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Bike Check: Joe Barnes' Custom Hazzard Hope HB916

May 8, 2024 at 7:33
by Jessie-May Morgan  
Photos by Pete Scullion

In amongst a sea of downhill bikes flooding the Nevis Range last weekend was Joe Barnes' Hope HB916 - custom built to his exacting requirements, and in a custom Hazzard Racing colorway that, for some reason, makes me think only of Blacmange and Angel Delight. After fondly reminiscing on desserts gone by, it was interesting to look a little closer at Joe's enduro bike.

The Top Chief, as he known locally in Fort William, is now going into his third season racing with Hope Technology. It's off to a corker of a start, with a top 10 result at the first round of the British National Enduro Series in Laggan. Now a proud father of two, Joe focuses his attention on the UK circuit, which allows him to spend more time at home with the family. He splits his time between racing and film making. His winter film project, featuring Danny MacAskill, Kris Kyle, and Josh Bryceland doing 'compromising things', will drop in the next few weeks.


Anyone who's ever seen a Hazzard Racing edit will know that Joe's trademark riding style is one of hanging off the back while making the front-end dive in and out of ruts. The muddier the better. Accommodating that style is a setup that is far from stock.


Joe is 173cm tall, and he rides the the HB916 in a H1 - the smallest frame they offer. It has a 447mm reach in the standard setting and he runs it MX. He says really liked the ride feel of the 29" configuration, but to get the mullet to feel as good as the 29er, he had to run a longer back-end with a higher BB and more travel.

bigquotesI prefer the ability to get out of shape on the mullet. I've made the mullet ride like a 29", but I can still hang off the back.Joe Barnes

To do that, he's running a longer than stock rear-end of 450mm (the rear-end that now comes stock on the larger H3 and H4 sizes), in combination with a custom rocker. The result is 170mm rear wheel travel instead of the stock 160mm, and a BB that is 5mm higher at around 349mm.

The tensioner reduces chain growth along the lower chain span for compatibility with the T-Type derailleur cage
A nod to Top Chief's choice of facial hair

Joe has been known to experiment with frames of varying stiffness. Hope made him a custom front triangle that's more compliant than the stock H1 frame. With the help of a BYB Telemetry kit and the know-how of Nick Lester from Downamics, he was able to make some interesting observations. The more flexible front triangle delivered a more stable ride feel on a steep, more flowing track than the stiffer front triangle that gave a better and more stable feeling on a faster, rockier and altogether rougher track. And importantly, those ride feelings were backed up by the data - much of which can be seen in his video Joe Barnes on Science #3.


At the end of it all, Joe settled on the stiffer, stock front triangle for its stability in fast and rough straight sections. His experimenting then moved onto rear-end compliance, and Hope manufactured a bespoke rear-end without the seatstay brace.

bigquotesWhen the track is slower, techier and sort of rough techy, I found it to be way betterJoe Barnes

Keen on the more compliant rear-end, Joe is waiting on a brace-less version of the longer (450mm) chainstay that Hope are working on currently. It will be a bolt-on removable affair, to allow him to do some back-to-back testing.

Adding more in the way of compliance is a Hope Fortus wheelset, the spokes of which Joe backs off by 1.5 turns, front and rear. Indeed, a 26mm internal width rim is quite narrow by modern standards, but Joe appreciates the rounder tire profile that it gives rise to. He opts for a Schwalbe Big Betty (Super DH) in the rear (23 psi) and a Magic Mary (Super Gravity) out front (18 psi), both in the Addix Ultra Soft flavour.


While most folk are maximizing seatpost insertion depth with as long a dropper as possible, Joe has settled on a 150mm travel dropper from OneUp.

bigquotesI did go to 180mm over the last few years, but because the seat tube is so steep I need less drop, because it's still out of the way when it's higher if that makes sense. The seat has essentially come forward - if the seat is further back I need it lower. So, 150mm is good, and it's lighter and better for riding with my knees. I like it when the seat touches my knees, or just grazes them slightlyJoe Barnes


Joe pairs that 170mm rear-end with a 170mm Ohlins RXF 36 fork, instead of the burlier and stiffer RXF 38. The air spring has two positive chambers; a main chamber that Joe runs at 92 psi, and a ramp chamber with 202 psi. That's not the stock damper in there; Ohlins have given him a lighter compression tune. Head angle is adjustable on this frame by virtue of the offset top headset cup; Joe puts it in the slacker setting, which gives a head angle of around 63.3° degrees.


