If you know Hope, you know that they like to take their time with their projects. They worry about a lot of things but release dates are not one of them. They are much more concerned with how to make something as opposed to when to make it, so it comes as no surprise to learn that they have been working on design ideas for a bike “for some time”. In fact, they have drawings going back 11 years, and the least you can say is that a lot has happened in those 11 years.
Hope Bike Design Milestones
- 2005 Full suspension DH bike, single pivot with rocker arm, 200mm of travel. All CNC machined.
- 2006 Full suspension XC bike, single pivot with rocker arm, CNC machined BB and seat tube “tower”, glued on carbon tubes.
- 2007 24” Kids bike. A smaller and hardtail version of the 2006 model, keeping the BB and seat tube “tower” idea with glued on carbon tube.
- 2009 Full suspension DH bike, single pivot with rocker arm, 210mm of travel. CNC machined “engine” and pivot point. Moto style swingarm “Ducati” style steel trellis frame.
- 2010 Full suspension, 140mm of travel, single pivot with rocker arm, CNC machined “engine” with nested rear shock. Aluminium welded tubes.
- 2013 Full suspension, 6” of travel, four bar linkage, CNC machine “engine” including all pivot points. Aluminium hydroformed welded tubes.
Fast forward to present date, and the opening day of the 2016 Sea Otter Festival in Monterey, California. Visitors to the Hope stand will be greeted by the company’s first ever complete bike, in the flesh – or should we say, in the carbon. Yes, the bike features a full carbon front triangle with a CNCed aluminum rear triangle, and it’s all been made on site in Hope’s factory in Barnoldswick, UK.
The Standard Story
So with all the new standards, Hope had the pick of the crop when it came to designing a new bike, right? Wrong! Taking the view that a concept bike can be designed any way you want to, especially if you happen to make pretty much all the components required to build it up in house, Hope actually created a standards-less bike. Need more room for the BB area? Move the chain line out a bit – now you can also make a dishless wheel! Move the rotor closer to the spokes, and you can gain clearance on the non-drive side. Add a 17mm axle with 25mm location for max stiffness.
How about a 30mm, bespoke BB interface, designed for longevity and high performance? Check! How about a purely radial brake mount standard that means you can go from a 160mm rotor to 200mm with simple, straight spacers instead of frame-caliper specific adapters? Why not.
We spoke to Hope’s Alan Weatherill to find out a bit more about this ambitious project.
Vital: We’ve seen some bike projects from you in the past, but this one seems more real? Is the company looking at this one a bit more seriously than previous projects?
AW: We’ve had the interest in producing a bike for many years. It’s been one of Ian and Simon’s dreams. It’s frustrating when you show a non-bike person around the factory their first question is “Do you make bikes?” So now we can say “yes.”
Vital: After all the design iterations, what made you finally settle on a 160-mm, Horst-link bike?
AW: We like the braking characteristics that comes from the Horst-link and if done well it’s hard to beat in simple performance. Also the rear swing arm design fits in with our manufacturing processes.
Vital: Tell us about the first prototypes of the new bike – where there any surprises? Was it straightforward to ramp up your carbon manufacturing skills from seatposts and handlebars to a full frame?
AW: Other than the rigid kids bike we made many years ago, we’ve never actually produced any of our previous designs. Once this frame was drawn up and the design agreed upon, we went ahead and machined a mold. Most companies would probably make several aluminium “mules” before committing to the first mold, but it was easier for us to just machine one. We’ve been working on the frame alongside our other carbon projects and had input from several UK carbon specialists.
Vital: What has been the feedback from the riders?
AW: All excellent. Everyone’s amazed at how the bike climbs without bobbing and yet is so active on the descents. We’ve managed to get the geometry spot-on with this first prototype.
Vital: You went for the “no-standards” approach. Do you feel that you solved real problems with this approach, or was it more of a “because-we-can” situation? Anything quantifiable, like the advantages of the dishless wheel build or the space around the BB?
AW: We’ve seen so many standards introduced that aren’t an advancement in performance, but are instead to help with manufacturing or assembly. The industry seems to be moving more and more to proprietary systems. With this in mind, and since we were making the frame as well as the components we decided to produce a frame that worked in conjunction with the components, rather than a compromise.
Vital: What are the key geo numbers you went for? HA, SA, reach, chainstay length, wheelbase?
AW: We’re not going into figures at the moment as the design is still a little fluid, just call it “contemporary.”
Vital: What’s the deal with the BB?
AW: The BB is based on the pressfit solution we already make. It’s a sleeve that slides into the frame and screws together to hold in place. It also keeps the bearings inside the frame to give maximum support, but still fits a standard 73mm crank.
Vital: Is there any significance to the HB211 name?
AW: HB211 is a reference back to our heritage at Rolls Royce and our town, Barnoldswick. The RB211 Jet engine was the engine that turned Rolls Royce into a global leader in the aero-engine industry. The RB stood for “Rolls Barnoldswick” as the engine was developed here, so we’ve followed suit with the “Hope Barnoldswick – HB” moniker.
Vital: What would need to happen for the bike to become commercially available? Any desire to make it so?
AW: I can see it eventually reaching production, but the exact product and distribution model has yet to be decided.
Here is what Hope had to say on the topic of producing carbon fiber parts/bikes in the UK:
There’sa wealth of knowledge around carbon fibre in the UK, with the majority of the current F1 teams being based here as well as a thriving aerospace industry. This gives us access to some of the world’s most talented carbon fibre engineers, right on our doorstep. The challenge was taking their skill at producing batches of two components, and scaling it up to production quantities.
Since our existing products are manufactured using the processes most companies only use to produce their first prototypes ie CNC machined rather than cast or precision forged, it’s not been an unusual experience for us. Mould production has been one of the easiest processes since these are made on CNC machines and we already have a few of these.
Cutting and laying up the carbon sheet is quite a labour intensive process, but keeping production on site in Barnoldswick gives us total confidence in the quality of parts we can produce.
In the past there have been reservations internally about the safety of manufacturing in carbon fibre and although carbon fibre production is a new process to us, with the correct controls and working practices put in place, it can be made an extremely safe process. Also by manufacturing in our own factory in the UK to strict health and safety regulations, we can ensure a safe working environment for our staff, which is more than can be said for some companies who have parts produced in anonymous factories around the world.