2012 Orange Five Black 26"er review. Fox RP23 bashing.

Been playing on and off for nine months on a special edition Orange Five Black. It's a fine bike and has limitations way beyond what I'll find. In typical UK fashion it is billed, and used, as an everyday trail bike with 140mm suspension. Winter hack? Sure, why not. Trail centre hero? Bring it on. It'll even do your average Sunday morning well enough. I've never noticed the alleged flex at the rear, have noticed the low slung bottom bracket, and do wonder why people don't moan about the lack of mud clearance more. Seems very, er, tight back there..... for want of a better phrase.

But until today I'd not bonded with it at all. No idea why, but there was no personality and on a lot of trails it seemed slower than my regular bike, a PACE RC303 or even my Gary Fisher Tassajara. It has never become my "go to" bike and I'm just as happy on an hard tail, and have ridden my PACE more. Seems to me that the rear shock, a Fox unit, is perhaps under-damped and never really settles down. Today, dry trails that have turned to dust, and a ramp up of the rear damping to factor 2 saw the bike come alive and it felt lovely, really confidence inspiring on what are effectively smooth trails. It still bounced around in the rough though. I'm not saying I was massively quicker, or even faster than I would be on the Tassajara even, but subjectively it all felt a touch better, say 5%. It felt together for once.

Can't put it down to tyres as it has sported a few sets, from full on mud to semi-slick, and all feel the same, give the same kind of ride feel / characteristics. Today, admittedly a borrowed bike, it came fitted with a 2.1" Racing Ralph rear and a 2.4" Nobby Nic front, an interesting combination I must say. The front, naturally, was way grippy and I was happy locking the front up under braking just about anywhere. Now that was a giggle, skidding the front. The rear was just as much fun - but I like a rear tyre to lose traction progressively at the limits [my limits!] and slide a bit. No idea why, but my guess is that it signals that I should perhaps consider what I'm doing and slow down a tad. This all comes from my motorcycling days, racing around London or Wales a slight slip from the rear indicated that things were getting lairy.

I blame the rear shock, not the tyres.

On a plus point the Avid Elixir 5 brakes are great, and the Reverb faultless. I hardly use it but when I think to, well it makes a big difference on some trails - none of that over-the-handlebars feeling on descents.

Funny but this morning has been my first day time ride on the Orange in ages. I've been out after 6pm on most of my rides for the past six weeks' or so. Not intentionally, just been doing things with the children as a stay at home dad until wife came home from work. Evenings have been my territory. And aren't night rides great? I've seen badgers, chased deer, loads of foxes, and have had bats play chicken with me. You see more and experience oddities at night; I love it. Oh and pubs instead of cafes, much better indeed. S'funny but I live pretty much on the North Downs Way, so you'd expect me to be up and down it all the time. In six weeks I've ridden it twice, even though I've been out a lot locally; five rides this week for instance. Rode it this morning over towards Box Hill and bits of it are just nasty. I almost got garrotted on some bramble. Does nobody but moi and OK cut this stuff? If it's nice Wednesday I'll have a bash at cutting back.

And you can sense that lovely autumn isn't far away. My favourite time of year; cold mornings but warm, clear days. I love a nip of cold first thing in the morning; wakes me up. There's just something about setting off on an initially cold ride, only to end it in a t-shirt.

So if you're not bonding with your 26" 2012 or 2013 Orange Five, have a look at that rear shock. I'm not hugely impressed with the Fox RP23, but at the same time I'm too tight to get a custom tune done on it. It's also suspiciously unreliable - been back to Mojo once this year for warranty work and the lock out lever is still temperamental. This is my third full suspension bike, and the one prior to this was a completely undamped Klein Mantra for fifteen years. I also owned a Californian downhill bike, but thats another story. So I've some slight experience with these suspension things; experience but working knowledge of suspension, no. Perhaps I'm being too hard on the thing or I'm being overly sensitive. Whatever, yesterday the bike felt really good. Playful and fun, it did what I wanted. Can you ask more of a bike than that?