Born in the UK.
The Hope HB160 is a 160mm travel enduro bike with a frame manufactured entirely in Hope’s UK factory. Only 500 will be built per year.
Hope HB160 need to know
- 160mm travel enduro bike
- Frame manufactured entirely in Hope’s UK factory
- Only available as a complete bike for £7,500
- 500 will be built per year
We’re not sure if the motto at Hopetech is ‘how hard can it be?’ And if not, it probably should be. Talk to the people who work there and that can-do attitude is a blessing and a curse. It’s one that causes a few headaches along the way, but also produces plenty to celebrate.
Case in point; the new HB160, Hope’s predominantly home-grown full-suspension bike.
No more HB211
To begin with, let’s get the obvious bit out of the way; this won’t be the first time you’ve seen it. Over the last 12 months, the HB211 (the name has changed to HB160, or Hope Bike 160, to indicate the travel) has been displayed at trade shows and campaigned at the Enduro World Series, but this is the first time we’ve seen the final spec and had a opportunity to ride the production version.
- Frame: HB160 Carbon, 160mm travel
- Shock: Fox Factory Float X2
- Fork: Fox 36 Float Factory RC2, 160mm travel
- Wheels: Hope 35W rims, Hope Pro4 HB/110mm hubs, Maxxis High Roller 2 3C EXO 27.5×2.4in tyres
- Drivetrain: Hope cranks, Hope cassette, SRAM XX1 shifter and r-mech
- Brakes: Hope Tech 3 E4, 180/180mm
- Components: Hope Carbon bar 780mm, Hope AM 35mm stem, SDG Duster MTN Ti saddle, RockShox Reverb seatpost
- Weight: 14.1kg (31.08lb)
- Sizes S, M, L, XL
- Size Ridden L
- Rider height 5ft10in
- HA: 65.5°
- SA: 74°
- BB height: 340mm
- CS: 435mm
- FC: 760mm
- WB: 1,195.5mm
- Down tube: 710mm
- Reach: 438.6mm
This is a bike that started life as a twinkle in the eye of Hope’s co-founders, Ian Weatherill and the late Simon Sharp.
Their collective dream was to build their own bike, and as their business was built on the success of disc brakes and hubs, it’s fitting that the design of the Hope HB160 effectively radiates out from these two components.
Bucking the trends
Crouch down behind the HB160 and the slender rear stays immediately stand out from the current crop of Boost-ed back ends. All this extra clearance will be welcomed by anyone with big feet, and everyone who enjoys threading through technical rock gardens.
To achieve it, Hope has gone back to the old 130mm hub width (remember that?), but kept a similar flange width to a Boost hub by eliminating all the wasted space between the seatstay and the rotor.
The wheel is still stronger, thanks to the symmetrical spoke angles, and there’s a single 17mm diameter thru-axle that rests directly on the bearings, instead of one for the hub and one for the frame.
To simplify switching between rotor sizes, the caliper mount is now radial to the hub. Rather than try and work out which adaptor you need, you simply insert a pair of equal height spacers – resembling Lego bricks – between the caliper and the frame.
There’s a unique bottom bracket arrangement too. And before we all start groaning about yet more ‘standards’, the obvious difference here is that Hope will always support its own product. So as long as the company is in business, you’ll be able to buy spare hubs, bottom brackets and bearings.
Firstly an alloy insert is pressed and bonded into the naked carbon BB shell. Then two alloy cups thread together to form a sealed sleeve within that insert. Thus the bearings sit inside the frame, which provides them with more support, and there’s a 30mm axle that’s both stiff and light. Hope’s own cranks complete the assembly – at least the fitting is done for you, as it’s quite an involved procedure!
500 words in and, such is the level of detail on this bike that we haven’t even discussed the main event; the frame.
Despite Hope being synonymous with aluminium, the HB160 uses a carbon main triangle. The move to this new material involved a steep learning curve for the brand, as it didn’t want to turn to a factory in Asia; it had to be manufactured on site in Barnoldswick.
But Hope also had a head start, as carbon frames are made in moulds that are CNC machined from big lumps of metal. With help from the carbon expert who built the British Olympic track cycling team’s bikes, a mill near Manchester that supplies the carbon sheet, and many months of research, development and testing, it finally arrived at the bike you see here.
