After what seemed like almost an eternity and plenty of teasing along the way, Hope’s new crank has finally made production. Forged and CNCed in-house like pretty much all of Hope's goods, the crank sports an unusual spline interface that attracted plenty of attention at the recent launch. Eager to dive under the hood and to start some proper testing, we’ve bolted up a pair to find out what’s what. We will have a longer-term update to this review at a later date, but for now, here are our in-depth observations on the product and our first ride impressions.
Hope Technology Crank Highlights
- Forged and CNC machined 7000 series aluminum alloy crank arms
- Length: 165, 170 and 175-mm
- Q-Factor: 167-mm
- Axle Diameter: 30-mm
- 3-piece construction with expanding spline crank arm/axle interface (pat pending)
- Versatile Spline mount compatible with 26T to 36T spiderless chainrings, 104BCD, and double 64/104BCD
- Compatible with 68/73 and 83-mm BB shells
- Colours: Initially black, with red, blue, silver, gunsmoke and purple following in March
- Weight: 641g (arms, axle and 34t spiderless ring)
- Arms, Axle and Spider: £245/€300/$429.50
- Arms and Axle: £215/€265/$375
- Spider: £40/€50/$70
- Spiderless Retainer Chainring: £55/€68/$95
Initial Impressions and Installation
If anything defines Hope’s identity, it’s CNCed aluminum. Ever since investing in their first CNC machine in 1992, this is how most of Hope’s products are made. The design of the new crank is very much still “industrial”, for lack of a better term, but the product is at the same time very refined and it looks distinctly modern. Hope doesn’t go for a fully polished look, so they leave some of the machining marks apparent, but this does nothing to detract from the overall impression of quality and workmanship – and it lends the product its very distinctive Hope identity.
In regards to the production of the new crank, Hope does not cut the crank arms from a solid block of aluminum, rather they developed a 2-step process whereby they are initially cold forged to give them their basic structure, and only then finished off in the CNC machine. This allows Hope to create a strong yet lightweight crank arm (rated for all types of riding up to DH). The arms are mated to a 30-mm spindle.
So what took them so long? Well Hope are not ones to rush anything, and aside from spending time developing the forging, profiling, and machining, they also focused on the crank arm to axle interface. To overcome issues that can sometimes occur when traditional splined axle interfaces become worn, Hope designed a splined axle that expands from the inside to ensure a snug and secure fit with the crank arm. They were also testing a polygon-shaped interface, but ultimately decided on this new splined axle because they felt it was better suited to their manufacturing process and that the performance was better when combined with an aluminium axle.
We took delivery of the new crank as well as a Hope PF46 BB and their Slick Guide chain device. After the weigh-in, we were ready to rumble.
Hope’s BB offers an advantage over some simpler pressfit BBs, in that it features an aluminum joining tube that helps hold the pressfit cups more securely in place. Hope’s reason for developing this system is mainly to combat the creaks that can sometimes develop in pressfit bottom brackets.
The BB design also means a special tool is required to fit it, one which includes a hexagon-shaped key for tightening down the joining tube. The BB is delivered with only one bearing installed (to allow access to tighten the joining tube), so once you’re done pressing in the cups and tightening down the joining tube, you also have to press in the remaining bearing. Shops that service Hope parts will already own this tool, if for some reason you should wish to acquire it yourself, it is readily available and retails for GBP 45.
The crank itself is delivered with the specific tools you need to install and remove it. First up, you get a splined tool that allows you to install and remove the collar holding the spider or a spiderless chainring (the other end fits a traditional threaded BB tool, or a large wrench). A second tool is first used to pull the crank arm onto the spindle, and then to tighten the expander nut, while the crankset extractor hooks onto the preload collar which does double duty as a self-extractor when removing the crank. Manipulating cranks can feel a bit like open heart surgery on a bike, which is probably why the crank extractor’s other end is made to help open the bottle of anesthetic…
The installation procedure seems slightly complicated at first but the instructions were easy to follow, and trying our hand at removing and reinstalling the crank a couple of times showed that it quickly becomes routine and does not take a lot of time.
In use, the system appears very robust, and the use of a preload collar to adjust the crank to the BB bearings is a blessing – long gone are the days of messing with shims and the headache of trial and error. Install the crank arm, tighten down the preload collar with your fingers until it sits snugly against the bearing (not too tight or it will damaged the bearing over time), then lock it in place with an Allen key and you’re good to go.
Hope’s Slick Guide chain device is a top-block only chain guide designed to work with 1x transmissions. It was easy to install and adjust, as was the Hope Retainer chain ring (a narrow-wide profile chain ring designed to help with chain retention). And with that, we were ready to hit the trails!
On The Trail
We’ve only been able to ride the cranks for a couple of weeks, so we will provide a follow up review after more time on the trails. Meanwhile, our first impressions are of a solid and functional product. Everything from the installation procedure to the first rides point to a crank that has been well designed and manufactured with attention to detail and quality. Tolerances seem spot on, and all the parts play nice with the rest of the bike.
We’ve had the crank out on a few muddy trail rides and a few sessions at the local jump spot so far. We have not had to make any adjustments at this point, the cranks are free of play and there are no creaks or squeaks to report.
The crank feels very solid under foot, with absolutely no discernable flex nor any kind of mushiness. Stomp on the pedals and the bike goes. The BB spins freely, and the chain device does its job without rubbing on the chain. There is a slight rumble from the Retainer ring when the chain is on the largest sprockets out back, because of the angle at which the chain then arrives at the chain ring. Other than that, the drive train is blissfully silent at this point. As previously mentioned, we will report back with our findings in regards to longevity after we put some more miles of trail behind us.
Things That Could Be Improved
There is somewhat of an elephant in the room, and as is often the case, that elephant is the price tag. Hope’s products are usually never the cheapest option, and in the case of this new crank, they are right up there with the most expensive. A quick comparison of what’s available from other manufacturers reveals that one of the current class leaders, the Race Face Turbine Cinch can be acquired for just over half of the Hope crank’s MSRP, which is priced in line with some carbon offerings or the most expensive aluminum options currently on the market. Of course, we hardly expect any product to actually command MSRP for long, but Hope’s products typically don’t offer as deep discounts as many others will over time. We do feel that the product offers significant value, and if it lives up to Hope’s usual longevity standards, it will be a good investment for the long haul – but that does little to alleviate the sticker shock we observed at the launch. Time will tell if the initial MSRP is set to drop.
Long Term Durability
We will return to this section once we put enough trail time in to properly address it. At the moment, we can only point out that many aspects of the design of this new crank are a direct result of trying to build a durable product, and from what we have seen of it so far, we would be surprised if were to uncover any significant weaknesses down the line. Watch this space…
What’s The Bottom Line?
There is no shortage of good crank options in the market today. From the excellent value to the very high-end, 600-gram crank arms that are ready for DH abuse are readily available, and you can go even lighter with exotic materials. The all-important crank-arm-to-spindle interface can easily become the Achilles heel of any crank, and Hope has taken the time to come up with a system that is slightly more complicated to manipulate than many others but which appears to offer a good solution where strength and longevity are concerned. We’ll need more time to provide a more definitive verdict, but in the meantime, if you are willing to pay the premium that Hope are asking, you should not be disappointed with the features, specs, and performance of the new Hope crank. And undeniably, like many other products of Hope Mill, it has that little extra something about it…
For more information visit www.hopetech.com.
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.