HOPE TECH UNION GRAVITY CLIP PEDAL REVIEW
Review by Robert Johnston
Hope needs no introduction as a high-quality bicycle component manufacturer. Designed and manufactured in their impressive facility in the North of England, Hope has been supplying lust worthy machined and anodized aluminum mountain bike components to the market for over 30 years. In recent times they’ve been expanding their operations and product ranges, adding carbon fiber bikes and components to their repertoire in addition to new product categories for their aluminum components. Though their expansion seems to be exponential as of late, their design process and timelines continue to be long, ensuring they have fully tested their products over months of hard UK conditions under their employees and sponsored riders, so that they are satisfied their products are up to scratch. Their Union clip pedals took seemingly forever to come to market, so we were ecstatic to get our hands on a set of their Gravity Clip (GC) model to put to the test over the harsh UK winter when they were released.
Not content with a one-for-all option, Hope brought three clip pedals to the market under the Union moniker to offer XC Race (RC), Trail (TC) and Gravity (GC) riders with tailored options. These three models share the same dual-sided, stainless-steel clip-in mechanism, which is Hope’s take on the common Shimano SPD style system, but crucially not cross-compatible. Though it shares visual similarities, Hope’s system is designed to reduce the required clearance between the sole of the shoe and the pedal, to produce the most supportive pedal they could. While developing their own system, Hope experimented with various shapes and styles of cleat, meaning they were able to offer two options for the float (4°or 5°) and release angle (12° or 13°) as standard, allowing riders to select their preferred feel out of the box. Regardless of the stainless-steel cleat selected, there’s 2mm of natural side-to-side float in the system to aid in foot positioning, and a Q-factor of 55mm. Like an SPD pedal, the tension of the mechanism can be adjusted with a hex key to dial in the entry and exit feel.
The machined aluminum bodies of the Union Gravity Clip pedal tested are based on their existing F20 flat pedal and should offer plentiful support beneath the feet. These aluminum bodies spin on a heat treated and plated chromoly axle with the help of three cartridge bearings and an inboard IGUS bushing, which are sealed from the elements by two inboard rubber seals. This should ensure they spin smooth for a long time without maintenance, but in typical Hope fashion they are fully serviceable for when the time comes with the service kits readily available. For riders looking to shave some weight, titanium axles can be purchased aftermarket. Hope went a step or two beyond most manufacturers in their customization options for the feel of the pedal in addition to the two cleat choices. The platform can be equipped with up to 7 stainless steel pins per side, or for riders looking for further support without the locked-in flat pedal feeling, plates can be fitted instead to maximize shoe-to-pedal contact and increase support. The Union Gravity Clip’s weigh in at 520g per pair (actual, with pins fitted), are offered in the 6 standard Hope anodized colorways, with a retail price of $200.00/£160.00/€195.00.
When you pull the Hope Union Gravity Clip’s out the box, you’re met with a daunting array of plastic bags full of pins, spacers and cleats that can either leave you excited or perplexed depending on your demeanor. For me it was excitement that prevailed, even more so when I pulled the setup instruction sheet out of the box and the cleat spacing template.
Hope first asks you to choose a set of cleats out of the two options provided – these vary in their release angle, degree of float and the effort required to release from the mechanism. I opted for the lower float, easier release option to feel more locked in when I wanted to be but allow for easier dabbing – as a flat pedal rider, it’s ingrained in me to dump a foot into the ground when danger strikes. Next up, you make use of the included cardboard template to assess how deep the cleat channel on your shoes are. The Leatt shoes that would form the test bed for the cleats of the Union Gravity Clip’s proved to have a deeper cleat recess than the template included though, which led to a bit of guesswork and multiple cleat spacers to get the setup “right”. Later, I tried with another brand of shoe with a shallower recess, and the template setup had the cleat sitting in a good spot from the get-go. For my preferences, at least.
Next up, you choose the route you’d like to go down for the pins or foot plates. My flat pedal tendencies naturally pushed me towards the pinned option, seeking security when trying to clip in through the rough and a more connected feeling when applying twisting forces to the pedals, such as when cornering or hanging out the rear wheel midair. The plates, though untested by me during the process, would undoubtedly provide an increasingly solid connection under the foot, for those who favor out-and-out stability in harsh compressions or when laying down the watts. Once this step is done, you simply dial in the spring tension on the clip mechanism to your preferences then you’re good to go. This spring tension is clearly indicated by a gauge on the face of the mechanism that makes it easy to match tensions all round.
Onto the dirt, and there’s a whole lot of positivity to share when it comes to the riding experience of the Union Gravity Clip’s. Regardless of the clip tension, there’s a positive noise and slight “click” feel on both entry and exit that is extremely reassuring. Guiding the cleat into the pedal is very shoe-dependent, but with a couple of different options the Hope pedals proved to be as easy to locate the mechanism and get clipped in as your typical Shimano SPD pedal. Even with those pins there to offer security and grip when called upon. It’s essential to get that cleat spacing, or pin height, “just right” to ensure the entry and exit is unimpeded but the grip still on offer, so be prepared to have a couple of tries at getting the pedals set up to your tastes. But when you get the sweet spot, you’re left with support under foot, solid retention, yet somehow still an easy release. I attribute this largely to the style of pins Hope opted to employ here, which allow for a certain amount of glide, even in soft rubber shoes like the Leatts, whilst still latching on when pressure is applied.
When unclipped, the Union Gravity Clip’s give a reassuring amount of grip on the pedal to get you through a technical section safely, meaning it’s a lot less concerning to drop a foot mid-run. They’re still undoubtedly less secure than a flat pedal, but certainly offer enough to get you through a section with a little bit of care. There were times when, as with most clip mechanisms, particularly thick mud would build up and make clipping in slightly harder. That said, I was seldom unable to get clipped in when testing in some of the gloopiest mud in the world, and the slightly more open mechanism seemed to fare better than an SPD equivalent.
The Hope Union Gravity Clip pedals, as with the rest of Hope’s ever-growing portfolio of components, oozes quality and refinement, with tough wearing finishes, well-sealed bearings, and durable materials. Over a harsh Scottish Winter test period, they’ve held up extremely well and show considerably less wear than you would expect. Crucially, they still spin as smooth as day 1, there’s no rusting or wear to the clip mechanism or cleats thanks to the materials used, and even the cleats have survived very well considering the granite rock walking, and rash stamping to get clipped-in they have faced. Though they’re not the thinnest or narrowest pedals on the market, they’ve avoided being smashed off trailside obstacles really well even though they’ve been tested with some of the lower BB’s I’ve ridden, so I’d suggest the heavily ramped leading edges and chamfered sides do a good job in this respect. Most importantly, entering the pedals still produces that reassuring “click”, and there’s no sign that it’s going to stop. As a gravity clip pedal 520g is perfectly acceptable, and the weight weenies can drop 100+g by opting for the Trail or Race versions instead if it’s a concern. Their price certainly isn’t cheap, but in my eyes, they seem surprisingly good value for the performance and longevity on offer. Kudos to Hope on these.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Hope took their sweet time in adding a clip-in mechanism to their F20 flats, but oh boy was it worth the wait. Support, grip, and a clip mechanism that’s just a treat to use, the Union Gravity Clip pedals are a top tier option…if you can get your hands on them.
Price: $200 / £160 / €195
Weight: 520g (actual, with pins)