Hope Technology 11-Speed Cassette

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Hope Tech 11-Speed Cassette
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Tested: Hope 10-48T Cassette

Bigger is better!

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: Hope 10-48T Cassette

When SRAM introduced its XX1 group, 5 years ago now already, it kicked off the first real wave of significant (r)evolution in mountain bike drivetrains for some time. Sure, we’d been steadily gaining cogs out back and Shimano had introduced the clutch derailleur as a way to help keep chain slap at bay, but essentially, we were still talking about the same old stuff. The advent of the wide range, 1x11 transmission changed all that. On the back of SRAM’s big move, cassettes started getting wider and front derailleurs were discarded by the container load. Aftermarket solutions that modify existing cassettes, like the 42T sprocket from OneUp Components would help bring wide range gearing to the wider masses, as would the introduction of less pricey groups from SRAM. Shimano joined the 1x party

When SRAM introduced its XX1 group, 5 years ago now already, it kicked off the first real wave of significant (r)evolution in mountain bike drivetrains for some time. Sure, we’d been steadily gaining cogs out back and Shimano had introduced the clutch derailleur as a way to help keep chain slap at bay, but essentially, we were still talking about the same old stuff. The advent of the wide range, 1x11 transmission changed all that. On the back of SRAM’s big move, cassettes started getting wider and front derailleurs were discarded by the container load. Aftermarket solutions that modify existing cassettes, like the 42T sprocket from OneUp Components would help bring wide range gearing to the wider masses, as would the introduction of less pricey groups from SRAM. Shimano joined the 1x party for real in 2016 with an 11-46T cassette, although its commitment to the front derailleur runs deep and the company still talks about the “Rhythm and Range” benefits of a 2x drivetrain. E*thirteen went for the jugular with an 9-46T cassette that delivers 511% range over 11 cogs, even beating out SRAM's mighty 12-speed Eagle transmission with its 10-50T cassette (500%). Meanwhile, over at Hope, the CNC wizards had been tinkering away with a cassette project of their own, which we were shown some iterations of at various tradeshows. Never ones to be rushed, Hope took their time and came to market with a 10-44t cassette, followed about 10 months later by a 10-48T option. We’ve been long-term testing it, read on to find out how we got along.

Hope 11-spd Cassette Highlights

  • Larger four sprockets machined from single aluminum billet
  • Smaller seven sprockets machined from single billet of steel
  • 11 speed spacing
  • Range: 10-40t / 10-44t / 10-48t
  • Maximum 20% ratio changes
  • Requires a unique freehub, available for both the Hope Pro 4 and Pro 2 EVO hubs
  • Includes QR/12mm/X12 drive side spacers
  • Ratios:
  • 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 32, 36 and 40t
  • 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 32, 38 and 44t
  • 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 33, 40 and 48t
  • 10-40 only 273g
  • Weight: 275 grams (10-44Tt verified), 301 grams (10-48t, verified)
  • MSRP: Cassette: $240 USD, Cassette + Freehub bundle : $310 USD

Initial Impressions

It’s no secret that we’re diehard fans of wide range, 1x transmissions here at Vital. Getting rid of the front derailleur drops weight, reduces handlebar clutter, simplifies shifting and allows for greater flexibility in frame design, all in return for giving up a bit of range. For most riders, the hardest decision involved in going 1x is the choice of the size of the chainring, which will be dictated by where and how they ride. Sure, if all your climbs are 2-hour marathons up steep walls and all your descents require you to pedal your ass off at 30mph, you might find that most 1x systems are not enough for you. But let’s face it, that is not how most people ride. A 30T chainring paired with a 10-42T cassette will get you up most climbs (or you’ll get fit tryin’), and if you’re shredding singletrack on the way down, by the time you’re spinning out that 10t sprocket, you’re probably more worried about slowing down than going any faster. Having said that, more is always better, and you don’t have to ask us twice if we think wider gearing range is a good thing to have on a trail bike. Hope’s new cassette offers just that, in the form of 2 or 6 extra teeth on the big plate, and while that might not seem like much, everybody knows that every little helps – especially when it comes to going uphill.

