The early incarnation of this hardtail wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet. Massive tube profiles and a build that looked fit to survive a small thermonuclear explosion emphasised its no-nonsense, hard-riding ethic, with a ride quality to match. For 2011 there’s still plenty of travel on tap – 140mm (5.5in) – but the Crush’s industrial heavy metal lines have been refined to make it more trailworthy.
The Crush wouldn’t be our first choice for epic back country trips, but for short, fast blasts, it's worth considering. There’s a lot to be said for putting the boot in on fun, fast and technical trails, even if the climb to the top is a bit slower.
Ride & handling: Fun playtime trail companion that likes to be ridden flat-out
Some manufacturers have embraced the trail/playtime dual purpose aspect of long-travel hardtails by building in a bit of extra length on the top tube. Not Orange though – they’ve stuck with a more purist approach and a compact rider cockpit that sacrifices some pedalling efficiency in favour of greater manoeuvrability. So in other words, a bit less trail and a bit more playtime.
Our 17in test model’s short top tube, steep seat angle, inline seatpost and stubby stem work together to make a ride position that gives you a real sense of sitting on top of the bike rather than between the wheels. That probably sounds like a subtle distinction. It is. In practice this means that the Crush’s rider doesn’t have as far to move – forwards or backwards – to weight or unweight the front wheel.
Less space to stretch out makes long climbs marginally more of a chore, but the flipside is an immediacy to the Orange’s steering that makes high speed rock-dodging a giggle-a-minute. Plus, low-rise bars and the forward-biased seat setup help move the rider’s weight forward, contributing to spot-on weight distribution and mitigating some of the rear end’s inherent rigidity by making the fork do more for its keep.
The Crush wants you to ride flat-out, and if you rise to the challenge you’ll be rewarded with some big smiles. What all these fast handling, compact frame shenanigans mean is that the bike encourages you not to take your trail riding too seriously. Instead, it suggests you have fun. If long day rides are your thing then you could think about buying the Crush in a bigger size to get a longer top tube, but we’re not convinced that’s the way to go.
Frame & equipment: Compact cockpit limits long-ride appeal; we'd prefer a through-axle fork
The girder-like construction of the early Crush variants may be gone but there’s no mistaking the new frame’s serious intent. Anchored to the flex-resisting tapered head tube up front, the deceptively chunky down tube flares towards the bottom bracket to provide a massively rigid central spine. An old-school, open-ended gusset provides belt-and-braces front end protection against damage from hard impacts, while a pair of Crud Catcher-compatible bosses reinforce the bike’s no-nonsense, practical roots.
The dramatically sloping top tube might look skinny in comparison, but its direct connection to the seatstays and the addition of a box gusset at the seat tube joint ram home the ‘stiffer is better’ message despite its slender profile. The Orange designers have steered clear of fancy stay shape-shifting, their round cross-sections providing plenty of rear end stiffness for stomp-and-go immediacy with – they claim – just a hint of extra comfort.
You’d expect a formidable bump eater to go with a frame that wears its rigidity so proudly on its sleeve. The Fox 32’s 140mm of air sprung, easily adjustable and buttery smooth travel doesn’t disappoint on the rock-swallowing front, though the effect of all the frame’s undoubted torsional efficiency is slightly spoilt by the standard front wheel quick-release’s relative lack of stiffness. It’s all too easy to find yourself barrelling straight into a rock garden at a sphincter-narrowing rate, only to see the front wheel knocked off line by an errant rock that wouldn’t even trouble a 20mm Maxle.
The Crush has a slick-shifting 10-speed, Shimano SLX and XT based transmission with close ratios and a wall-climbingly low bottom ratio of 22 x 36 teeth, while Avid’s Juicy 5 discs give plenty of bite and modulation after a short bedding-in period. Race Face and SDG provide rider contact points, and our only real gripe is with Continental’s Mountain King treads. They provide too little cushioning and not enough grip in greasy trail conditions.