The thin alpine air burns our lungs as we hike the last punch to the summit, chevroned carbon fibres flickering and dancing in the sunlight. We are riding bikes that started out as a design challenge, built by riders for riders. Now, five years in the waiting, we point our Hope HB.160s towards the valley floor, release the brakes, and plummet into the unknown.
Again, Guillaume Leon, the chief designer of the Hope HB.160, hammers home the same point: “When we developed the Hope bike, we did not want to get caught up in categories. We wanted simply to build a mountain bike.” This approach is refreshing in an industry rich in hype and propaganda, but in today’s confused marketplace just who is the new Hope HB.160 for? Someone with deep pockets, that’s for sure, as the bike will cost £7500 when rolled out first in the UK – Germany to follow. To many, Hope’s heritage and the exclusivity of the frame will make it simply irresistible.
The Hope HB.160 in detail
The 27.5“ Hope HB.160 is a showcase of Hope’s engineering prowess, of a dedication to design, expertly blending a carbon front triangle with a CNC’d aluminium rear – all made in the Hope Factory in Barnoldswick. Available in just one build, the suspension is top-drawer: a Fox Factory Float X2 rear shock working in partnership with the powerful Fox Factory 36 Float RC2 160 mm fork, a pairing without equal. Aside from the reliable and effective SRAM XX1 11-speed drivetrain and RockShox Reverb, everything else is, well, Hope. Crank, cassette, headset, stem, bar, grips, rims, hubs, and brakes all carry the Hope logo. It’s a build that will get Hope fans hot under the collar, and when they hear the bike can be chosen in any of the Hope colours, including for the first time ever the super-exclusive Hope Team Green, their heads will literally explode.
Fork: FOX Float 36 Factory RC2 160 mm
Rear shock: FOX Float X2 160 mm
Drivetrain: SRAM XX1
Brakes: Hope E4
Handlebar: Hope Carbon 780 mm
Stem: Hope AM 35 mm
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
Hubs: Hope Pro4
Rims: Hope Tech 35 W
Tires: MAXXIS Highroller II
The geometry of the Hope HB.160
Looking at the geometry, sheet the bike is not what we expected; in fact, the HB.160 is radical in its conservativeness, as you will find no super-stretched reaches or crazy-steep seat tubes. While ‘long and slack’ mania sweep the market, Hope have stuck to the same geometry that first came out of the mould three years ago. The large bike we tested has a short 438.6 mm reach, and 435 mm chainstays, giving a wheelbase of 1195.5 mm. The angles are similarly conventional with head and seat tube angles of 65.5o and 74o , respectively. The biggest talking point, however, is the introduction of many new standards – but before everyone starts yelling and throwing stuff, in this case, it really doesn’t matter. The bike is designed to work as a holistic system, engineered from a blank sheet of paper, challenging the status quo for sure, but not intended to upset the market. If you buy into the Hope HB.160, you are buying into the Hope way of thinking, becoming part of the Hope family.
|Seat tube||405 mm||440 mm||475 mm||510 mm|
|Top tube||570 mm||590 mm||615 mm||647 mm|
|BB Drop||15 mm||15 mm||15 mm||15 mm|
|Chainstays||435 mm||435 mm||435 mm||435 mm|
|Wheelbase||1148 mm||1169 mm||1195.5 mm||1228 mm|
|Reach||397.5 mm||416.2 mm||438.6 mm||469.3 mm|
|Stack||601.5 mm||606 mm||615 mm||619.7 mm|
While everyone else is boosting the rear of their bikes to ‘wide load’ proportions, Hope have done the opposite, slamming the spacing back to 130 mm by eliminating the dead space on the non-drive side of the hub and using a radial brake mount. This means a special hub and brake is needed, but Hope have no problems in that department. Looking at the design it’s clear that from an engineering standpoint, the compact dropouts and radial mount are a far more elegant solution, leaving a standard brake adaptor looking like a ‘Friday special bodge.’ Hope have redesigned the rear axle too, increasing the thru-axle diameter to 17 mm, with 25 mm location spacers for maximum stiffness. Initially we were disappointed that Hope have opted for a press-fit 30 mm BB, but the replaceable aluminium sleeve is a nice touch.
The Hope HB.160 in action
Like many, after watching the Hope Race Team taking victories at the UK National Enduros and international races, we expected the HB.160 to be an out-and-out race bike, built only to smash the world’s steepest and toughest enduro stages. On the first ride it was clear this was not the case; this is no ultra-aggressive, direct-line charging plow machine, but instead is a balanced and sure-footed mountain goat. Running 30% sag on the Fox X2, the rear end is taut and progressive, more like riding a gazelle than a bull, allowing you to dance on the edge of grip. The compact reach gives an upright seated position which is comfortable for long climbs, making long alpine hauls effortless. During testing we found the tall seat mast made it difficult for shorter riders to upsize for a longer reach; however, after receiving feedback, Hope have removed 5 mm from the M size seat tube, and 10 mm from the L and XL.
When gravity kicks in, the HB.160 delivers an easy ride that is neither old-school or new-school – it’s simply fun. Confidence and versatility are at the forefront, and it excels in short, hard turns, darting through with the poise of an athlete. The Horst link four-bar linkage gives a powerful push out of turns, gathering speed like a jet fighter. This is a bike that was made for climbing into the highest peaks before picking the most technical lines down. The generous BB height boosts confidence when negotiating rocky passages, and the compact rear end is in a league of its own when it comes to clearance. Over fast repetitive hits the chain does lash against the CNC’d chainstays a little, but the build quality feels totally dialled and solid, built like a Hope product should be. The easy-going handling and confidence ensure the HB.160 is easy to fall in love with, and you could spend hours looking at the beautiful chevroned fibres.
Hope set out to create a mountain bike that ignores current categories, a personal project to build a bike for riding on the trails that they they love – and to this aim, it’s a great success. The Hope HB.160 is an easy-going, versatile, and forward-thinking bike, a challenge to the ‘long and slack’ bike movement. A very modern take on a classic ethos, the HB.160 is a bike to climb mountains, to take to far-flung destinations and enjoy for many years. Buying one of the first 500 HB160s to be produced is buying into the Hope family, and for many fans, that will be too tempting to ignore.
– Fun and easy-going handling
– Innovative rear spacing
– You need to like Hope component
– Chain noise
For more info head to: hopetechhb.com
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Words: Photos: Ru Fowler