Hope’s HB.916 might be one of the best enduro mountain bikes we’ve tested but it does it in multiple different ways than most bikes. Not only is the whole semi-carbon framed bike and its components - apart from the plastic and rubber bits - made in-house in Hope’s Lancashire factory. It also uses radical geometry and a mid-pivot, chain idler suspension system. The result is a bike that looks outstanding and dominates the rowdiest trails in quietly understated but seriously quick style.
Design and geometry
The HB.916 is the third production MTB from Hope using a mainframe hand laid from UK-sourced carbon fiber in molds Hope has made themselves. Unlike the HB-130 and old HB-160 which used machined alloy rear ends, the HB.916 uses carbon rear stays bonded into alloy terminals. The mainframe gets ‘Butty Box’ internal storage underneath the single bottle cage mount and rubber protection on the down tube and rounds the drive side stay. A large alloy idler pulley with a metal chain guide sits rearwards of the raised main pivot point on the seat tube. The rear stays pivot around the rear axle in Trek ‘ABP’ or DW 'Split Pivot' style. A triangulated single-piece rocker drives the rear shock vertically downwards into a carbon split foot ahead of the bottom bracket.
Typically for Hope, all the machining is absolutely immaculate with the CNC machining marks still proudly left in place. Hope even make the entry plates for the internal control routing in-house and sections like the seat collar, rear axle collar, and pivot heads can be picked out in seven different (in-house obviously) anodized colors. The frame also comes in raw carbon (tested, £3,750 / €4,700 for frame headset and shock), neutral (black and white, £4,000 / €5,000), or Chameleon (oily rainbow, £4,250 / €5,300).
Hope offers the HB.916 in four sizes and it’s a sign of how radical the geometry is that we were perfectly happy riding an H2 (effectively medium) when we’d use a large size from most brands. That still got us a 470mm reach and 1254mm or 1262mm wheelbase depending on whether you run a headset with slack (63.2 degrees) or standard (64 degrees) head angle. The head angle stays the same across all sizes (reach changes by 20mm per size but seat angles get fractionally slacker from 78.2 to 77.5 degrees. All sizes have the same 440mm rear end but there’s a geometry flip chip on the linkage to equalize geometry when running a 27.5in rear wheel.
Components and build
As you might expect, Hope uses as much of its own componentry as possible including bar, stem, and Tech 4 V4 brakes with large, color-matched floating rotors. The wheels were Hope’s sturdy but heavy Fortus SC fitted with trail-weight Maxxis Assegai EXO and Minion DHR II EXO+ tires in medium MaxxTerra compound. Our sample had the optional Hope Evo crank upgrade on the SRAM GX Eagle transmission and you can also opt for wireless AXS gears with appropriate blanking plates. The HB.916 suspension ratios were designed to work with either air or coil suspension and Hope offers both Fox and Ohlins spec bikes. Our sample had an Ohlins TT Air shock controlling just under 160mm of rear wheel travel while the fork was an Ohlins RFX38 m.2 AIR. Siting the main pivot and rocket pivot mounts in front of seat tube lumps also leaves clearance for up to 210mm stroke versions of the OneUp Dropper post. Considering frame cost, complete bike costs are very reasonable, particularly in the UK and Hope also offers rolling chassis builds which you just add your chosen transmission to from £6,250 / €7,900 upwards.
Ride, handling and performance
Components obviously have a big bearing on how a bike feels and Ohlins shocks and forks have a distinctively connected and damped feel that sucks the HB.916 onto the ground straight away. The Fortus SC wheels are heavy and grounded in character too but even taking that into account the Hope feels like it’s got reinforced MaxxGrip compound tires on, not relatively light MaxTerra rubber. Add a bit of rumble to the chain feel as it goes over the idler and a compliant feel to the raised rear stays and the HB916 clearly isn’t designed to be a lively trail bike.
That’s not to say if can’t climb though. The structural compliance and a great balance between some pedal-to-ground feedback and the step/block swallowing idler cog/mid pivot means you can winch it up almost anything. While the super slack head angle can still wander, the steep seat angle makes it more biddable than most supertanker geometry gravity machines. If you sit in that same aggressively forwardly set saddle and spin a gear rather than stamping it’s stable under power too.
There's no escaping the 15.7kg weight and other factors soon eat into energy reserves if you keep insisting on grinding up steps and stupid slopes others are pushing up though. I also had to wind a lot of low-speed compression onto the rear damper to stop it from bouncing noticeably when we tried to hustle it out of the saddle. Hope unsurprisingly only offers bikes and partial builds with their own wheels of various types, so knowing that it felt considerably more alive and responsive with Santa Cruz Reserve Carbon wheels in for part of the test is only relevant if you’re building up a frameset. Interestingly while it’s generally a twist-and-turn tonic for more docile bikes, we felt using a mullet back wheel detracted more from the overall balance of the Hope than it added in dynamic gains, even on the super tight, steep Golfie trails in Innerleithen.
