16 December 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Hope Mono Mini Pro disc brakes

I have been using Hope brakes off and on for years. Hope set the benchmark for how disc brakes should feel when they introduced the Mono Mini. Unfortunately, those brakes didn’t have quite the power that we in the Rocky Mountain region like to have. More importantly, they also tended to fade quite a bit on long descents, and although this was common with most disc brakes when the Mono Minis first arrived on scene, most manufacturers improved their brakes in this regard, and soon after, serious fade was rare. When the “Pro” version of the Mono Minis was announced, they were just too pretty not to buy. I ordered a set and installed them on my original Maverick ML7 from 2001, which I keep as a fun alternative in my quiver of bikes. The Pros were the same design as the regular Minis but lighter due to Ti bolts, carbon levers, and rotors with aluminum spiders. Hope has since re-named this brake the Mini X2 Pro, but it is essentially the same brake.

I still ride the ML7 a fair amount, but I don’t take it on the epic rides or bring it with me on trips, so my experience can’t tell you if the Hopes have improved on really long descents common in the Rockies. I will tell you from past experience that they can handle this type of riding, but fade is noticeable and other brakes do it all better- except lever feel. Hope still rules the industry on lever feel. The Hopes are totally worth trying if your downhills tend to be shorter. I ride this bike in our “East Mountains” (the Manzanos) all the time and brake fade is never an issue in an area where a single downhill is 1,000–1,500 ft: not bad, but not nearly the 4,000 – 6,000 you can find in our other mountains. The Hopes also modulate with the best of them. Since they are a bit less powerful than some of their competition, this is an easier feat to accomplish, but nevertheless, control of the bike is exemplary. The lack of power that I have been mentioning is only noticeable at one moment- on really steep grades where you have built up any kind of momentum. In that moment, they can give you a scare, because when you pull down harder on the brake lever, not as much happens as you expect. This really sounds worse than it is- it probably isn’t even much of an issue if you only ride the Hope brakes, but coming off other bikes with more powerful brakes makes the feeling more pronounced. That being said, these brakes could work well for many riders out there, with XC racers being one of the most likely groups.

The rotors that come with the Mono Mini Pro brakes are very much worth mentioning. In fact, I considered doing just a mini review (excuse the pun) of them. This is especially relevant since I recently did a review of the Scrub Components' lightweight metal matrix rotors. The Hope Pro rotors weigh only 79 grams in the 160mm size. The Scrubs weigh 60 grams but are very expensive (and leave a bit to be desired in terms of performance). Most regular rotors weigh in around 100-140 grams. This is not a bad way to shed some weight from one of the areas of the bike (the wheels) where weight makes the most difference- without compromising stopping ability. Hope two piece rotors can be purchased separately ($65 in the 160mm size) and look fantastic- racers should weigh their rotors and see if an upgrade might be worth it. One warning: The Hope rotors with the black spider are the X2 version and can be easily ordered by your LBS from many of the big parts distributors- but weigh slightly more at 89 grams. Hope has told me the Pro rotors are available separately but I have never seen them on any distributors’ websites, so they must come directly from US importers Hope Tech USA.

All in all these are good brakes with excellent modulation. I plan to try the company's new Tech X2 brakes this summer and hope to be able to say that those don’t suffer from fade, but these do once they get hot. Still, they are a fine choice for those of you who race, or live in states that are vertically challenged. The Mini Pro X2s retail for $370 per wheel.



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