Hope's in-house constructed carbon-framed HB916 enduro mountain bike boasts a mid-pivot idler, geometry flip chip, and a lot of style
Hope has a lofty aim. It doesn’t just want to build bikes in the UK, it wants to make every single component right on its doorstep in Barnoldswick. So while other brands are happy to slap logos on existing components or outsource the process entirely, Hope wants to be involved every step of the way. And it’s well on its way to realising that vision. The HB916 is Hope’s third full suspension bike, it’s a bike designed for enduro racing, and it’s one of the best enduro bikes we’ve tested.
Need to know:
- Butty Box downtube storage is closest to Specialized’s Swat in size, but rattles with a bottle fitted
- Colour code your pivot hardware with the components in a choice of six colours
- The mid-pivot Idler design delivers a more rearward axle path with less pedal feedback
- Flip-chips on the rocker link offer two geometry settings
It has suspension components from Ohlins, tyres by Maxxis, and a SRAM 12 speed transmission, but virtually everything else carries the Hope logo. And while small components like CNC machined hubs, stems, headsets and cranks are relatively straightforward for Hope to manufacture, it quickly realised that if it wanted to produce high-quality full-suspension frames, it was going to need to learn to work with carbon, and learn quickly.
Hope HB916 Frame
Hope’s ability to manufacture the carbon moulds inhouse gives it a level of flexibility that few, if any, can rival. The prepreg carbon is made in the UK and stored in a bank of large catering freezers, as they are just as effective at keeping the raw material fresh as bespoke carbon (read: overpriced) units.
The carbon is laid into the mould in the traditional fashion, where Hope uses a mix of different techniques to ensure that any air trapped between the layers is removed before the frame is cured in the oven. And unlike the freezers, the oven isn’t just like one you’d find in an industrial kitchen.
Hope offers the HB916 frame with three levels for finish, carbon, chameleon and neutral, where the starting price for the carbon frame finish is £3,595 including shock, headset and BB. And if you were in any doubt about the fractured supply chain, and how difficult parts are to get right now, Hope even offers a semi-complete build, minus the drivetrain for £5,955.
In the flesh, the frame finish of the monocoque carbon front end is nothing short of exemplary, and it comes in four sizes, H1 to H4, H1 being the smallest. The bike comes stock with 29in wheels, but there’s a flip-chip in the rocker link that offers high and low geometry settings, where the high settings primary purpose is to correct the geometry for a 27.5in rear wheel.
Being very conscious of durability, the stays on the HB916 use a highbred design; where alloy yokes are bonded into the carbon stays, so that the linkage bearings and idler are securely anchored to machined aluminium, not carbon. Unsurprisingly, the rear end of the HB916 is every bit as sleek as the front, and we assume that this two-piece approach leaves the door open to offer size specific rear ends in the future. For now though, all four frame sizes use the same 440mm rear end.
Take a quick glance at the rear suspension on the HB916 and you could easily mistake it for a mid-height-single pivot design with an idler. And while that’s true from an axle path perspective, the concentric pivots on the rear axle transform the seat stay assembly and rocker link into a floating brake mount. This configuration offers lower anti-rise numbers than a standard single pivot design. In plain english, it means that the rear suspension on the HB916 will squat less under braking. And because it’s a mid-pivot design the axle path is less rearward overall which results in less chainstay growth than on, say, the Forbidden Dreadnought.
In fact, Hope’s latest suspension design has a lot in common with Trek’s ABP design on the latest Session DH bike, right down to the idler being mounted on the swingarm rather than concentric with the main pivot. Travel on the HB916 is fixed at 160mm, and with a 26% progression rate Hope says the bike is designed for coil or modern high-volume air shocks.
Our bike came equipped with the Ohlins TTX2 Air and we measured vertical rear wheel travel at 157mm. While doing so, we noticed that there’s only about 1mm of clearance between the seat stay bridge and the back of the seat tube at full bottom out. As such, it was relatively easy to get the bridge to kiss the back of the seat tube with the shock deflated due to the normal amount of flex in the frame. It’s why most brands leave 7-10mm of clearance or eliminate the bridge entirely.
This isn’t an oversight on Hope’s part, however. The frame was actually designed that way to achieve the 440mm chain stay length and stiffness characteristics Hope was after. Obviously running the bike in the high geometry setting eliminates the issue entirely.
