Orange Five Black 26" - first impressions.

I get to borrow an Orange Five now and then and have decided to write up my opinion of the bike when I get the chance. Hopefully it'll be an honest review, unlike some of the magazines....

Firstly let's get the negatives out of the way.
  • It's too heavy at 32lb. A fair bit of this is in the cheap wheels and tyres.
  • Avid Elixir 5. Enough said.
  • Raceface cranks. Seems odd having a triple set up on this bike.
  • Doesn't feature the newer clutch rear mechs.
  • Maxxis Advantage tyres seem odd. Just don't like mud.
The weight isn't a huge issue once moving but you do notice it going uphill or when wanting to get a move on on the road sections. Out with AD the other day, he accelerated to catch some roadies up, both of us assuming I'd do the same. The bike didn't want to play ball and took some time to accelerate up to speed. AD made 100m on me easily. Once up to speed it was fine, just took some effort to get there. The offset being that the added mass gives some stability downhill, but really it is just additional unsprung mass that shouldn't be there in the first place.

The rear mech is still a nice XT unit, but it would have been better with an SLX clutch version. This would allow for the easy changing of the front chainset to a 2x10 or 1x10 setup. The Raceface cranks are OK but a little wider than Shimano.

The good bits......

It's an Orange Five so reliability shouldn't be an issue, plus there are no silly bearing sizes to worry about. And once the wheels have been swapped out at some point the bike will fall below the magic 30lb barrier.

How does it ride then? Actually quite good. You don't really notice the mass too much, especially when up to speed at which point the bike comes alive. It doesn't like going slow this bike. Step the game up a bit and it all makes sense, especially downhill where the slack angles make up for it being a miserable climber. You tend to forget all the negatives once half way down some fun hill. With lighter wheels it'd be fun everywhere. I guess wheels and transmission are consumer durables now? In any case it's always better to have a good frame and suspension to start with.

As mentioned it doesn't like going slow at all. I measured it against my own go-to bike, a PACE RC303 and it is a good 12cm to 15cm longer. You can literally feel this length in the slower corners, where it is very barge like to turn. The PACE also has 140mm forks fitted, so the effect isn't down to that.

Quite a few people moan about brake jack on single pivot bikes. I owned two single pivot bikes myself in the past and can say that until you've ridden a Klein Mantra, then you know sod all about bake jack! That thing used to lose a good 30cm in the wheelbase when the rear brake was applied. The Orange? Never noticed it at all to be fair.

The bike comes with a 3x10 set up which is pointless. I guess the Raceface crankset was cheap. It doesn't need all those gears. I'd rather see it come with a single 32T front ring and some kind of basic chain device than the triple front. I believe the new 29er features the same spec. Pointless really. Not my rig so I'll have to live with it.

Not being able to fit a crud catcher is an irritation, and the bike had a rear fender fitted. On even small jumps the ear tyre buzzed this, no matter how high I moved it.

Overall it is a really fun bike. I like it but can't see it being worth £3k against the competition, not if it was my money to spend. Have you seen the new Norco's at Evans cycles? They look much better value, but then you're not employing an English welder are you? With the Orange you'd just really want to be buying into the brand - buy a new bike and swap out the wheels, tyres, brakes and transmission? Bit silly isn't it. £2,500 on a well specified Norco, or £3k then £1k on upgrades for the Orange?

Actually the Orange may well be the better bike even at the higher price point for lower specification. The Norco uses tons of bushes and bearings; got to be near £150 to swop that lot out when they wear. I've also read that the bolts holding the thing together aren't that good a grade material and round off easily. And the Orange isn't the only bike with heavy wheels - most manufacturer's will have to compromise here, and if you want to run tubeless you'll swap the wheels out on most bikes anyway. Indeed looking on the forums it seems that riders these days accept the compromise in specification, and many are indeed happy to swop out just about everything on a bike. If the Orange Five stated at £2,400 instead.....