The Orange Phase eMTB takes all the benefits of an Enduro Orange and injects it with the power of Shimano’s latest EP8.
I know that a picture or an Orange eMTB on the homepage, with its larger downtube and the low-slung motor, has probably been enough to trigger a few readers. Orange Bikes, is perhaps the most Marmite of all mountain bike brands currently on sale, but they’re showing no signs of changing and why would they? Anyone who has ridden an Orange will understand that the geometry is as modern as anything on the market, and any experienced Orange fan will be able to debunk any fake news surrounding the single-pivot suspension design. And surely a UK made alloy Orange is more interesting than a cookie-cutter carbon bike?
So as a little warning. The following review isn’t going to appeal to those of you who have already made your mind up about Orange Bikes without riding one. The following praise for this bike isn’t going to change a mind that has already been made, so go and read another review, we’ve got plenty of them.
But if you are Orange curious, or if you’re already rocking a juicy slice of Halifax alloy I encourage you to stick around because this zesty eeb is a hell of a lot of fun to peel around the Peaks!
Orange Phase Factory – Design
But it isn’t the prettiest, is it? I wouldn’t say it’s ugly, but it’s not the most striking ebike on the market and there really is no mistaking this EPO (Electric Powered Orange) for one of the traditional single-pivot bouncers.
I don’t want to take away from the work that Orange has put into the design of the Phase because it’s an incredible piece of engineering. The carefully folded tubes, elegant curves, even the fact that Orange has managed to fit a 504Wh battery into the downtube is impressive. Also, remember that Orange is making its bikes here in the UK and that many of the custom folded and welded tubes on each frame are size-specific, meaning that a huge amount of time and energy goes into producing each Phase.
Yes, they use a simple single pivot design, but the thing with Orange Bikes is the longer you look at the frame the more you begin to notice. Like how the top tube has a fold along with it on each side and is also curved. Or how about how the swingarm is constructed and how the lines meet perfectly from sheet alloy to structural shape. The Phase is elegant in its simplicity and proof that often, the most simple products are the most difficult to produce.
Really the integration of the Shimano EP8 motor and the BT8035 504Wh battery is very impressive, in my eyes, the design only gets a little ‘too much’ at the front end. With its oversize downtube connected to the top-tube via a very large gusset, the front end has a lot of metalwork. Purely from an aesthetic standpoint, the rear looks much better than the front and I wonder if removing that gusset would improve looks? That said, it’s probably there for a reason and once you’re on the Phase you’ll quickly put it out of your mind.
The large downtube is necessary to install the Shimano battery, but as far as I can tell the 504Wh in the Phase is the largest Orange could physically fit. Many EP8 powered bikes come with a larger BT8036 battery with 625Wh so I wonder if Orange will address this or if they’ll stick with the smaller battery for lower weight and better handling, a direction which Canyon chose for the new Torque:ON ebike.
Though it is smaller, the battery is removable, so you could purchase a second battery to carry with you on longer rides, and removal and replacement is easy requiring a 1/4 turn of a 4mm Allen Key.
Removal is also necessary for charging as Orange hasn’t included a charging port on the frame. This has its pros and cons. The pros being fewer parts on your bike and the ability to charge the battery away from the bike. The cons, well you have to remove the battery, but that just allows you the opportunity to clean the inside of the frame and check the battery terminals.
Attached to the battery is a metal plate that completes the downtube of the Phase for a neater finish and also protects the battery, more protection can be found around the EP8 motor in the form of a laser-cut bash guard with Orange logo cut into it.
The rear end of the Phase is the open triangle design that Orange is now using across all of its bikes, replacing the single beam design made famous with the Five. The rear end is designed specifically to run a 27.5in wheel and the whole geometry has been chosen to make the most of a mullet combo. This medium-sized bike has a generous reach of 467mm a steep 76-degree seat tube and slack 64-degree head angle, it’s also the smallest Phase size on offer, but the good news is you get a low-slung top-tube for tons of standover.
Orange Phase Factory – Build
If you scan through the specification of the Orange Phase Factory on the Orange website, or in the specification I’ve posted below, you’ll quickly realise that my test bike is a little different to the production spec. The reason for this is that this Phase was one of the original bikes used during the Shimano EP8 launch and at that time, and even now, many of the parts required to build this bike to spec aren’t available yet. This said I don’t believe any of the changes have impaired or improved the performance of the bike. For example, a production version of this bike ships with a Fox 38 whereas I have a Fox 36. The stem on my bike is a Renthal, while Factory bikes get a Hope stem. So I’m confident that my experience with the Phase is the same as you would if you bought one.
