In Issue #115 of Singletrack Magazine, Wil and the team tested and reviewed eight powerful trail brakes.
As part of the test process, we took all eight brakes down to Wales for three solid days of back-to-back testing on the slatey, unforgiving, high-speed trails of Antur Stiniog. Each brake was set up with 180mm rotors front and rear, and we left the hoses uncut to ensure the factory bleed was retained. Once we’d had sufficient comparative test time on all the brakes in a controlled environment, we then returned to Calderdale to continue testing each brake individually on more familiar home trails.
At the end of testing, we had four awards to hand out, including Best Engineered, Easiest To Live With, Best Feel, and Best Overall.
Winner Of Best Engineered: Hope Tech 3 E4 Disc Brakes
This category is one that could have easily been relabelled as ‘Blingiest Brake’. And really, when you’re talking about well-engineered components that are also beautiful to look at, you’d be hard pressed to go past the king of bling, Hope Technology.
Hope has been making disc brakes for as long as most of us can remember. Some of them have been brilliant, and others… have been less so. But with over two decades of hydraulics experience, Hope has since honed in on several key designs to offer four disc brake models that are well known for their classy construction and reliable performance.
There are two calliper options: the X2 and the E4, with the number referring to the number of pistons. Likewise, the lever can be had in a stripped-back version called the Race, or in the chunkier Tech lever. And because all of Hope’s brakes use the same fittings, you can mix ’n’ match levers and callipers to your heart’s content.
Hope Tech 3 E4 Disc Brake Specifications
- Quad-piston calliper brakes for Trail/All Mountain use
- Lever blade: CNC machined 2014 T6 alloy
- Lever body: CNC machined 2014 T6 alloy
- Ambidextrous: No
- Adjustments: Tool-free lever reach & bite point
- Callipers: CNC machined 2014 T6 alloy quad-piston
- Piston diameter: 16mm
- Piston material: Phenolic
- Stock pad compound: Organic (sintered metallic available separately)
- Fluid: DOT 5.1
- Rotor options: 140, 160, 180, 183, 185, 200, 203 and 205mm sizes in a 6-Bolt pattern (£40 per end)
- Actual weight: 284g (front) & 300g (rear)
- RRP: £155 per end (without rotors and adapters)
The brakes we’ve been testing are the Tech 3 E4 brakes, and they’re claimed to be suitable for trail, enduro and downhill use.
Aesthetically, it doesn’t get much prettier than these. Made from 2014 T6 alloy that’s been CNC machined in Hope’s Barnoldswick factory, the Tech 3 E4 brakes are available in no less than six anodised colours. There are also options to customise the look with different coloured adjusters, reservoir top caps, and two-piece rotors, making these brakes the envy of all cycling magpies.
The callipers are machined from a single block of alloy for stiffness, and are packed with 4×16mm diameter phenolic pistons per end, with DOT 5.1 fluid filling the lines. The stock pads are sintered metallic, and they’re also top loading with a wide profile for added friction.
At the lever end, a split clamp allows for easy fitment, and we’ve found the Tech lever to play well with most shifters and dropper post levers. Hope offers direct mount brackets as an optional accessory for bolting a Shimano or SRAM shifter directly to the brake clamp.
The two adjuster knobs are also made from machined alloy, and have positive detents as you wind them in. Unlike other brakes out there, each adjuster knob offers useful adjustment, so you can fine-tune both lever reach and bite point. The adjuster knobs are potentially more vulnerable on the outside face of the lever, but they’re replaceable if you do bust them off in a crash.
Lever ergonomics are pretty good, if a little industrial. The machined surface and dimpled blade are dead lovely, but we’d like to see a more pronounced hook rather than the rounded bulb tip. The levers are also quite strongly sprung, so your fingers meet with some resistance as they engage the lever.
On The Trail
In use, the performance of the Tech 3 E4 brakes is much more unassuming than the looks. Braking power is sufficient, but not as eye-watering as the Trickstuff or the Magura. The power curve itself is gently progressive, so if you need to throw the anchor down quick, you’ll have to go searching further into the lever stroke to get that stopping force. Power-hungry riders searching for that ‘on/off’ feel will be disappointed, and if you’re frequenting alpine terrain with longer descents we’d recommend upping to 200mm rotors to increase bite.
However, it’s the Hope’s ability to modulate and control the power that we found to be its greatest strength. There’s a noticeable bite point as you pull the lever, but you’re not met with a sudden lurch as the pads engage. Instead, there’s a useful amount of lever travel in this modulating ‘sweet spot’, where you can comfortably add or decrease brake force without fear of accidental tyre lock. Panic braking was certainly never a big deal with these.
They’re also highly consistent brakes, with minimal fade coming from the stock pads even when we got them cooking nice and hot. Save for a fluttering sound under hot and fast braking, they’re also relatively quiet, and the stock brake pads last really well even in wet and grimy conditions. So while they may not have the brute stopping force that other brakes have, they’re sure to remain predictable from the top to the bottom of long and fast descents.
A beautifully machined set of brakes that provide consistent and reliable performance. There are more powerful brakes out there, but thanks to the quality finish and impressive modulation, the Hope Tech 3 E4 brakes take the mantle as the Best Engineered brake of the lot.
For our group test, we tested eight brakes in total. Some were outstanding in certain areas, and others performed well across the board. But with just four awards up for grabs, that left four remaining brakes that narrowly missed out on the glory. To see how those other brakes performed, hit the following links;
|Product:||Tech 3 E4|
|From:||Hope Technology, hopetech.com|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 2 months|