Hope's new Tech 4 lever paired with the E4 caliper is possibly the British brand's best brake yet.
Hope’s been making some of the best MTB disc brakes in Lancashire for over 25 years now, with its basic lever shape remaining pretty similar for quite some time now. This all-new Tech 4 is something of a radical departure though, and alongside smaller improvements inside the caliper, represents a totally new brake for the brand.
The biggest visible change is that the updated lever is considerably longer, bringing a claimed 30% pressure increase compared with the Tech 3. The new blade also pivots around a roller bearing closer into the bars, which, together with all-new, friction-reducing seals allows the spring rate to be reduced. This improves the mechanical advantage while braking – there’s a much lighter lever action now that’s immediately noticeable.
There’s also a new hinged clamp that’s more low profile to save weight and play nicely with shifters and dropper remotes. All the tool-free bite point and reach adjustments of the Tech 3 remain, so it’s still easy to get the lever angle and reach dialled in. It wouldn’t be a Hope brake either if there weren’t some blingy anodized hues available – choose from six colour accents on top of either a black or silver lever.
At the disc end, I chose the E4 caliper CNC’d from a solid piece of aluminium and using four pistons that are now redesigned as hybrid-style, blending stainless steel with phenolic inserts (a kind of heat-treated plastic). Hope says these new pistons move more smoothly and require less maintenance.
One of the other big changes inside the caliper are brand new pads, with the E4s now supplied with a special ‘racing compound’ that should work with minimal bedding in and fade less than the ‘all-conditions’ organic pads also included as spares. A little birdy told me the new pads are made by the same supplier as super high-end German brakes Trickstuff, whose pads Elite DH racers frequently swap into rival brand’s brakes for ultimate performance.
With the Tech 4’s installed, it’s easy to fiddle with the lever position on the fly to get it perfect as it doesn’t require an allen key. Because the corners are more angular, the lever blade still feels slightly sharper than rival brands, and the holes drilled into the blade (presumably for extra grip) can dig into fingertips a little, especially if you ride gloveless. This used to bother me, but the new lever makes it much less of an issue as you don’t need to squeeze them anywhere near as hard thanks to the lighter action.
At the caliper end, you still need to be really anal about centralising the rotors during installation to ensure top performance – if the discs aren’t bang in the middle, Hope’s brakes are less tolerant than some rival brands.
Set up right though, stopping power with the new lever and pads is leagues ahead of the old Tech 3s. I always felt under-gunned with the old brakes, and sore hands are etched in my memory from pulling so hard on massive Alpine descents – the clamping force just wasn’t there. Now, with many endless foreign downhill tracks in the bank, I can happily say this is no longer the case, either in terms of modulation or pure top-end power.
I first rode the brakes in the UK and was struck by their broad power band that builds up before really locking the wheel. This delivers amazing control at the lever. Sure, you learn the nuances of whatever brake brand you use, but more than any brake I have tried, it’s easier to be delicate and avoid inadvertently locking the front tyre and upsetting grip or destabilising the bike in the trickiest switchbacks. That’s a serious compliment for the Tech 4s.
In fact, the Tech 4s really remind me of the ultra-expensive Trickstuff brakes in terms of how smooth the lever feels and how gradually power builds in the system, and also how it never falters or fades – even on 1,000m descents.
While the first set Hope sent had an issue in the master cylinder resolved by seal updates, literally the only other things to possibly complain about here is the lever feeling a bit sharper than ideal and how the racing pads only lasted a week in mixed Italian weather conditions (I usually get months and months out of metal sintered SRAM Code pads in any conditions). I probably did around 20,000m of vertical descending though, which you’d be hard pressed to clock up in months in the UK, so durability isn’t exactly that bad.
Hats off to Hope; these new Tech 4s are rock solid with a superbly smooth feel and have become my new number one brake of choice.