Moulded in one piece, and available in four frame sizes, from S to XL, the strength and weight of the main triangle definitely errs on the side of caution. It’s mated to a rear triangle that consists of several CNC alloy parts that are either bonded or welded together.
The two chainstays are glued together with an alloy bridge, while the seatstays use straight tubes welded to machined dropouts and a machined shock link.
As the welding is the only process that needs to be done off-site, Hope is looking to bond the three pieces together instead. For Hope it’s all about taking control of every stage of manufacturing to ensure quality and consistency.
On the production bike, the swing link drives a Fox Float X2 air shock, but the progressive nature of the Horst-link arrangement makes it suitable for a coil shock as well. Hope says this will be an option on production bikes.
Complete bikes only
On sale only as a complete bike, Hope turns to its extensive inventory for most of the parts on the HB160.
First ride impressions of the Hope HB160
That the HB160 exists at all is an impressive achievement, and one that, as a British mountain biker, it’s hard not to feel proud of. But to cut it in today’s highly competitive market, it has to stand on its own two wheels, justify its high-end price tag and, above all, it has to ride well.
Had you asked for my feedback at the end of my first day aboard the HB160, the response would have been one of mild disappointment. Come back a day later for an update and my verdict would have been considerably more positive.
Allow me to explain…
Our familiarity ride at the bike’s launch in the French Alps took place on the loose, dusty, high-speed descents of the Serre Chevalier bike park. The sort of terrain where you need a raked out head angle, a long wheelbase and heel-scraping bottom bracket height. And the HB160 is definitely not one of the new breed of enduro bikes with ultra-progressive geometry.
By its own admission, Hope wanted to stay relatively conservative, and build a mountain bike with all-round capabilities, not something that was optimised for purpose built bike parks and downhill tracks.
Hence it felt on the small side, as well as a bit too steep, giving me less time to react to changing grip levels at high speed. In short, it has a slightly more nervous disposition than I would have liked considering the pace of the trails and the mix of talcum powder and marbles that decorated the surface.
On the other hand, the suspension felt excellent, especially for a first attempt. It has plenty of progression to hold you up in the turns and a freedom of movement, particularly under braking, that gives loads of confidence coming into corners. Examine the graphs and that progression falls away sharply just before bottom out, but out on the trails this was not something we ever noticed.
And there’s an overwhelming sense of solidity to the frame. Not wooden, not harsh, but assuredly well-built, and providing a stiff backbone for the suspension to work off.
On day two, we took to the natural hiking trails around Briancon, and the HB160 was suddenly in its element and the geometry and handling made much more sense.
To begin with it pedals very well, even with the shock fully open. Which makes complete sense, as this is a bike that is built to climb as much as descend.
It is very much the product of its designer, Frenchman and Briancon local Guillaume Leon as the surrounding trails he rides on a daily basis are the kind that rarely enjoy lift access. Hence the steeper angles allow you to pedal flat traverses and undulating terraced singletrack without a wandering front wheel.
Get to the top of an alpine col and you’re going to face technical rock gardens, high-speed straights, ruts, loose turns and ultra-tight hairpin bends that can only be negotiated with an endo turn. It’s here, on this smorgasbord of terrain, the HB160’s more neutral geometry has the edge in terms of versatility.
But that doesn’t stop us wanting a version with new school geometry. We’d love an extra 25mm added to the reach, 1º off the head angle and 5mm off the BB height. We’d like a bit less damping to liven it up for lighter riders too, and it could do with losing a bit of weight.
Considering it’s a relatively easy job for Hope to knock up a new mould with different geometry in the future, who knows, we may be in luck.
Since the launch Hope has responded to feedback and made a running change to the HB160. Seat tube lengths have been reduced on the Medium (-5mm), Large (-10mm) and Extra-Large (-10mm) frame sizes. This makes it easier for riders to size-up to a larger frame and still achieve the correct saddle height with a decent length dropper post.
As it stands though, we doubt Hope will have any trouble selling its output of 500 bikes a year worldwide. It’s a unique proposition in a sea of ubiquity. An honest product that stands out against endless marketing BS.
An inspiring, feel-good story, a showcase for home-grown engineering talent and a triumph of determination. After all, how hard can it be?