Earlier this year, UK-based Hope Technology released an updated version of their popular four-piston hydraulic brakes, the Tech 4 V4. The 2023 version is equipped with the same robust CNC-machined aluminum, easy adjustability, and stopping precision that contributed to the success of previous models. But where the Tech 4 V4 seeks to improve on the Tech 3 V4 generation is in its all-new lever design and revised caliper that promises increased power and improved ergonomics.
While it’s no secret we’re big fans of mechanical brakes here at The Radavist, we can also appreciate the confidence-inspiring feel of a solid four-piston hydraulic brake, particularly on full-suspension bikes. Josh Weinberg had years of experience using the preceding Tech 3 V4 on his 150 mm travel Oddity hardtail so, naturally, he wanted to see how the updated version performed over a long-term testing period aboard his Starling Murmur.
Continue reading for his breakdown of Hope’s latest flagship brakes…
Tech 4 V4 lever and calipers in silver on my Starling Murmur V2
I’ll start this review by addressing the RAL5008 (dark slate blue) elephant in the room. Yes, I own a Starling Murmur, too. Regular readers know how much John enjoys his Murmurs, and while I always believed the hype, I was determined to find a different steel full suspension for greater diversity of bikes across our editorial team.
Well, seeing a used Murmur come up for sale last year while we were still part of TPC seemed like too good of a deal to pass up. I had sold my Transition Sentinel about a year prior after realizing it wasn’t the best for my local trails but had been searching for another full suspension after spending a year getting beat up riding only hardtails.
I spent the first few months with the Murmur changing most of the components to parts I had in my waiting-to-be-reviewed queue, including multiple items from Hope Technology: Tech 4 V4 brakes, Pro 5 Hubs laced to We Are One rims, and Union TC pedals. This review will focus specifically on the Tech 4 V4 brakes, and I’ll be following up early next year with wheel and pedal reviews.
Hope brakes aren’t as common in North America as SRAM or Shimano. Hope’s products are designed, machined, and built in Barnoldswick, UK, giving them more of a boutique market position. As such, they aren’t commonly found on many factory-built bikes and are more often added as an upgrade to à-la-carte builds. They have loads of customization in both appearance and functionality catering to a wide range of rider preferences.
Released early this year, Tech 4 V4 sit at the top of Hope’s robust brake lineup for aggressive trail and downhill riders and have a claimed 30% increase in stopping power over the previous generation Tech 3 V4 brakes.
Tech 3 V4 lever and caliper in silver with orange accents on my Oddity Singlespeed Hardtail
The ability to customize the appearance of Hope brakes sets them apart and is one of the aspects that originally attracted me to the Oddity titanium hardtail I purchased from Burnsey (i.e., Mr. Oddity himself) a few years ago. Since it was his show bike for Philly Bike Expo in 2019, he was meticulous about sourcing a mix of orange and silver bits on the brake and lever assemblies to match the overall color and vibe of the bike. As far as I know, there aren’t any other hydraulic brakes currently available that offer such a variety of colors.
Both the previous and current V4 models feature Hope’s hallmark precision CNC-machining. Even at first glance they just look like a no-nonsense powerhouse. Yet, their appearance is sophisticated and substantial with thoughtfully placed laser-etched logos, anodized accents, and tooling marks throughout. Aesthetically speaking, they are a welcome compliment to any bike. Furthermore, Hope’s brakes are infinitely serviceable with nearly every small part available to purchase for repair/replacement.
Hope Tech 4 V4 vs E4 Brakes
Hope offers four MTB brakesets: the XR X2 and Tech 4 X2 are both two-piston caliper models, and the Tech 4 E4 and Tech 4 V4 have four-piston calipers. Bike, rider, and discipline all figure into brake selection, and Hope created this handy chart to help select the correct options from their catalog. In my case, I’m about 180 lb with 30-ish lb of bike and gear riding “aggressive” enduro style with my Murmur, which puts me squarely in Tech 4 V4 territory.
There is some overlap between the two, and I would have probably been fine with the E4, but I ride a lot of loose, steep, and technical terrain where precise modulation is often needed to maneuver through obstacles at speed on sustained descents. I thought the V4 would be a better fit for their reportedly increased stopping power. Plus, if I decide to carry a heavy camera and/or additional water on my back for longer rides, I don’t want to worry that my load might adversely impact braking performance.
