Hope GB track bike ventures outdoors with gears and integrated disc brakes

Hope brings it flared forks and stays design to the road with TT bike production planned for next year.

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Almost two years ago, Hope Technology, British Cycling, and Lotus unveiled the HB.T track bike Team GB would use in the Tokyo Olympics. At the time, the Games were just eight months away, and the deadline for new equipment for use at the Games was even sooner. Then the pandemic happened, the Olympics were delayed a year, and suddenly everyone at Hope had much more time on their hands. 

Hope owner Ian Weatherhill had already been thinking, “what if we added brakes and gears to the HB.T for a road-going version?” All the extra time in lockdown meant Hope could properly explore this option. Weatherhill made this idea a lockdown project for Hope design engineer Sam Pendred, the result of which is this HB.TT prototype time trial bike unveiled this week.

Is that front end narrow or wide or both?

I spoke to Pendred about the new TT bike to find out how close to a finished product this prototype is, and whether it was just as easy as sticking some brakes and gears on the track bike. Needless to say it was not quite that simple.

Hope had tested the HB.T against some time trial bikes and believed it did have an aerodynamic edge, but the aero demands of indoor track racing and outdoor time trialling are very different. There are also different handling and ride characteristics, geometry, and even standards that vary between track bikes and road bikes which mean that although the HB.TT appears to be a road-going replica of the HB.T, it is actually almost an entirely new bike. 

Nevertheless, with British Cycling showing interest in a road-going HB frame for Tokyo, Pendred was inspired to make this idea a reality. 

Ultimately, Tokyo was still a year too soon for the HB.TT, but with this working prototype Hope is now confident it can refine and complete the HB.TT ahead of an official launch next year. 

The same but different

With the HB.T as the platform to start from, Pendred initially intended to adapt the current frame with flared dropouts to cater for road wheels, a cassette, a rear derailleur, and disc brakes. 

Then lockdown happened, and Pendred suddenly had a lot more time to take a much broader approach to create a road specific frame. 

“It’s a lot harder than you think in your head initially because you think you are most of the way there, but you’re not,” he said. “There are the dropout widths which are changing, and you have to fit a front mech on it.”

That front mech proved to be one of the biggest hurdles. Due to the Tokyo course demands Hope decided to include a double chainring setup, but because the track bike is designed with such tall and stiff chainstays to transfer the power delivered by track sprinters, an inside chainring and front derailleur simply wouldn’t fit. As such, Pendred had to redesign the chainstays, resulting in one of the biggest differences between the two frames. 

Adding brakes and gears to a track bike is tougher than it looks

In-house design

The other significant change from the HB.T is the fork. Lotus had developed the fork and handlebars for the HB.T, but Hope wanted to keep the HB.TT work all in-house, so it set about designing its first-ever fork. 

Hope redeveloped the HB.T fork by combining the composite expertise of Chris Clarke (who previously worked on the UKSI bikes for Beijing and London Olympics), and the CNC machining and 3D-milling expertise Hope has built its name on. The end result is a disc brake-compatible fork, weighing in just 50-60 g heavier than the track version. 

The new design features carbon fork blades, integrated disc calliper mounts, an entirely internal brake hose routing, and a fully 3D CNC-machined cross-wing on the fork, all attached to a CNC-machined base bar.  

Designing the base bar in-house meant Pendred and Hope could create a fully integrated setup. But that in itself was nearly two months worth of designing just to get to this first prototype. 

The fork features an almost entirely integrated disc calliper. Pendred explains this is possible thanks to Hope’s onsite expertise. “We make our own brakes, we have the knowledge,” he said. “The HB.TT brake is a brake we already produce repackaged to integrate into the fork.”   

Pendred explains this ability is another advantage Hope has in bike design. “We’ve got the capability to design bespoke components, while others are stuck with stock products,” he continued. “There isn’t really much on a time trial bike we couldn’t design, except rear mechs, which are a different ballpark, but if looking to the future and TT or tri bike design, the only thing we might be constrained by are the cassette and the rear mech.

“By designing and integrating low-volume, high-spec components like this, Hope can subsequently design better bikes.”  

As if to further back up its design and manufacturing capabilities, Hope created wheels specifically for British Cycling and the HB.T bike. Hope developed a one-piece carbon disc wheel, and while it does plan to make a road-going version of these wheels and sell the HB.TT with its own hoops, the focus for the moment is on finishing the rest of the bike. 

The HB.T bike featured 3D-printed titanium collars from Renishaw to join the seatstays and seat tube, but again to keep everything in-house for the HB.TT, Hope redesigned this area with a carbon fibre interface. 

The radical HB.T design resulted from a design process focused on designing a bike with a rider on it. Pendred explained Hope took the same approach with the HB.TT, thanks to Hope’s onsite machining and ability to machine moulds quickly. This means where other brands rely on 3D-printed prototypes for wind tunnel testing, Hope can create carbon prototypes to test ride outdoors and with a rider in the wind tunnel. 

Although Hope has not yet taken the HB.TT to the wind tunnel, initial feedback from the road testing is said to be positive. 

Availability

Hope has just one HB.TT prototype for this initial round of testing, which Pendred says is a road-going replica of the HB.T. Pendred says the next steps for the HB.TT are designing a range of sizes, tweaking geometry for a time trial setup, and deciding upon exact carbon layups as Hope moves towards the finished article. 

Hope is planning towards having the HB.TT in production next year. Pendred explained that once in production, availability may be limited to how many Hope can produce, “as with our mountain bike, it is very labour-intensive process, with a lot of care required to make a handmade bike. With Hope being a relatively small company, especially in the carbon department, it will really depend on the capacity we have here.” 

When pushed for a number, Hope estimates it might be feasible to aim for five HB.TT bikes per week. If that isn’t enough to ensure the HB.TT’s exclusivity, the expected £12,000-£15,000 price tag should do it.  

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