Bearings and seals from Hope Technologies have a long history of holding up through the worst weather possible, and for a lot of riders who pedal the winter away, their Pro 4 hubs are the only way to go. The brand now has a robust aluminum rim to match the hub’s durability with the Fortus lineup, and the complete UK-made wheel system is as affordable as it is tough. The set of Fortus 30 wheels tested here retails for €/$555. To put that in perspective, the new Proterra wheelset that WTB recently released, marketed explicitly for its affordability, sells for $648 (available from Chain Reaction).
Ordering a set of Fortus wheels includes a healthy list of variables. In the “enduro” wheel category there are three internal rim width options, between 26, 30, and 35mm wide to suit different tire widths and profiles. Each of those widths is available in 26″, 27.5″, and 29″ diameters. Then, the front hubs can be had in Boost or non-Boost widths, and rear hubs are available in 135, 142, 148, and 150mm widths. Hope is not about to forget the folks who want to upgrade their sweet 26″ bikes that run QR axles. All standard freehubs are available, with the Shimano HG version coming in steel or aluminum options. Oh, and there are also 7-speed DH freehub bodies available. Finally, the hub shell color can be black, silver, blue, orange, purple, or red.
Each set of Fortus 30 wheels comes with 32 black Sapim Race stainless steel double butted spokes built with silver brass nipples that will be easy to locate and replace. The 30mm internal rim width is optimized for 2.4-2.8″ tires, and the wheels come with a 32mm-wide roll of tubeless tape and a pair of valves to quickly set them up tubeless.
The welded 6061 T6 aluminum rims and alloy hubs are machine built and hand finished in Barnoldswick, UK, culminating in a total weight of about 2,430g for the set we tested. While that’s a bit heavier than some other alloy sets, the rim’s fortitude on rough trails pays for its heft. The wheels could be built up lighter with alloy nipples and lighter spokes for riders who want to save some grams. A set of Sapim CX-Ray spokes would cut a good chunk of grams, though they often cost more than double the price.
Setting these suckers up tubeless was a breeze, as it is with most modern mountain bike rims. We are approaching the point where this won’t be a noteworthy element of wheel reviews, and we’ll only mention it when the tubeless setup goes poorly. I tested a few tires from different brands on these rims and they all sealed up tight, with no burping or sealant loss through the nipple holes.
On track, the Fortus 30 rims feel about as sturdy as an alloy circle can feel. The added buttressing inside the rim not only prevents dents from stone strikes, but it gives the wheel a bolstered and sturdy feel on rough trails. I’ve only used DH casings on these wheels, allowing me to push them as hard as I like without much concern for punctures. Despite the narrower 3.2mm rim edges, I wasn’t able to poke a hole in my tires nor dent these rims. The black anodization remains intact, despite numerous discordant rock strikes. Hope designed these extra tough rims to withstand the pressures of World Cup downhill racing, and they also hold up admirably for amateur all-mountain riding. I owned a set of the previous generation Hope alloy rims and managed to deform them to the point that they won’t hold a tubeless seal after less than a full season of riding. This new rim is a massive improvement.
All of that stiffness and durability has to have a catch, and in addition to being on the heavier side, these wheels are proper stiff. They exhibit a little less lateral flex than some lighter alloy hoops, but a quick suspension tune and dialed tire pressure will set the system to almost any rider’s preferences. Every wheel set we test requires some small adjustments, and these are no different. They’re not so stiff that they cause the bike to quiver across rock gardens, as overbuilt carbon rims once did, and the ability to confidently jam them through stone fields without worrying that you’ll break something and have to walk home is worth the time it takes to tune the bike a little differently.
In faster turns, under heavy compression, the Fortus 30 wheels feel unwavering and precise. They don’t quite have the loaded spring-sensation that some carbon wheels can create in fast compressions, but they do provide a solid platform for the suspension to compress against. With the right spring rate and rebound riders can find a similar corner-exit spring from their hydraulic components rather than the wheels.
Lighter weight or smoother-rolling riders who aren’t particularly looking for added stiffness, and might actually be after a more forgiving wheel will likely find their sweet spot on the Fortus 26 or 35mm wide rims that forego the added inner bracing structure of the Fortus 30, while maintaining all of the aforementioned hub options and benefits. Alternatively, a rigid Fortus 30 rear and presumably more compliant Fortus 35 up front might create a good balance with the added benefit of a wider front tire profile.
While the Pro 4 hubs are built to outlast their owner, the 4-pawl, 44-tooth, ratchet system with its engagement of 8.2° may be a turnoff for some riders. After riding wheels with far tighter engagement, that margin does feel somewhat baggy on the trail. If you love super tight and technical climbing, where drivetrain engagement shows its true value, you’ll need to wait for Hope to update this element of the hubs. I’d bet you won’t be waiting long.
The Fortus 30 wheels remain true, within 1mm or so, the Micro Spline freehub body shows very light bite marks, and the bearings still feel brand new. If you regularly bend rims and are in the market for something that will withstand aggressive riding on natural singletrack, these wheels are the ticket. At €/$555 I would have a hard time finding a better wheel deal to suggest.