July 11, 2016
Chipps had the chance to ride the new 2017 Orange bikes at Bike Park Wales. Here’s what he thought:
Sometime last month we were summoned to a secretive gathering in plain sight down at BikePark Wales. There, in front of the cafe was the Orange van and a range of ‘Strange’ branded bikes for the assembled motley crew of journalists to test ride on whatever tracks they fancied. On offer was the very capable Orange Segment (reviewed in the current issue of Singletrack Magazine, fact fans) and the Orange Four. But there, lurking in between them was the future – in the form of the new Orange Five and the new Orange Alpine 160, now to be re-christened the Alpine Six.
Let’s start in number order and go up, eh? First on test for a couple of runs was the new Orange Four. We got a peek of the new Four back in February, (and you can see our first thoughts here) and thought it was great on a quick blast on our own trails. With a 130mm fork and 120mm of rear travel, it’s hardly a short travel bike, but it’s the shortest in Orange’s 27.5in range.
On a couple of reasonably merciless runs, the Orange Four performed well: the Five’s DNA runs in its veins and there’s a good feeling of it being a dependable trail bike for all trails, regardless of travel. There were a few moments where the sheer lack of beef was evident when compared to the Five, but it made up for it with a light trail-skipping feel on anything that involved finesse and speedy direction change. It’s a bike you can steer with your hips, but still trust when you hit that first drop on BonneyVille (named for Orange’s famous former employee and general hero, Michael Bonney)
The Five has been in Orange’s range for over 15 years and has slowly evolved over that time. ‘Didn’t it just get a revamp a year ago?’ Why yes, and it has again. That’s progress. The new version of the Five now features provision for a 150mm fork with its 140mm of single pivot rear suspension. The rear end is Boost 148mm and the whole frame shows signs of extensive manipulation in the name of stiffness and weight saving – an apparent 400g has been saved on the frame weights. The angles have been slackened/steepened to 66°/74° and the bike has also seen a longer top tube – 10mm longer – to 610mm/24in on the medium and 25.6in on the XL.
You’ll notice, too that the top tube has a subtle downward curve to it, and a lowered standover height to fit people and dropper posts in. There are several different builds available though Orange, and I somehow managed to get the top specced one with a hopped up rear shock and fork. The extra upgrade to the Fox Float X2 was well worth it, as was the sneaky 36. A 34 is standard on some models, with a Pike, 34 or Yari on others. My model was the top of the shop Factory model at around £5,100 (with SRAM X01 Eagle 12 speed…) but they’ll start, exchange rates willing, at £2700 for the ‘S’ model.
And so how did the new Orange Five ride?
It’s a really, really nice bike. The slightly longer, slightly slacker frame makes you feel right at home and stops any thoughts of having to size-up a frame to get the ‘modern’ reach. Orange has done this already on the Segment and that has made the Segment into a great, modern trail 29er. But we’re here to talk about the Five. Still with 27.5in wheels, only now with a Boost back end and that longer/slacker feel. It finally feels like it’s come of age. That slightly ‘tall’ feeling that some riders felt seems to have gone away with a touch more reach and the bike just wants to gobble up everything.
Admittedly with the help of the piggyback-reservoir shock, the new Five felt buttery smooth and very confidence inspiring. That curving top tube might put off a few riders who objected to the top tube curving the other way on earlier models, but it’s subtle and forgotten when riding. In fact, looking down you see a surprisingly narrow profiled top tube.
The Five was definitely my favourite bike for the day. It might even lure some Alpine 160 riders to it.
Orange Alpine Six
The Alpine Six is the new version of the Alpine 160 – Orange’s big mountain bike. It’s now the Six as it comes specced with a 170mm fork up front and 160mm at the rear, so it’s more than just a 160, right?
This was the last bike of the day I got to try and by the time I’d got hold of it, the uplifts had stopped, so I had the fun of the long old singletrack climb up to the top of BPW. The Alpine Six actually took it in its stride and winched me up there at a decent pace.
The Six, as we’ll call it is visually a much beefier beast than the Five. Boost back end and no provision whatsoever of fitting a front mech. It’s a bike for the big stuff. There’s that hugely complex rear swingarm to keep the back end stiff – it’s Boost, but the bearings have also been moved further apart to increase stiffness.
The complex tube forming applies to every tube on the bike – the combined ‘seat stays’ and ‘chain stays’ if you can call them that, of the swingarm are themselves notched and shaped for stiffness and the top and downtubes are a marvel of 3D design.
How did it ride? It was great, though I’ll admit that I didn’t even tickle its limits. Nothing seemed to nudge it off line and it just asked for more and bigger bumps, lumps and drops. In the right hands, this’ll be a monster. If you’re not going to charge around at full gas all the time, though, I still think the Five is more likely to suit many previous Alpine 160 shoppers…
And finally here’s a quick aside. Orange had a new 26in bike on show… It’s a new hardtail called the Orange Zest (boom-tish!) and it’s designed for smaller/shorter riders. And it looks great!
We’ll have more of this soon as we reveal the new hardtails in Orange’s range, but we thought you’d like this one…