The E4 and V4 use the same lever and master cylinder, but different calipers. Although both are four-piston, the V4 caliper is asymmetric. It pairs 16mm front pistons with oversized 18mm rear pistons. The smaller front pistons engage first, followed by the rear. That’s where the power increase over the E4 comes from. The pistons do “turn on” at the same time with pads wearing evenly; using different sizes just equates to better power distribution and modulation.
I’ve heard some folks claim the E4 has a better-modulated lever feel because they have more even piston action, but if you’re a larger rider with a big bike riding long sustained descents opt for the V4. The 50-gram and $20-dollar difference (550 g/ $272 vs 600 g/ $291 for the E4 and V4, respectively) wasn’t a significant reason for me not to go big. And, as Hope states, “What can do more can do less.” Even with the Tech 3 V4 on my titanium singlespeed, I can’t say I’ve ever felt “over-braked.” Under-biked, maybe, but not over-braked. I plan to test E4s on an upcoming short-travel review build, so stay tuned for my thoughts on those next year.
To further put the Tech 4 V4 into pricing perspective within the high-end four-piston brake space, SRAM Code RSC cost $264, Shimano Saints go for $220, and Magura MT7 Pro will set you back $215.
Tech 4 V4 Lever
Hope claims to have gotten 30% more braking power out of the Tech 4 V4 brakes over the previous generation. So how did they do it? This comes from overhauling both the lever and calipers.
The first thing I noticed about the new V4 levers was how much longer they are than the Tech 3 predecessors. I have average-sized hands for my six-foot frame and like to position my levers inboard of my grips for two or one-fingered braking. Ergonomically, the revised V4’s lengthier levers enable me to achieve my preferred positioning on the handlebars better than the Tech 3. The extended lever blade also offers an increased mechanical advantage which translates to more braking power per stroke and an even lighter action via the smaller roller bearing/looser internal spring for an even lighter action than previous versions.
The possible downside to the new, longer levers is that they run the risk of interfering with some shifters and dropper levers if you, like me, want to position them fairly far from your grips. It seems like Hope tried to account for this in the redesign. While they expanded the overall V4 reservoir size, its stack height was lowered for greater compatibility with a variety of controls. I’m using the original AXS shifter with Wolf Tooth’s Light Action dropper lever and think they mate quite comfortably.
This all leads me to one of my favorite lever assembly updates: the hinged clamp! Not that I change my controls all that much, but I always thought the machined bolt-on clamping mechanism of the Tech 3 V4 was kind of an oversight. It’s bulky, fiddly to work with, and it has a tendency to interfere with other cockpit components. The redesigned hinge clamp is both lower profile (which is also supposedly lighter weight) and results in a more enjoyable user experience.
Then, there is the tool-free bite point control (BPC) and reach adjustment. The two wonderfully machined clickable knobs help dial in lever feel and offer a wide range of positioning. With each turn, you can watch the lever blade move in and out and at just the right size, the knobs are operable even with gloves on. The BPC knob modifies how soon the caliper engages the rotor – it can happen early in the lever throw, giving an initial “bite” or later after moving through a more noticeable lever modulation.
The reach, then, moves the blade in and out to accommodate different hand sizes or personal preferences. I landed somewhere in the middle with my levers, as I like them relatively close to the bar but with a predictable bite point that comes about halfway through the lever stroke.
Tech 4 V4 Caliper
Unlike most other brakes on the market, which consist of two or more pieces, Hope V4 caliper bodies are a single, solid chunk of machined aluminum. While this is unchanged from previous versions, it’s an important factor in the stiff power transfer achieved by Hope’s brakes and a testament to their durability. Inside the caliper, however, the Tech 4 V4’s pistons were upgraded from a fully phenolic material (thermoset resin) to a stainless steel/phenolic hybrid. This material change helps increase the pistons’ slipperiness and, in turn, reduce rotor drag.
Riders often considered Tech 3 V4 brakes to be high maintenance, meaning they needed to be serviced more often than other brakes to keep the pistons lubricated and moving freely. Hope brakes hold more fluid than a lot of other brands which causes pads to stay relatively close to the rotors at all times. They also have a light lever spring that can also cause a little extra hesitation in piston retraction.
The increasingly common enduro-downhill trend of pairing thicker rotors with four-piston brakes may result in more stopping power and better heat management, but it can also lead to tight tolerances and finicky setups. While the max rotor thickness compatible with the Tech 4 V4 is a whopping 3.3 mm, I still opted to run 1.8 mm rotors.
