We review the Orange Charger, an eMTB which takes the DNA of the Orange 5 and combines it with the power of the Orange Surge.
Orange has been building single pivot full-suspension bikes for as long as I can remember, and it is arguably best known for the Orange 5, a UK trail bike which lends its versatile DNA to the newly released Orange Charger e-Bike.
The Orange Charger is the third e-Bike from Orange and the second model in the newly revamped EPO range that kicked off earlier in the year with the long travel Orange Surge. Both the Surge and newly announced Charger run on 27.5in wheels, receive a new signature head tube gusset and use Shimano’s STEPS E8000 motor system. Interestingly, both new Orange e-Bikes still use the original BT-E8010 internal battery rather than the slimmer BT8035.
With the Orange Surge handling the long-travel side of the EPO range, the Charger has been introduced for riders wanting a little less travel, and a more playful ride. Travel on the Charger is 150mm up front and 145mm in the rear, in the case of our Factory spec bike, both ends are controlled by fancy Fox Factory suspension.
Our Factory spec bike costs £7,700, but there are three additional models in the Charger range, all using the new chassis and same Shimano electronics, but differing build kits to keep pricing down. An entry-level Orange Charger S will set you back £5,500, a Charger Pro sits at £6,300 while the RS starts at £6,800.
Orange will offer a few factory fitted upgrades if you fancy tweaking the spec out of the box, and as with all other Orange bikes, you can also choose a different colour paint job for an additional £100. There are nine colour choices to choose from in total, plus three decal options.
Since I seem to have become the resident e-Bike tester here at Singletrack, I was handed the Orange Charger late last week so that I could test the single pivot, 150mm travel bike on my local trails and get an early, first ride review up. As we’ve been given the bike super early we actually got the same bike that was used for the press release photos and it happened to be a large, which in Orange Charger geometry language actually means very long, more on that below.
With a few e-MTB reviews under my belt, I was keen to see how the Orange compared to similar bikes from Intense, YT and Commencal.
Orange Charger Review: Video
Orange Charger Review: The Bike
Like all Orange bikes, the Orange Charger is manufactured here in the UK and uses intricately folded aluminum sheets to make up the monocoque main frame and swingarm. The single pivot design means that all Orange bikes maintain the familiar Orange silhouette, but closer inspection reveals that there is a lot more to these frames than meets the eye.
Obviously, the Charger is designed to accept a Shimano STEPS E8000 motor and internal battery, but in addition, the front triangle and swingarm have both been re-engineered so that the extra weight and torque of the drive system won’t have any adverse effect on handling or the structural integrity.
Visually the most obvious example of this beefed up frame is the large gusset joining the top and downtubes, a design that we expect will appear on all future Orange EPO bikes from now on. Less obvious, but no less important, are the changes to the open swingarm that uses similar design and manufacturing methods to the Orange 329 downhill bike for added stiffness.
The large downtube is actually much slimmer than that of the original Alpine 6 E’s but hides that same BT-E8010 battery pack rather than the newer 8035 battery. Orange says that they could have gone for the new battery, but in reality, the actual size of the new cell wouldn’t decrease the diameter of the tube by all that much. There’s also the fact that the 8010 battery is readily available now so Orange didn’t need to wait before releasing the new Charger.
In addition to the battery, that large downtube also houses the brake hose, gear cable, and Shimano Di2 cable. Removing the battery, via the new key latch, also gives easy access to those wires and cables for simple maintenance.
One very flashy design point of the Charger is the polished stainless steel bash guard that protects the E8000 motor. Not only does this look really good, especially with the Orange logo cut into it, but it’s practical too. Using that big plate, you’re able to winch yourself over huge rock steps even in the steepest of climbs.
Orange is only offering the Charger in sizes M, L and XL and each of the bikes have some pretty impressive reach figures, luckily the standover of each bike is pretty low so that there’s plenty of scope to size up or down depending on your preference and riding style.
We were given a large Charger for review, and ahead of receiving the geometry table below were given a sheet of paper with the details on. Our paper lists the size large Charger has a reach of 488.5mm while a medium is 472mm, but the final numbers seem to have changed. This explains why in the video I state the ‘wrong’ numbers.
The head angle is a slack 65º according to the chart below (64.85º according to our pre-release specs), while the seat tube angle is an effective 75º. That seat tube isn’t the steepest we’ve seen, but the Fox Transfer post and Orange Strange/SDG saddle combo offers more than enough adjustment to get you into a comfortable and effective seating position to tackle every climb you could conceive.
Over the past few months I’ve tested quite a few new e-MTB’s and while Intense and YT has opted for a mullet approach to wheel sizing, the Orange Charger rolls on 27.5in wheels front and rear, and thankfully those wheels are wrapped in 2.5in (front) and 2.4in (rear) rubber instead of plus size tyres. The wheels themselves, on our Factory spec model, use Hope hubs and Stan Flow Mk3 rims, to create a fast rolling and tough wheelset that doesn’t add any unnecessary weight or drag to the ride.
This Factory spec bike also comes with some of the best suspension money can buy, in the form of a 150mm travel Fox Factory 36 up front, Fox DPX2 rear shock controlling the 145mm or rear wheel travel and even a Fox Transfer dropper, all with that luscious Kashima coating.
Orange has stuck with Shimano for the drivetrain and braking duties. The 1 x 11 drivetrain uses a Shimano Di2 rear mech that runs of the main motor battery. I’ve never really thought about having Di2 myself, but the more I use it on test bikes the more I’ve really come to appreciate it for its fast, crisp gear change that never misses a beat.