Hope played around with a 9T sprocket on their prototype cassettes for some time, but eventually ended up settling for a 10T as they found some issue with chain wrap and general transmission efficiency on a 9T. As the sprocket shrinks but the chain links remain the same, a more acute angle is required for each chain link to wrap around the cog. Additionally, each link now transmits more force to the sprocket – leading to higher pressure and thus more friction. At some point, there is a significant loss of smoothness and efficiency, and for Hope, the cut-off point is 10T.

On the other side of the equation, bumping the big plate to 44T created too big of a jump from the 36T sprocket preceding it, so Hope stretched that second sprocket to 38T. As for the 10-48T version, the three biggest sprockets now had to be adjusted, to 33, 40, and 48, respectively. The rest of the cassette mimics the steps of a standard SRAM 10-42T cassette (note that there is also a 10-40T Hope cassette if for example your shifting setup can’t handle a 42T or 44T, but you still want the benefits of the 10T high end cog). The weight of the Hope cassette is close to a SRAM X01 at 275 grams on our scales for the 10-44T version.

Hope created their new cassette in two main parts, with the 4 largest sprockets CNCed from a single billet of aluminum while the remaining 7 are cut from a block of stainless steel. This saves weight where it has the most impact (on the biggest sprockets), while offering better longevity on the smaller gears. This also means riders can replace only one part of the cassette when it wears out or if they want to upgrade the range, lowering the total cost of ownership over the life span of the cassette.

Fitting a 10T sprocket requires a specific freehub. Rather than go with SRAM’s XD driver, Hope came up with their own solution: by making the body of a standard Shimano freehub shorter and the lockring longer, they freed up enough space to accommodate the smaller sprocket. OneUp components were also working on something similar, and when the two companies got wind of each other’s efforts, they thought it would be a good idea to align their designs. It is still too early to call the result a new “standard”, nevertheless, the specs are open and out there for anybody to use, and OneUp components have their "MiniDriver" freehub available for any DT Swiss Star Ratchet hubs. Hope supplies the new cassette with a specific freehub for either their Pro 4 or Pro 2 EVO hubs, and their existing user base is clearly their target market for it.

Replacing the freehub is a simple, tool-less affair on a Hope hub, and the rest of the cassette installation was straightforward, requiring only a standard cassette lockring tool. We did have to add links to our chain to accommodate the bigger plate (1 extra link for the 10-44T version, and another one to accomodate the 10-48T), and adjust our b-screw tension to ensure smooth shifting on the two largest sprockets. The 10-48T version will take a standard SRAM X01 11-speed derailleur right to the limit of how much it can eat, and the b-screw adjustment becomes a bit more demanding here - more on that later. Hope does point out that the 10-48T option is really only suitable for use with derailleurs that feature an offset upper pulley wheel - you can see why below:

The Hope cassette only has tabs at the base of the big plate. Whilst the freehub body extends into the top end of the cassette, it doesn’t engage the tabs here, it merely sits against them for lateral stability. An internal spacer provides support for compressing the cassette to avoid it deforming if you get ham fisted with the lockring tool. All the pedaling torque is transmitted via the big plate, and whilst we wondered about the choice of not also having the small block engage the freehub body tabs, this is similar to an XD driver which has proven that one set of tabs is enough. On that note, time to go see what the story would be on the trail.

It's funny how quickly we've gotten used to seeing cassettes that are bigger than a brake rotor...

On The Trail

The b-screw tension is critical to the on-trail experience with the Hope cassette, especially when it comes to the 10-48T version. Because of how steep the angle of the "ramp" formed between the bigger sprockets is, you need to add a fair bit of b-screw tension to make sure the derailleur has enough room to make each jump and climb smoothly up towards the biggest sprocket. Too much b-screw tension however, and shifting on the smaller side of the cassette suffers. It proved quite tricky to get this right in the workstand, to the point that we almost doubted whether the X01 derailleur and the 10-48T were ever going to play nice, but once we were on the trail, we were able to dial in the sweet spot. We should also point out that we did not offer the Hope cassette the luxury of a fresh new derailleur for this test, it had to make do with a trusty old unit that has seen quite some trail time. We did swap to fresh chains for each new cassette though.

