OK, I put the disclaimer in the title, so put away your sad cat pictures, but, yes, I’m afraid it’s another 29er thread. I thought I’d post it anyway in case anybody is interested in the Orange Gyro.
There are a few excellent reviews of the Gyro on the web already, of course, but they all seem to be written by experienced and skilled riders. So I figure that there is a gap in the market for the views of a talentless idiot. After all, one of the defining characteristics of the age seems to be that everybody’s opinion is equally valid, no matter how ignorant and ill informed. So, think of this as the STW equivalent of those news vox pops where somebody in the street gives their opinion of the Euro crisis, based on the fact that they once had a holiday in Spain.
Oh, yes, I should also point out that this won’t be short. I’ll try to post an executive summary once I’ve collected my thoughts, but at the moment I’m still working through things, so I’m afraid rambling is all I can do.
First, a bit of background. I currently have a 2012 Trance X2 and a 2006 Orange Five, which I intend to sell. I like almost everything about the Five. It’s fun to ride, simple to maintain, almost indestructible. I like the way it looks and yes, I like that fact that it’s made in the UK. There are just two problems. First, I just can’t do it justice. It is capable of far harder riding that I have the nerve for and it seems silly mincing around simple trails on it. If that were all though I’d still stick with it; maybe one day I’ll be able to justify it. But after six months of back to back tests I have to reluctantly accept that the Trance is faster and just an all-round better option for 90% of the riding I do. I don’t feel any real attachment to the Trance. It is boring, grey, made in a vast factory in the Far East by a huge corporation, but there is no getting way from the fact that it’s a great trail bike and if 26” bikes were all we had I’d just stick with it. But we also have these 29ers to consider.
I’ve had one decent test on a 29er. A Specialized Carve Comp, which I had as a loan bike while my Trance was getting fixed. There is a thread about it somewhere. I didn’t really get on with it. But as various people pointed out comparing an 80mm HT with a 125mm full suss bike was a bit daft.
Theoretically I quite like the idea of 29ers. There is nothing magic, all bikes are a compromise, but I reckon it should be possible to use the larger wheel to create something that rolls a bit better while also giving a bit more confidence on the descents. When the Gyro was released it seemed to tick a lot of boxes for me and the reviews that I’ve read all look quite positive. I’ve already admitted to liking the brand and the looks of the Five and the Gyro seems to offer that in a package that is more designed for the sort of riding that I actually do than the Five. So I contacted Stephen at Highland Bikes in Inverness and he arranged to get a demo bike in for me to try for a few days. For balance I’ve also arranged a test ride on the Trance 29er, so more on that next week.
A quick plug for Highland bikes, who looked after me very well. Arranging the demo just took a few emails and when I picked it up Stephen fitted my pedals and my dropper post before spending a while setting up the suspension for me. When I mentioned that I had ridden a Five he did give me the Orange party line about this not being a 29er Five and not to ride it too hard (as if). It’s interesting that Orange seem so nervous about people riding the Gyro hard. Is that just to try and create a clearer market for the Five29 or is the Gyro really that fragile? The latter seems hard to believe. It’s a 32lb Aluminium trail bike (that’s for the pro spec in Large plus my Specialized dropper post and DMR Vault pedals, by the way). Other trail bike manufacturers don’t seem so keen to warn you not to ride their bikes hard.
Right, that’s more than enough preamble. How does it ride? Well…
Getting on it after a few weeks of riding the Trance it’s unmistakably an Orange. It doesn’t isolate you from the trail nearly as much and feels almost agricultural by comparison. Comparing with my old Five the Gyro feels a lot stiffer. None of those discussions between the front and back wheels about which way to go, which is nice, but also harsher ride overall.
Speed is the thing that everybody talks about, but that’s a tricky one. I don’t ride with a heart rate monitor, so have no objective way of telling how hard I’m working.
For the first ride I took the bike on some of the Moray Monster trails as I’d ridden them on the Trance just before the snow arrived, so I have a recent marker. I had a route with a nice Blue to start (to give those 29er wheels time to explode) then the Fochabers ring red route. Heading from the car park up the first climb I was flying. Riding the middle ring where I’d previously been in the granny. The time to the top was 6 minutes faster than I’d done on the Trance, which is daft. Maybe I’d stopped on the way up on the Trance for some reason? But even for a shorter 10 minute section where I know I didn’t stop the Gyro was 2 minutes faster. That’s 20% faster on a fire road climb! No way. I don’t believe that. There was clearly some bias creeping into this poorly designed experiment. I wanted the Gyro to be faster so I was riding it harder. Sure enough, when I got to the next long climb to the monument on the red route I was suffering and expected to see the times drop off. But Strava tells me that I was still 10% faster up that climb than I had been on the Trance. In fact, of the 14 segments that Strava identified (up and down) I got personal records on 13 of them! The only exception was a section where a tree had fallen down blocking the trail at waist height. Basically, up and down I was always at least 10% faster than the last time I’d ridden this trail. Still, I can’t say for sure that I wasn’t just riding harder. Also, I’ve only got one other ride to compare it with, which is hardly significant.
I also went out today and rode a route that I know much better. There is only one section that Strava identifies, which comes towards the end of the ride. It’s a rocky climb and has become a bit harder after all the rain last summer and the recent snow, with lots of loose rocks. After the ride yesterday I felt tired and didn’t think I’d ridden that section very well. But when I got back and loaded up the results I saw that I’d done the climb ten times previously with times ranging from 11:30 to 13 minutes. Today’s time was 10:30. So again around 10% faster on a rocky climb.
While I could put the extra speed down to trying harder, what’s harder to explain are a few of the trickier sections that I managed to clear for the first time ever today. Rocky climbs that I’ve never managed and some rocky descents that I wimped out of only last week on my Trance where dispatched with seeming ease. While it’s easy to put a bit of extra effort in if you want a bike to be faster, it’s harder (unfortunately) to suddenly improve your skills.
So, so far, it looks as though the Gyro is living up to expectations. It’s seems to be both faster overall and inspires more confidence on the tricky sections. However, I’m always suspicious when a test that isn’t done blind confirms what the observer though at the start. It could still just all be in my head.
A few things I’m less happy with: First, the hotrod bars didn’t suit me at all. With a short head tube and only 10mm of spacers under the stem, the flat bars just put too much weight on my hands and the sweep didn’t suit me. However, a quick switch to a set of riser bars today made a huge difference to the feel, showing the importance of getting the contact points right when testing a bike.
Second, I’m not sure about the Fox CTD system. The climb mode is very stiff on the shock (feeling almost like a hardtail) but perhaps not stiff enough on the forks. Trail mode is still pretty stiff, but Descend mode is just too active. With the pressure set to give 20% sag even I could blow through the travel on anything vaguely rough. So I tended to stick in Trail mode but found that my wrists (in particular) were taking more of a beating than usual. That may be partly down to riding faster and hitting stuff harder, but I’d still prefer a softer trail option or a firmer descent option.
Finally, while the bike does seem to be faster in almost all situations there is one area where I’m struggling and that’s very slow climbs. The ones that I can barely make on the Trance and where speed drops to 3-4mph for extended periods seem to be harder on the Gyro. It could just be a matter of gearing. The bottom gear on both bikes is 24x36 but the 10% larger wheel on the Gyro translates to a 10% longer gear. I’m very much a sit and spin type of climber, so it may just be that I’m struggling to keep the bigger gear turning over at optimum cadence. But I’d also be interested to see how the Gyro performed with lighter wheels/tyres.
Right, that’s an awful lot of words. Far more than anybody will want to read I’m sure. So let’s end with a picture.