Tested: Hopey Steering Damper

Hopey Steering Damper
Cost: $220
Weight: 140 grams
Contact: 724-449-9305, www.hopey.orgFlogging time: Nine months

Motocross riders have used steering dampers for years — the devices help slow down all the little spastic jerks and over-corrections that riders make while trying to steer through rough terrain. The Hopey damper does exactly the same thing. The hydraulic cartridge fits inside your fork’s steerer tube, replacing your star nut. The control knob takes the place of your stem cap and regulates the degree of steering damping.

Riding your bike with the damper on feels awkward for the first few minutes — as if someone slipped a half-pound of elephant tranquilizer into your hydration pack. The odd sensation, however, quickly dissipates and you soon find yourself steering more precisely through the rockiest sections of trail — descending and climbing. The damper definitely has uses beyond the downhill/body-armor scene. The unit is also stone reliable — while Hopey suggests you send it in once a year for an overhaul (a modest $25 fee), my unit performed flawlessly throughout the season. Workmanship is top-notch and, at 140 grams, the weight penalty is minor.

But do you really need the damper? I liked the Hopey. Descending felt more stable and climbs more manageable with the damper on. But I can’t say that this is an indispensable product — the gains in performance just weren’t that impressive. I’ve gone back to riding my bike without the damper and, honestly, I haven’t found the transition to be a painful or frustrating one. I was happy riding the bike before I got the damper, happy with it installed, and now I’m happy again without it.