August 6, 2013
Can one wheel do everything? Chipps review's Hope's contender
I was after a pair of 29in wheels that could do service on different bikes, for different purposes and running different components. My Orange Gyro has 15mm forks and a Maxle 12mm back end. My Lynskey Pro 29 hardtail sometimes has a 9mm QR fork and sometimes a 15mm QR fork and has regular quick release dropouts. However, it also has SRAM’s XX1 groupset on, which requires a special, diminutive ‘XD’ cassette body. In addition, I wanted to flirt with tubeless, having been mostly exasperated with it in the past.
Hope, being Hope, had just the wheelset for me in the shape of its Evo hubbed, Stan’s Arch EX rimmed Hoops. Made in Barnoldswick, laced by hand, tensioned on a giant machine and then hand-finished, the wheels still come in at the right side of £400 and certainly look good value.
Unboxing the wheels, I was soon swapping axles to suit my hardtail, which only took a couple of minutes. Swapping the cassette body round took a little longer, but that was probably pilot error. If you were buying the wheels with an XD body (which is a shop option) it’d come fitted anyway.
I also had the optional Stan’s Tubeless Kit, which I see that some shops will throw in as part of the deal, and after running the wheels with tubes for a while, took off the thin, green Hope base tape to swap for the wider, slippier and airtight, Stan’s stuff. I’d previously found that the very tight fit of regular tyres often rolled over the edges of the grippier Hope tape, lifting it up, so the bead-to-bead fitting of the Stan’s tape actually improved tyre fit, regardless of running tubes or not.
Despite my tubeless-cynic ways, having followed the instructions to the letter I soon had a tubeless-ready tyre on (without tools) and inflated using only a track pump – something that’s always eluded me in the past. I still find it disconcerting to hear the ‘snap’ of the tyre beads locking into place, but once that was done and the fluid was suitably distributed, the wheels have worked well. Incidentally, before reading those instructions to the letter, I had managed to blow a tyre off the rim with a tube by over-inflating it, so pay attention at the back!
The famous Hope ‘clicky’ freehub is there, though perhaps a little more muted than you might expect. It still saves having a bell on the bars for warning pedestrians and wildlife. The take-up is quick and positive and hasn’t given me a moment’s hesitation. Individual spokes showed slightly uneven tension, but the rim has remained true throughout the test. The EX series is wider than the previous Arch (and yet lighter, go figure…) and gives tyres a wide base to square off corner knobs, allowing the tyre to bite well in corners. I’ve been able to run lower pressures than with tubes, have smacked the rim off rocks many wince-inducing times now and the rim has shown no signs of wear.
Overall: If you’ve been put off going tubeless until now, it might be the time to consider this rim/hub combo. With Hope’s famous back up, they should be problem free for a long time.