Orange Bikes shouldn’t need any sort of introduction. The brand has played a major part in shaping mountain biking and the bikes that we ride. The first Orange full suspension bike was the X1 and was launched back in 1996. Although that first bike was made of steel and had a URT (Unified Rear Triangle) design it was a single pivot design, something that Orange has remained well known for over the decades.
And that’s part of the appeal of Orange bikes. Having the very minimum number of bearings in a frame makes it attractive to home mechanics and anyone who rides in wet, muddy, gritty UK conditions. That isn’t to say Orange hasn’t experimented (See Orange ST4 and Orange Blood), but it has always come back to the simple design that we know today.
The Orange Four was first released in early 2016, and like the longer travel Alpine 6 and Stage 6, the Four has a split-stay swingarm. whereas the classic Orange Five and newer Stage Five elect for the characteristic monocoque swingarm (that’s a little tip for anyone having trouble telling various Orange bikes apart).
The Four is the shortest travel Orange full suspension bike available with… 4.7in of travel. Yup, the bike might be called the Four but it actually has 120mm of travel, which is almost 5in (The Orange 5 has 140mm travel, 5.5in if you’re wondering). This is important to point out as many riders look at the Orange Four as being more of an XC oriented bike than the Five, but in reality, the Four is adorned with more travel than most expect and (as we’ve found out) is a much more capable bike too.
Orange likes to spec its bikes with slightly more travel up front than the rear. On our review bike, there’s a Pike RCT3 Solo Air with 130mm of travel that’s is plugged into a 67º head angle, which puts it on par with modern ‘short travel’ bikes from other brands.
A 72º seat angle puts you in a good position for putting down the power when seated on the climbs, and Orange has been generous with both the reach and standover clearance. We’re seeing lots of manufacturers build in lower standovers on their bikes, as this lets riders choose their size based on the reach measurement, then fine tuning the fit with the right stem length and dropper post travel for their riding style.
At 178cm I would normally choose to ride a large, but our medium test bike still gave me plenty of top tube length while allowing me to extend the dropper to the correct height for cranking uphill. With the seat dropped, the medium bike is almost BMX like making it a fun bike to throw around.
Interestingly my 10-year-old son is able to ride the medium Orange Four too, and although a small would be better, it proves that Orange has designed a frame that is hugely versatile and adaptable for riders of all shapes and sizes.
A simple single pivot design is at the heart of the Orange Four, but just because there are minimal bearing and no fancy links driving the shock doesn’t mean that the Four is an unsophisticated bike. Sure one Orange full suspension bike might have a similar silhouette to another but those of us with an appreciated for design and manufacture can see the time and effort that has gone into building the frame.
Orange doesn’t buy its tubing pre-made, instead each Orange full-susser starts out life as a few sheets of alloy, which are cut to shape, folded and welded. Early Orange bikes were quite simple, but the current range has far more going on than first meets the eye. Once you start to snoop around the frame you’ll soon discover neat points that even the most diehard of Orange nay-sayers have to admit are extremely neat.
Anyone who takes the time to appreciate the Orange Four might be surprised to see that the folded tubes aren’t actually simple shapes but extremely complex feat of mechanical engineering. The top tube, for example, has a slight curve to it to improve standover height but also the cross section isn’t a flat shape but similar to the profile of a mushroom.
The intricate folding continues on along the downtube with two creases that start at the head tube and meet each other towards the bottom bracket area.
More folds and creases are evident on swingarm too, which also features a slightly curved seat stay to match the aesthetics of the main triangle. CNC machined alloy components are used for areas such as the dropouts and shock mounts.
The amount of engineering and design that has gone into folding and bending the Orange Four’s tubing, even before the welding begins, is stunning. It’s even more impressive when you remember that each of these full suspension frames is handmade in the UK.
The bits that aren’t made by Orange have been carefully selected instead to create this RS build of the bike, plus a few upgrades. A standard Orange 4 RS would come with Hope Pro 4 hubs built onto Mavic XM624 rims, but our test bike came with the optional upgrade to Raceface ARC 27 rims with custom decals to match those on the frame.
We also got an upgraded dropper post in the form of a RockShox Reverb which is a £80 optional extra over the standard KS Lev dropper that usually comes on the bike.
All the rest of the kit is what comes spec’d by Orange for the standard RS build and includes Rockshox Pike RCT3 Solo Air Boost forks with 130mm travel, and RockShox Monarch DB RT3 184 x 44mm rear shock.
SRAM also provides the braking on the Orange Four RS, and we have a set of SRAM Guide R brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear. The SRAM checklist continues with an X1 carbon crankset, X01 Carbon rear mech, 11 speed GX1 shifter and SRAM PG1150 10-42 11spd cassette. If you wanted 12 speed Eagle you would have to go for the more expensive Orange Four Factory with Fox suspension from £5300.
The standard build kit also has SRAM bottom bracket, Cane Creek Headset but you can choose to spec Hope models instead. There is also an option for a chain device if you felt the need too, but during our time with the bike, we didn’t drop the chain once.
Fellow UK brand Renthal gets a look in too and supplies the Orange Four with its excellent Ultra Tacky Lock On grips, Apex M35 50mm stem and 800mm wide M35 Fatbar with 20mm Rise.
The final pieces of the build include an Orange-branded SDG saddle, Orange Strange QR seat post clamp and a pair of Maxxis High Roller II TR EXO tyres.
