The borrowed 2012 Orange 5 Black review.

Every so often I get to borrow a 2012 Orange 5 Black Special Edition - limited to 100 units no less. Although I noticed recently that they've re-issued it at £3,200. So much for being a limited edition then.

Anyways, first time I've ridden it in the dry since last having it two month's ago back in March, so how is it?

Firstly it's not as lardy as when I first met it. Apparently it is now down to pretty much 29lb dead on even with a Reverb fitted. That's not bad for a 140mm bike but a bloody apalling statement of the original build. £3,200 and then you have to upgrade the wheels and tyres? What are Orange on? The bike now has the obligatory £200 Superstar wheels with Stan's rims and a set of Nobby Nic tyres with a tubeless conversion [20psi in today]; 2.1" rear, 2.25" front. It also has a Reverb and carbon fibre handlebars, and has gone to 2x10 gearing. That Tioga saddle is still there. Mudguards courtesy of Mucky Nutz. They seem very effective.

What a difference it has made. Originally the bike was quite sluggish and no fun at all. The as new weight was 32lb+, and it seems all of the excess mass is in the cheap no-name wheel and solid rubber tyre combo fitted by Orange. Today the bike was lovely to ride, and actually quite nippy. Surprisingly so. I've been out on my own 25lb Tassajara of late, on the same trails, and I didn't really notice the additional mass of this bike. Indeed this is a fast old beast and got me into some trouble with an horse. I also overtook some guy going down Stane Street into Mikleham and he wasn't hanging about*. This is a machine that just wants to go fast, and that's it. Pootle? Forget it.

It even seems to climb well. Up Box Hill I managed a sub 8 minute time, so the new mass isn't an issue at all.

The Reverb? I've not got one of those on my bikes and it showed; I hardly used it. But when I did, on the downhills I didn't notice it, always a good sign. What was really lovely was getting to the start of the next rise, pushing the button and having it return to exactly the right height. That was nice, but worth £300? Perhaps at a trail centre.

So at £3,200 and in need of new wheels and tyres would I buy it? No chance. It's a lovely bike but not at near £3,500 it isn't. I saw a BMC 160mm Enduro bike reduced in the Evan's sale down to £1,400 recently. That's perhaps the amount that the Orange depreciates by instantly. No brainer isn't it? The BMC was a stunner at that price. Although saying that Orange shift a fair few of these things so there must be people who think them good value, even with the need to upgrade the lower price [!] models. To be fair the thing seems reliable enough. Now five months old it's not had a thing done to it other than a rear set of pads - they lasted a good 70 miles before giving up. I'm not impressed by the finish though; this one is scratched up and other than when I thrash it, it's a pampered show Queen.

Personally for me it's too much for Surrey. Too fast. It needs big mountains or open trails. Sure I had fun, but no way did I stretch it. On one drop down Stane Street there's a rooty section; two lips around 2.5m apart. On my own bikes I jump one, then the next having lined the bike up again. On this bike if I'd had the nerve to do so I could have jumped off the first and cleaned the second. Speed is there to be had quite easily, especially if you pump the trail. My PACE RC303 is a lighter bike by 2lb but nowhere near as fast in my hands. I'm perhaps an average rider at best, and I certainly don't do proper jumps, drops or bermed corners. On the Orange I'd get to the bottom of a bit of trail having hopped, dropped and railed my way down. It's that kind of bike. I still maintain that for most of Surrey an hardtail with decent front suspension is all the bike you need, but for high days it's nice to have a susser to play with.

*He appeared to be wearing headphones so overtaking was a bit of an issue. He only noticed me as I passed. And pass I did, at perhaps twice his speed.