You may recall seeing steering dampers a few years back. These bulky friction disks had nothing on Tim Hopey’s bicycle steering damper.
By Adam Lipinski
You may recall seeing steering dampers a few years back. These bulky friction disks had nothing on Tim Hopey’s bicycle steering damper. Tim has a long history of motorcycle racing, including an international six day gold medal, and he understands the benefits of a steering damper. Tim serves up some serious technology with his 140 gram, fully hydraulic, bicycle steering damper. I have been lucky enough to experience his steering damper throughout its evolution. My first memory is seeing Tim ride through a hideous horse hoof pitted section (and we get the trail access problems) with his hands off the bars. Whoa, I could not wait to try this huge bulbous contraption that had cables bolted to the bar ends and a hose clamp on the frame that prevented the unit from over turning and blowing out. When I finally rode the damper, I had the same results on that trail. Since then, the damper has come a long way. It fits and secures neatly into the steerer tube, has a sleek asymmetrical design and an on-the-fly adjustment knob.
I have been riding the damper on the Trek STP 300 (see the review in this issue), and it helps to keep the quick handling bike in check. The damper stabilizes the bars at center and damps the steering 25 degrees left or right, with no resistance back to center. At any speed, up or down hill, the damper helps control your bike. Rocks and trail debris are less likely to knock you off your desired course.
You will not believe the difference once you get accustomed to riding with the damper, and the best way to notice is to remove it during a ride. I have always dreaded returning the prototypes to Tim-now I have my own and I am pumped.
Installation is pretty simple. The bracket goes between the frame and top bearing race of the headset and the unit is anchored through the bottom of the steerer tube. Make sure your headset is tight, remove the star nut and slap it in place. It seems to work better with a high quality sealed cartridge headset, something we should all have anyway.
Tim has gotten good feedback from the likes of John Tomac, Steve Larsen, Mike King, Marla Streb, Jason Sigfrid and Missy Giove, who was using the damper on her first victory over Anne-Caroline Chausson. Fellow Dirt Rag Reeking Crew members Maurice and Pete Weir are also running them with good results. Maurice also has one on his Ventana tandem where it is greatly appreciated.
Future upgrades will include an indexed adjustment knob and a stronger anchor wedge (that goes in the steerer tube), for downhill application. I have had no problems, but a few riders have had the adjustment knob slowly re-adjust itself. Retail is $220 clams and Tim is currently manufacturing and distributing the dampers himself.