It's rare, these days, to come across companies that really make what they say they make ... generally, they either offshore their manufacture to a plant that they don't own, but who "make exclusively for Company X" or who "produce specially to Company X specification" or they assemble parts made in several other factories, or, at worst, they just slap their name on some piece of generic product.
Hope, on the other hand, make everything that bears their name, in Barnoldswick, in the UK...
So, contrary to popular belief, if you have the right product, made the right way, given proper back-up by guys that really know the product inside out ('cos they make it ...), marketed correctly, you can manufacture in the UK and survive ... well, more than survive - flourish even.
I've been having conversations with Alan Wetherill of Hope for years at shows, along the lines of "I'd love to be able to offer training on Hope product, can you train me?" to which the answer has always been an enthusiastic "yes!", and then I've failed dismally to get it together to go to Hope for training (we only train on kit when we've been trained by the makers or their service agent - anyone can read a manual, right?) ...
Well, at long last I got it together, and in late January, I was very, very happy to wend my way up to Barnoldswick to Hope Technologies new HQ.
The building is fantastic, the entry hall very imposing, very plush, very minimalist ... the OCD merchant in me was liking it already! Alan gave me a guided tour of the impeccably clean and brilliantly lit production area, with it's ranks of state of the art CNC machines, and I was blown away.
I have to say, for a bloke with unashamed tool fetish, these puppies are incredible - five and six-head CNC machines running 24/7 just to keep up with demand for everything that Hope make, working from either rough forgings, aluminium extrusions or just plain billet in most cases - I felt quite weak at the knees!
The whole design & manufacture process was there to see, from SolidWorks used in the CAD phase, then to tooling, the raw materials in at one end of the building, the multiple machining stages between, anodising and finishing to the assembly, stock and despatch areas, backed up with a to-die-for workshop for servicing and warranty.
Interestingly, stock, compared to units sold, was very small - the operation is so slick, so well ordered that despite tens of thousands of hub sales per year for instance, I doubt there were more than 50 or 60 pairs on the shelf - so there is a real sense that each item is made specifically for an order, almost.
Wow, so all this, just so I can have a pair of Pro3 hubs 28 / 32 in red!
Now, I've been to a lot of factories and seen a lot of kit over the years, but I can't thank Alan enough for throwing open the doors on Hope Technology - it is a truly impressive place, making a fantastic product IN THE UK ... are you reading this David Cameron? We need companies and operations like this here, not half a world away!
Next, I was conducted to the service Department where I was brilliantly looked after by Nick Owen, who showedme the ins and outs of a full stripdown of all the current product, the things to note & be aware of, and the common mistakes people make. This kind of info is what you don't get from just reading the manual and then basing a lesson plan on it & it's what differentiates what we do at Velotech Cycling when we are training ...
So next steps are to pull some brakes apart piece by piece, compare back to the notes I made on the day, and write up the lesson plan and send it to Hope to be signed off - then off we go!
I'll keep you posted here, or keep an eye on the Velotech website at www.velotech-cycling.ltd.uk
In the interim, there is a ton of technical information available at Hope's website!