Hope hasn’t had a super light pure XC brake in its line up for a while, so it's been great to see the release of its new XCR brakes. These match a new lever to a modded version of its twin pot trail brake, to offer more power and a lighter feel. It's vying for a place on our list of the best mountain bike brakes, but how does it stand up against the competition?
As usual for Hope, all the metal bits are machined in-house in Lancashire for a carved rather than smoothly forged look. In fact, they’re so flat out in the regular part of the factory that these brakes are being made in the R&D department as a limited edition just to get some evolution into action. The big news is the all-new radial lever which drives the master cylinder back towards the bars rather than parallel like other Hope brakes. Bar attachment is via a broad hinged clamp that looks a bit chunky compared to slotted or machined out designs from other brands but is heavily machined on the inside. The carbon blade isn’t made in Hope’s in-house composite workshop but it sits on new bearings for a lighter feel and it’s adjustable through a wide sweep/reach range. Levers are left or right side specific rather than ambidextrous but hose swapping is easy and the XCR logo etched reservoir still uses the same simple but effective screw-in bleed cup method. The new clamp has a Shimano I-Spec A direct mount and works with Hope’s SRAM matchmaker add ons too.
At the far end of the line, you get a slightly modded version of the existing X2 twin pot brake caliper with titanium mounting hardware. The hose itself gets a crimped end rather than a heavier olive compression joint and the pads use an alloy backing plate to get the brake assembly under 200g (54g lighter than the current Tech 3 X2). There’s no thinner, XC-specific floating rotor option though so the overall weight of a 180mm setup is actually a gram heavier than the last Race X2 Evo set up we tested.
We’ll happily suck up that gram though as the XCR is clearly a much more powerful brake than the decidedly limp Race. It’s certainly not going to hurl you over the bars like a siege engine if you pull too hard on the deeply hooked levers but it’s comparable with SRAM’s Level Ultimate and Shimano XTR. In other words, racers on skittery tires and twangy forks will find 160mm rotors front and rear more than enough, but trail riders wanting reassurance should go for a 180mm rotor. While power application is relatively direct rather than nuanced (think Magura rather than SRAM/Shimano), the slight flex in the carbon blade means we’ve not had any obvious numbness or arm pump issues even on extended descents where short-travel suspension has been maxing out regularly. Power/feel is predictable at different lever reach settings too, rather than suddenly dropping off near the bar as some radial designs can.
There’s enough feel to keep fast compound 600g race tires feathered on the grip/slip limit too. From experience, the pads last really well even in UK conditions but the one big issue we had was excessive squeal/howl when new. We only had our samples fitted a week ago (by Hope themselves, so it’s not a setup issue) and that’s improving the more we ride. Hope are never the quietest brakes however and unsurprisingly it doesn’t seem like the X2 calipers are any different.
It’s great to see some fresh brakes from Hope and the new XCR levers give a more subtle finger feel and a neater look on the bars as well as significantly lower weight. While they still aren’t as richly modulated as SRAM/Shimano stopping power is comparable and pad life and factory support are excellent. In terms of price to weight, the XCR are 30g lighter and $30 cheaper Shimano XTR twin pot brakes and 13g heavier and €35 more expensive than SRAM Level Ultimate (which has dropped dramatically in price over the last couple of years).
That adds up to a very competitive brake for XC weight-conscious trail riders but we’d be keen to see a downcountry (DCR?) version with the more powerful E4 four-cylinder caliper. They’re definitely not the best option if you like your stopping stealthy either.
- Best XC forks: the best cross country forks for a lightweight, plush ride
- Best XC helmets: cross-country and marathon helmets to give the racing advantage
Tech Specs: Hope XCR brakes
- Price: $320 / £250 / €315 per brake
- Weight: 196g front caliper, hose and lever, 378g with 180mm rotor, mount and bolts
- Color: Raw alloy only