The Orange RX9 Pro is great for a quick hour ride, a blast along the bridleway, for training or for spending an evening bikepacking.
- Brand: Orange
- Product: OX9 Pro
- Price: £2,200.00
- From: Orange Bikes
- Review by: Rhys for Issue 140
This review first published in Singletrack World Magazine Issue 140
The RX9 first made an appearance in the Orange array of bicycles back in 2014 as a do-it-all drop-bar workhorse. For crushing the commute or bossing the local cross race it was an aluminium framed (from Orange? shocking I know…) machine with a couple of models in the range with mostly road spec builds other than the cyclocross wheel and tyre sizes for comfort and off-road performance when you needed it. The bike also came with a durable if undoubtably harsh aluminium fork.
he Romeo X-Ray Nine, as Orange has referred to it (maybe once, in its online archive), took a hiatus from the line up until 2019 where it returned reimagined with an all new frame and carbon fork design; fancy. Orange stuck with the workhorse theme but adding modern standards such as the flat mount brakes and bolted axles front and rear. Things in the drop bar world were starting to diversify a few years ago and Orange offered the bike with either 2x road spec or 1x for gravel/cyclocross types, or those just in appreciation of the simplicity a single ring brings to a bicycle.
Aside from the ‘where we came from’ history lesson not much has changed about the RX9 frame since its reintroduction. She’s a sturdy aluminium steed with a carbon fork, with an unusual but fit-for-the-brand 15mm front axle offering quite superior steering stiffness. Having ridden the occasional drop bar bike with a flimsy fork, this is something I came to appreciate about the RX9. The 100x15mm front hub is just something to be aware of in case you want to adopt the one-bike-for-all philosophy and have a spare set of wheels with alternative tyres.
The remainder of the frame and fork are all up to modern road/gravel standards with flat mount brake fittings, 142x12mm reax axle, three bottle cage mounts (if you consider the under-the-downtube one a realistic proposition) and the bike-packer friendly mudguard and rack mounts at the front and rear. Basically, everything you could want from a hardy versatile Groad™ machine (It’s not actually trademarked but I’m thinking about it…).
It’s worth mentioning that the frame itself isn’t cut, folded and welded by the bare hands of the hardy men and women of Halifax, but in the cycle super-factory that is Taiwan – nothing to worry about as the quality remains excellent. You might even say that there are some savings that have brought the RX9 range into a more realistically competitive price bracket for the type of bike.
The Orange RX9 Pro we have here is the delightfully hipster shade of ‘matt sandy playa’ has a one-by SRAM drivetrain setup, 700C WTB wheels with 37/40mm wide tyres and is mostly equipped with Orange’s in-house Strange finishing kit. I really fell for the colour of this bike. It had me imagining myself grovelling across the southern Spanish desert caked in dust, following mirages to almost certain death in search of water. Dire, yes, but adventurous no?
The SRAM Apex drivetrain seems to have become the go-to option for entry level bordering on mid-range gravel machines. Out of choice of the good value, consistently performing groupset or out of necessity due to supply issues? We may never know the reason. However we do know that the groupset works great with a 40T chainring and 11-42T cassette offering ample range of gearing for most things drop-bar friendly. The SRAM drivetrain is paired with an FSA crankset and BB; a mildly unusual choice but Orange seems to make a habit of pick n’ mixing groupset components and the FSA crankset did its simple job perfectly.
The WTB wheel and tyre combo is made up of ST i23 rims which are 23mm wide internally, intuitive name there WTB. The hubs are Strange (Orange’s in-house brand) and being honest they’re a slightly unknown quantity. Tyres are a 40mm WTB Raddler up front and a 37mm Riddler out back.
The tyres came with tubes in but with the addition of a pair of tubeless valves they were super easy to setup sans tube. The tyres come up to a handsome volume on the 23mm rims which helped with comfort and pinch flat resistance on rougher terrain. I’m a fan of the 40mm Raddler, its (relatively) deep centre tread works on all surfaces and doesn’t make things too difficult on tarmac. The 37mm Riddler out back is a strange choice when paired with the radder Raddler up front. Its shallower tread and marginally lower volume struggled for traction on wet surfaces, whether that be gravel, slippery tarmac or cobbles. I’d much rather see a pair of Raddlers on the spec list in search of traction and maximum comfort.
The cockpit and contact points on the RX9 are mostly Strange (Orange in-house, not just weird) with an excellent Prologo Scratch saddle to keep your bits comfy. The 420mm wide bars on our medium test bike were tastefully flared for optimum comfort and control. I can’t find an actual spec but they feel around the 12-16⁰ flare angle. Overall the shape of the bike felt great with the width of the contact points all well-chosen.
