Forme’s Hooklow range has had a major overhaul for 2015, and the upgrades certainly turn the 2 – which formed part of the longlist for our sister title Cycling Plus's Bike of the Year 2016 awards – into quite a compelling proposition.
Comfy and versatile if slightly hefty steed
The hydroformed alloy frame with its good-looking hexagonal cross section tubing is now joined by a carbon disc-specific fork. Thankfully Forme has retained mudguard and pannier mounts, meaning this would be a useful option for commuters who like to mix tarmac and trail.
The hydroformed alloy frame's hexagonal cross-section is aesthetically pleasing
The frame and fork both have clearance for up to 40c rubber, though it comes fitted with slimmer 28c Kenda Kwest tyres. On the road the Hooklow feels suitably smooth thanks to those big treads, and the new fork does a good job of smoothing out rougher surfaces. Comfort is something the Hooklow does well thanks to the fat tyres and the Forme-branded saddle, which offers decent padding and a great shape.
The wide gear range comes in handy when the road starts to rise, as there's no getting around the extra mass the Hooklow is carrying. So don’t expect any Froome-like attacks, just settle into a rhythm and climb at a steady rate.
The wheels are hefty but sturdy and carry speed well
Get over the top and the Hooklow turns into a formidable descender. The combination of a great position, positive steering, the extra ballast and cable disc brakes that do a decent job of slowing you all add in the Hooklows favour.
Decent in the dirt
Hit the dirt and the Hooklow feels decently surefooted, the Kwest’s tread with its chevron pattern cuts into slimy mud surprisingly well and doesn’t pack easily. They do break traction a little easily under hard cornering but that’s taking them well beyond their intended use.
The One23 disc wheels proved to be tough enough to handle plenty of abuse, with the hubs staying smooth despite being liberally dosed with mud baths on successive test rides. The downside of the toughness however is that they do feel a little weighty. Get them up to speed and the carry it well; its just getting there takes longer than we’d ideally like.
It's a solid bike for all seasons and all reasons, at a decent price
The nine-speed Sora groupset shifts well and the cyclocross style roller-assisted front derailleur cable routing keeps the cable out of the grime; shifts stay consistent even when caked in mud. The 11-32 range over nine gears does have some larger gaps between teeth, but only at the high-end where it matters less.
In all the Hooklow 2 is a decent budget option with great on-road manners and capable handling on the rough stuff. The downside is the weight – its never going to be a bike for big climbing days – but as an all rounder cum tough commuter its well worth your consideration.