So let’s start with the elephant in the ranking room here. NOTHING is perfect, so a five out of five doesn’t actually represent that in our scoring system. What it represents is that this product is perceived by the reviewer to be the best product currently available. Generally within a specific range of performance or price.
In other words, if we’re dealing with the best mountain bike brakes (as we are in this article) you might have a brake that’s tough, reliable and reasonably powerful and at an affordable price that makes it a total bargain – like the Shimano Deore 6000.
It’s definitely not a light brake that you’re going to choose for XC racing and you’ll need to run a bigger rotor to get the same bite as a premium enduro brake. And to be honest the rotors are a bit soft and wear out quick. Even so, if you want a reliable, user friendly stopper then we’ll point you in the direction of the Deore all day long.
So if Deore does the job fine, how can we also give a five out of five to Hope’s new Tech 4 E4 brake when it costs twice the price?
Hope’s new brake is certainly streets ahead of Shimano in terms of power. Those longer levers and the new pivot point properly ramp up the pressure it can exert on the rotor, meaning you stop quicker for less pull on those sweet drilled-out lever tips. But even then it’s not the ultimate brake in terms of power.
Last time I had brakes on a dyno (a dynamometer, a machine for measuring braking force), that honor went to Shimano’s old Saint and Magura’s four cylinder MT7 brakes, but from what I’ve heard about the latest Trickstuff and SRAM Code brakes, they’ve gone beyond the torque we were seeing from those units. Hope’s own V4 DH caliper also squeezes more power from their new Tech 4 lever. The E4 version now pulls enough eye pop and tire strain out of my fingertips that I’m thinking of dropping down a rotor size both ends.
The best products are rarely about pure statistical performance though and that’s certainly the case with the Tech 4 E4. Not only is the lever longer and positioned slightly differently in relation to the bar, it also pivots on a tiny roller bearing. Another anodized roller rolls across the top of the master cylinder as you pull that bearing. This makes the whole lever feel luxuriously smooth and sensitive for zero distortion feedback. There’s no wobble or flex in the lever or body either so that featherlight feel is consistent and ultra clean.
At the far end of the pipe, Hope have fitted a new design of hybrid ceramic and steel cylinders. These are already smoother stroking as they slide in and out of the immaculately machined single piece calipers. The hybrid pistons also deal with brake heat build up better so that movement is more consistent and there’s no discernible change in performance all the way down serious Alpine descents. Day after day, week after week. And that’s the usage that normally finds most brakes out pretty damn quickly.
But while I can’t claim to have put tens of thousands of meters of vertical into my set, my test colleague Mick Kirkman has, and I know Alan Muldoon from MBR has been equally impressed with the E4s. So that’s my ultra positive opinion of these new brakes triplicated by a couple of the most diligent and discerning reviewers in the business.
And it’s not like we’re just rolling over a reheated opinion from previous Hope brakes. I don’t want to put words into Mick or Al’s mouth on this, but I know none of us had the Tech 3 levers down on our favorite things to find on our bars list. The fact that’s definitely the case with the Tech 4 E4 combo marks a big turnaround for UK-based manufacturer Hope – and against some big competition.
Hope and glory
While they might not have been front ranking in terms of performance previously, there’s a few more bits of the Hope picture to color in – literally. One of the reasons the Lancashire brand has remained evergreen with its fans is the anodized color options that match across their whole product range – and we mean properly match.
Not only are the pieces anodized in-house at the same state-of-the-art factory as the other parts of the brake (with the exception of the hose, pads and pistons) are meticulously machined into shape. They’re also specifically color-matched after the anodizing has taken place to make sure all sets are consistent, despite the inevitable slight differences in the chemical results of the process.
Those obsessively machined, polished, laser-etched, anodized and hand-assembled details are just the start of Hope’s devotion to their customers.
It's not just that Hope have a reputation for looking after even the most ancient products that come limping – or just plain worn out – through their door. They still have the product manual for the hydraulic brakes I had from them in 1995 online, while spares are also available.
They also pursue those products out into the field at as many events as they can, meaning you get direct back-up when you need it the absolute most. So while Hope might not have an official lifetime warranty, the reality is they look after their customers a whole lot better than plenty of firms that claim they do.
And although it might not matter to you, they do a huge amount in terms of supporting a ton of events and competitors – from grass roots to pro teams and even Olympic level. They also run an awesome ‘Hope Academy’ kids bike lease scheme and put money into the pockets of deserving organizations all over the place.
So when you start to factor all that into the equation the pricing doesn’t seem so expensive after all. They also source all their materials as locally as possible, which means their relative costs have actually reduced when global trade and political complications have put everyone else’s through the roof.
Tech 4 takes 5
So yeah, a five out of five is – and always will be – a big deal and in percentage terms a Hope Tech 4 E4 isn’t 50 percent better than a Shimano Deore that costs 50 percent of the price. But sometimes, the small things (and the big things) all add up, and I’m very happy to call out a product that truly moves the game forward. Especially from a fiercely independent and principled company that’s been helping riders move forward for over 30 years.