No hope for Hope hub

I’ve always been rather proud of the Hope hubs on Why?Bike, my 26″ wheeled tourer that I bought second hand. Far more classy than common or garden Shimano ones I reckoned. Then this happened.

Hope hub failure 003

I was cycling to work on a lovely sunny morning, not a care in the world, when there was a loud pinging crack as I stopped at traffic lights. I had a quick look while the lights were on red but couldn’t see anything so I assumed I had just thrown up a stone. I continued for about half a mile but as I was pedalling up a small hill the front wheel began to catch. I’d fitted new brake pads the day before, surely I hadn’t made such a bad job of it that they were now rubbing! Checked the brakes, they were fine. Then I noticed a spoke sticking out. I’ve never broken a spoke before, I thought. But no the spoke wasn’t broken and what’s more there were another 3 of them sticking out! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realised that the front hub flange had completely disintegrated and that there was another large crack that was about to do the same. I wouldn’t like to have been going fast downhill when this happened.

I had always assumed that, barring accident, there was nothing that could go wrong with a bike that wasn’t fixable or could at least be bodged sufficiently to get home. I couldn’t even push this properly! I was only a mile or so from work and had to phone my boss to come and collect me in the pick up. Fortunately he used to do a lot of mountain biking so was suitably sympathetic. Dennis was happy to come and collect me at the end of the day.

I sent a photo to Hope Technology that evening and asked for their comments. They replied very promptly but not terribly helpfully

Hello Hilary, sorry you have had an issue with your hub but unfortunately we no longer have any body’s available as the hub is approximately 15 years old. There are many things that can contribute to causing this such as tight spoke tension but I’m afraid we would be unable to replace it I’m afraid.

Surely this should not happen at all irrespective of age. The Dunlop Supalite hubs on my FC Parkes are over 50 years old and still in one piece. I’m no expert but the spoke tension seemed fine to me and it seems unlikely that a wheel would be built using an expensive hub and rim and an incompetent wheel builder. If I’d had the bike from new I would have persued the matter but I have to admit I don’t know the bike’s full history. However, its a touring bike with woman’s geometry, previously owned by a lady older than myself. I doubt if she has tried jumping obstacles on it!

So what to do? I could buy a new hub and try rebuilding the front wheel but I know wheelbuilding is just not my cup of tea. The rims have plenty of life left in them but are doubtless also 15 years old. The rear hub appears to be fine but I’m afraid I’ve lost all faith in it. The only solution seems to be a new pair of wheels which I’ve ordered from Spa Cycles. The guy I spoke to described expensive MTB hubs as ‘all marketing bollocks’! Perhaps he’s right. I’m certainly disappointed with mine!