Orange Five Black: extended test ride | initial thoughts | review

As part of running this blog I have, just for you Dear Reader, secured access to a full suspension Orange Five for periodic review now and then [AKA: borrowing a bike now and then]. Now I do oddly fit the purchase demographic for a Five apart from one crucial element; no way would I ever spend £3,000 on a bike, let alone £3k on an entry level bike with boggo basic components. So this'll be an odd series of reviews with no ultimate point. I'm just going to ride it when I can get it, then report back. Hopefully the owner won't spot any negative comments or cynicism so I'll keep riding it.

My own hardtail bikes, just like my wife for some reason, hate me to mention the "Bat Fastard" phrase in their presence. But ever since I built my first bike, the Tassajara, I've had an eye on weight gain on my bikes. I didn't go mad on that build; SLX all 'round, Fulcrum Red Metal wheels, some carbon here and there, but the weight came in under 25lb. Since then every bike I've built has been lardier. My PACE came in at 27lb, getting porky there, but now I've actually handled an Orange Five I understand all about weight. That is one real heavy bike. Can you believe almost 32lb? That's just silly. The bike at the moment feels dull and lifeless unless pointing down something - in other words, 4/5's of any ride on it is potentially dull and lifeless. That's not on is it?

Apropos of nothing to do I removed and weighed the wheels, as you do, then compared them to my ancient PACE RC303, a bike with similar trail ambitions and, to a,point, demographic appeal. The wheels on the Orange came in at a full two and a half lbs heavier. The front wheel weighed more than the rear wheel on the PACE, and that has a cassette on it. The rear wheel on the Orange wasn't too far off the mass of both wheels on the PACE. OK fess up, I have Hope hubs with Stan's rims plus lightweight tyres, so £400 worth of bijou wheels, but even so. The Orange has really heavy wheels, excessively heavy, pointlessly heavy. Just removing and replacing those would get the weight down below the magic 30lb, and that's with a Reverb fitted. Luckily the Hope hubs have interchangeable axle standards so I can just use those each time I have the Five. To be fair, it's a faff to do, especially if the rotors don't fit first time around, but I'm not lugging 32lb around the trails, even on a freebie. But you'd be a bit hacked off buying a bike and then having to swop the wheels out instantly. Guess you could get some of those £200 tubeless jobbies from Superstar that everybody bangs on about?

For a Munter the Five, to my eyes at least, looks a nice bike. But then I did own a Klein Mantra for 16 years so what do I know? I think Orange have at last got the graphics right, thus taking the eye away from the swingarm and to more pleasing areas. The Black version has the kashima coated shocks that have been written and raved about so much, but a quick bounce test doesn't differentiate them on boingyness from the Pike 454 on my PACE, or the R90L on my Tassajara. Or even the Magura Menjas on my old Klein. Kind of looks like an easy way to remove £100 from somebodies pocket me thinks. The rest of the kit looks boggo basic, especially the Raceface crank - which looks as though it came off the Stephenson Rocket and not a 2012 bike. Another penny pinching area are the brakes, Elixir 5's. But then, to make a frame in Halifax probably costs ten times what it would cost in Taiwan and in buying a Five people are at least keeping UK manufacturing afloat, so hats off to them on that score. And as with my old Orange Clockwork there is a smattering of Orange branded kit which amuses. If it read "Bikehut" everybody would moan and junk it. But I bet they're of similar manufacturing origins, Bikehut and Orange branded stems and handlebars. Some kind of branding irony at work hee me thinks.

Anyway, not really ridden it and already I think it's overweight with poor components but highly specced shocks. Wonder what it'll ride like? I'm guessing slow uphill, OK once wound up along bridleways but planted on the downward facing bits. I'll try and borrow it soon for a proper ride out.