Not only are HB.160 mainframes laid up by hand, thermoset and finished on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, using moulds that are CNC machined just metres away in the Hope factory, they even use composite sheets woven in Manchester. This monocoque front triangle is then matched to a four-bar linkage rear end that’s intricately and immaculately machined and bonded together in Hope’s similarly immaculate factory.
Because the bike started life as a pre-Boost-standard concept piece, Hope designed the back end around a non-dished wheel. Rather than going wide, it went narrow with a 130mm hub. The reduction in triangulation stiffness is compensated for with a 17mm thru-axle using 25mm spacers.
Boost spacing wasn’t a thing when Hope started the HB project, so it actually went narrower with its unique 130x17mm rear axle ‘standard’Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
To minimise the effects of braking on the suspension, the HB.160 uses a radial brake mount built into the rear dropout. Cables are routed semi-internally through the mainframe, and there’s a plastic bashguard under the belly.
The frame is single-ring specific, with an in-built chain guide that’s compatible with 28-36t chainrings. There’s enough clearance for muddy 2.5in tyres, but no bottle cage mounts. All the fixtures and fittings are laser etched and anodised in a choice of seven colours, and you can choose fork, frame, shock and rim decals to match for an extra £30.
As lovely as the Hope bike looks, it’s not light, with a medium frame and shock coming in at about 4kg. You’ll have to wait for one too, because Hope’s currently only producing four or five bikes a week. But, considering its superb build quality and limited edition status, the HB.160 is amazing value.
Hope HB.160 kit
The 2019 spec here includes an almost full set of Hope components: Tech 3 E4 brakes, a carbon bar made in the same room as the frame and a specific 130/17mm-axle rear hub, laser etched with an HB.160 logo.
You don’t get Hope’s rear cassette and crankset because the 2019 bike runs a full SRAM X01 Eagle transmission including carbon cranks, which is certainly no issue from a performance point of view.
Hope HB.160 ride impressions
Hope’s only made a few hundred frames so far, but if that’s not unique enough for you, there are seven anodised trim and decal colour options to choose fromMick Kirkman / Immediate Media
Even with Hope’s normally sedentary-feeling Tech 35W wheels fitted, the HB.160 feels keen and lively, which speaks volumes for the hand-laid front end and deftly-machined rear. (With lighter-rimmed wheels, it literally goes up a gear in responsiveness and accuracy.) It isn’t rattly or harsh through bouldery mess, yet feels remarkably charismatic, even alongside premium steel bikes.
The custom-tuned Fox X2 shock is great from the get-go. Add the carefully calibrated four-bar back end and radial brake mount, and it gives impressively pedal- and brake-independent flow over all sizes of hits.
The ‘GRIP2’ damper in the Fox 36 fork is supple yet supportive, and the frame’s chunky front end keeps a grip on stiffness and accuracy. Gear shifts are cleaner and swifter with the Eagle cassette than the Hope one on previous HB.160s, and I’m a fan of SRAM’s DUB cranks, which are stiffer than Hope’s own.
That leaves the bike’s shape as the only thing that might put you off. The steering geometry is fine, but the reach is short and the high seat tube makes sizing up awkward. It doesn’t feel as stable as some longer bikes when smashing through rock and root sections or scything through turns.
On the flipside, it swerves and stitches through tight corners and tweaks back on line easily, particularly at slow speeds. In other words, whether it works for you or not is a personal thing.
The meticulously handmade frame and custom components mean bikes don’t get more ‘factory’ than Hope’s HB.160Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media