At 70 kg, Joe runs a 320 lbs spring on the Ohlins TTX coil shock with the custom tune specific to the 916 frame. That said, Joe's custom back-end with the increased rear wheel travel does alter the leverage curve slightly, increasing the overall leverage throughout the stroke. He says he's happy with the lighter feeling and increased travel. On the rebound, Joe keeps low speed rebound damping at a minimum, with more high speed rebound damping to keep the rear from feeling too kicky in big compressions.


In the cockpit, Joe has a OneUp carbon bar cut to 730mm, clamped to a 50mm stem. His Hope Tech 4 levers have custom blades machined just for him - the shape allows for a bite point that's close to the bar, with the lever finishing up parallel to the bar, instead of flared down. Those are paired with the E4 calipers (he says he doesn't need the extra power offered by the V4 caliper), with a 203mm rotor up front and a 180mm rotor in the rear.


Joe is running Hope's new carbon cranks in 165mm. He has previously spent a lot of time on the 155mm option, which he uses on his trail bike, and prefers them for climbing. For racing, he prefers the longer cranks to help him sneak in a quarter turn now and again.

Author Info:
jessiemaymorgan avatar

Member since Oct 26, 2023
75 articles

  • 144 6
 This is the bike check we need. Narrow bars, short dropper post, 170mm 36, prefers longer cranks, prefers less powerful brakes, and doesn't even use his bottle cage mounts. And he rides the piss out of it.
  • 13 25
flag TommyNunchuck FL (May 8, 2024 at 12:49) (Below Threshold)
 How tall are you compared to Joe? Not everyone is that small
  • 45 1
 165’s on an enduro bike aren’t exactly long.
  • 6 0
 Did the mustache fail to communicate 'pennyfarthing' to you?
  • 6 6
 @TommyNunchuck: don't pick a fight with short kings
  • 8 1
 "Narrow" rims too. Really interesting read,also about stiffness! Loosening the spokes sounds like a no to me though..
Last but not least,UK bikes are the coolest and most interesting imho,I do miss some skinny Reynolds tubing on this one :-)
  • 2 0
 Does anyone know the brand of chain tensioner? Hope don't have it on their website.
  • 5 0
 All makes sense when he's a smaller lighter rider who rides the tight, twisty and techy trails of scotland, makes you wonder if the next step is not just bikes with different travel and size for different rider sizes and styles but different complience options for rider weight and speed of thier usual trails.
  • 2 0
 @xciscool: 165s are my "short" cranks
  • 9 1
 @maglor: No. This is Pinkbike. Here we look at one bike check specific to one rider and then apply those rules to everyone. No exceptions.
  • 2 0
 @klous-1: Thanks - looks like its old school BB mounted.
  • 3 0
 @klous-1: I'm one of Hopes Ambassadors, the chain tensioner is from Hope, the manufacture it themself. It is only to be used when using the t-type transmission on the HB916. With "regular" derailleurs you don't need it. As mentioned before, it is supplied with the 2nd iteration of the HB916. If you have any further question hmu.
  • 3 0
 @thomasjkenney1024: if this PinkBike comments section was an album, your comment would be the deepest cut on the whole damn thing. Narrow bars, mullet setup and the moustache. Well done.
  • 28 0
 730 bars and a 150 post. and still looks as good as a man can look on a bicycle. yeehaw baby
  • 26 0
 26mm internal width rims ain't dead
  • 21 0
 DT EX471 for life! lol
  • 2 9
flag jwdenver (May 9, 2024 at 6:55) (Below Threshold)
 nobody can feel the difference between 26mm and 30mm ID
  • 9 3
 @jwdenver: ^ 100% incorrect , but I am glad you can speak for every MTB rider though. lol
  • 4 0
 @bman33: slight exaggeration but you know what I mean Smile
  • 13 0
 “When the track is slower, techier and sort of rough techy, I found it to be way better”

I feel this kind of quote has been uttered by every MTB rider alive.
  • 6 2
 Yeah I personally like it steep, deep, and rough. Little harder than I prefer to get that heart rate up. But at the bottom it just feels like a big release of weight off your back. Like a big black diamond trail. Or two diamonds. I dont know depends how Im feeling. You know?
  • 15 0
 Sell those levers please!
  • 1 0
 Theyre for hope sponsored riders only
  • 15 5
 Mr Barnes knows his stuff and tests things to death. Completely agree on a slightly shorter dropper and feeling them saddle with your knees. 185cm and a 150mm dropper has never not been enough. 750mm bars also do me fine and wider bars just cause all kinds of cornering issues.
  • 11 2
 Have you just tried been extra tall and lanky? I've got a 210mm and its still not slammed lol
  • 23 5
 There's a reason there are so many dropper length and bar width options - people come in different sizes and have different preferences. I'm 180cm and 150mm wouldn't be nearly enough drop on the trails I like riding, especially on a bike with a steep seat angle.
  • 4 1
 @mikekazimer: we are all different, with different riding styles, you are 5cm shorter than me and I am pretty sure my bike would manage it fine down your local trails. Neither of us are anywhere near the level of Joe Barnes and although he is a little shorter than you, his points are very valid and on the money.

