Tom tackles the roots on his HB. 130. Pic: Mick Kirkman

Backyard bike check: Tom’s Hope HB.130 long-termer

Confined to our houses, here's a look at what long-term bikes we're currently riding, how we set them up, what's new and how up to speed we are with our gardening

In part 3 of our Backyard Bike Check series, Tom Marvin, technical editor for MBUK and BikeRadar, gives us a look at his British-built Hope HB.130 29er.

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My Hope HB.130 sat in my relatively unkempt back garden

Bike

Hope HB.130, 130mm travel, size large, £6,585 with Öhlins suspension and Hope EVO crankset upgrade

I’ve been good and have relegated my HB.130 to the back of the garage during the lockdown. It’s just as well, because this bike is so fun, all I want to do is ride harder and techier trails than is really sensible to do in these socially-distant, solo-riding times. Before lockdown the bike was seeing lots of use though, and I’ve tweaked a few bits from stock, so here it is as it currently stands.

Suspension

The Öhlins RXF36 m.2 Air fork and TTX Air shock are no-extra-cost options on this bike and, with everyone else seemingly running Fox and RockShox on their long-termers, I thought it might add a bit of interest to run something different. Oh, and the gold ‘O’ logo looks tidy, in my opinion!

But, it’s not all been plain sailing with the Swedish suspension. I’ve found both units overdamped, which works fine on some tracks (smooth, steep, muddy, big catch-berms, etc), but isn’t quite so good on harder, harsher trails. At the moment I’m running both fork and shock fully open (save for one click of rebound damping on the fork) to keep them moving as freely as possible.

The Öhlins fork feels a touch over-damped for my preference
The Öhlins fork feels a touch overdamped for my preference

At 75kg, I’m running 106psi in the fork’s main air chamber with 180psi in the ramp chamber. The main spring is set up in line with Öhlins’ recommendation for my weight, while I’m running a touch less pressure than they advise in the ramp chamber. This is just to let the fork give me as much movement as it possibly can.

Not many forks have independently adjustable air chambers, but Öhlins allow you to adjust the ramp up of their fork with a secondary air spring
Öhlins allow you to tweak the ramp-up of their fork via a secondary air spring

Shock wise, I’ve got 192psi in there, with the stock number of volume spacers inside. Once this virus has made its move, I’m going to speak to the guys at Öhlins to see if they’ve any tricks up their sleeves to get it running better for my preferences.

The Öhlins TTX air shock has a number of high-speed compression positions
The Öhlins TTX air shock has a number of high-speed compression positions

Wheels

The HB.130 is designed around a 130mm rear hub, rather than the more common 148mm Boost (or 142mm pre-Boost) spacing. This makes for a dishless build on the rear wheel and gives a bit of extra wiggle room for sneaking through tight rocky trails. The back end of the bike is held together by a chunky 17mm axle, secured with an 8mm Allen key. Hope supply the hubs, which are built into their Fortus 26 alloy rims (26mm wide internally, if you hadn’t guessed).

The rear axle has come loose a couple of times, so is nipped up nice and tight now
The rear axle has come loose a couple of times, so is nipped up nice and tight now

I’ve swapped the tyres already – not because the stock Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II set-up wasn’t to my liking, but because the winter was so incessantly wet this year that running a 2.5in Maxxis Shorty up front was the only real option. At the back, I’ve slung on a 2.3in DHR II, but with a DoubleDown rather than EXO Protection casing.

Maxxis' Minion DHR II is a classic these days – I've fitted one with a sturdy DoubleDown casing for pinging off rocks
Maxxis’s Minion DHR II is a classic – I’ve fitted one with a sturdy DoubleDown casing for pinging off rocks

There have been some issues with this set-up, though. The tight DD casing on the back pushed the Stan’s NoTubes tape on the rim around so it’s not sealing super-happily. I’ve also had the rear axle loosen a few times when riding – some decent grease and doing it up tighter will hopefully solve this. With the 130mm rear hub and my dislike of mismatched wheels, these hoops will likely stay on the bike all year.