There is nothing in the specification that we would want to upgrade, and even in its standard format without the optional upgrades, the Orange Four RS has a solid componentry line-up.
After months of riding multi link full suspension bikes and hyper machines made of exotic materials, I was extremely eager to swing a leg over the alloy Orange Four and experience the single pivot rear suspension.
Off the bat, it was obvious that the Orange Four is a sprightly machine eager to change direction in a heartbeat and equally at home hopping over obstacles or ploughing right through them. This I was not expecting. Before I rode the Four I already had a mental idea of how it would ride i.e sprightly and lively and I wasn’t disappointed, but what I didn’t expect was that this short travel bike can act like a bit of a bruiser when you want it to.
Sure the 120mm rear travel looks short compared to the ‘Enduro Norm’, but the quality of the travel made up for where it lacks in millimetres.
Initially moving from slacker and longer travel bikes there were times that the sheer speed of the Orange Four did scare me. Would the steeper geometry and 130mm travel forks happily smash into the rock garden or would I be ejected over the bars? My being scared though has nothing to do with the Orange Four or how it handles, it was all about me panicking and thinking I needed more travel than I actually do.
In fact, after a few hours on the bike, the Orange Four felt much more stable and planted in fast-paced, rocky, rooty, sketchy trails than some longer travel bikes. Where as some of the longer travel bikes felt a long way from the trail, the Four hugs the ground and with a lower centre of gravity, happily lets you chuck yourself through lines with confidence.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be as fast or comfortable on big mountain ride than a longer travel bike, but the Four can do everything that the big bikes can do, but at the same time feel playful and keen for more.
When I wasn’t hitting long downhills and rocky trails I was riding to them which means a lot of sitting down and spinning the pedals, the Orange Four does this exceptionally well.
Although the Monarch rear shock on the bike does have the option to firm the suspension up with the lockout lever, I didn’t once feel the need to use it. I actually spent an extraordinary amount of time simply watching the rear shock when riding, amazed by the amount of support the rear end gives you.
Sitting and spinning along a smooth trail or up a fireroad on the Orange Four gives a similar feel to a hardtail in that every ounce of energy you put into your pedal strokes makes its way to the rear wheel. There is no bob or squat, yet when you hit a bump the suspension is there to smooth things out. My only issues with climbing the Four were on large steps where the bike tends to ‘fold’, meaning the occasional pedal strike, but to be fair most bikes would catch in a similar fashion too.
The Orange Four performed faultlessly throughout my time on it. The single pivot suspension and a minimal number of bearings mean that when it comes time to service and overhaul the rear end it should be easy and relatively cheap. The thick powder coated finish is very hardwearing and even when it does start to show its age you can always send your frame back to Orange for a repaint.
As with the frame and hardware, all the components worked and lasted as well as we have come to expect with just two exceptions. 1) I managed to put a slight dent in one of the Raceface rims, but this was on an extremely rocky downhill, and 2) The rear shock had a fault with it early on in the review, but this was repaired and has worked trouble free since.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- Not a complaint about the bike design, but my choice of size. I would have felt a little more comfortable on a large for longer days in the saddle.
- If you currently ride a multi-link suspension bike you may need to adapt your climbing style as the Orange Four can sometimes ‘hook up’ on edges when climbing.
- I also found that pedal strikes when climbing was possible. A longer bike, I believe, would have helped put me in a better position and allow me to have a little more body weight forward.
Three Things That We Loved
- I loved the playful nature of the bike. It’s the type of bike that can add a little fun to every trail and is eager to pump over and hop off everything in sight.
- Incredible stand over height means there is a lot of scope for riders to fine tune the fit of their bike. Choose the frame based on your preference in length and add a dropper post to suit.
- Surprisingly capable suspension and geometry. While the Four looks like the baby of the Orange range, the bike is surprisingly capable. It’s a fast descender and will keep you in touch with riders on bigger bikes.
The Orange Four is one of the shorter travel bikes in the Orange range, but even if you’re all about getting as much travel as possible, that should not put you off. Though the travel is less than some of the more commercially popular bikes out there, the Four has quality travel which really is more important than the amount of travel at the end of the day. When you’re able to hit the same lines as you would on a 160mm travel bike, still feel fast and constantly have a grin on your face then something has got to be right hasn’t it?
Orange Four RS Specifications
- Frame // 6061-T6 Monocoque UK Formed Custom Aluminium Tubing.
- Fork // RockShox Pike 130 RCT3 Solo Air Boost
- Shock // RockShox Monarch DB RT3 184 x 44mm
- Hubs // Hope Pro 4 Boost
- Rims // Raceface ARC
- Tyres // Maxxis High Roller II 2.4in Front & Maxxis High Roller II 2.3in Rear
- Chainset // SRAM X1 Carbon 30t
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // SRAM X0-1 Carbon 11spd
- Shifters // SRAM GX1 11spd
- Cassette // SRAM PG1150 10-42 11spd
- Brakes // SRAM Guide R 180mm rotors
- Stem // Renthal Apex M35 50mm
- Bars // Renthal Fatbar M35 20mm Rise 800mm
- Grips // Renthal Ultra Tacky Lock On
- Seatpost // Rockshox Reverb Stealth 150mm
- Saddle // SDG Strange Bel Air 2.0
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // S, M, L, XL
|Price:||£4430 (with optional upgrades)|
|Tested:||by Andi Sykes for 4 Months|