I mean, just look it at.
Hope are known for making some beautiful components, that’s widely known and accepted. For their first foray into building a frame, they’ve done it again; the HB160 is truly a jaw-dropping work of art that wouldn’t look out of place if it was hung on a wall of a billionaire’s summer mansion in the Hamptons. The sheer time and effort that has gone into making this bike a reality is difficult to comprehend, but some things are most definitely worth the wait and my word have Hope delivered the goods. This post is going to be picture heavy and for damn good reason.
There’s no doubt this bike is visually stunning, so the question on a lot of people’s minds is, how does it ride? As Hope are only producing 500 bikes per year and with a price tag of a cool £7500, this boutique beauty is out of reach for a large percentage of cyclists, myself included. However, I have some very kind friends at Nirvana Cycles in Westcott who just happen to have a demo bike with the even more exclusive ‘factory green’ colourway, and they asked if I’d like to tag along on one of their shop rides and try out the HB160… naturally I was like a puppy raised on cocaine and kibble and jumped at the chance.
So let’s take a look at the bike I’d be riding:
Frame: HB160 Carbon, 160mm travel, Horst link suspension platform
Shock: Fox Factory Float X2, 160mm travel
Fork: Fox 36 Float Factory RC2, 160mm travel
Wheels: Hope 35W rims, Hope Pro4 HB/110mm hubs, Maxxis High Roller 2 3C EXO 27.5×2.4in tyres
Drivetrain: Hope cranks, Hope cassette, SRAM XX1 shifter and mech
Brakes: Hope Tech 3 E4, 180/180mm
Components: Hope Carbon bar 780mm, Hope AM 35mm stem, Hope lock-on grips, SDG Duster Ti saddle, RockShox Reverb seatpost and lever
You can check out behind the scenes video from the Barnoldswick based team here:
As Hope have the benefit of using their components on the bike, they have created some of their own ‘standards’; a 130mm rear hub spacing (‘anti-boost’, if you will) which still gives insane strength, a 17mm rear axle and a unique bottom bracket setup are just a few ‘non-conformist’ additions. However, you can rest assured that, should you break anything or need a replacement, Hope will be able to sort it.
The HB160 was waiting for me on arrival on a sunny Saturday morning and I met with shop owner Simon and buddy Neil and I got the bike set up; a little extra pressure in the forks and shock and it was ready to roll on a shop ride with some great people around the Leith Hill area of the Surrey Hills. I’ve never really ridden this area, as I’ve always stuck more to the Peaslake side historically. After the ride I did, I am absolutely going to explore that area more, it’s brilliant and has a huge variety of trails from Whistler style tech to road gaps, massive drops and monster senders.
PG going HUGE on a road gap.
I tested a large and, at 6’1”, the bike felt a little more compact that I’d have expected, positioning me a bit more over the front wheel than I was used to. However, the HB160 is a bike that was designed to tackle the climbs and long days in the saddle just as much as the descents. Hell, it’s a British bike and we don’t really do uplifts as much as the rest, so I’m sure Hope had this in mind during the design process.
I was out with a great group; Simon, the shop owner was leading the way and buddy and team rider Phil was on fire as always, sending anything in his path (and taking some great photos). I also met some great people, amongst others: Will (who had the gnarliest crash I’ve seen for a long time, which he thankfully came out of with minor scrapes), Kate, a hella fast shredder with the best shorts I’ve ever seen and Miles, a friend of another team rider Charlie and a rapid little dude!
We did a roughly 10 mile loop taking in just under 2000ft, across various terrain, so I felt I got a great test of the HB160.
The climbs were a cinch, the only time I had to put a foot down was due to my shocking line choice over some roots. Otherwise, it would climb like a true mountain goat thanks to the supremely crisp shifting of the Hope cassette and SRAM XX1 shifter working in perfect harmony.
Descending technical singletrack is, in my mind, where the HB160 truly came alive. The grip the bike delivered was astounding. Where I’d usually pick a line carefully through roots, the HB160 genuinely drifted over the top of everything, as if it was dancing on water; the combination of wide tyres with low pressure, a responsive back end and the geometry positioning me perfectly all came together to produce the most grip I’ve experienced when riding, and I genuinely mean it when I say that.
General riding of the HB160 was great fun too. It felt reliable, trustworthy and above all, energetic. I found the HB160 was easy to get on the back wheel and hop over little features on a trail.
We rode some decent sized jumps and drops and the HB160 swallowed them whole, with the Fox shocks absorbing everything with no question, one or two times the plush 160mm of travel compensating for a few simple, sloppy mistakes. Twisting and turning through the trees on loam dusted trails, the HB160 felt like a jacked-up Honey Badger; compact, rowdy and full of rage just waiting to be unleashed. Small bumps turned into an excuse to get the bike airborne and any slight angle in the trail had me flicking the back end out in search for hero dirt.
One small thing I was particularly impressed with were the Hope grips. The black colour almost became transparent and whilst they looked thin to begin with, they felt supremely comfortable and the knurled construction together with the slight ridge on the outer end of the grip ensured my hands felt perfectly placed throughout the ride.
However, the main thing that had me in awe all day was just how refined the bike was. From the carbon weave glistening when hit by a beam of light through the trees, to the meticulous machining on the swingarm, the design of the bike has been thought through in an almost incomprehensible way. The curves on the frame are glorious and every detail has been covered; it truly is a masterpiece of design.
The handling of the bike just increases the ‘wow’ factor of the HB160 too. Snappy, sharp and ultra-responsive, it was an absolute joy to ride and I’m hugely thankful to Nirvana cycles (Neil in particular for organising it) for allowing me to ride this beast of a bike. The shop rides are superb fun with a great vibe and shop owner Simon took the time to offer some great advice to some of the newer riders which was great to see. Even better, the ride ends with a curry back at the shop; a great way to get your energy back for the day ahead!
I only experienced a couple of downsides with the HB160 during my ride; firstly, the Reverb was very slow at returning to its extended position, even after fettling with the speed. Secondly, as I felt a bit more compact on the bike than I was used to, I would have loved a little extra width in the bars. An 800mm bar rather than a 780mm would have been preferable, but both of these are easily rectified, so neither would be a show stopper when considering a purchase.
I actually struggled to write this review as it’s hard to convey how impressive the HB160 was in words. It’s perhaps because I felt a bit humbled riding this bike; if I’m honest, it was almost like letting a gibbon drive a Formula One car.
The HB160 is an exceptional bike, made by the best. It’s no surprise that it comes at a premium, but then you’d not expect to pay peanuts for a McLaren or an Aston Martin, would you? If you’re lucky enough to have the budget for this one, you simply must test one and you cannot go wrong with a shop ride with Nirvana Cycles to put it through its paces.
I’m off to put one of my kidneys on eBay, I’ll catch you soon.
Ian @ Stealth Riders
I took a huge amount of photos, so here’s a small gallery to feast your eyes on, including a few shots of the new team jersey (but more on that in a separate post soon):