My Tech 3 V4s were not immune to some slight rubbing even with Hope’s 1.8 mm thick floating rotors, though it wasn’t an issue out on the trail. Now that the V4 pistons are made of steel – granted, I’m still using 1.8mm thick rotors – they seem to retract smoother, and the only rotor drag I notice is after the bike has been sitting for a while or following new pad installation. But a few lever actions to get the fluid moving quickly usually alleviates this annoyance.
Setup and Ride Impressions
Hope packages an array of three organic pad compounds with each V4 brakeset. This is a new thing with the Tech 4 and makes sense seeing how each Hope caliper requires a specifically-sized pad, yet riders will be using these brakes across a variety of applications. The green pads are “race” providing the highest stopping power, red are “all conditions” for varied weather situations, and purple are “e-bike,” meant to handle heavier weight brought on by, you guessed it, e-bikes.
Sold separately, Hope also makes multiple rotor types ranging from single-piece laser-cut stainless discs to floating rotors with aluminum centers and stainless braking surfaces, to the vented rotor which is like a floating rotor but made from multiple material sections with space in between for heat dissipation.
Installation and bleeding are straightforward, though a bit old-school. The system relies on DOT fluid, but rather than a fancy reservoir threaded bleed port like Shimano and SRAM brakes, Hope bleeds use a separate reservoir cap with fluid cup. Bleeding can also be done by simply opening the reservoir and adding fluid as it’s pushed down through the system with lever pulls, but the cap and cup make it a lot more efficient to store fluid during the process.
When I first received the Tech 4s my bike had been previously set up with Shimano XT brakes and mixed Ice Tech rotors (200 mm front and 180 mm rear). I had run this rotor combo on other enduro-style bikes in the past and thought it worked just fine. Plus, the Shimano rotors were still in good condition and I didn’t feel like purchasing Hope rotors immediately just for the sake of doing so (even though their brake selector chart indicated I should have 200 mm rotors front and rear.
After swapping over to the V4 levers and calipers, I used the Shimano rotors for a few months with the pre-installed green “race” compound pads and didn’t have any on-trail complaints once everything was broken in.
At first, though, the entire system was sensitive and took a few rides to get used to. On one of my first, rides I remember the combination of wet weather with new race-compound pads and fresh calipers caused the brakes to bite hard without much modulation. This was even after making multiple adjustments to the levers’ bite points and took me by surprise. My follow-up ride was in much drier conditions and the harsh feel subsided, but I’ll never ride fresh brakes in the rain again.
Once the pads were bedded in and pistons moved freely, the levers started to give the calculated breaking action I was used to with the Tech 3s. In terms of modulation and lever feel, the best way I can describe it is that I never have to maximize lever pull to achieve full stopping power, and that power ramps up throughout the process without having to “white-knuckle” lever pulls in steep sustained descents. The movement is efficient and predictable, typically providing a similar tactile sensation experienced with mechanical disc brakes as cables move through housing. I find myself braking later with the Tech 4s, even in unfamiliar terrain because I know they’ll slow me down, and when they’ll do it.
I recently installed Hope’s 200 mm floating rotors and red all-condition pads. My only regret is that I didn’t change rotors sooner. There is a noticeable improvement in power transmission, in which I merely feather the levers to produce the same amount of braking force I was getting out of smaller rotors. I also think the red pads offer a more even friction on the rotor than the more immediate bite of the green ones. Pads seem very durable as well. After more than six months of what I consider heavy use, the green pads I removed only appeared to have slightly worn down in that time.
Now that I have two sets of Hope brakes and have become accustomed to their highly modulated feel vs the on/off sensation of other hydraulic brakes, I’m not sure I’ll be using anything else on my personal bikes when hydraulics are needed. Though, I have yet to try Magura T7 Pros (I know… don’t @ me!). Hope has nailed the quality, feel, and consistency with the Tech 4 V4 and I’m hooked. In addition to their visual and tactile customizations, they provide the modulated feel I so enjoy with mechanical brakes but require a lot less effort.
- Predictable and consistent braking
- Tactile lever modulation
- Durable CNC’d aluminum construction
- Ergonomically enhanced lever design
- Tool-free adjustable lever feel and a variety of pad compounds
- Hinged clamp
- Attractive and customizable finishes
- Respectable pricing in comparison to similar-tier brakes
- Made in UK
- Somewhat finicky and “old-school” service/bleed process
- Some break-in required to achieve desired performance
- Spare parts are not readily available at most US shops (though can be ordered via Hope USA)
See more at Hope Technologies