Today is the first day of the Bike Place Show in Silverstone and Orange is launching its new range of Stage 29er bikes, which we’re sure will go down well. In other news, though, it is also going to show a prototype bike from its ‘Strange’ skunkworks division – the part of Orange that sits around and makes the ‘What if?’ bikes to see if it’s worth going into production later. So, don’t take this as a definite, but judging by the smiles on the faces around the factory, if this proto goes down well, then you could see it on a trail near you by next year… Needless to say, the prototype was made at Orange’s Halifax factory, and if it went into production, that’s where those would be made too.
So what is it? Basically, it’s an Orange Alpine Six (previously the Alpine 160) that just happens to have a Shimano e-8000 e-Bike motor in it. The battery is integrated into an enormous box-section downtube and the Shimano motor is bolted to the bottom of it. From a suspension bike point of view though, it’s an Alpine. And unlike many full suspension bikes, there appear to be no compromises to the bike’s other dimensions. The suspension pivot and shock mounts are in the same position as on an Alpine 160, the chainstay length, BB height, standover and wheelbase is exactly the same as the non-motorised bike. The weight is obviously more – this first prototype comes in at around 50lb – but in our car-park test of the bike, that weight is imperceptible once you get going.
Orange/Strange has quite a coup in getting hold of a working Shimano e-8000 system. We know of many companies who are still working with ‘placeholder’ units that don’t actually work. This one definitely works! Strange has gone with the full Di2 option too because, as they said ‘Why wouldn’t you?’ – and this means that the gears are powered by the huge battery too. The Di2 display also shows the gear selection, range and battery level among other displays, while the left hand Di2 lever controls the bike’s three electric assist modes, plus ‘Off’ and ‘Walk’.
The idea behind the bike is that it’s meant to be a truly capable trail bike that just happens to have a motor. The designers see it as something you could ride up a lofty Lakeland mountain so you’re left with enough puff to really enjoy the descent. Or perhaps you could extend the range of your regular rides to do that hill, then the one after it and the one after that. Or perhaps you have a favourite descent, but you don’t like the 15 minute road climb you need to endure to do it again. Perhaps this is the ultimate uplift machine? We’ll see what you, the readers reckon. And, more importantly for Orange, if the people with the money to buy one are keen to order them in sufficient numbers.
We’ll bring you more reaction from the Bike Place Show this weekend where the bike is being displayed for the first time. In the meantime, what do you reckon? Finally an e-bike that looks like fun, or ‘Burn it with fire!’?