Hope Union RC Pedal Review
The UK’s Hope Technology entered the clipless pedal game with the announcement of three new offerings in August of 2021. As a die-hard Shimano XT/XTR fan, Lucas was initially skeptical about the Hope Union RC pedals, but he’s changed his tune after a year of use. Find his long-term review following all manner of rides around Portugal and the Rocky Mountains here…
Having used pedals and cleats from most of the big brands throughout the years, I’ve landed on Shimano XT and XTR pedals as my go-tos in the last decade or so. You’ll find a well-loved pair of them on most of my bikes, and all of my shoes have SPD cleats mounted. That’s to say, someone would have to release a seriously compelling alternative to get me to take a second look at this point, and the UK’s Hope Technology did exactly that in August of 2021 with the release of their Hope Union RC (Race Clip) pedals.
They haven’t exactly made waves in the time since their release, but I’ll open this brief review by stating up front that the $190 Hope Union RCs may well be my favorite pedals ever—with some noteworthy caveats that I’ll get to later. They’re buttery smooth, beautifully machined, fully serviceable/re-buildable, and look mighty good in an array of six colors. I’ve logged at least a hundred big and small rides around Portugal and Colorado in the year that I’ve been riding them, and you can find my extended thoughts based on those experiences below.
Hope Union RC Features & What’s Included
Weighing in at 322 grams (compared to XTRs at 315 grams) per pair, the Barnoldswick, England-made Hope Union RC clipless pedals have a 55mm Q-factor and boast an impressive set of features. Their fully CNC-machined body surrounds a titanium axle and three cartridge bearings with a maintenance-free IGUS bushing. They have dual-sided entry with a stainless spring-loaded dual mechanism designed for ease of clipping in, a secure hold, and a positive release. Their retention is fully adjustable via a quick turn of an Allen key.
The pedals ship with two sets of stainless cleats that attach—somewhat annoyingly—via Torx-head bolts. One cleat set offers 4° of free float with a 12° degree release angle, and the other offers 5° of free float with a 13° release angle. Both allow 2mm of side-to-side float. Also included in the package is a set of shims that can be used to achieve optimum cleat height and a handy gauge that helps you determine whether or not the shims are necessary.
While Out Pedaling
Out of the box, the first thing I noticed when spinning the Union RCs by hand is that they have more resistance than their Shimano counterparts. They loosened up a bit with use, but even after thousands of kilometers, they have a noticeably tight feel. This isn’t a bad thing, though. To me, it speaks to the extremely high tolerance to which they’re manufactured. Everything fits together precisely as it should without any play or looseness. The result is a silky-smooth movement as the pedals spin underfoot.
Clipping in and out of the Union RCs is a joy, and their unique design makes it easy to enter from many angles. I can step straight down onto the pedals to get in, rather than needing to approach them from a specific angle. This is one of the things I like most about them, coupled with the way they seem to give my feet a gentle nudge out when I twist my ankles to eject. And, despite the effortlessness of unclipping, the pedals and cleats provide an unmistakable locked-in feeling while riding.
Trying both sets and finding a very minimal difference between them, I decided to run the 4° float cleats rather than the 5° float option simply to match the 4° of the familiar Shimano SPD cleats. I’ll use the 5° set on a second pair of shoes or as a backup when I wear out the 4° cleats, and I don’t anticipate experiencing any discernible long-term differences in comfort. I don’t entirely understand Hope’s thinking in including two different cleats with such similar float and release angles rather than two of the same or just one set at a slightly lower overall price point, but I’m glad to have a second set just the same.
The Union RC’s minimal platform is unobtrusive and unlikely to increase your chances of pedal strikes if you’re coming from any other pedal. The seals have done their job well to protect against gunk ingress, even when everything was caked in red dirt and mud after a month of riding around Portugal. I haven’t had any reason to open mine up yet, but I plan to do so soon and will update this post in the unexpected event that I find any surprises inside.
Long term, I’m not positive they will hold up as well as my time-tested XT and XTR pedals, all of which have survived their fair share of impacts and heavy use in gritty conditions. I don’t have any reason to believe they won’t, and the other Hope products have proven plenty durable, so I’m hopeful that I’ll still be riding them several years down the road.
Another Cleat Standard?!
And now for the catch. The pedals are light, good-looking, and work nearly flawlessly, but Hope developed a new cleat standard for them rather than adopting an existing option as many other brands have done. There’s certainly room for another standard, and SPDs are far from the only game in town—Time, Crankbrothers, and Look have all had some success, among others—but I think the proprietary cleat is what’s holding the Union RCs back from widespread popularity.
Having yet another cleat standard, especially from a relatively small UK-based brand, poses a couple of problems from my perspective. First, as much as I love these pedals, I find it inconvenient to have to dedicate a pair of shoes to them, rather than being able to grab any pair of shoes and any bike and know they’ll work together in my existing SPD ecosystem. If you’re just starting your journey into the world of clipless pedals, this won’t be as much of a headache.
Perhaps more of an issue is the problem of finding spares. You can walk into nearly any bike shop in the world and find a set of SPD-compatible cleats, but that’s not the case with the Hope cleats. Doing a quick search online, I’m not sure it’s possible to find a set anywhere in the US at the time being, and it looks like I’d need to order them from Europe. There are many Hope dealers around the country, but I’m not sure whether or not they have Hope cleats in stock. In fact, I called a few Hope dealers in Colorado, and nobody had cleats on hand. This is a minor inconvenience for me sitting at home, but it could potentially turn into a major headache if you need to source a set while you’re out on tour, particularly if your travels take you beyond the beaten path. In short, I’d never leave for a bikepacking trip without a set of spare Hope cleats, whereas I’d feel confident sourcing a replacement set from one of the larger brands (that said, spare cleats are always a good idea!).
Price and Availability
The Hope Union RCs are priced at $190 (£150/€185) and are offered in black, silver (as tested), purple, blue, red, and orange. At the time of their release in 2021, Hope also introduced two additional pedals, the Union TC (Trail Clip) and Union GC (Gravity Clip). Both of those are pinned and feature a more substantial platform, befitting of their intended uses. All three models should be available for order through Hope’s network of dealers around the world.
- Material: Aluminum/Stainless/Titanium
- Weight: 322 grams
- Place of Manufacture: United Kingdom
- Price: $190 USD (£150/€185)
- Manufacturer’s Details: HopeTech.com
- Incredibly smooth operation
- Top-notch build quality
- Rebuildable, serviceable, and adjustable
- Expensive at $190
- Cleats could prove difficult to source
- Long-term reputation has yet to be established
My year of riding the Hope Union RC pedals on several bikes through varied conditions and across a broad range of terrain has me singing their praises. The Union RCs are exceptionally well-built, reliable, and almost transparent in their ease of use. They’ve endured a year of riding through rain and heavy mud and have shrugged off the elements, continuing to run smoothly without needing service.
From a design and feature perspective, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the Hopes over Shimano XTRs. That said, Hope’s decision to use a proprietary cleat makes them trickier to integrate across my SPD-heavy ecosystem. What’s more, the lack of readily available replacement cleats makes me unsure if I’d choose them for an extended bikepacking trip without a couple of spare sets of cleats, but that’s a relatively small price to pay for the class-leading performance they deliver on every ride.
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