Long Termers: Sim’s Orange Five

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Sim puts his money where his mouth is

A lot of bikes pass through the Singletrack office, a lot of very good bikes at that, and some are harder to send back than others. These are generally the ones that have made us smile, flattered our riding and been so addictive to ride that we’ll find any excuse to get out on them. And that’s why I bought this Orange Five.

My Five affair started when we got in the Evo Five to test back in issue 58. It felt instantly comfortable to ride, like sticking your foot in a new pair of trainers and them feeling like your stinking old favourites that you can’t bear to throw away. A week in Spain and a few rides on local trails did little to change that feeling, everything was where it should be and just, well, right. I even like the way it looks; functional, purposeful and uncomplicated.

Eventually the time came when I had to drop the test bike back at the factory and say goodbye. Bikes came and went but the Five was the one that stuck in my head as a bike I wanted to ride again without having to hand it back after a month or so. Rather than try to get another in for test on some spurious excuse and try to disappear it, and myself, from the Orange Bicycle Reclamation Division I just stumped up the money for a frame.

I say ‘just’, I actually spent a week riding a 16″ and 18″ frame back to back to see which fit me better. I came to the conclusion I was a 17″ but the 16″ felt more manageable in technical sections than the 18″ despite the longer wheelbase of the 18″ feeling more stable at speed. Horses, courses, pros, cons, you pay your money you take your chance. Oh and I agonised over colour choice. I settled on a raw metal finish with a clear lacquer to keep it looking smart. Orange don’t offer this as an option as it’s too time consuming to clean and buff up a frame but they’ll sell you an unpainted frame for you to polish, buff and paint as you like.

The Five is a versatile beast and that’s what I wanted, something that’d work on the trails here, be up for some enduro stage-race action and even get taken on Alpine trips and be a generally good bike for hanging test kit off. That versatility is probably the reason for the Five’s popularity; one bike that’s happy pretty much everywhere.

Frame by Orange. Pose by Dave at TopMan.

There was a bit of a wait once the order had been put in, Orange are working flat out to satisfy the glut of orders that have come in for the new Five, but I knew it was worth the wait. And I didn’t have a choice…

Then came an e-mail from Dave at Orange:

Oh, and I happen to have a Five frame next to my desk,  I’ll pop over for a cworfee.

Cheers,

Dave.

Result.

You may think that seeing new bikes pretty much every week I’d be immune to the new bike joy feeling. I’m not. Not at all.

It's basically naked.

As well as deliberating over size and colour the other thing I thought long and hard about was rear axle. The Five is available with a QR or Maxle rear end with the Maxle option costing an extra £100. Popular opinion is that if you’re going to be subjecting the Five to Alpine descents and general looning then the extra stiffness of the Maxle is a good idea. My problem with Maxle is that it’s a proper pain in the rear end (literally) to get the wheel in the right position to push the skewer through. I’ve also had them come loose during riding and wheel choice is limited. So QR it was.

To minimise my confusion with getting the right headset, as the current selection of standards confuses me more than it should do, Orange squeezed a Hope ZS taper in for me.

Fox Float. Just the job.

Choosing a shock was thankfully an easy decision. The Fox Float RP23 is much like the Five, ubiquitous for a good reason. It just works. The guys at Mojo who distribute Fox in the UK know the Five well so could advise on shock tune and set up.

All in the details.

I’m a tart and proud of it so fitting these UltraLight mount kits from Racing Bros put a smile on my face. They claim to be 33% to 50% lighter than standard bushings. I can’t say I’ve ever been that bothered about the weight of my shock mounts but the gold anodizing looks rather lovely.

Despite being desperate to ride the bike, I wanted to take my time getting the right components to fit to it and getting things as close to perfect as possible, so wasn’t going to rush things. That was until I needed a bike to go to Sicily with. By the weekend. And it was Thursday.

Many of my other bikes died in the resulting panic to get the Five rideable, the spares box was heavily raided and after praying to the brake bleeding gods I got the SLX brakes to work, despite having to thread the rear hose through the swingarm. Come Saturday night though it was finished and, more importantly seemed to work. It’s not the exact spec I had in mind but hey, it was a new bike to ride on new trails.

Clean!

Bike bag fresh and on Sicilian soil…

Dis-clean.

One ride on…

Up and down on a Knife.

The Crank Brothers Joplin is possibly my favourite product in a long time. I’m happy to accept that it needs servicing, wobbles a bit and costs quite a chunk of money, but it has become an indispensable component on any of my bikes. The ability to drop, or raise the saddle height on the fly is incredibly addictive and allows you to get the most out of every bit of trail.

It’ll be interesting to see the upcoming RockShox Reverb seatpost as it should incorporate some of the fork manufacturers sealing and movement expertise as well as using a hydraulic remote lever.

Full Spec List (So far):
Frame: Orange Five 16″
Headset: Hope ZS Taper
Fork: Fox 32 TALAS 140mm
Shock: Fox Float RP23
Stem: Raceface Atlas 70mm
Bars: Raceface Atlas 720mm
Seatpost: Crank Brothers Joplin 4
Saddle: Charge Knife
Wheels: Crank Brothers Cobalt with 15mm front axle
Tyres: Continental Rubber Queen 2.2 Black Chili
Brakes: Shimano SLX, 180 discs
Gear Levers: Shimano XTR
Rear Mech: Shimano XTR
Front Mech: Shimano SLX
Chainset: Shimano SLX
Bottom Bracket: Wheels Manufacturing
Cassette: Shimano XTR
Grips: Club Roost Go Fast

What’s next?

I’m hoping to get the Five built as I originally envisaged it and see what all the fuss is about with 2×10 and get a SRAM drivetrain fitted. Dave say’s it’s the future, I want to see if he’s right or just drunk on red kool aid. The Conti Rubber Queens are starting to struggle with the muddy lines that were buff trails only a few weeks ago so it’s probably time to fit something a bit more spiky, some Michelin Wild Rock’R tyres have just turned up and look a likely fit.

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Long Termers