If you want a ‘play bike’ for mucking about on steep wooded slopes it makes sense to go to West Yorkshire. Specifically you go to Halifax and you go to the Orange bike factory.
- Brand: Orange
- Product: Switch 6 Factory
- Price: £6,600.00
- From: Orange Bikes
- Review by: Amanda and Rhys for Issue 146
In West Yorkshire there are two mountain bike approaches to getting through winter: cover yourself in GORE-TEX® and stick to stone packhorse tracks, or head for cover and try to ride down ridiculously slippery twisty tracks between trees. In case you hadn’t guessed already, the Orange Switch 6 Factory is very much intended for the latter approach. Oranges are designed to handle filthy conditions and rude riding styles.
The ‘switch’ in Switch 6 refers to the mixed wheel size nature of the bike. Up front is a 160mm travel 29er fork and wheel. Out back is a 145mm travel 27.5in back end and wheel.
The Switch is arguably not hugely designed for speed (there’s the full 29er Stage 6 for that). The Switch 6’s clear priority is cornering and rear-end standover and clearance.
The geometry is typically up to date. The 64° head angle can cope with pretty much anything it’s pointed down. The 76° seat angle, while not quite as steep as some, is genuinely and constantly 76° (straight seat tube) and is certainly steep enough with a bit of saddle rail shuffling. The reach is decent (467mm on the Medium size tested) and the BB is hella low at 330mm, very much an Orange trait that is prized by the brand’s many fans.
There are two things that put people off Oranges. The single pivot suspension and the water bottle boss positioning. The lack of respect the single pivot design gets in the fashion-led world of mountain biking is genuinely outrageous. Not only can single pivots be good, they can be freaking amazing. Don’t confuse simplicity with a lack of performance.
The water bottle issue is more of an issue, as pathetic as that may sound. At least modern Oranges do have bosses, albeit in the ‘dog shit zone’ of under the downtube. The answer? A Fidlock bottle with close-over cap.
Oh yeah, Orange full-sussers are still hand built in Halifax. That is quite amazing in this day and age.
The Switch 6 has all the usual enthusiastic single pivot Orange traits. The suspension feels pleasantly active in a beautifully simple way that reflects the engineering philosophy. The Fox Factory suspension allows the Switch 6 to track the ground beautifully, providing all the right feedback to keep the rider engaged and also comfortable in the knowledge that things happening at ground level are under control.
That response is critical to how the Switch 6 will make you feel. It’s a sublime balance between trail feedback and muffled impacts that keep you feeling engaged in every scenario. The combination of suspension design, damper tuning and progressive geometry results in a frankly terrific ride.
The combination of single pivot and air shock always seems to result in a bike with great pop. Where some bikes are more comfortable on the ground, the Orange loves a lip. The geometry balance between front centre and rear centre are perfectly judged to give excellent stability on take-off and landing.
Modern shocks have all but cured excessive pedal bob. This has allowed bikes like the Switch 6 to pedal and sprint sharply as the chain tension feels like it stiffens the suspension and power makes its way satisfyingly to the ground. Sure, if you leave the shock fully open for climbing it will bob. Like almost all bikes. The ‘Firm’ lever on the X2 shock is within easy reach if desired.
To dispel an ageing single pivot myth, ‘brake jack’ simply isn’t an issue. Every bike feels horrible if you choose to brake through a rock garden. Trying to slow your wheels and adding unwanted additional loads onto your fork and shock isn’t ideal when you want them to be absorbing rocky impacts. The 1,250mm wheelbase on the Medium Switch 6 means it’s crazy stable when braking in a straight line, even when plummeting down a sloppy death chute.
The smaller rear wheel is an interesting feature of the Switch 6. By that we mean there is nothing other than the obvious lower gear and additional booty clearance to hang off the back of bike to differentiate the Switch 6 and most full 29er trail-duro bikes.
The key dimension that we feel Orange may have missed a trick on is the rear centre length: at 447mm the Switch 6 has a longer back end than most and, therefore, doesn’t quite capitalise on the agility and ‘loves back wheel’ playful nature that a short back end can offer.
Other mullet bikes we’ve ridden have shorter back ends and are consequently able to manual and loft over stuff with much more ease. Such short rear centres allow for entertaining times controlling the back wheel. This is something the Switch 6 misses out on slightly because its back end seemingly prioritises stability.
If you’re expecting a manual-everything, berm-smashing, whip-machine, then something a little shorter and more playful might be appropriate. The Medium bike tested here is the smallest on offer and comparable to other brands’ Large.
Orange Switch 6 Factory Overall
In the context of a winter bike the Switch 6 is terrific. We slapped on a pair of suitably spiky tyres and surfed the slop until the cows came home. It’s ace.
The Factory spec is all top-notch with a great spec of Fox Factory, Shimano XT and Hope/Stan’s wheelset that will take wintery abuse with ease. The frame is elegant in its own way; there isn’t anything you could accurately describe as ‘box section’ anywhere to be seen and there are only two easy to change bearings to worry about.
The pliable suspension makes riding unpredictable surfaces a breeze with just the right amount of feedback. The progressive geometry is absolutely sublime and balanced to perfection.
The Switch 6 is a fantastic hardcore trail machine at home on all the usual leaves, ruts and slop you can find in a classic British winter.
Orange Switch 6 Factory specification
Frame: 6061-T6 Aluminium, 145mm
Fork: Fox Factory 36 Float 160mm 29
Wheels: Stans Flow MK4 rims, Hope Pro 4 hubs
Front tyre: Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO 29×2.5in
Rear tyre: Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO 27.5×2.4in
Chainset: E13 Helix 170mm 32T
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore XT 12-speed, 10-51T
Brakes: Shimano Deore XT Trail 203/180mm rotors
Stem: Hope 35 x 35mm
Bars: Renthal FatBar 35, 800mm
Grips: Strange Grappler Lock-On
Seatpost: Fox Factory Transfer Dropper 175mm 30.9mm
Saddle: SDG Strange Bel Air 3
Bottom Bracket: Shimano external cup
Size tested: M
Sizes available: M, L, XL
Weight: 14.6kg (32.2lb)
Head angle: 64°
Effective seat angle: 76°
Seat tube length: 431mm
Head tube length: 100mm
Effective top tube: 625mm
BB height: 330mm
While you’re here…
|Product:||Switch 6 Factory|
|Tested:||by Amanda and Rhys for Issue 146|