Frame sizing and geometry is fairly typical for the all-road drop bar world with a head angle of 70⁰ and a seat angle of 74⁰. The head angle is a smidge slacker than most road bikes and combined with a long-offset fork gives stable steering at speed.
The effective top tube length on our medium frame is 545mm where the seat tube is 520mm so be wary when choosing a size, you may be better on a size down if you’re borderline. The mountain bike ‘longer-is-better’ doesn’t apply to the drop bar world where you spend 99% of your time sat in the saddle; effective top tube is the measurement you should be using for sizing. I would ordinarily have chosen the small frame size so swapped out the stem on this medium to compensate for this test.
I pounded the Orange RX9 Pro around Calderfornia for several weeks on all the surfaces I thought it could handle, as well as some beyond its capabilities, you know, to find the limits n’ all. I usually had between 30 and 40psi in the tyres depending on the roughness factor of my planned ride.
The hardy frame and fork are great when it comes to getting the power down, the whole chassis really does feel sturdy and stable in all situations. This also translates well when it comes to handling on rough terrain (that bracket includes most UK and all Yorkshire roads).
The frame is stiff and responsive and the fork matches it for steering precision and braking stiffness. My first few rides were mostly tarmac based with some serious Calderdale cobbled action thrown in for good measure and the stiffness of the Orange had me worried for its comfort on UK spec ‘gravel’ (rough bridleways).
I needn’t have worried; the carbon fork retains the damping required to avoid vibration white-finger and the frame is not the bone-shaker aluminium chassis you might assume. In fact, I was suitable surprised with how the bike rode the rough stuff, Orange has clearly done their homework on tubing diameters and thickness and come up with a great compromise. The SRAM shift/brake levers lack the ultimate ergonomic competence that Shimano seem to have nailed with its GRX groupset. Braking on the hoods with two fingers underneath becomes a game of slowing down vs breaking fingers; although it only becomes a real issue when you need to apply heavy braking force on steep terrain when you should probably be on the drops anyway.
Braking performance from the road-spec twin piston calipers is OK. Not mindblowing, but they definitely work. I do sometimes get frustrated about the size of road groupset discs, pads and calipers as there tends to be a lot of braking to be done on long gravel descents. Something that can’t really be helped without the addition of suspension and flat bars.
There will undoubtably also be moments when you’ll yearn for a mountain bike style crawler gear if you try to pedal up a 25% bridleway, in which case you should probably have brought your mountain bike. Likewise, you might occasionally spin out the 40-11 top gear on the road; but you’re probably going fast enough not to worry about getting those few extra seconds to the café/lumberjack flannel shirt shop.
Although I’d happily pilot the Orange RX9 Pro on pretty much anything this side of rocky singletrack, the rigid nature of a gravel bike with 40mm tyres and general layout of the bike with dropped bars lends itself to a type of riding that involves a solid chunk of tarmac – where the aero riding position, relative light weight and efficiency really allow you to make progress while still having sufficient gearing and traction for off road excursions.
Just be warned if you’re a mountain biker heading for a gravel contraption to spice up your local XC loop, then an XC bike or hardtail may well be better suited. Conversely if you’re a roadie yearning for something to blast up forest tracks away from the traffic; the robust go-anywhere nature of a gravel bike is liberating.
As a mild Orange fanboy, I’m happy to conclude the RX9 delivered exactly what I would expect from the brand. A well-engineered tastefully hand-welded aluminium frame with a robust carbon fork built up to handle all that Yorkshire can throw at it. The Pro build spec we have here leaves a little to be desired on the spec list but for £200 more you can get the RS model which comes with Shimano GRX drivetrain and brakes, DT Swiss Wheels, Easton cranks and finishing kit. That’s the one I’d buy; and might well consider doing so too.
Orange RX9 Pro Specifications
- Frame: 6061-T6 Custom Butted OS Aluminium
- Fork: Strange Full Carbon Flat Mount Disc
- Headset: FPD 44mm/56mm zerostack
- Handlebar: Strange F-Bomb
- Stem: Strange Stalk
- Bar Tape: Strange EAV Gel Bar Tape Black
- Wheelset: WTB STi23 on Strange 700
- Tyres: WTB Raddler 40C TCS front, Riddler 37C TCS 700 rear
- Crankset: FSA Omega 40T
- Bottom Bracket: FSA Mega Exo
- Brakes: SRAM Apex Hydraulic
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM Apex
- Rear Shifter: SRAM Apex
- Cassette: SRAM PG1130 11-42 11speed
- Saddle: Prologo Scratch M5 AGX
- Seatpost: Strange Post 400 30.9
- Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large
- Size Tested: Medium
- Weight: 10.2kg (22.5lb)
This review first published in Singletrack World Magazine Issue 140
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