@toad321 I am only 6f1, ride a 100mm dropper on my XC/Trail bike and 150mm on my Enduro and E-bikes without any issue. But I am like Joe and like to use my saddle when riding, I didnt notice the saddle being in the way on the new steep trails at the Golfie or Yair in the winter and its never in the way up here or over Torridon etc. I ride Dh lots so I guess we are used to our saddles being a little higher due to the extra travel and often slacker seat angles, if its too low the saddle is going to get buzzed and ruined!
  • 6 2
 Yeah I also dont get the super long dropper trend. On my bike i have 150mm and the issue is not the seat but the back wheel hitting me in the nuts, when moving weight back. If we’re talking about moving weight down, then i also cant imagine why would anyone need to do so much squatting, it is not a strong position to be collapsed on the bike.
  • 2 2
 @GZMS: It's all personal, and you can't miss what you havn't had, not many people go back to a shorter drop, but lots go longer, my first dropper was 125 and i thought it was fine, you just adapt, but i got a 150 and it changed my view, then my new bike could fit much longer, plus the bike was longer so getting backward behind the seat on the steep was harder so i went to 180, that was great and probably perfect for out the way but still able to knee steer, but after a couple scrapes in delicate areas/catching trousers on some super steep trails i decided to try a 210, seems good so far, can really move the bike around under me, i'm 178cm for referance but do have longish legs for my height.
  • 4 1
 @maglor: The best argument for going as long as possible is it looks better and you can chose to not put the seat all the way down.
I often run my 150mm not all the way down, having the collar at the seat tube exit from the frame does look cooler, but its probably not as efficient for pedalling, introduces more flex and more weight higher up which are pretty significant down sides.
  • 2 0
 @betsie: That is a good point, you dont have to use all the travel but would rather have it.
Not sure i agree with your downsides being significant, weight higher up is soo negligiable in the total equation of bike and rider, plus Pinkbike did an article on centre of gravity of a bike and lower isn't always better, worth a read if you're interested, the Flex is in theory more likely but again pretty negligable and with steep seat angles these days rider weight is fairly vertical on a post so the side loading which would cuase flex is pretty light.
  • 1 0
 totally agree. I'm just under 6ft and 150mm is perfectly low enough for any descending even with older slacker seat angles and keeps the saddle at an optimum height for control against the inner thigh. BELOW that and you actually begin to LOOSE some bike control... BUT... I also had an imported 250mm dropper for a number of years on a hardtail and that became my ideal drop for manualling (170mm is the longest drop I can use on most of my FS bikes and slammed they limit fore and aft crotch movement. even the 210s I've run on hardtails since can sometimes allow the saddle to get in the way.
ALSO clipped in riders really shouldn't need as much saddle drop descending as they don't have to pre-load their legs quite so much to preempt everything.

Bar width preference is also partly down to shoulder width but should NEVER be chosen based just from height OR wingspan. I have a freakishly wide wingspan for my height but it's mostly down to my shoulder/upper back width so get on fine hanging right over the end of my grips with wide bars. Not to say I can't also ride narrow bars tho since I did ride them for 20 years and we still have these ingenious things called joints all over our bodies. Narrow shoulder riders simply can't control a wide bar properly. Hence seeing so many smaller riders with their hands sat inwards on their grips