Once the derailleur was properly tuned in, the Hope cassette provided smooth shifting across all the gears. We’d say it’s comparable to a SRAM X01 level cassette across the smallest sprockets, with a slight difference in the climbing gears. SRAM’s 10-42T cassette has 6 “up-ramps” onto the 42T sprocket, while Hope’s 44 or 48T only has 4 (maybe because you can’t divide 44 in 6 equal parts and 8 would be too much). The result is that you sometimes have to wait a bit longer for the chain to climb up on the biggest sprocket, but once it goes, it shifts crisply.

So what does that extra range do for you? Starting with the 10-44T version, 2 extra teeth on the cassette does not sound like much, but when paired with a 32T chain ring we found it to be that much more of a bailout gear. Steep climbs that usually have us redlining became just a bit more tolerable, as you can literally drop your cadence to walking speed and wait it out. But we also found that the 38T sprocket becomes an interesting alternative on some climbs where we would often end up between gears. It sounds almost too obvious to make the point but where the 36T was just out of reach, the 42T could be too easy – it’s almost like Hope’s 10-44T cassette gives you 2 bailout options now at 38 and 44. And, this allows the rest of the cassette to keep a very standard progression between the gears.

When it comes to the dinner-plate, 10-48T version, we're getting very close to SRAM's vaunted Eagle transmission - at least when it comes to the range. The 10-48T cassette offers two real climbing gears now (the 40 and the 48), and there are not that many hills that will resist a 32T chainring/48T sprocket combo. The Hope cassette with an 11-speed SRAM X01 derailleur is not quite as slick in action as SRAM's 12-speed Eagle, but it does excel in regards to overall pedaling performance and chain management. With a well-oiled chain the cassette is quiet, and we found it possibly even less prone to ghost shifting than some of our previous setups. As mentioned earlier, we tested it with a well-worn derailleur (and a shitty shifter cable for a while!) and we still enjoyed crisp shifting and excellent consistency.

So who is this new cassette for? It is of course mainly targeted at Hope hub users, but the new freehub “standard” introduced here is already opening up compatibility with other brands as well. If you find yourself in need of just a bit more range than a 10-42T setup, the 10-44T offers an interesting alternative with well-engineered gear ratio progressions, while the 10-48T option is there for those who really want to get close to SRAM's Eagle without having to replace most of your drivetrain.

The Hope cassette costs $310 USD including the required freehub ($240 USD for the cassette alone), certainly not cheap by any means but still significantly cheaper than the comparable product from SRAM (MSRP on SRAM’s 355 gram, 10-50T XG-1295 cassette is $360 USD, not including a freehub body). E*thirteen's 9-46T, 11-speed compatible cassette is 303 grams and retails for $349 USD.

At 440% range, the 275 gram 10-44T Hope cassette beats the Shimano XT 11-46T (418% and 450 grams) while also offering the benefit of the smaller overall sprocket size (which lets you run a smaller chain ring to improve ground clearance and possibly pedaling efficiency, depending on your frame’s design in regards to anti-squat). As for the 10-48T version, it is still only 301 grams and racks up an impressive 480% range. If you already own a SRAM 10-42T cassette, you could replace the biggest sprocket with OneUp’s 44T, which involves prying off the large sprocket and pressing on the replacement. This solution will only set you back $90 USD, but of course, this doesn’t give you the benefit of the 2nd sprocket (38T or 40T depending on model) that bridges the jump on the Hope cassette - and it involves taking a screwdriver to your cassette. For Shimano users, OneUp also offers a 50T large sprocket upgrade for the 11-42T cassettes, providing a full 455% range. This solution also involves swapping out the derailleur cage and replacing the 17 and 19T cogs with an 18T cog, setting you back $125 USD. Or go all in, add OneUp’s 10T cluster (with “MiniDriver” freehub upgrade) and get 10-50 range across 11 gears (by then you’ve actually replaced 5 cogs out of the original 11).

Things That Could Be Improved

As previously discussed, shifting up to the biggest sprocket on the Hope cassette is aided by 4 specific up-shift ramps. Adding a few more would speed up shifting in this area of the cassette, as it stands, you sometimes end up waiting ¼ of a crank turn for the chain to jump up on the largest sprocket. Other than that, shifting quality is excellent and chain management is first rate, as long as you take the time to get the b-screw tension set up just right.

