It’s been all over the Facebook and the Twitter, but the guys over at Orange Bikes have come up with an all new prototype downhill frame.
It’s not the first one we’ve seen from them – we saw a proto Patriot a couple of years back – and if you follow such things, you might have seen the bright pink Orange 225 prototypes under a few factory riders in the past year.
This is the Orange 322 – and although it’s not going into production just yet, it’s the bike the factory team downhill riders will be racing over the next season.
The 225 was the latest in the line of highly successful downhill race bikes dating back to the classic 222, which won plenty of World Cup downhill races under Steve Peat back in the day, but it also was the first major departure from the simple single pivot design of the 222, 223 and current production 224. Using a single pivot with linkage design a la Orange Blood and ST4, the aim was to get the rising rate end stroke shock curve designer Steve Wade wanted mechanically, rather than relying on expensive but tuneable shocks such as the Cane Creek Double Barrel.
As is the way with prototypes, the 225 threw up a few challenges. The linkage, designed to offer some mechanical spring rate ramp up at the end of the stroke, went through a number of redesigns after developing a bit of a taste for bearings – as well as being inherently more complex to maintain than the simple and bombproof single pivot designs. Some team riders, while finding the 225 a much more comfortable ride, didn’t think it was any faster than the 224 either.
After a while Orange realised they would achieve the end stroke ramp up they wanted without using a heavy and complex linkage, simply by mounting the shock much lower down.
That’s what’s created the 322 – the third generation of the original 222. Trivia fans will be pleased to know that the pivot position is based on Steve Peat’s World Cup bike.
Although the 322 is currently just a testbed and the frames seen here are destined for test riders such as Rowan Sorrell, Joe Barnes, Ben Cathro, Fraser McGlone and others, the new design does offer a number of benefits. Because the rising rate is built into the design, it’ll work just as well with simpler shocks such as the plain Fox Vanilla coilover rather than needing a more expensive shock to get the best out of it.
As the shock sits lower, the mass is also lower down and the position also means improved small bump sensitivity. Best of all, the new design knocks around 1lb in weight off the current 224 and Orange reckon it’ll pedal and track better than previous models.
Expect to see the Orange 322 being ridden in anger at the first round of the Halo British Downhill Series at Nant Gwythern on the 20th March. Matt has suggested that after his downhill racing success at the weekend that he’d be the ideal test pilot – we’re arranging a sponsorship package with Werther’s Originals and Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil as we speak…