Drivetrain

I’ve not had to do anything to the gears yet. SRAM’s 12-speed X01 Eagle set-up is smooth, accurate and a pleasure to use. The Hope EVO cranks have caused little concern either, although after five months of rather wet use, the bottom bracket has stiffened up considerably.

Pedal wise, I’m running Nukeproof Horizon CSs – my go-to platforms. They work with Shimano cleats, but unlike Shimano’s trail pedals, have pins to help keep shoes firmly planted on them. I run the cleats right back in my shoes and the springs fairly tight, for a properly connected, stable feel.

I've been running the Nukeproof Horizon CS pedals since they launched a few years ago, and love their feel
I’ve been running Nukeproof’s Horizon CS pedals since they launched a few years ago and love their feel

Cockpit

This is the area that’s seen the most change – understandably, because it’s very subject to personal preferences. Fresh on the bike is a Nukeproof Horizon V2 carbon bar. The stock Hope bar was 780mm and I prefer a full 800mm width. I also found the Hope bar a touch stiff, especially when combined with the overdamped suspension. I’m yet to give the Nukeproof bar a ragging, but I’m hoping it’ll offer a bit more give.

The new bar has 5mm more rise (25mm) and two degrees’ more backsweep (nine degrees), so I’ll see how it feels on the trail before moving the stem up or down. I’ve set the bar in a neutral position in terms of roll for now, too. Bontrager‘s XR Trail Elite grips went on the bike for testing, and with no issues to report and liking their feel and shape, they’ve remained.

Nukeproof's new Horizon bar has extra width, and hopefully a little more compliance than the original Hope bar
Nukeproof’s new Horizon bar is wider and hopefully has a little more compliance than the original Hope bar

Brakes

Unsurprisingly, Hope have fitted a pair of their own brakes to the HB.130. I’ll admit to not having been a massive Hope brake fan in the past, and early impressions weren’t the best with these. However, I apologise for my early scepticism. For a bike of this style, the Tech 3 E4 brakes have enough power, some bite has appeared (which they didn’t have early on) and, with plenty of fiddling, I’ve got the lever reach and bite-point just right.

The 4-pot E4 callipers from Hope took a little longer than I expected to bed in, but are now performing up to speed

The four-pot E4 callipers from Hope took a little longer than expected to bed in, but are now working well

The Tech3 lever from Hope gives reach and bite point adjustment and the reservoir caps are custom etched with the 'HB' graphic on this bike.
The Tech 3 lever has reach and bite-point adjustment, and the reservoir caps are custom-etched with an ‘HB’ graphic on this bike

I run my levers reasonably flat (but not crazy flat), about two-thirds of the way to the bar and with the bite point early in their stroke. The 200/180mm rotor combo that comes as stock is fine in the UK.

I usually run my levers a touch flatter than this actually, but we'll see how they feel pointing down here for a while!
I usually run my levers a touch flatter than this actually, but we’ll see how they feel pointing down here for a while!

Seatpost, saddle and extras

No changes from stock in the seating department – the 150mm Fox Factory Transfer dropper is likely the post I’d spec on my own bike, and the SDG Radar saddle is a perfectly comfortable perch.

I’ve added a side-entry Lezyne bottle cage, which holds bottles well and means I can get a 750mm bottle (or 500ml with a longer nozzle – CamelBak, I’m looking at you) in there without fouling the shock. I’m also running an RRP ProGuard bolt-on fender on the fork. I found fitting it a bit of a faff (although my teammates had no such issues), but the lack of zipties makes it much more pleasing to the eye than most mudguards.

RRP's bolt-on fender gives clean looks and works well, once set up properly
RRP’s bolt-on fender gives clean looks and works well, once set up properly

For the latest on all our staff bikes, check out the long-term rides section in MBUK every month.

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