Hope made a choice not to make the new cassette XD driver compatible but rather to introduce a new freehub “standard” (at the time of making that choice, they were de-facto choosing to only sell the new cassette to Hope hub users). Hope wanted to provide a simpler, more economical solution based on an open standard, hence the introduction of the shortened Shimano freehub solution. Since they already sell their hubs with an XD driver option, it is still a somewhat curious choice – effectively reducing the size of the potential target market for their new cassette. The market also does not seem to be tripping over itself to get on board with their new standard. We think Hope's cassette is a very good product that would certainly appeal to more users if they could simply swap out their existing cassette and keep their XD driver freehubs.

Long Term Durability

We put in close to 10 months of all-weather trail time with the Hope 10-44T cassette, before swapping over to the brand new 10-48T option. The first thing we wanted to know was how the freehub body would hold up with just the one set of relatively small tabs transferring torque between the cassette and the freehub. We’re happy to report that there isn’t much to report. There is no sign of the cassette tabs eating into the freehub body, nor have we noticed any suspicious creaking from the cassette under load, which is especially impressive given that we were sent an aluminum freehub (a stainless steel version is available for extra durability and peace of mind).

The fact that you can replace each part separately is a nice touch and helps take the sting out of a worn cassette replacement purchase.

As for the cassette itself, there is surprisingly little wear on the cogs. A few little chips here and there (likely the result of rocks flying into the drivetrain/cassette), but overall the finish has lasted exceptionally well and the teeth have yet to show any significant wear from the chain. The fact that you can replace each part separately is a nice touch and helps take the sting out of a worn cassette replacement purchase. On that topic, we also checked for wear at the contact points between the 2 different parts of the cassette, without any alarming findings. Overall, we're impressed.

After 10 intensive months on the trail, there's a lot of life left in Hope's cassette (on the right).

What’s The Bottom Line?

The drivetrain market is brimming with wide range, 1x transmission solutions. Ranging from complete solutions to various cassette/derailleur modifications, riders living life without a front shifter have more options than ever. Hope’s 11-speed cassette delivers a well-built solution that offers a significant range upgrade over a regular 10-42T cassette, and introduces a simplified freehub “standard” at the same time. Whether or not this new standard will proliferate across other hub makers remains to be seen, but if you are an existing Hope user the new cassette will last a long time, and it will certainly serve you well too.

More information at 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.

Photos by Johan Hjord and Tal Rozow

Hope Cassette 11-48

Rating:
The Good:

The usual high quality appearance and machining expected from Hope. Very light, 305g, an X01 Eagle cassette weighs in at 355g.

The Bad:

Steel cluster is non functional with Shimano? Very limited hub choices.

Overall Review:

First Impressions - As with most Hope products, the fist impression of this cassette were very good. The finish appeared top quality, and pulling a platter sized cassette out of the box, I was instantly blow away by how light it was.

Setup - Mounting this cassette requires that you own a Hope or DT Swiss hub. I mounted it to a DT 240 using the OneUp mini driver. Very painless process. With the bike in the stand, I bottomed out my suspension and cut my chain as short as the derailleur would allow me to go. Now I was ready to dial in the shifting. I'm running an XTR Di2 derailleur a KMC X11 DLC chain, so this shouldn't have been a major chore. I set the limits and B-Tension, then proceeded on the alignment "cable tension". This took a surprising amount of tweaking to get to an "acceptable"

Overall Review:

First Impressions - As with most Hope products, the fist impression of this cassette were very good. The finish appeared top quality, and pulling a platter sized cassette out of the box, I was instantly blow away by how light it was.

Setup - Mounting this cassette requires that you own a Hope or DT Swiss hub. I mounted it to a DT 240 using the OneUp mini driver. Very painless process. With the bike in the stand, I bottomed out my suspension and cut my chain as short as the derailleur would allow me to go. Now I was ready to dial in the shifting. I'm running an XTR Di2 derailleur a KMC X11 DLC chain, so this shouldn't have been a major chore. I set the limits and B-Tension, then proceeded on the alignment "cable tension". This took a surprising amount of tweaking to get to an "acceptable" spot. No matter how fast or slow I set the Di2 shift speed, the chain struggled to climb from 10 to 9 on the steel cluster. I almost always had to over shift a gear and drop back down to 9, not something expected when running Di2. On the other side of the cassette, it climbed very smoothly and descended ok until the chain had to drop from 4 to 5. The aluminum cluster back to the steel, at which point there was a noticeable lag.

