We take a look behind the scenes to see how Hope brought their Union clipless pedal range from concept to reality.
Hope aren’t ones to rush into things, and most of their products start with a requirement from their pool of riding employees. The Union clipless pedal range was no different.
What was the impetus for designing a clipless pedal?
Basically more of the factory were riding clipless so we wanted to make our own, as it seemed a shame that we weren’t on our own pedals.
Once you’ve made that decision, what happens next?
Make a brew. Most projects start with a chat, see what input people here have, things they like/don’t like etc. We’ll gather everything together and come up with a bit of a spec/wish list and go from there.
How many people are involved in that process and what do they do?
Enough to get a good range of different viewpoints, not too many so you end up trying to please everyone and getting into an endless spiral of development. The people involved are just people who ride bikes, they might operate a machine, answer the phone, be a professional athlete or be the boss.
What did you know you wanted to do with this pedal?
The basic idea was to stick a clip mechanism into an F20 flat pedal, in the end that drove us down the path of creating our own mechanism as we wanted it to work with a large platform.
Did you ever consider not going fully bespoke with the engagement mechanism?
Yes, I have to admit it wasn’t the preferred option in the beginning but once we had made a few prototypes it gave us the confidence that this was the way to go.
How did you narrow down the float options?
We made lots of prototypes and tested them but ultimately found out it’s no coincidence that existing pedals are all quite similar in float and release angle numbers, if it ain’t broke.
How did the pandemic affect the rolling out of the new pedals?
We are probably a year delayed from when we thought the pedals would be on sale but it gave us more time for long term testing.
Does a Ti axle give anything more than a weight saving?
30% faster, 30% flashier.
Does it take long to get a working prototype in-hand?
We are pretty fortunate as designers that we can make all our prototypes in the same building as our office, this means we can get prototypes in a few weeks usually.
How many prototypes did you make before settling on what would be the production model?
Loads. I think if you can remember how many times you changed something then it probably isn’t developed enough. This is particularly true in this case and most of the features are difficult to test virtually and you really have to make it and see how it feels.
Beyond prototypes, what form did your testing take?
The main thing with this project was to get a lot of different riders to try the pedals once we had a final prototype, pedals are a pretty divisive product and we aren’t going to please everybody.
How important are athletes to testing new product?
They are important but it’s important for us to get a rounded set of feedback from riders of all abilities, you can’t get too focused on what any particular rider wants and sometimes a professional athlete is looking for different things than a customer.
Did you have a Eureka moment when you new you’d got it right?
R&D is generally more evolutionary than revolutionary.
You can check out the Hope Union clipless pedals on their website here.
Read Pete’s first look review of the Hope Union TC pedals here.