Having moved through several design evolutions, from their effective, if slightly bulky Mk1, to the slimmer and lighter mk2, Hope’s ’07 spec headsets graced the front end of my race bike last season from the moment it was built until being sold in November. Pressure washed regularly, hit down the toughest of trails and abused by its rider, it took it all in its stride and still came out smelling of roses. Despite being pretty light at a real 122g all in, including the top cap and their own expanding wedge to take the place of the usual star nut, it manages to tick all the boxes, regardless of whether it is to be fitted onto a downhill bike, street hack or cross country race steed. Effective and adjustable rubber lip seals (through the use of thin shims) are fitted top and bottom to guard against the ingress of dirt & water and provide an effective barrier to protect the German made stainless steel bearings. After 8 months of abuse, the headset didn’t need tightened once, and the bearings still felt as smooth as the day they were fitted. They are available in a myriad of options, from straight 1.125”, 1.5”, several reducer types and also both integrated/semi-integrated. A standout feature is that the reducer headset is available in full zero stack and also a second option with a zero stack upper to reduce front end height but with a lower cup which is deeper to provide extra clearance to the down tube for those riders running large single crown forks. It can also be used to fractionally slacken the head angle on bikes where this is otherwise difficult to adjust. Overall, a quality piece of kit that will last a long time. Dare I say better than a King?
X-Type Bottom Bracket
Many have already come to the conclusion that whilst an improvement over what had gone before, X-Type bottom bracket systems still have issues. The main one being that the bearings still have a habit of lasting less time than a manager of the Scottish football team, which is no mean feat, and something which has left riders a little peeved, especially when you consider that the cups aren’t exactly cheap to replace. Factor in big mileages or regular pressure washing and some riders struggle to get half a season from a set of bearings. Shimano are usually a bit longer lasting than Race Face but not everyone finds this and it’s still not much difference when it comes down to it. Step in Hope. They may not be the first manufacturer to offer replacement bottom bracket assemblies for X-Type cranks but what they have on offer is up to their usual high standards. Coming with the option of stainless steel or ceramic bearings, both of which run directly on the axle, these will last a long time thanks to excellent sealing from a labyrinth seal and the usual tight design and manufacturing tolerances. Having seen these fitted to several bikes which are used both for pretty aggressive downhilling and others fitted to high mileage trail bikes, all are still running as smooth as they were when new. And when things do need replaced, it’s an easy task to swap the bearings over and get things back to where they should be. Available in the usual 63/73 & 83mm options, and multiple colors, it should be easy to find a set up to match your needs.
Here we have another product that epitomizes Hope. Fulfilling the purpose of keeping your bars attached to the forks, these stems are stiff, well finished and light (a real 148g for the 50mm shown here). All the while being available in enough options to keep both downhillers and cross country riders happy; from a short and flat 50mm zero rise, to 110mm ten degree rise, and available with both oversize and standard bars in mind. M5 bolts throughout help keep the weight down whilst still providing plenty of clamping force to hold things in place.
Also, a new integrated stem of which pictures are already circulating will be available soon. Once it is, expect a proper test to see how it all works, especially the front plate with its neat, interlocking design.Pro-III Wheelset
I must admit, these are what really grabbed my attention more than any of the other parts which had been bolted onto the bike. They have appeared in various states of design on the bikes of several team and factory riders over the past 12 months and they are now available to all in the usual fitment options. Internally, they are very similar to the simple, effective & reliable Pro II hubs which have been around for a few years now. However, the Pro III differs by being spec'd with stainless bearings throughout. This means that with the already proven sealing, things should keep rolling smoothly for longer than they already do with the Pro II. But by far the most noticeable feature here are the straight pull flanges which are fitted with DT Competition spokes which remove the area of weakness which can normally be found at the elbow of traditional spokes. These, combined with the proven and still virtually unbeatable Mavic EX721 rims produce what should be a pair of tough and reliable wheels. From past experience we know that the internals are up to a serious amount of abuse, and are more than capable of withstanding a season of abuse without breaking into a sweat. The aluminum freehub body saves weight but has it has been mentioned that it can be susceptible to damage from certain cassettes. Keep things torqued up correctly and you should have no problem. Yes, it would be nice to have more than the standard 24 engagements through 4 pawls but it does mean that you have a very tough drive mechanism. As these wheels have 4 bolt mounts for discs rather than the standard 6, custom discs are included within the price of £385 which use oversized, hollow bolts to mount them which are lighter than those usually used.
Tech V2 Brakes
We’ve actually got a pair of these on long term test alongside their new Tech lever’d M4’s so we’ll give just a quick word here. Suffice to say, we have been impressed with the natural feel and increased progression from the lever over that of the old Moto design. The Tech lever was first seen on the team bikes towards the end of the 2008 season and is a major improvement in several ways over the previous Moto lever, something which was brought home after a day of testing on a bike recently which had the older lever fitted. The same mono bloc caliper continues this year as the powerful downhill orientated brake whilst the new 2009 spec 4 piston calipers carry the all mountain and light downhill duties. This year, the V2 is also available with the option of a 183mm rear rotor for those wanting something a little lighter than the standard 203mm. The new levers, available on both the V2 & M4 brakes are easily adjustable which means that it’s a simple operation to get things as you want them. And, being all metal, they should stay feeling better for longer than some of the alternatives which have short lived plastic internals. Despite some initial concerns over the fragility of the adjusters on the front of the lever, our concerns were somewhat dissipated after we wrote off a pair of bars whilst testing. Aside from having half a forest stuck in the levers, everything was still working perfectly and looked like new once cleaned up. We’ll have the full reviews of both brakes up in due course with more info and opinions on how they’re performing.
Seat Clamp / Bar End plugs
So this all falls under the banner of finishing kit. The bar end plugs are neat and not only help prevent ends of your bars becoming chewed but more importantly, help stop you looking like you’ve been attacked by a psychopath with an apple corer should you land on them too. The tweaked for 2009 seat clamp is a neat piece of machining. Machined entirely from aluminum, it is light, neat and managed to keep the well greased post held firmly in place even on this stiff, cast aluminum seat tower. Available in both QR and a simple bolted setup, it can be had in the usual sizes and colors so there shouldn’t be any problem finding one to suit your bike.www.hopetech.com