Let’s not tease here, Hope’s new Tech 4 E4 are some of the best disc brakes I’ve ever used, overturning years of arm exploding pain to put them top of my anchor rankings. I've been using Hope brakes since they released their first mechanical brakes in the early 90s. I had their first hydraulic disc brakes in the mid-90s when forks and frames didn’t even have mounts on them, and I was a devoted user through their glory days. I still have a set of old V4s on my Enduro tandem too, because their reliability is faultless and that's what matters most when it comes to keeping your daughter safe on the back in daft situations.
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Lack of power and resultant arm pump issues have put me off Hope’s trail brakes for a while, though (the XCR is a great XC brake and the V4 is a never fail tandem stalwart). Happily, the Lancashire company have significantly revamped the design and details of their Tech lever and E4 brakes to create a brake myself and other reviewers I really trust are raving about.
There are some basic similarities with the old Tech 3 E4 brakes – everything but the hoses, copper washers, pads and hybrid steel/ceramic phenolic pistons are still machined into shape in Hope’s Lancashire, UK factory, too. In fact, there’s a fantastic story about how they did try making their own phenolic pistons using a machine bought from a dog biscuit factory. That didn’t work out, but it shows how determined Hope are to make as much as possible in house, and every brake is assembled and checked in the factory.
The lever of the Hope Tech 4 E4 is much longer than the Tech 3 though, with a slightly different shape leading up to the grip drilled tip. The pivot point is nearer the bars and uses a miniature roller bearing for maximum smoothness and zero wobble. The lever also actuates via a hard anodised roller onto the master cylinder piston cap to really ice the friction-free feel cake. The laser etched (in house, obvs) reservoir is slightly reshaped too, and the bar clamp is now hinged rather than a separate two-bolt piece. The slots for the direct mount SRAM or Shimano shifter/remote adaptors (sold separately) are longer so there’s more adjustment sideways. You still get separate wide range bite point and lever reach adjustment through two little knurled dials on the lever face too.
The E4 caliper is machined from a single block and hasn’t changed obviously from an external POV. It uses a new stainless steel/phenolic hybrid construction for the four pistons which reduces friction and potential heat issues. Hope use a new range of pads too, including the maximum power resin ‘Racing’ pads (green backing plate) installed as standard. You get a spare set of ‘All Conditions’ pads (red backing plate) supplied with the brakes, while there are ‘E-bike' (purple) and Fully Sintered (gold) pad options aftermarket too.
The signature green and black Hope box also includes the spares needed for shortening the pre-installed and bled hose. A simple but beautifully machined and effective 'mortar and pestle' bleed kit (that works on most brakes) is available aftermarket. The lever and caliper come in either silver or black anodized finish with red, orange, blue, purple, silver and black anodized highlight options. You can also choose from standard plastic hoses or more crash/crimp/uplift proof braided hoses for £10 extra per brake.
To complete the set Hope sell their excellent floating discs separately. These mount a heat-treated (done using one of the most exciting machines in the Hope factory) steel braking surface onto an alloy center spider with joining rivets to provide the ‘float’ that allows for heat expansion. The rotors are sold separately in a range of 140, 160, 180, 183, 185mm (£50.00 // €60.00 // $65.00) and 200, 203, 220 & 225mm (£55.00 // €70.00 // $70.00) sizes in either 6 bolt or Centerlock splined format, and all the usual Hope anodized colors.
I’ll come straight out and say I was initially cynical about the new Tech 4 E4 as I’d literally got tired of my arms exploding using Hope’s Tech 3 levers on various test bikes over the years. I could see how the longer lever would certainly increase power, but it seemed like a bit of a crude workaround rather than the complete overhaul the brakes needed. Immediate initial impressions didn’t help as the longer levers really do dramatically increase power – Hope say it’s a 30 percent boost and I see no reason to argue – and I was too heavy-handed with the super-light feel at first. The levers feel very solid rather than ‘squeezy’ and the green pads bed in really quickly, so they seemed blunt and too ‘bitey’ on the first few car park pulls and local laps.
Once you’ve adjusted to the power, however, the change in pivot position and the roller bearing pivot and piston actuation give immaculate, superbly precise feedback. The modulation is super consistent and braking power reflects the amount of lever pull force near perfectly. That’s genuinely independent of the cleanly separated bite point and lever reach adjust too, so you get the same awesome feel wherever you like your levers to sit or start braking. The incremental friction reduction of the new cylinders, roller onto piston lever actuation and wobble-free pivot bearing just feels glorious every time too. I’ve liked them even more after switching to the ‘All Conditions’ pads too as that reduces the potentially ferocious initial bite. It also extends lifespan too so, while I can see why Hope want to flex the maximum performance of their new anchors, I reckon switching to the red pads straight away is probably the best option for most users.
The only potential niggles are the fact the levers are side specific, so you can’t just flip them if a friend from overseas wants to use your bike. You sometimes get a metal on metal ‘clack’ of bite point adjuster onto lever body on release too. I rarely noticed that when riding though and if it really bugs you when riding you can always put a bit of tape/rubber under the contact point.
Otherwise, as long as you center the callipers accurately, retraction and piston reset has been totally crisp and clear running throughout testing. While I’ve not been lucky enough to take them into proper mountains my test colleague/conspirator at MBR, Mick Kirkman, has been punishing them down big foreign hills for months. He’s had absolutely zero complaints either, apart from rapid pad wear of the ‘Racing’ pads in a mixed weather week in Molini Italy. They’re currently going great on a dry Trans Savoie, though, and as they are for me, they’re now Mick’s favourite enduro/trail brake.
While they’ve run totally trouble free, the fact that Hope have a legendary reputation for customer support direct from the factory – and at many MTB events – is a real boost to long term value and peace of mind too. Hope’s UK manufacturing has also given them a real price and supply advantage recently so despite their ultra high quality and indulgent detailing they’re very competitively priced. At the same brake and rotor weight as XT and 50g lighter than Code RSC brakes they’re competitive on weight too.
Simply put Hope’s Enduro brakes have gone from being something I avoided using to my new favourite aggro anchor. The angular, side specific design might not work for everyone and I reckon it would suit more people if they installed the ‘All Conditions’ pads as the default option and the ‘Race’ as the optionals.
But when it comes to translating your speed reduction thoughts to the trail, the Hope Tech 4 E4 is one of the best mountain bike brakes around in terms of easy and meaningful adjustment of featherlight feel, progressive modulation and clean consistency. The brakes are competitive on price and weight, easier to fit than before, come in a ton of colors, and Hope’s customer support is the best in the business.
Tech specs: Hope Tech 4 E4 brake
Price: £195 / €245 / $245
Colors: Black or silver lever with red, orange, blue, purple, silver and black anodised highlight options.
Weight: 290g (brake) 180g (180mm floating rotor)