Kicking off with the motor and associated parts, these are all the latest Shimano EP8 kit meaning a more compact, lighter and powerful motor, a new control for shifting through the modes, and a new display. Being a Factory spec bike you get a lot of Kashima covered Fox too, with this model sporting a 160mm 36 Factory and Float X2 rear shock, plus Fox Transfer dropper post.
The cockpit on my bike comes from Renthal. It’s good quality kit but in the past, I’ve struggled to get along with the handlebar though I didn’t experience any issue with feel or fit with the Phase, but this is a comment on my preference rather than an issue with the components. Stopping the Phase in its tracks are a pair of Shimano XT brakes with 4 piston calipers. Shimano also handles the drivetrain with XT spec 1 x 12 gearing and a 51t cassette.
Wheels are Stan’s Flow rims built on to Hope hubs for a rock-solid combo that shouldn’t leave you stranded. Around those rims are Maxxis tyres, a 29er DHF on the front with a 27.5in DHR on the rear.
Orange Phase Factory – Geometry
|Seat Tube Length||17″||18″||19″|
|A. Head Angle||64°||64°||64°|
|B. Seat Angle||76°||76°||76°|
|C. Top Tube||616||635||655|
|D. Top Tube (effective)||625||645||665|
|E. BB Height (from ground)||343||343||343|
|BB height (from axles||-27||-27||-27|
|G. Head Tube||110||110||120|
|H. Wheel base||1248||1268||1290|
|O. Fork Offset||42||42||42|
|T. Rear Travel||160||160||160|
Orange Phase Factory – Ride
Anyone who disregards Orange Bikes based on their looks alone is missing out on a bike that can charge hard but remains surprisingly playful and nimble. Swinging a leg over the Phase feels like getting on any Orange Bike. The low top-tube and generous reach are all there, and once onboard you don’t notice the large downtube or the motor.
Orange has placed the power button on the top tube of the frame next to an Orange EPO logo. It’s a Shimano switch that matches the rest of the Shimano EP8 technology on the bike which adds to the peace of mind of owning the Phase and instantly opens up a large Shimano repair and support network, not only around the UK, but globally.
Because the Phase uses an EP8 you can turn the unit on with your foot on the pedal, don’t push too hard or it will throw an error (a simple on and off solves this) but it’s best to avoid the pedals when powering up.
What strikes you as you first ride the Orange Phase is your position on the bike. The medium-sized model that I have been testing is 22mm longer than the same size Canyon Spectral:ON yet the Phase doesn’t feel ultra-long thanks to a steep seat angle and slack front end. It’s Orange’s attention to geometry that always impresses me, they constantly manage to get the numbers balanced with both experienced and less-experienced riders instantly feeling comfortable out of the gate.
Though the Phase has 160mm of travel at both ends it’s an engaging ride that is as much fun on groomed trails as it is on rough challenging terrain, proven by how much fun the bike is around the trails of Grenoside and Wharncliffe. Take the Phase on the groomed features of Grenoside and it pedals efficiently with no noticeable bob. Orange has really dialled in their suspension, a benefit of constant evolution rather than building a completely new system simply for the sake of change. With a stable pedal platform and plenty of progression, you can easily get the Phase airborne even if this Factory build bike does weigh in at 49.14Lbs.
Yes, a nearly 50lbs eMTB doesn’t sound lightweight at all, but everyone who has ridden the Orange Phase or had to lift it over a fence or carry it up some stairs has commented on how much lighter the bike feels. I’m sure part of this is because the all-alloy construction and boxy design give off the impression that it might be heavier than it actually is, but I believe it’s mostly down to the position of the smaller 504Wh battery which balances the weight between the wheels and low in the frame.
In more challenging terrain, the Phase picks its lines through rough terrain with ease, giving the rider the option to push through or hop over the coming danger. The long front and slack head angle give even the most cautious of rider confidence to lean on the front and stay centred in the steeps to make the most of the larger 29er front wheel, though in winter conditions you will want to swap the DHF tyre for something with more bite.
Descending with the mullet set up ensures you have additional front end grip, with a shorter backend for whipping through corners, and you can certainly feel the Phase is keen to switch direction when you ask it to. Another benefit of a smaller rear wheel, especially on an eMTB, is the strength and reduction in weight. I was sceptical about mullets at first but with bikes as sorted as the Phase I’ve been won over, and while I might not be pushing the combo to its limits I don’t feel that it’s holding me back or that it has any negative effect on the handling of the bike.
The Phase really shines when at places like Wharncliffe which is littered with great tracks. On the powered Orange I can easily double the amount of downhill time I can enjoy on the Phase thanks to it’s powerful and efficient climbing, but where some ebikes only excel on the ups, the Orange is a true… well… Orange on the way back down again.