Pinkbike is full of shit and blindly pushes new agenda/trends. But ias it panders to the ridiculous obsession with "numbers" the male mtb communtity has we find it full of pointlezly long in depth replys like this one.
  • 2 0
 @Gaah: 100% on the money.
As a narrow shoulder guy, and 185cm (6ft1 in real money). I just tried 790 for the start of the season, 4 big crashes later I am back on 760 and feel much more comfortable, plus I haven't crashed yet either.
Clips might feel sketchy at times but they are so good for just being able to pull over stuff without the need for preload and for the 2 pedal strokes out of a corner if, like me you can't corner fast enough or the terrain determines the speed.
  • 7 0
 This man is a ripper and an is a tester no question. On the short bars, remember the ape index...... I could have bars customized for me by NASA and I'll never come close to riding like this gent.
  • 9 0
 Joe Barnes doing film projets with Tier 1 pros is the best bike industry news I've heard all year. Can't wait to watch this.
  • 9 2
 If you trim oneup bars that short I have no idea how he fits hope levers on them. The oval shape of bars messes with long levers.
  • 5 0
 Article states hes got custom short brake levers
  • 2 0
 I have oneup bars trimmed to 740mm (am short dude) and brakes fit fine, but that is the minimum they recommend. I run deathgrips which are fairly short. I could see 730 working as long as you don't have long grips or run brakes super inward, looks like he runs brakes close to the grips.
  • 9 0
 every single bike check should be this in depth or don't even bother
  • 10 2
 See, short dropper posts are still cool.
  • 10 3
 Sensible tyre pressures too - none of that 27psi in the front nonsense that some reviewers on here use.
  • 6 0
 When I read about experimenting with flexxier frames: Aha, that's how he makes his bike bend around turns!
  • 2 0
 Hmmm interesting.
The main flaw of my H3 in mullet mode was it felt far too front
bias. with the (slacker than geo charts suggest) head angle of 62.8 degrees it was too easy to wash out the front. Now I find out H3s ship with longer chainstay!!!!

Too late for me sadly.
  • 1 0
 Great bike check and I like lot's of what he's done. Really cool of Hope to be open to making less stiff front and rear triangles. The only thing I don't agree with or that in my experience is different is that I feel like I need more drop from the dropper as seat angles get steeper. Sweet ride.
  • 4 2
 Wouldn’t 155mm cranks be easier to sneak in a quarter turn than 165mm ones?
What am I missing?
You gave more clearance to do so with shorter ones.
  • 4 0
 Hey Hope: these brakelevers should be standard on the Tech4s.
  • 1 0
 Great write-up @jessiemaymorgan - and it's always good to see my thoughts line up with Joe's (about longer rear ends on mullet bikes in this case). He can keep his 730mm bars though.
  • 3 0
 Now that was a proper bike check! Loads of little details with plenty of explanations!
  • 6 3
 so will we see an immediate trend of shorter posts and narrower bars?
  • 9 5
 Well I'm 7 inches taller than Joe Barnes so not for me
  • 3 1
 Yeah, I have 6" on him myself, so probably not from me either.
  • 4 1
 @TommyNunchuck: are you tall bro?
  • 5 1
 @browner: I'm 6'3" with long arms so my dopper is longer, my bars are wider etc. Joe's bike looks sick but these idiots read one bike check and act like everyone else is on the wrong bike.
  • 3 0
 Cool, if Joe rode a '96 Huffy I'd still say cool.
  • 3 0
 backing off spoke tension is wild
  • 2 0
 Paint work, jersey art, gives me the KB43 feels. RIP KB43.
  • 2 0
 It's just a better-looking Slash. I want one.
  • 1 0
 You can order one: hope will say great, it’ll be there in 4 months. 6 months will go by without word. You’ll reach out to hope but without answer. At 8 months they’ll tell you “soon”. 10 months after you ordered it it’ll show up with the wrong hope build kit and a totally outdated sram build kit. When you reach out to customer service they tell you to eat dick and smile while doing it. The bike is fun to ride, poppy and nice. The carbon layup looks amazing. Unfortunately it’s also the worst engineered piece of shit I’ve owned. It literally sounds like an old rusty can filled with rocks when you ride it. I’ve brought it back to the dealer to try to remedy it but it’s a lost cause. Joe doesn’t have a bottle because if you use one the lid from the stash box flies off several times a ride.
I’ve had hope components on all my bikes since 2017. I ordered one to try and support domestic European manufacturing. Never am I buying another hope product, f*ck those c*nts and their entire customer service team. Worst € 10k I’ve ever spent on a bike. So if anyone wants a 3month old h2 with un used wheels, cranks and bars hit me up. I might throw in the ext coil on top of the Ohlins air shock.
Joe is a total ripper tho, and a wizard on the bike.
  • 1 0
 Why are the photos private!?! I want to be able to save/favourite some of these bad boys!!!!
  • 1 0
 Sweet!!... I love it!!! But I also love my HB916 H1 too...
  • 2 0
 Guy does bikes.
  • 2 0
 Dream Bike.
  • 2 3
 That’s alot of modification to make the bike work for him. It makes me wonder if it needs that much doing to it are the production ones right
  • 7 0
 the dudes tuning his spoke tension loose....I think he's just a very particular rider who knows what he wants
  • 1 0
 I'd like to see a comparison to Fergus Lamb's HB916
  • 2 2
 Really going for the pink norco look there
  • 3 1
 Didn't know Norco had a patent out on painting bikes pink.
  • 7 0
 This is not his first, pink, rodeo
  • 1 3
 Looks like a slash
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