Anyone who has investigated building up some custom wheels, or just poked around to find a good wheel upgrade, would have heard of Hope hubs and heard about their reputation. Coming from Barnoldswick in England, Hope Technology design all their parts to last the distance - their brakes, bars, stems, pedals, bottom brackets and of course their hubs and wheels.

Hope hubs are synonymous with reliability and strength, and known for their loud freehub ratchet. I first had a Hope rear hub on a Cannondale Jekyll in 2001. It was ultra reliable, super loud when I was freewheeling, and never skipped a beat. If that bike is still in someone's hands today, I suspect the hub is still running sweetly.

I built a set of custom wheels on Hope Pro 4 hubs a couple of years back, and you guessed it, they're still doing well. Hope have recently sent out a pair of their new Fortus 26 wheels, which spin on Hope Pro 4 hubs.

The Fortus 26 name refers to the internal width of the rim. So, these wheels have a 26mm internal width. There are also models with 23mm, 30mm and 35mm internal widths. Nominally they are cross-country, trail, enduro and plus options but that's pretty fluid, and rim width is also best matched to tyre width.

 

The Fortus 30 is the next wheel up in the range, and it is really targeted at Enduro riders and downhill racers, and has a very strong rim. The 29" rim in the Fortus 30 is 720g, compared to 580g for the Fortus 26 rims. The Fortus 35 are suited for plus bikes so not as overbuilt like the Fortus 30.

The Fortus 26 is a bit of a trail bike sweet spot and best used with tyres 2.25 - 2.5" wide. I have set them up with some Hutchinson Taipans at the moment. The Fortus 26 is available in 26, 27.5 and 29" sizes, and non-boost and boost spacing, as well as having QR end cap options if you need to jazz up an older frame and fork. The Pro 4 hub uses a 6-bolt interface for mounting discs. Hope do a centrelock hub, but it gets used on their road wheels. 

Hope also have Microspline freehubs, along with SRAM XD, and Shimano steel or alloy freehub options. There really is something for just about everyone with the Fortus 26!

A closer look at the Hope Fortus 26

The Hope Fortus 26 arrived directly from the UK in the Hope boxes, with one wheel placed securely inside each one.

 
Each wheel comes with a tubeless valve and a roll of 28mm tubeless tape, plus a wipe to make sure the rim surface is clean. I like it when wheels come factory taped, but I also like Hope giving you the option to not run tubeless (some people do that!) or fit your own tape.
 

The tape is like most yellow tubeless tapes and pretty firm, it does take a bit of tension to get it fitted properly. That's fine, as then it is also fitted really well. The rim bed has a shallow depression which lifts to the rim edge, so they should hold a tubeless bead super strongly.

 

The rim itself is made from 6061 aluminium, head treated to T6. The rim join is welded, and there are eyelets in the rims. This adds a reinforcing point where the nipple pulls. They used to be standard in high end alloy rims. The bonus is that the nipple can work against a steel insert and not corrode to the alloy rim (think crappy British weather and salted roads). It also spreads the spoke load more evenly on the rim, making for a wheel that is stronger, and lasts longer.

 

Hope use 32 Sapim Race (double-butted) J-bend spokes, with a brass nipple. The wheels are machine built and hand-finished. Any bike shop will have this sort of spare spoke in stock, so long term service life is no problem. Unlike, say, the yellow feature spoke on your 2010 Mavic Crossmax XL wheels. Brass nipples add a little bit of weight, but again, they're stronger and last longer, especially in crappy British weather. 

The Pro 4 hubs have a 4-pawl ratchey system and a bloody big external seal. The 4 pawls and drive ring create a 44 point ratchet, so that's just under 9 degrees of rotation before engaging. They engage on all 4 points. More than a DT Swiss 3-pawl hub, less points of engagement than a 6 point hub like the ones Bontrager use.

The rim is 20mm deep, to go with the 26mm internal width and 31mm external width. This should mean it isn't bone jarringly stiff, helping for traction and rider comfort.

Weight wise, they aren't really for gram counters. Most people choosing Hope items are looking for strength and long term durability first. These wheels come in at 2145g in the Boost 29" size.

The Hope Fortus 26 wheels sell for about $900, but you can contact Hope Tech Australia for exact pricing on the size you'd need.

With a cassette, rotors and tyres mounted, all that's left to do is log off and go riding. Keep an eye on a later issue for a full review.