It's no small feat crafting a niche for yourself within a market dominated by the oligopoly of Rockshox and Fox. Granted, Formula is probably not the first name that comes to mind when thinking of suspension, but they have left an indelible print on mountain biking already. Founded in 1987 and rooted in motocross, Formula were the producers of the very first hydraulic disk brake and, in 2012, they decided to take a leap of faith and enter the world of suspension. At the recent Bicycle Connections Agency summer event, we sat down with the Formula folks to get a run-down on their newest offering, the Selva R, and to find out exactly why they're so excited about it. 

Pitched as an all mountain/enduro offering, the Selva R has adjustable travel between 120-180mm. We doubt anyone will use the full range but this really could serve as a do-it-all fork if you want. The Selva R will step into the Formula lineup as the premium iteration of their existing Selva, soon to be the Selva S. And the difference between the pair? The Selva S utilises a negative spring and positive chamber, whereas the R has both a positive and negative chamber. The Selva R also incorporates a 2 valve system rather than a self-equaliser. The folks at Formula advised that this not only offers improved reliability but also allows riders to change the travel of the fork more easily and really dial in how sensitive the ride is. No complaints there then.

One of the Selva's standout features is its Compression Tuning System (CTS). On the Selva, low-speed compression is adjustable by a simple knob on the top of the stanchion, nothing too out of the ordinary. Where Formula has really pushed the technology of this fork though, is on the high-speed compression. With their CTS system, Formula has developed 7 different kinds of interchangeable valve heads. The aim? To fulfil the role of a custom shim-stack.

Take a walk through the pits of a World Cup circuit and you'll likely find a surfeit of shim stack variations, custom built to suit each rider, such are the demands of World Cup racing. But what about the average consumer? Sure, you could send your fork away, drop a few hundred quid and receive a custom shim stack, but it's very unlikely to be exactly what you were looking for. With the CTS system, Formula believes that they've cracked it, reaping the benefits of a custom shim stack without the labour. Formula claims that this CTS system allows the Selva to be a truly customisable fork able to be set up for any kind of riding, all with the use of a single tool and without having to disassemble the fork. 

Also incorporated in the Selva R is Formula's Internal Floating Technology (IFT). All forks experience some kind of lateral stress while riding, regardless of stanchion size or stiffness, it's just the nature of riding. This lateral stress culminates in an increase in friction of the internal parts. Formula claim that their IFT system negates this, ensuring that the head of the piston is always aligned with the stanchion internals. Essentially, the head of the piston is able to move and rotate slightly which, according to Formula, massively reduces friction and improves performance.

Perhaps the standout feature of the Selva R though is the introduction of the Neopos volume spacer. In development since 2011, the Neopos is fundamentally a volume spacer that can compress. Why is that important? The fact that the spacer can compress ensures a linear curve, nullifying the effect of speed and resulting in a ride as close in character to that of a coil spring as possible while maintaining the benefits of an air system. The Neopos system also filters micro vibrations from the air which helps to reduce fatigue. A patented technology, you'll only find this in Formula's suspension offerings. 

In terms of aesthetics, Formula has opted for a muted, refined design that they hope will reflect the brand's Italian heritage and help distinguish itself as a serious performance offering. But how does all of this technology manifest itself on track?

We had the opportunity to test both 29 and 27.5 versions of the fork, the former paired to a Propain Hugene and the latter to the Propain Tyee. The first three laps were undertaken without the Neopos system installed. Whilst the ride wasn't terrible, it certainly was not up to the standard of industry benchmarks such as the Fox 36 and RockShox lyric. The fork was jittery, skittish even; bouncing about over roots and rocks and struggling against the infamous Les Gets braking bumps. 

With the Neopos installed though, it was an entirely different ballgame. Where before the Selva was bucking, now it was refined, glued to the ground. The difference in performance cannot be understated, it really was liking riding a different fork. When paired to 29's on the Hugene the Selva felt like a race-bred machine, picking up speed at every opportunity, using no more travel or energy than necessary to traverse the terrain, helping to counter any fatigue. When on the 27.5 Tyee the Selva felt playful, as happy to be railing ruts and roots as it was boosting the blue run.

Initial impressions then are very good. The forks performance with the Neopos system was exceptional and the tuning options really are cutting edge, there are very few brands able to hold a candle to Formula in that respect. As ever with these events, when testing time is so limited it is difficult to gain a real understanding of how this fork will perform in real-world conditions; we have to admit we're slightly dubious of how those exposed valve heads will hold up to a winter spent thrashing about Welsh enduros or deep in Shropshire slop. That aside though, Formula may well have crafted a fork here capable of ruffling the feathers of the big two. We can't wait to get one in for a long-term test.