Hope Technology Factory – A photo tour

by singletrackjon 31

In a world where mass production and economy of scale is king, where bringing a product to market seems to involves scouring a generic parts catalogue and the hard part of design comes down to which logo you’re going to put on it, there are fewer bike companies that design and manufacture from the ground up.

A blast from the past. Worth remembering that Hope did Centrelock about a decade before Shimano...

It’s not always been like that – at the birth of mountain biking in Britain and across the world there were plenty of small companies, usually stereotyped as men in sheds with lathes and milling machines. Indeed, most of the time the stereotype was pretty accurate. They were usually staffed by passionate people who could react to niche demands quickly and made products that were excellent just as often as they were awful. Times have changed now – the industry seemingly dominated by the big players, and with manufacturing in decline across the UK you’d have thought it’d be tough times for a company such Hope Technology, who insist on making everything they can in the UK.

The truth is anything but. They’re thriving. They’ve just moved to a new even, bigger, brighter and more modern refurbished mill in Barnoldswick and their capability to produce can only just keep with demand for their products.

They’re always looking for the next market and having seen co-owner Ian Weatherill in full flow it’s easy to understand why. His enthusiasm is infectious, with a genuine and unshakeable belief that him and his colleagues can find gaps in the market, make something that works better than the competition and then keep making them at a price people can afford – and all from a small town in Lancashire that doesn’t even have an A-road going in to it.

Ian explains...

Of course, parallels will be drawn with another Northern manufacturing success story over in Halifax, but Hope’s mantra of making or sourcing everything they can within the UK makes the fact their products are priced to compete with the Far Eastern competition even more surprising. When asked if they’d consider moving production elsewhere the reply is puzzlement; “we’ve got just the same machines as them, why would we?”

Listening to the inner workings of Hope you find a mix of enthusiasm for modern technology and production techniques mixed up with good old fashioned business sense and a love of what they do. They’ve got some great tales too – the specialist test machinery picked up for an absolute steal from bankrupt defence contractors, buying second hand CNC machines the same ages as their but with a fraction of the working time on them and many more. The new factory premises were bought at a knock down price when the previous owners, who printed scratch cards for the Daily Mail, went bust – which could have been something to do with the flamboyant decor and lighting they chose to install.

The old, ‘Made in Britain’ image of men in overalls standing by lathes and milling machines, smoking rollies as they stand in a mix of dust and grease is massively out of date. The Hope factory floor is a well organised and spotlessly clean environment where the most up to date and expensive, multi pallet, five axis CNC machines can work on thirty-two separate machining jobs one after the other – moving from making integrated top crowns for downhill forks to machining up brake callipers. And Hope have five of these machines, running day and night.

The wire EDM technique means accurate shapes can be cut from hard materials with little distortion or change in the material's properties. Ideal for highy stressed hub pawls...

This is the reason that Hope can stay competitive when at first glance it seems so unlikely. One man looks after five machines and as they run 24 hours a day, the productivity per machine is sky high. The machines are the same as you’d find in a top Taiwainese factory, the floor is temperature controlled so that tolerances can be kept accurate to thousandths of a millimetre and where practical, the latest techniques are used, such as the wire EDM which can cut through hardened steel plate thicker than 200mm to accurately produce the tiny freehub pawls.

It’s the same with their design. Because production is so rapid and idea can go from the virtual world of the CAD suite to a physical prototype incredibly quickly. They don’t need to wait for a pre-production sample to be shipped across the world.

They’ve invested in the latest rapid prototyping technology so that issues with fit can be found and rectified before an aluminium blank goes anywhere near a hardened steel bit, much less a customer’s bike.

One for the 'cross lot - STI brake lever to hydraulic disc adaptor. Ian thinks they'll probably mount it as a stem spacer with one hose going straight down and one out back.

It speaks miles about Hope’s attitude that while we were at the factory, their 3D printer was busy making a local A Level student’s final project, in-between printing out the bulb fixtures and surrounds for their Vision range of lights.

Ideas come from everywhere – indeed, some of their most successful bits of kit have come from someone in the factory wanting a one-off made for their own bike and then being surprised by the demand from people that see it out on the trail.

When they decide to make something it seems that they first attempt to do it themselves and if that doesn’t pan out – such as when they bought the machine that made phenolic brake pistons and the production process stunk the factory out – it’s only then that they move to find an external supplier.

Looking round their new premises and seeing the plans for the bike test track it seems like the place was made specifically forthem. It’s entirely modern and far removed from the ‘grim Northern mill’ that the phrase ‘British manufacturing’ seems to conjure.The reception is filled with bikes and bits from their past – a full twenty years now – and their design and sales rooms are just down from the room they’ve set aside for their social club. They’re trying to blur the line between the factory floor and the ‘carpet dwellers’ in the offices upstairs.

It seems that their approach of making what they themselves feel a need for is a recipe for success when traditional manufacturing is in decline all around them. Here’s a rather full photo-tour of their factory….

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Comments (31)

  1. really cool
    look like a great company to work for

  2. great article,great kit, nice to see behind the scenes.