Orange Phase Factory – Range
A question that often comes up is what’s the range, and as always I’ll answer that question with a question of my own: “How long is a piece of string?”. Range is very much dependent on how you ride, where you ride, and the level of assist you use. With the Shimano EP8 motor the ability to tune the motor adds another variable into the mix.
Shimano claims the EP8 is 30% more efficient than an E8000 if used in ECO mode, but with 85Nm of torque on tap the newer motor does drain a battery faster than the 70Nm E8000 in Train and Boost and this is likely why we see many newer bikes with a larger 625Wh battery, but as pointed out above a smaller battery means better handling.
In my tests with the Orange Phase I’ve found that the 504Wh battery is good for around 1200m of climbing and up to 30km range, again this is very dependent on how and where you ride. For example, I managed around 1200m of climbing around 30km using ECO with 1 bar remaining but maintaining a cadence of 90rpm. Then again I’ve managed as little as 20km and 1100m of climbing in nothing but Boost, tearing around my local at top speed.
What this means is you’re not going to be able to head out on epic rides with the Phase and just 1 battery (well, unless you’re riding with a bunch of non-eMTB riders), but if you want to get a load of climbing and descending completed in just a few hours then this is where the Phase shines.
Orange Phase Factory – Any Problems?
My bike is an early launch example and I found that if I didn’t give the battery a good shove it could dislodge after a few rough runs downhill. There’s a latch on the battery which prevents it from falling out, so the battery is still connected and you don’t lose drive. A good shove ensures it stays in place.
After the first ride the lock ring which holds the chainring in place on the EP8 motor came loose. I’ve never had this happen before and I was disappointed to discover that the lock ring on the EP8 is different and much larger than the one used for a BB or disc rotor. The tool required to tighten this up is quite rare and pretty pricey at around £50 for a Shimano tool or £35 for a Park version.
The Fox Transfer dropper post didn’t want to extend fully. The dropper would extend most of the way with the last 1/4 of travel requiring a tug on the saddle. I’ve not had this issue with the Transfer post on my Izzo but have heard a few people having issues in cold weather. I also checked that the seat collar wasn’t too tight and it made no difference.
Orange offers a few options to customise your bike before you pick it up. These options include suspension upgrades and adding accessories, but what I would love to see it the option to change the tyres. Out of the box the Phase Factory comes with a Maxxis DHF front tyre, a great model for dry terrain but in UK winter slop it really lets the whole package down. For a lot of my time with the Phase I swapped the front wheel to that from my Nukeproof Giga test bike to benefit from the excellent Michelin Wild Enduro tyre fitted.
Orange Phase Factory – Overall
The Orange Phase isn’t the bike that you would use to clock up longer distances unless you invested in a second battery, but it’s most certainly the bike to turn your regular hill into your very own uplift. Use the Phase to pack a few hours of downhill into that precious lunchtime power hour, and ride it properly and you’ll still be working up a sweat and getting fitter both on the ups and the downs. Overall a truly sorted and well balanced eMTB designed to excel on UK trails and thrive in UK conditions.
Orange Phase Factory – Specifications
- Frame // 6061 T6 Monocoque UK Formed Custom Aluminium Tubing. Mullet tuned geometry. 160mm rear-wheel travel.
- Rear Shock // Fox Float X2 Factory 230 x 65
- Fork // Fox Factory 38 Float 160mm 29er
- Headset // Hope
- Shifter // Shimano XT 12-Speed
- Cassette // Shimano XT 10-51t 12-speed
- Chain Device // MRP 1 x E-Bike
- Motor // Shimano EP8
- Battery // Shimano BT8035 504Wh
- Display // Shimano EM800
- Control Switch // Shimano EM800
- Chainset // Shimano XT 165mm
- Rear Mech // Shimano XT 12-speed
- Chain // KMC 12-speed
- Brakes // Shimano XT Trail 203mm rotors front and rear
- Dropper // Fox Factory Transfer 175mm drop
- Saddle // SDG Strange Bel Air III
- Grips // Strange Grappler Lock-On
- Seat Clamp // Hope
- Stem // Hope M35 x 35
- Handlebars // Renthal Fatbar M35 800mm
- Wheelset // Stans Flow Mk3 + Hope Pro 4 hubs, 29er front, 27.5in rear
- Tyres // Front Maxxis Minion DHF 3c EX0+ 29 x 2.5, Rear DHR II 3c EX0+ 27.5in
- Size Tested // M
- Sizes Available // M, L, XL
- Price // £8795
- From // Orange
|Tested:||by Andi Sykes for 8 Weeks|