Hopey steering damper?

Hey Lee,
Have you tried the Hopey steering damper? It seems like a good idea and I am interested in trying one out, but thought I would get your opinion on it. It seems that if it was a big benefit you would see it more at races?
Thanks, Daniel

Hey Daniel,

I have not tried a Hopey steering damper. But I’ve thought about it over the years. In semi-random order:

– Steering dampers are a big deal in moto, especially for trail riders. According to reports, the dampers allow slow-speed steering movement but resist high-speed deflections — the kind you experience in rock gardens.

– Moto riders tell me aftermarket steering dampers make their motos way more stable and easy to control, especially at high speed. Fireman Jeff got one for his KTM EXC450, and he loves it.

– While most moto riders swear by steering dampers, some say they’re merely a crutch for incorrect suspension setup. The nay-sayers claim a bike with correct suspension doesn’t need a damper.

– But check this out: For 2008, Honda 250 and 450 motocross bikes come stock with Honda-made steering dampers. This is a very big step, and all the proof you need that steering dampers are valuable for moto riding.

– Back to mountain bikes. The reviews and racer quotes on the Hopey site (and all over the Web) are pretty convincing. Hopey says their damper stabilizes your bike and saves you energy on both up- and down-hills. Hopey lists stoked comments from Missy Giove, Mike King and Marla Streb. Note that list doesn’t include any new-school downhillers — have suspension improvements made the damper less important, or is the site just stale?

– The damper makes sense. I think a Hopey might help me in jumbled rocks, like we find at Keystone and Left Hand Canyon. I’d love to try one and tell everyone about it.

Price: $230-$240

Installation: Looks like a semi-pain in the butt.


I’m sure some of you gearheads will have thoughts on this. What sayeth ye?

7 replies
  1. Justin Brown says:

    I have a Hopey that I picked up on the internet for $75 and had it rebuilt…I like it a lot. Mind you, I am a 40 year old former BMX racer (older than Mikey, Missy and Marla) that just likes to ride and be as smooth as possible. Would I rock it if I was a racer, probably not, but for what I am doing. I give it a thumbs up. It slows things down and things are as twitchy.

  2. Eric says:

    There are a couple of reasons I think that while a steering damper makes sense on a motorcycle, I don’t think it’s that big of help on a MTB.
    First off is the fact that the steering damper is there to control unwanted oscillation of the front end. The front end of a motorcycle has much more mass than even a DH bike (complete!), so if it goes into a tankswapper you’re pretty hosed as trying to muscle it straight is a quick trip OTB. A bicycle on the other hand has less mass so the rider is able to damp out most if not all of the deflections that cause headshake.

    Secondly, the geometry of the entire bike or moto needs to be taken into account. Most sportbikes run steering dampers (and are required for racing) because the design of the bike puts alot of transfer of weight on the frontend, i.e. under acceleration the tire is unweighted, during braking it’s fairly easy to have 100% of the weight on the front (stoppie). Dirt bikes are running them because under full throttle, again the front end becomes light and is easily deflected by bumps, then you run into what I mentioned first.
    So IMHO, unless you are accelerating hard enough to do out of control power wheelies on your pedal bike I don’t see the need for a damper. Now if geometry of MTB change to steeper head angles that may make one necessary but it seems the opposite has been true with bikes going to slacker angles which should be more stable.
    The other thing of this is a damper is basically a shock for your steering. On a moto the mass of the front end allows a noticeable adjustment range, on a bicycle I would guess the dampening would need to be very light not to make a huge difference at low speed (which, face it, is most of the time if you compare moto vs. MTB).

  3. SeanH says:

    I had a Hopey for quite a while. They pretty much work as advertised. Going through rock gardens it was easier to keep a relaxed grip on the bars. It also helped keep the bars straight on steep climbs. That being said I recently removed it from my bike. I wasn’t dis-satisfied in any way, it just seemed a bit of overkill for the type of riding I do nowdays. The first few rides without it were pretty interesting-I was all over the place!

  4. Chris says:

    It looks like something to create a higher chance of smashing a knee, sternum or face on. And it looks like it will be extra painful when you do.

    A good place to find out opinions on MTB dampers would be a forum for one-armed riders, if one exists. I know they use them.

  5. Curtis says:

    Eric hit the head on the nail. It all comes down to damped mass v.s. rider force input to the bars. If you can’t control a mountain bike at speed in the rough stuff, you should start doing some of those exercises that Lee always talks about for your upper body.

    Although, if you’re a burly dude with really good suspension, you shouldn’t need one on a moto either, but I’m sure it helps. With that said, I’ll probably be getting one for my CRF. I’m not a burly dude, and my suspension is definitely not dialed.

  6. Phil says:

    I’ve been riding a Hopey for years –
    I love it at really high speed rocky areas, and in very loose sections.
    I’m not sure how “correct” suspension setup can help you in loose rocks that knock your wheel sideways – but I find that this is one of the places where the damper helps me most.
    If you think about the design – hydrolic dampening when you move your bars away from “0” (center), that becomes hugely progressive with speed and resistance – with NO dampening from your turn back to “0”…. this can help you in any situation where your bars or wheel may be kicked side to side.
    This also helps with arm pump, this was one of my biggest problems on longer DH days.
    I wouldn’t treat this as a substitute for good suspension – but it will make a difference in your ride!

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