Bike Check: Joe Barnes’ Wild-Looking Hope HB916

While in Fort William for the World Cup, photographer Ross Bell caught up with Lochaber local Joe Barnes for a chat about his eyecatching new bike. It’s Hope’s new high-pivot enduro race bike, the HB916, which we’ve so far only seen, not ridden, and is still a rare beast.
Joe Barnes should need no introduction. As well as being an EWS podium-contender before stepping back from racing recently, his videos are always entertaining, thanks in part to his distinctively smooth and floaty riding style that’s such fun to watch.

The HB916’g geometry chart for reference. Joe’s running the standard head angle and mullet wheels.

Joe’s known for riding shorter travel bikes and he’s running the HB916 alongside an HB130 (which he’s set to 140 mm of rear travel), so it’s the more gravity-focused option and doesn’t have to be a jack of all trades. He’s running a size small HB916, which has the same reach number as his medium HB130: 450 mm. When asked how they compare, Joe said “It’s almost an identical size, but it just takes way more punishment. Just physically having more travel and the surprisingly buttery feel on tiny roots and the grip on roots was the main notice from having the medium- high pivot and the idler. That’s where the benefit came in.”
Suspension wise, Joe told Ross he’s got a 320 lb/in spring fitted to the shock, but looking closely at the pictures Ross sent over, it looks to be fitted with a 297 lb/in spring. These things are often subject to change and Joe mentioned he was going to a setup day with Öhlins soon after the interview.

As far as damping settings, Joe said that he’s got a “relatively light tune” on the shock and that he’s “running [the damping] open front and back at the moment.” He explained that this setup works for his local tracks in Fort William, but it may change for faster terrain. “I quite like my shocks pretty open, particularly when at home, because then the tracks are all slow speed and nagery. So you just want them open. And then when you go to a race or ride on a faster rougher track, you’ve got some room to dial it in.”

I asked Joe for more detail and he said he’s now running “1 grade lighter fork damper than standard – 2 of 5 on the scale of valving options Ohlins offers. The rear is the lightest damper tune available. With these [shim]stacks I can then use the dials depending on the terrain. At home on slow manky trails, it’s fully open on compression dials. And then about the middle on bike park.”

He’s running an Öhlins RXF36 air fork, explaining that as a lighter rider he doesn’t need the stiffness of the 38 mm chassis and might as well get the benefit of the lower weight. He’s got the spring set quite progressive, with 90 psi in the main spring and 205 psi in the ramp-up chamber. At the rear, he’s running the TTX coil shock. “Unless Öhlins sort of push me in that direction, I’m more than happy to stick with coil,” Joe says. “I’m very content with the coil”.
Joe’s OneUp cockpit is made up of a 50 mm stem and a 20 mm rise bar cut to 750 mm width. He’s running 165 mm Hope cranks arms with Hope Union Trail pedals. He’s got the new Tech4 levers with the E4 callipers (not the DH ones), explaining that in Fort William’s slippy terrain “you can sort of drag them more and not harsh-brake.” He’s got a custom lever blade shaped to allow the brakes to bite as close to the bar as possible. He’s now on a second iteration of this custom blade that sounds like it’s less extreme in its shape than the first attempt.
The wheels are Hope’s Fortus 26, which have a 26 mm inner width. Joe says he’s running them to save a bit of weight and because they’re more flexible than Hope’s wider options. They’re wrapped in Schwalbe Magic Mary tires in their UltraSoft compound front and rear, with 23 psi out back and 17 psi in the front, with no inserts.

Last year Joe was riding Orange bikes who, despite being based not far from Hope, have a contrasting approach to bike design. “It does ride pretty different as well,” Joe says. “When you get the Orange skimming, it works amazing. If you’re not quite on that, this one seems to be like just a broader spectrum of quality. But, yeah, different bikes.”

“This is actually quite a lot more travel than I’ve ridden for a couple of years. I’ve been on a 150 mm fork and 140-150 mm rear for the last two years and so I’m enjoying just hucking into bumps . Taking terrible lines. Braking way too late… The fun stuff.”


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