That’s because what the Hope does - besides being bewitchingly glorious to inspect all the manufacturing detail on - is turn the most toxically treacherous descents into bread and butter runs that barely raise the pulse.
What’s interesting is that it doesn’t do that by being freakish in any way, but just with a beautifully judged calmness. For example, the mid-pivot suspension isn’t as isolated from impacts as a shorter travel higher pivot like the Forbidden Druid. That means there’s less incentive to take ‘I can just point this back end through anything without slowing down or feeling a thing’ lines. It’s still a bike you have to pilot rather than take the p*ss with, but it feels like a more confident flyer is sitting in the cockpit operating the controls with you. Because the back end isn’t fully divorced from reality the fork and shock still work really well together as well, rather than the front end feeling utterly inadequate. While it’s softened by frame and wheels there’s still plenty of warm ground feel to work with and as stated previously the rubber felt like a DH compound on a hot day, not a trail recipe in December. The suspension is so smooth and sorted on DH runs that if you’d covered up the rear shock ‘Finn Iles’ style I’d have probably told you it was a coil-over, not an air can. There’s a ton of compression and rebound damping adjustment to tune specific feel from the Ohlins dampers for different tracks if you’ve got those skills too, but no weird dead ends or vices inherent in the system that might catch less experienced knob twiddlers out.
While you can alter the way the bike sits in turns through the suspension tune, the turning vibe of the HB.916 was always a big, deep breath rather than a shallow, hyperventilating hurry. This can feel frustrating if you're trying to hustle tight, twisty trails and we regularly relaxed off race pace without realizing it, but in situations where we'd probably be getting hysterical on other bikes the Hope mainlines soothing serotonin not anxious adrenaline.
Despite very close clearance at full travel even our most determined attempts to get actual contact off slammed drops the rear stay bridge didn’t make a mark on the seat tube. The concentric rear pivot also means you can make full use of the long Tech 4 levers and super powerful V4 brakes without jacking the geometry out of shape, all adding to its remarkably calm and forgiving feel. The fact I didn’t kill the trail-weight tires despite a continual diet of Enduro riding proves how well the HB.916 softens with the worst blows too.
In fact, despite two months of flat-out hammering I only suffered two issues. One loose pivot which was fixed with Loctite, and the lever on the ‘Butty Box’ storage hatch being so tight we couldn’t get it open for fear of snapping it. Hope only covers the frame with a standard ‘manufacturing defect’ warranty (lifetime on the pivots) too, but given Hope’s reputation for ridiculously good customer service I'm less worried about that than with most brands.
The Ohlins equipped HB.916 is a machine beautifully hand-built and designed to deliver perfectly measured calmness and control on the rowdiest enduro tracks at the highest speeds. In short the more technical and faster the trail, the more the HB.916 comes into its own and you’ll need to be going some to get the most from it.
Even our most radical testers like Jim Bland who’d spent most of the year ripping DH bikes down World Cup tracks and bike parks didn’t find the far end of its composure on a wide range of test trails. It’s worth noting that when I tested both Ohlins and Fox versions of Hope’s HB-130, the Fox version felt more alive and poppy even if it wasn’t ultimately as fast. Different wheels also increase responsiveness so there’s potential to make an HB.916 frame more of an all-dayer, rather than the all-slayer focused setup we tested. Either way, it’s great to see Hope really deliver on the potential of years of prototyping and their own in-house manufacturing and EWS racing experience.
The build quality (besides the ‘Butty Box’ issue) is second to none and color and custom options elevate it way beyond most premium bikes in terms of personalization/rarity and considering the level of detailing complete bikes are remarkably competitive on price.
Tech spec: Hope HB.916
- Discipline: Enduro race
- Frame: 6061 alloy
- Reach: 470mm (size H2)
- Head angle: 64-63.2 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 77.9 degrees
- Bottom bracket drop: 30mm
- Fork: Ohlins RFX38 AIR 170mm travel
- Shock: Ohlins TT Air 160mm travel
- Drivetrain: Hope Evo chainset and bottom bracket. SRAM GX Eagle rear mech, shifter, 10-50T cassette
- Brakes: Hope Tech 4 V4 hydraulic disc brakes with 200mm front and 180mm rear rotors
- Wheelset: Hope Fortus 30 SC wheels
- Tires: Maxxis Assegai 2.5WT EXO TR 3C and Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C MaxxTerra Exo+ 29 x 2.4in tires
- Seatpost: OneUp Dropper Post V2 seatpost
- Saddle: WTB saddle
- Bar and stem: Hope 800 x 35mm carbon bar and Hope Gravity 50 x 35mm stem
- Sizes available: H1, H2 (tested), H3, H4
- Price: £6,745 / €8,500
- Weight: 15.7kg (H2 without pedals)