Being a big heavy e-Bike, the Charger comes with sensibly chosen Shimano Saint 4 pot brakes and large 203mm rotors front and rear, just the ticket for keeping the Charger’s speed in check.
Each Charger receives the same top of the range Shimano E8000 motor, but again, Orange has been smart and opted to use an over bar button remote for the motor modes rather than an underbar E8000 shifter. Not only is this neater, but it also gives space for an underbar dropper post remote to be fitted.
The final items of the build is a Hope stem, Renthal Fatbar handlebars and Orange Strange lock on grips. Overall an extremely well thought out spec list, with every item being proven to be reliable and perform well.
Orange Charger Review: The Ride
If you’ve already ridden a modern Orange 5 then you’ll be well aware of the agile and playful handling, well Orange’s designers have done a stunning job of transferring those excellent ride characteristics to the Charger.
The single pivot suspension might be simple, but at this point, it has evolved into an excellent platform which offers plenty of support when pedaling or pumping along your trail, while leaving enough travel in reserve to either blast through or leap over that pointy looking rock garden looming up ahead.
Combine this effective suspension platform with the updated geometry and we have one very capable machine. The longer reach, longer than I would usually go for, really lets you lean over the front of the bike, while the generous wheelbase gives the Charger a supremely stable feel in the rough and rocky stuff.
Over the years, I’ve ridden plenty of e-Bikes and while all of them are pretty heavy, the tell of a good e-MTB is one that rides lighter than it’s weight would have you expect. Our large, Factory spec test bike fitted with a set of Shimano Saint flat pedals weighs in at 53.28lbs, hardly lightweight, but once you’re in the saddle you instantly forget it weighs so much.
The progressive suspension ensures the Orange Charger is keen to take to the skies if you want to launch over that slimy looking root section, while the smartly specced wheel and tyre combo mean you don’t need to worry about getting rowdy, but you also don’t need to deal with excessive drag or rolling resistance.
Climbing on the Orange Charger is pure fun. Again, that single pivot suspension is proven to be an efficient pedaller and not once did I feel the need to flip the climb switch on the DPX2 shock. What I did find myself doing though is looking for steeper trails, new climbs and even testing myself riding up trails that I would only normally descend down.
I’m sure the comment section of this review is going to be filled with people complaining about the look of the Orange Charger, I actually like the way it looks, but really what does that matter when a bike can make you smile mile after mile, descent after descent, climb after climb?
What about range? Well, how long is a piece of string? I generally get around 30km from a Shimano 504wh battery riding in the Peak District, I actually stretched that to 32km on the Charger with a little power to spare. Then again in the Alps with the same Shimano motor and battery, I can do 30km or riding and still have 2-3 bars left. It really all depends on where you’re riding, how you’re riding and which modes you are using for climbs. Riding by myself I tend to Boost up climbs more often as I want to really see how fast I can go, but I suspect in a group ride I would use Eco more often, thus extending the range.
As we only received the bike a few days ago and have only been on a couple of rides we haven’t seen any cause for concern yet. That said I would be interested to see how long the plastic charger port cover lasts. The plastic material is stiffer and less flexible than some of the silicone covers found on rival bikes, and I wonder if the tight fit could loosen off over time?
I also wonder how well the bearings in the single pivot suspension system will last? Everyone in the office loves the fact that Orange bikes are super simple to work on and that the lack of bearings and linkages help to prolong the life of the suspension in our wet riding conditions, but will the extra weight and torque from the Shimano STEPS motor mean that they will need replacing more frequently?
3 things that could be improved
- As mentioned above, I wonder if the water/dust seals on the battery could be made of silicone for better longevity and sealing?
- I managed to cut myself on the stainless steel bash guard. I didn’t notice any burrs or sharp edges but I wonder if an even more rounded edge would be a little safer?
- The main power button and battery indicator lights are on the downtube of the bike. Some riders might prefer them to be more easily visible. Perhaps on the top of the downtube.
3 things we loved
- Fun, playful and poppy ride.
- Rides and rolls much like a non-assist bike when on flowing trails, meaning it’s extremely easy to keep moving.
- Clever specification. Big Saint brakes make so much sense on a heavy e-MTB that’s designed to be ridden hard.
Orange Charger Review: Overall
The Orange Charger is the type of e-MTB for riders who enjoy their bikes to be agile and engaging. The 150mm of single pivot suspension retains that lively Orange feel of non-ebikes while the powerful Shimano STEPS motor enables you to take that extra climb so you can enjoy the ride back down again. Of all the e-Bikes I’ve tested this year, the Orange Charger is by far the most playful and fun to ride so far.
Orange Charger Factory Specifications
- Frame // Alloy with 145mm travel.
- Fork // Fox Factory 36 Float 150mm
- Shock // Fox Float DPX2 Factory 230mm x 57.5mm Metric Rear Shock
- Motor // Shimano STEPS E8000
- Battery // Shimano BT-E8010 internal
- Hubs // Hope Pro 4
- Rims // Stan’s Flow Mk3
- Tyres // Front Maxxis Minon DHF EXO 27.5 x 2.5, Rear Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO, 27.5 x 2.4
- Chainset // Shimano E8000
- Rear Mech // Shimano XT Di2
- Shifters // Shimano XT Di2
- Brakes // Shimano Saint 203mm rotors front and rear
- Stem // Hope
- Bars // Renthal Fat Bar 35
- Grips // Orange Strange
- Seatpost // Fox Factory Transfer 150mm Kashima dropper seat post
- Saddle // Orange Strange SDG
- Size Tested // L
- Sizes available // M, L, XL
- Weight // 24.17kg / 53.28lbs with pedal
- Price: £7,700
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