I'm not sure about you, but I think of things like aluminum cranks and stems when I hear someone mention UK component manufacturer Hope. And rightfully so - they've been making their own components in the UK since 1989 and have recently moved towards using carbon fiber for their latest handlebars and seatposts, which are also made in-house. It's that carbon work over the last handful of years that has helped prepare them for the HB.211, a 160mm-travel, all-mountain frame that features a carbon fiber front triangle that Hope produces in their new carbon facility, with a fully CNC'd rear triangle that they also make themselves.
• Intended use: all-mountain / enduro
• Rear wheel travel: 160mm
• Wheel size: 27.5''
• Carbon front end
• CNC'd aluminum rear end
• Suspension design: four-bar
• 17 x 130mm rear hub spacing
• Zero dish rear wheel
• Weight: 30lb (as shown)
• Availability: maybe... maybe not
While the HB.211's UK-made origin is interesting, the real story is Hope's decision to shirk so-called industry standards for the project, one that may or may not reach production.
Wondering where the HB.211 name, which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, comes from? Hope is paying homage to another very British company, aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, and their RB211 high-bypass turbofan engines that have hung off the wings of everything from the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar to the Boeing 747, 757, and 767.
Hope has been making their own carbon seatposts and handlebars for a while now, so while them showing up at Sea Otter with a carbon fiber frame might seem like it came out of the blue to some, it's not as far-fetched as it might seem. Consider that you need rather expensive aluminum molds to bladder-mold a carbon frame, something that is rumored to cost well over $50,000 for each size. Hope is pretty handy with aluminum, however, so they simply made their own molds so they could make their own carbon front triangle. That's some British DIY attitude right there, and also, an approach that surely saved them a big chunk of money. Manufacturing is taking place in a new building that's been built specifically for the project, and if Hope do decide to take the HB.211 to production, they'll likely hire a number of new staff for the task.
The HB.211 shown here is the only one in existence right now, and inspecting the frame closely does reveal that there are some prototype-ish imperfections in the finish that they are ironing out for the next run of ten frames. And no, none of those are going to be for sale, either. It's all development at this point, but Hope did sound upbeat about the chance of the bike going into production.
The burly looking prototype is overbuilt for obvious reasons, and the bike weighs around 30lb with a coil-spring shock and no real weight-minded concessions. The next run will be lighter, I was told. Hope also wasn't ready to comment on the HB.211's geometry, but it appeared to be contemporary rather than featuring numbers from a few years ago.
The thought of yet another brake mounting "standard" or proposed hub spacing change is bound to send a lot of us into angry spasms, and rightfully so, but Hope has done exactly that with their HB.211. They are not intending to force any industry-wide changes, however, and the bike may or may not even reach production. All Hope wanted to do was to see what they could come up with if they built a frame the best way they saw fit while taking advantage of their brake, hub, crank and bottom bracket manufacturing abilities.
''The bike uses very few current standards since it has been developed as a design concept rather than a product design exercise,'' Hope explained about the bike's ethos. ''Maybe not the best solution for compatibility, but when you make every part, it gives you the opportunity to manufacture a bike without compromise.'' To Hope, a bike without compromise features a zero-dish, 17 x 130mm rear hub spacing, a radial mount rear brake setup, a 30mm crank and bottom bracket interface, and a proprietary chain guide mounting pattern.
|The bike uses very few current standards since it has been developed as a design concept rather than a product design exercise. Maybe not the best solution for compatibility, but when you make every part, it gives you the opportunity to manufacture a bike without compromise. - Hope|
Radial Brake Mount - The HB.211's rear-end looks normal-ish from twenty feet away or to someone who couldn't tell the difference between a four-bar and faux-bar layout, but there's some trickery going on here. Or, to put it better, straight up ignoring what the rest of the industry is doing. Let's start with the rear brake mount which appears to be a normal post mount setup but is anything but. It's actually a radial mount, with the two bolts being in-line with the axle center so that the caliper doesn't need to be offset with an adapter as you go up or down in rotor size. Instead, you simply stack or remove washers under it to move it up or down in height to where it needs to be. This is not possible with industry standard 160mm post mount, and Hope looks pretty clever with their radial caliper mounting.
But... There's always a but. Radial brake mounting requires a different caliper due to the position of the mounting bolts in relation to the pistons. Good thing they make their own brakes, so whipping up a new caliper wasn't the end of the world, and Hope actually used to make a radial-mount caliper many years ago. This is system integration taken to, well, somewhere that many riders will have issues accepting. Hope is well aware of this, but that didn't stop them from seeing how far they could take things.
17 x 130mm Hub Spacing - A wheel with zero dish and equal spoke tension on either side should be stronger than what's currently the norm, so that's what Hope did. The CNC'd aluminum chain and seatstays are asymmetrical to provide the required clearance, and the 130mm wide rear hub sees the rotor and disc-side spoke flange moved closer together. Why 130mm and not 142, 148, or some other random number? Hope says that the slim rear end is less likely to catch on things that don't move, like rocks and trees, which should help to keep your derailleur safer, and 130mm is the space required for everything to fit in nicely.
What Came Before
In the past, I've argued that all-mountain and enduro race bikes are the most exciting, fastest evolving breed of mountain bike, and I still believe that. Downhill race bikes used to hold that crown, of course, but the demands put on a capable 160mm-travel bike these days are pretty high when it comes to every aspect of its performance. Hope kinda feels the same, it seems, as they considered putting a downhill rig together back in 2005 before looking at something with less travel. That unnamed, fully CNC'd bike with 200mm-travel was never made, and neither was the carbon and aluminum hybrid cross-country bike that they designed in 2006. Those two stillborn projects at opposite ends of the two-wheeled spectrum were followed by a 24'' wheeled kids bike with a CNC'd rear-end that was glued to carbon fiber tubes. Cool stuff, sure, but there's a bigger market for cantilever brakes and purple bar-ends than mega-trick bikes for kids that reportedly cost in the five digit range to make.
So if you're probably not going to end up building it, why not design something really freaking cool. Enter the steel trellis front triangle and CNC'd heart of a wild looking, 210mm-travel downhill sled that looked like a non-motorized offspring of a Ducati Monster and a dirtbike. This was in 2009, so not everything had to be carbon to be any good, and Hope's single-pivot beast looked damn good.
Two shorter-travel machines were up next, with 140mm and 160mm of travel, neither as wild as what Hope had been 3D modeling before, however. And none of them came to life.
Until now. Will the HB.211 actually be for sale at some point? I sure hope so.