The geometry of the HB916 is designed around a 170mm travel fork, in this instance the burly Ohlins RXF 38 M.2 Air. In the low geometry setting the fork yields a slack 63.1º head angle, so pretty similar to the Orange Switch 7. Interestingly the Hope bike exhibited more steering flop when climbing than the Orange, when running 30% shock sag.
Hope brakes have always impressed us with their modulation, which is great for navigating low-speed, slippery tech. Get up to speed however and they lacked the power needed to stop on a dime, which just led to more arm/hand pump. Not any more.
The new Hope Tech 4 V4 brakes have a nice, smooth progressive rate, so you still have that soft initial touch, but get deeper into the lever stroke and there’s now more power than before. In part due to the longer lever blades. So much so that 180mm rotors should prove more than enough for UK riding.
The brakes also retain the reach and bite-point adjustment, while the addition of the hinged handlebar camp makes it super easy to position the levers inboard of the shifter and dropper remote.
Combined the Tech 4 V4 brakes with the Maxxis Assagai/Minion DHR II tyre combo and the Hope HB916 can thread the needle through a complex tapestry of wet roots or rock with remarkable ease, yet you can still brake super late in really fast sections, confident that you’ll still make that turn.
The stock bike comes with a One Up V2 post which you can select with 150, 180 or 210mm of drop, depending on rider preference and the frame size. And given the short 410mm seat tube on the H2 size, there’s plenty of scope to run a longer drop post. Being mostly Hope equipped, you can also choose your headset, hubs, brakes, seat collar and stem in a variety of colours. Even purple.
Our test bike had the new 35mm Gravity stem with the split face plate, and Hope’s inhouse carbon handlebar looks and feels every bit as high-end as the frame. And while the Fortus 30SC alloy rims are designed by Hope, they are not made in the UK. So you’ll have to wait for the carbon versions to drop, if the made in the UK tag is a real deal breaker.
How it rides
Picking the right size bike is always tricky, especially when brands use shorter seat tubes to allow riders to size up. So we resisted the temptation to do just that, even though it was a tough call between the 468mm reach of the H2 and the 20mm longer H3. And given that the H2 doesn’t feel massive, we could easily ride either size, choosing the H3 for better straight line stability, the H2 being more manoeuvrable.
So your choice of size is really based on handling.
So let’s get into it. For an idler design the HB916 is probably the quietest we’ve ridden. And because the mid-pivot design doesn’t require a lower guide, there’s less drag too. It’s still not as efficient as a standard drivetrain though, and that’s with a decent amount of anti-squat. As such, the HB916 feels tighter under power than most idler designs. Sit and spin and the shock is stable, sprint and it actually extends.
This reverse bob is a trait we’re not particularly fond of, as it tends to feedback negatively into the drivetrain. To help mitigate it, we increased the low-speed rebound on the Ohlins TTX2 Air shock by three clicks. The trade off being that the bike feels less poppy.
It’s not a play bike however. It has enduro racing baked into its DNA, and once up to speed, the HB916 still offers a really dynamic, and genaging ride.
Yes, the more rearward axle path gives the rear wheel more sticking power, and combined with the overall damped feel to the carbon chassis the HB916 offers a very forgiving ride. At the recommended 30% sag the rear suspension is super plush, but it also lacks the support needed to prop the rear end up in corners.
We lowered the handlebar height, switched the high speed adjuster on the shock to level 2 and added more low speed compression in an attempt to counter this, but the suspension simply didn’t feel as good.
So we backed off the damping and increased the shock pressure by 10% to reduce the sag instead. This retained the smooth planted feel and stopped us hanging too far off the back of the bike mid turn. Running more air in the shock also limits the travel slightly, which should mean the seat seat bridge will never hit the frame. An added bonus is that it reduces the steering flop when climbing too.
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Hope hasn’t used the idler suspension design to create a mini-DH bike. Instead the HB916 benefits from the improved rollover of the more rearward axle path while still retaining the ability to sprint and climb with the best of them. Yes, there are efficiency losses across the drivetrain, but it’s less pronounced than most idler designs we’ve tested. Getting the right shock set up on the HB916 proved a little tricky though, so maybe the Ohlins TTX Coil shock would be the way to go for maximum performance. Either way, Hope had produced an enduro race bike with quality ride characteristics at a price that’s equally competitive.