With the shifting in a semi working order, I went for the parking lot test. In the aluminum cluster, I could stand and crank as hard as possible with zero issues. As soon as the chain was in the steel cluster, the slightest pressure on the pedals caused the chain to lift up and skip forward a tooth, almost zero chain retention (see attached video). In search of a solution, I called Hope USA. After describing the problem, I got the classic answer of, "I'm sorry, I've never heard of this problem before. But let me send you the pre-written email that has our recommended setup for resolving these issues." I've been dealing with shop warranty's for about 8 years, this is still my least favorite thing an inside service person can say. Here is the canned response I received from Hope in an attempt to resolve the problem.

" Sorry to hear you are having trouble setting up your cassette. We have found that Shimano systems can require a little more attention to get the best out of them when using a Hope cassette. The things that will help are to de-grease the chain and apply chain lube as the grease on new chains is too sticky and can inhibit the chains performance. Next get the chain as short as possible (take care on suspension frames though and do check that the chain will allow free movement through the entire suspension stroke and does not over stretch the derailleur!). Another tip for suspension frames, when setting them up in a work stand, is to have the top jockey wheel close enough to the cassette so that it 'buzzes' the cassette when going up onto the biggest cog as when the suspension is pre-loaded (sag) it moves the top jockey wheel away from the cassette enough to remove the 'buzz' and give the best shifting, pay close attention to b-tension adjustment as this is critical to setup. All this is assuming that the gear cable is in good condition (always a good idea to fit new gear inners and outers when fitting a new cassette), the front cogs are set up correctly (chain line) and the mech hanger is straight.

Kind regards"

I'd already made sure the hanger wasn't slightly bent, so I proceeded to fully degrease the chain, and set my B-Tension to give me an audible buzz when shifting into the 48t cog. I generally set it up just shy of this point as to prevent any possible damage to the guide pulley. Having experience with how touchy Eagle can be to B-Tension, I was optimistic this might help. With everything adjusted and cleaned I headed back to the parking lot. Zero difference in performance.

Hope Cassette Malfunction

In one last attempt to find a solution, I emailed Hope UK's service department explaining what was going on, only to receive a less than helpful response. I'm still baffled on how a cable vs electric system could be the problem, and yet to have an answer.

Resolution - As I sat wondering how a company could release a product that doesn't work with one of the two largest drivetrain manufactures, I started to look and see why this had not been mentioned. This cassette has high reviews from multiple large media sites, which were what prompted me to go this direction. I started looking back at them, all of the reviews I could find were done on Sram drivetrains. So was this an unknown issue? At this point all I wanted to do was ride my bike, so I pulled an XD driver and Sram X01 Cassette from stock and installed it. Without touching a single adjustment on the derailleur, I had nearly flawless shifting no matter how hard I cranked. Couple tweaks, and everything is perfect, minus that I have a 42t cog now. Having setup Di2 on other combinations as well, this is still the only cassette I've encountered with this problem. We've used the E*13 TRS cassettes, and while a little clunky, the Di2 did it's best to smooth out the shifting, chain retention was never an issue.

Specifications

Product Hope Technology 11-Speed Cassette
Riding Type Cross Country, Trail, Freeride / Bike Park, Downhill
Material Steel and Aluminum
Speeds 11-Speed
Tooth Options 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 32, 36, and 40 tooth
10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 32, 38, and 44 tooth
10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 33, 40, and 48 tooth
Driver Type Other (Fits onto a unique freehub. Available for both Hope Pro 4 and Pro 2 EVO hubs.)
Weight
  • 0 lb 9.7 oz (275 g)
  • 0 lb 10.6 oz (301 g)
Miscellaneous Larger four sprockets machined from single aluminum billet.
Smaller seven sprockets machined from single billet of steel.
Maximum 20% ratio changes.
Cassette comes with QR/ 12mm/ and X12 Drive side spacers included to suit the Hope freehub/cassette setup.
The 10-48 cassette is ideally suited to 1x specific drivetrains where the upper jockey wheel is offset.
Price
  • $260
  • $330
More Info

​www.hopetech.com

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