrighty, turns out my front Ones were getting leaky too, so I've just replaced the seals and pistons with ECTs. T1s next time I have a few spare hours.

Overall, the process was easier than I expected. I used a toothpick to dig out the old seal, and to get the new one in. Seals were looking pretty tired, as you can see.

Formula The One Seals.jpg


One question.... I noticed before the redo that the pistons were not fully parallel with the caliper body. They might have been 0.5mm out. They're better now, but still not exactly parallel. We're talking a pretty small margin, I'd estimate one is probably 0.25mm raised. Is this within normal bounds?
 
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6thElement

Schrodinger's Immigrant
Jul 29, 2008
5,909
3,330
You mean the face of the piston isn't on the exact same plane as the internal face of the caliper?
 

6thElement

Schrodinger's Immigrant
Jul 29, 2008
5,909
3,330
I would think they should work themselves correctly with a few cycles - but I've never replaced caliper seals.
 

HAB

Chelsea from Seattle
Apr 28, 2007
10,888
1,148
Seattle
Your pads were almost certainly worn at an angle, causing that. Pretty normal on a two piston brake (or a 4 pot with equal sized pistons). The leading edge of the pad (at the back of the bike) gets sucked in by the rotor and wears faster.