HOPE HB.1602019

£6,329.99 (com­plete bike) Agile, but old-school in shape

Mountain Biking UK - - WRECKED & RATED -

Hope freely ad­mit they aren’t a bike com­pany, but their hand­laid car­bon and CNC-ma­chined alu­minium chas­sis is a stun­ning show­case of their ‘ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble made in-house’ ethos. The lat­est sus­pen­sion changes make it a joy­ful, smooth yet agile ride, but the frame shape and non-stan­dard com­po­nents won’t suit ev­ery­one.

The frame

Not only are HB.160 main­frames laid up by hand, ther­moset and fin­ished on the Lan­cashire/ York­shire bor­der, us­ing moulds that are CNC ma­chined just me­tres away in the Hope fac­tory, they even use com­pos­ite sheets wo­ven in Manch­ester. This mono­coque front tri­an­gle is then matched to a four­bar link­age rear end that’s in­tri­cately and im­mac­u­lately ma­chined and bonded to­gether in Hope’s sim­i­larly im­mac­u­late fac­tory.

Be­cause the bike started life as a pre-Boost-stan­dard con­cept piece, Hope de­signed the back end around a non-dished wheel. Rather than go­ing wide, they went nar­row with a 130mm hub. The re­duc­tion in tri­an­gu­la­tion stiff­ness is com­pen­sated for with a 17mm through-axle us­ing 25mm spac­ers.

To min­imise the ef­fects of brak­ing on the sus­pen­sion, the HB.160 uses a ra­dial brake mount built into the rear dropout. Ca­bles are routed semi-in­ter­nally through the main­frame, and there’s a plas­tic bash­guard un­der the belly. The frame is sin­gle-ring spe­cific, with an in-built chain guide that’s com­pat­i­ble with 28-36t chain­rings. There’s enough clear­ance for muddy 2.5in tyres, but no bot­tle cage mounts. All the fix­tures and fit­tings are laser etched and an­odised in a choice of seven colours, and you can choose fork, frame, shock and rim de­cals to match for an ex­tra £30.

As lovely as the Hope bike looks, it’s not light, with a medium frame and shock com­ing in at about 4kg. You’ll have to wait for one too, be­cause they’re cur­rently only pro­duc­ing four or five bikes a week. But, con­sid­er­ing its su­perb build qual­ity and lim­ited edi­tion sta­tus, the HB.160 is amaz­ing value.

The kit

The 2019 spec here in­cludes an al­most full set of Hope com­po­nents – Tech 3 E4 brakes, a car­bon bar made in the same room as the frame and a spe­cific 130/17mmaxle rear hub, laser etched with an HB.160 logo. You don’t get Hope’s rear cas­sette and crankset be­cause the 2019 bike runs a full SRAM X01 Ea­gle trans­mis­sion in­clud­ing car­bon cranks – which is cer­tainly no is­sue from a per­for­mance point of view.

The ride

Even with Hope’s nor­mally seden­tary-feel­ing Tech 35W wheels fit­ted, the HB.160 feels keen and lively, which speaks vol­umes for the hand-laid front end and deft­ly­ma­chined rear. (With lighter-rimmed wheels, it lit­er­ally goes up a gear in re­spon­sive­ness and ac­cu­racy.) It isn’t rat­tly or harsh through boul­dery mess, yet feels re­mark­ably charis­matic, even along­side premium steel bikes.

The cus­tom-tuned Fox X2 shock is great from the get-go. Add the care­fully cal­i­brated four-bar back end and ra­dial brake mount, and it gives im­pres­sively pedal- and brake in­de­pen­dent flow over all sizes of hits. The ‘GRIP2’ damper in the Fox 36 fork is sup­ple yet sup­port­ive, and the frame’s chunky front end keeps a grip on stiff­ness and ac­cu­racy. Gear shifts are cleaner and swifter with the Ea­gle cas­sette than the Hope one on pre­vi­ous HB.160s, and we’re fans of SRAM’s DUB cranks, which are stiffer than Hope’s own.

That leaves the bike’s shape as the only thing that might put you off. The steer­ing ge­om­e­try is fine, but the reach is short and the high seat tube makes sizing up awk­ward. It doesn’t feel as sta­ble as the longer bikes here when smash­ing through rock and root sec­tions or scyth­ing through turns. On the flip­side, it swerves and stitches through tight cor­ners and tweaks back on line eas­ily, par­tic­u­larly at slow speeds. In other words, whether it works for you or not is a per­sonal thing.

IT ISN’ T RAT­TLY OR HARSH THROUGH BOUL­DER Y MESS, YET FEELS RE­MARK­ABLY CHARIS­MATIC, EVEN ALONG­SIDE PREMIUM STEEL BIKES

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