British company Hope has long been one of the a familiar disc brake brand in the mountain bike world. Its range is large and inclusive, but we’ve picked the stripped back Race Evo E4 to test here as it’s a brake that both appeals to cross-country, trail and enduro riders wanting a powerful brake that keeps the weight low.
Hope has long been a favored aftermarket brake, but with SRAM and Shimano brakes offering generally very good performance, and brands like TRP, Hayes and Magura upping their game, Hope probably isn’t the straightforward no-questions-asked upgrade it once was. All Hope brakes are still manufactured in Barnoldswick in the UK and the after-sales service is second to none, though.
Hope Race Evo E4 disc brakes
• One-piece CNC caliper
• Lightweight drilled alloy lever
• Titanium hardware
• Top entry pad fitting
• 140 to 205mm rotor sizes
• Wide-angle hose connector mount
• Machined in Barnoldswick, England
• Matchmaker compatible
• 227g (front, w/o rotor)
• MSRP: $290 USD (lever / caliper)
• More info: www.hopetech.com
The Race Evo brakes are all about saving weight without sacrificing braking performance. They’re aimed at cross-country riders wanting to increase their braking performance, or trail and enduro riders wanting to shave off a few grams. CNC machining is Hope’s bread and butter, the brake levers and calipers are exquisitely machined from aluminum. The quality of design and finish is very good; Hope has been honing this over a very long time.
The levers have a split clamp for easy installation and they’re MatchMaker compatible for neatly integrating shifter pods. The levers are ergonomically shaped and have holes drilled into the blades - a throwback to the 90s for anyone old enough to remember the scary era of extreme weight saving. One of the clear weight-saving measures is the removal of the tool-free bite point and reach adjustment on the front of the lever. This restricts the adjustment to just the lever reach via a small Allen tool, which is a bit of a compromise but trims weight. Also trimming weight is the use of titanium bolts.
At the other end of the hydraulic hoses, four 4x16mm phenolic pistons are incorporated into very compact and neatly designed brake calipers. It’s a post-mount interface and Hope provides a full range of adapters to suit all frame and fork designs and rotor sizes. The caliper is the same as used on the Tech 3 R4 enduro brake, the main difference being in the lever design. Pads are easily removed via top-entry, and it’s easy to visually asses the pad wear when you’re washing and servicing your bike.
You could use any disc rotors you want, but staying on brand I was supplied with a set of floating disc rotors. Hope offers standard, floating and vented. I paired a 200mm front rotor with a 180mm rear. There is a wide range of sizes to suit most bikes. The floating rotors have a steel brake surface riveted to an aluminum central carrier which is designed to better deal with changes in temperature. The vented rotors add internal fins to provide a claimed 15% reduction in heat buildup. The vented rotor only comes in a 203mm size.Installation
Installing the brakes was mostly straightforward, though getting the rear brake hose through my Stumpjumper Evo was far from the pain-free process I had hoped for and required more disassembly than I had expected. This meant I needed to bleed the brake, which I found to be a very easy process and nicely explained in one of the company’s tech videos. With brakes fitted and bedding in process completed, I got on with the task of testing them over several months on all my local trails, from all-day cross-country jaunts to downhill sessions.
The Hope Race Evo E4 disc fall into both cross-country and trail categories, and since I’ve been trying to trim my Stumpjumper EVO's weight a little I chose these brakes over a burlier option. I wanted to see if they provided adequate power for my needs while offering the low weight I also craved, a tricky balancing act for any component, not least the brakes.Performance
After several months of testing, my last impression hasn’t changed from my very first ride impression. I’ve been more than happy with their performance and lack of issues. There’s plenty of power at the bite point with a very smooth and progressive lever feel, enough reach adjustment to dial them in to suit, and a lever shape that feels good in the finger. Brake feel is a very personal thing, we probably all have a preference for how a brake delivers its power. The Hope’s don’t have that stick-in-the-spokes power the moment your finger so much as graces the lever. Instead, there’s a very smooth and progressive build-up of power with a nice amount of lever travel, and a modulation that lets you apply the right amount of braking force in every situation. They have a clear bite point but it’s perhaps a little softer and later in the lever travel than some brakes where the bite point can come suddenly the moment your finger touches the lever.
Having the bite point come later in the travel makes braking very predictable and consistent. Some people might prefer the bite point to come much earlier in the lever travel, but if you want bags of silky-smooth modulation and control, the Hopes score highly.
There’s no lack of power when you fully grab a load of brake, though. On some of the gnarliest technical trails I rode, I had as much control as can be expected when you’re faced with roots the size of tree trunks and boulders causing tires to skitter around wildly. Any concerns that the weight-saving measures compromised the braking performance proved unfounded, there was no shortage of power when I got the Evo up and trucking. I was able to stop in an emergency, like that time I came into a corner a bit out of control and overshot it and had to pull on the anchors hard to avoid the big drop over the other side. I can see more aggressive riders probably running 200mm rotors front and rear, but I had no issues with brake fade. Perhaps if I was heading to the mountains or doing some serious bike park runs, I'd size up the rear rotor. For regular trail/enduro riding, it never caused complaint.
The lever shape is perfect for single-finger braking too, as is my preference for braking. Its perhaps a bit on the thin side and the hook at the edge could be a bit longer for really locking your finger into place. The four-piston calipers with the bigger front rotor provided plenty of confidence in high-speed situations. I quickly developed faith in the brakes to get me out of every sketchy situation I put myself in, whether intended or inadvertently. I found it easy to modulate the power, I was never unintentionally locking a wheel, it’s easy to feather in just the right amount of retardation for every situation.
The braking performance is consistent on longer runs with no hint of fade or lever drift. Granted, I don’t have any alpine descents to test the heating to the max, but on my longest runs, but I experienced no issues with heat. The four pistons help there compared to smaller two pot brakes. The lack of a bite point adjuster might be a deal-breaker for some - if you do want the bite point adjuster then it’s worth checking out the Tech 3 E4 brakes.
Over the long-term, I had no issues. The brakes occasionally emitted a bit of very low-level scrub/squeal sound, but during actual braking, they were quiet as a whisper. After several months of testing, the brake pads still have plenty of life left in them yet. I took a set of Code brakes off my bike to fit these Hopes, and I’ll be honest, I’m in no rush to swap them back over. I’m very happy with the Hope upgrade.
Would I buy these brakes? Yes, I probably would. There are undoubtedly cheaper options, but they’re made in the UK, the brakes are endlessly serviceable (I know many people running 10-year Hope brakes because they can still get spares for them) and Hope’s customer service is excellent. If you’re happy with the brakes on your bike there’s probably no reason to rush out and buy these, but if you want a brake with superb modulation and distinctive looks, then go check them out.
You'll need to buy the Tech 3 E4 brakes for tool-free adjustment-