New Orange downhill prototype…

by singletrackjon 33

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.

orange 322
Pretty in pink...

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 Orange 322 - the third generation of 222. The linkage from the proto 225 has gone...

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.

The unpainted 322 front triangles - look at the neat little shock cradle...

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…

Comments (33)

  1. Punched out cradle in the downtube for the shock is an old Giant trick isn’t it.

  2. A Werther’s liveried bike would be amazing..

  3. What happened to the neon yellow one that was on this post before?

    Did you get forced to take it down on H&S grounds after somebody gouged their eyes out in protest?

  4. That looks new and innovative and nothing at all like every other Orange ever made.

  5. mmm got to agree not really that much change

  6. but subtle change is good if your design is simple and sorted, right?

  7. I really think Ginsters, Anusol and Fray Bentos would be a sponsorship package more in keeping with the Singletrack ethic..

  8. Have Orange ever made a good-looking FS bike??

  9. Yes they have,but while the 5 rules the sales charts,then its prototype stage only.

  10. Didn’t see that coming. Oh wait. I did.

  11. Is the 5 really the top selling FS bike in the country?
    Orange always seem to make prototypes of bikes I (and others) really like the look of and then just re-release the old ones with subtle changes! arrrggghh!

  12. Orange 5 outsold Specialized Enduro – no way!

  13. I’d believe 5’s outselling the current enduro, though the best selling FS, surely not? perhaps a Trek Fuel EX, perhaps something else? I don’t know

  14. is it April 1st already?

  15. What i meant was that the Orange 5 is the biggest seller in the Orange full suss range.Love it or loathe it people keep buying it .

  16. and then just re-release the old ones with subtle changes! arrrggghh!

    Like Porsche’s then?

    What is interesting is Orange have tried Dh bikes with Pivots and in there opinion haven’t found anything better (or better enough) to require a linkage – I’m currently Orange free at the moment – and every time I am I feel a bit sad.

    Even by STW standard, massively negative views on something no one has ridden – Made by a British company that puts a lot back in to the UK Scene. I can’t wait to have ago ;]

  17. Don’t get me wrong I dont dislike orange bikes but I do feel that they’d do well with a linkage version of the 5, I’ve seen some lovely proto pics around. I’d really like an alpine set up as a mini DH bike (slacker please orange).

  18. I like it. They wanted to achieve something with the shock rate with a linkage, but then figured out a way to do it lighter, simpler, cheaper, easier to make, potentially more reliable without one. All round win IMHO. There was another engineer who was all about lightweight simplicity too. You might of heard of him. Colin Chapman?

  19. Simplicity is the most difficult design. I like.

  20. I have both a Caterham (designed by Colin Chapman) and a Five (and a Soul Cy!) both of which humble much more expensive and complicated designs!

  21. And Chapman’s cars didn’t break at all did they?

  22. because no one other than cotic make steel hardtails?

  23. Office Chair Misanthropes (TM)

  24. Well there goes my subscription

  25. I still like Orange frames but would never buy from them again

  26. ‘ but I do feel that they’d do well with a linkage version of the 5’

    eh? why have a linkage if it adds weight, complexity and maintenance issues with no discernable benefit. i respect orange way more for admitting that it did not make a significant difference.

  27. If linkages don’t make a significant difference whats the ST4 about?

  28. Is it faster? Is it lighter? Does it ride better? How does the suspension react under heavy braking?
    Does anyone actually win races of any significance on Orange Downhill bikes any more?
    I don’t actually care what the bike looks like, but when I’m spending that sort of money I’d want to have decent answers to those questions. Frankly, whether or not the £10 bearings last longer in an Orange than a Trek is not something that’s really high on my list of priorities on an expensive, high performance bike.

  29. OK; I almost never post comments, but I think Orange deserve better than the negative vitriol of some of the keyboard warriors here. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is whether or not it improves the performance of the bike. Every MTB suspension system is a compromised balance of competing requirements. None of them are perfect, they all have strengths and weaknesses dependent upon the priorities set forth in the design brief. No surprise that if you look under the backend of an MX bike they are all high single pivots driven by a linkage system, a lot of which look exactly the same as a Morewood Makalu arrangement. Why? Because we want the suspension to behave differently at different points in the travel (mechanical) under different conditions; and differently at the same point of travel (damping) for that matter. And then someone took the engine out and replaced it with Zebedee the pedalling rider who uses a chain that moves all over the shop to drive the wheel. If you thought automotive suspension designers had it hard! The weakness of the 224 has been the very linear (and even slightly falling rate end of travel depending on the position of the front of the shock). This makes it hard to dial in small bump compliance for traction without compromising the mid and end of stroke, or how it holds up under cornering loads, G outs and heavy landings. Yes, you can address it with custom tuned position sensitive damping but not even the CCDB does that for you (I use one). And of course there are better systems under braking. So will this improve the 224? I would expect so. Okay, a linkage offers more freedom to fine tune the curve but there’s a lot to be said for simplicity and durability. If Orange can get the desired effect without one they should be applauded. It takes more balls these days to refine something simple and proven than it does to invent new systems and acronyms to wow the market with promises often far in excess of reality. A bike is the sum of all its numbers and this is something Orange do very well with the 5, Alpine 160 and 224. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is how it rides on the hill. I’m not convinced about the pivot placement with respect to axle path and chain line, but maybe we should let the pros get on with it and see how it turns out? If you’ve ever been a first hand witness to Rowan riding his 5 downhill you wouldn’t doubt the capability of a simple single pivot backed up by a dialled frame and numbers. Bonkers quick 🙂 And yes, to qualify my opinion, I do ride a Strange prototype (not a 225, something else) and yes, the ONLY thing I would ever want to change on it is to give it a more progressive rising rate suspension curve. And no I’m not biased. I would buy a Mojo HD over an Alpine 160. In a world where people look to World Cup (significant?) races to judge a bike’s credibility perhaps the question should be whether or not a company the size of Orange can afford a WC race team with a top 10 rider roster? Now I sound like a keyboard warrior……..Doh!

  30. Well done Rob, you seem to have silenced the haters!

  31. wonder if they’ll put a carbon cover over the hole that will otherwise scoop mud and water up with reckless abandon.

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