  3. Will the new cassette fit a std Pro II hub????? or will they just fit the evo?

  4. Will fit the standard with a new axle and adaptor or something.

    Looks like an awesome place to work. Need an IT person? General stuff but specialising in automated software distribution and batch automation?? 😉

  5. Interesting peek behind the scenes of Hope…

  6. Very enjoyable little picture-story. Kinda wishing I’d saved up for Hope Hoops now.

  7. Great article and I really admire A company like Hope. I just wish they could sort there brakes out. Come I, mean honestly they are seriously behind in the part of technology.

  8. “I just wish they could sort there brakes out. Come I, mean honestly they are seriously behind in the part of technology.”

    Eh? 5 of us who ride regulary all have Hope Brakes, no issues what so ever.

  9. Hope brakes are just not as good as the competition. Simple as really. It’s not that they don’t work, they just don’t work as well, they are heavier and have less stopping power.

    As for that ‘integrated cassette’ can someone explain how that is not just a step back 20 years when we used to run ‘blocks’ that screwed onto the rear hub? I’m all in favour of reviving an old design if new technology and approaches can make it work better than what is available now but it doesn’t look like Hope are inventing something new.

  10. Heavy? How many brakes are heavier than the Race X2 261g for a full 140mm rotor setup!

    As for power they might not be the most powerful out there but Hope brakes often don’t feel powerful as they are not bitey. The thing I like about Hope brakes though is the serviceability and maintainability of them. They are way ahead of the game on this. Yes you can have your slightly more powerful shimano brake that lasts a couple of years but it will get scraped as you can’t get spares for it! Good design is not all about performance! My current hopes are over 8 years old now and still work as good as the day they were new. Maybe I’m just a skinflint but disposable products piss me off.

  11. Id pay for a tour round there – they should put in a bar and it would be like a Gentlemens Club.

  12. They do have a bar in there 😉

    The integrated freehub/cassette means you can have a much smaller gear than with a normal setup – down to a 9T. That means you can then run a single ring up front and, with a big 36T sprocket at the back, have a gear range that’s not far off a double setup.

  13. WackoAK Have you actually tried Saints? Don’t get me wrong
    Hope brakes are a thing of beauty, but they don’t stop you like shimano.

  14. My thoughts are – bugger misery guts billionaire Sugar and his mates on Dragon’s Den. This company should be studied/visited by every school child at the age of 12/13 to show them that actually there is still a place in this country for manufacturing (and Brooks should be included too, even though they are now part of an international conglomerate). Perhaps for his next TV series Guy Martin should visit Hope and Brooks to show the country/world, that British Industry isn’t just about the past and restoring it, but that hard work, clear thinking and guts can mean that UK manufacturing can live (to a degree) again.

    All the best to the owners and staff of Hope you are an example to us all.

  15. Thinking about it, we’ve got shitloads of Hope kit in our our house, on 5 bikes… brakes, hubs, headsets, seat clamps, the odd stem…

  16. Good uplfifting article, great company that makes good kit. Odd that an article essentailly about machineing bike parts is uplifting

  17. Yorkshire_Lad – I have Formula The One and Hope V2, not tried saints but doubt they are better than the formula which in turn is only slightly better than the V2.

  18. Great pics!

    I for one will happily be ordering the cross disc set up. I had the joys of original Hope Mono M4s melting in the Alps but given Hope’s well deserved reputation for customer service, I’ll be parting with my cash.

    Sanny

  19. I saw EDM during a tour of the old Benetton F1 factory – very impressive stuff indeed

  20. Brilliant to see a UK company doing so well especially in these hard times. Good on you Hope…

  21. hope are awesome
    so glad theyre british too

  22. Makes me very happy to have bought Hope hubs.

  23. Makes me even happeir to be part of the team, shame about the terrible picture of me though 🙁

  24. I’ve bought Hope stuff in the past and having experienced their customer service which is without doubt the best I have experienced anywhere, I now buy it because it works great and I trust it. And should something go wrong (that wasn’t my stupid fault!) I know that help isn’t far away. Keep on guys!

  25. very enjoyable article, thanks ST people

  26. I really like that hope parts are a totally different business model to anybody else. I might be wrong but most other companies are selling a product with inbuilt redundancy through parts that will break and are nearly impossible to replace. Hope though making something where most of the parts are replaceable and serviceable quite simply at home usually or they often refurbish in the factory. How cool is that and pees on anything that most other parts manufacturers offer from a great height.

  27. Brilliant. I wants those pedals. GIVE ME A PAIR!

  28. really interesting artical, great to see everything being made in house, speaks volumes about their ethics, ie not spreadsheet designing.

    have always had hope stuff on my bikes because i trust it, but must admit, i use the big S brakes ;o)

    oh, and put me down for those pedals!

  29. As with many other STWers, I love attention to detail. This was great and added a lot of character to a revered name in mtb. I’m even more excited about my new Hoop (on it’s way in the post!). I feel my bike may develop a Hope infection soon…

    Lovely cranks too!

  30. Neil looks well happy in all the pics with him in.

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