by Dave Anderson
May 14, 2013
The Gyro is a bike you simply want to ride all the time.
This is Orange’s first ever 29in bike. Perhaps unsurprisingly it’s opted for a version of its iconic single pivot suspension design for the Gyro. It never claims it’s a suspension system that’s perfect. It treat its audience as experienced riders who are aware that there is no such thing as a perfect suspension system. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. It isn’t just that Orange likes the damned-with-with-faint-praise ‘simplicity’ of a single pivot, it actually believes it to be the system that ticks more of the boxes that it’s bothered about.
So the Gyro is the 29in Five yeah? Yes and no. It undoubtedly shares a frame profile and a suspension system, too but out on the trails it’s a surprisingly different bike, even taking into account the larger wheels. From a cursory inspection of the Gyro it does just appear to be a Five with the relevant areas compensated to offset the larger wheel size. There’s a bit less travel (110mm rather than 140mm), the head angle is a bit steeper (69.5° rather than 67°) and the chain stays are longer (17.9in rather than 16.7in). About the only thing that’s obviously different with the Gyro is the very front end of it. Instead of the expected tapered headtube there’s a 49/49mm 1.5in-stylee super short headtube (at 110mm it’s 20mm shorter than the equivalent size Five’s).
If we were to follow all the theories of the online armchair bike reviewer, we’d be pretty confident in saying that the Gyro rides a lot like a Five but with better rolling momentum, slower acceleration and a little bit more flex. Thankfully, for magazine writers’ livelihoods if nothing else, armchair bike reviewing is seldom 100% correct.
We’ve mentioned the angles, what about the other vital statistics? Well there’s the 23.3in effective top tube (Medium frame), the 17.9in chain stays and the 13.4in bottom bracket height.
Climbing is a sit down and get on with it affair. This sounds like it’s a bit dull but it’s not so much that, it’s more that it doesn’t need hustling and hauling. And it’s not that the front end feels overly tall and impossible to get on top of. It feels just as high – or low – as a regular 26in-wheel Orange.
The suspension system works wonderfully when sat down climbing. Don’t dial in too much ProPedal, keep it active and let the chain tension do its dig-in thang. If you stand up and attack a climb, you’ll lose more in bob than you gain in momentum. The Gyro is a way better climber than a Five, by a factor of a lot.
What about descents? Surely the demon Five must still have an advantage? Well, it depends. The Gyro is super stable at high speeds and on downhills that aren’t mega steep and/or twisty. There’s a real floatiness – except it’s more exciting than the word ‘floatiness’ implies. Maybe it was something we ate but a lot of riders commented on how they thought the Gyro frame was stiffer than a Five. But on rougher, more overtly technical terrain, the Five would still be the bike to be on. Fundamentally let’s not forget that a 120mm fork just isn’t going to be able mix it with the 150mm forks commonly fitted to Fives.
Another niggle for some is that the Gyro isn’t that easy to get off the ground, a factor we attribute to the lengthy nature of 29in bike chainstays. When the going gets of a certain amplitude the limits of the relatively short travel suspension, and the not-that-slack head angle, can be felt.
The real home of the Gyro is the cross-country/trail type of riding. On map-exploring rides the Gyro was an absolute joy. You could ride it all day and not get bored. Sometimes in middle ring you’d be reminded with a gentle stiffening on your pedal stroke that you were on a single pivot but it wasn’t an awful sensation. It was like a loyal dog occasionally tugging at the lead to remind you that it’s there.
Sometimes a bout of raggedy stomping would cause the bike to bob but again, it didn’t really matter. The suspension was always predictable, useable and engaging. It was just a lovely bike to eat up trails on board.
Even if you’ve never swung a leg over an Orange bike, you owe it to yourself to try out a Gyro. Forget about your Canadian and American 160mm travel 26in-wheel bikes being ‘quiver killers’. It’s bikes like the Orange Gyro that are the modern day ‘one bike to rule them all’ for most riders.
The Orange Gyro surprised some of us here. Some assumed it would be a hooning steamrollering version of the Five. They were left disappointed. Not many of us assumed it would be a brilliant all-day cross-country bike, but that’s exactly what it is. Hugely enjoyable on big rides in big country. Startlingly propulsive and nippy in the singletrack. Surefooted and tenacious up the longest and steepest of climbs. It’s a slow burner with bundles of character and oodles of afterglow.
Orange may have been late to the big wheeling party but its first foray into the land of 29in bikes is bang on. Job done. Mission accomplished. The Gyro is a bike you simply want to ride all the time.