Orange P7 S Recon £1284

Steel stalwart mans up for 2010

BikeRadar score 4/5

Passing the latest  European CEN safety standards has made Orange’s steel stalwart heavier and slower, and as a bare frame, it’s expensive. The sprung frame feel, enhanced fork control and sorted handling mean it's a truly inspiring alternative ride on technical trails, though.

Ride & handling: Surefooted, high-control bike that’ll make you want to push it

Control is what Orange are all about and the P7 is certainly no exception. The 680mm bar isn’t particularly wide but the short 75mm stem that holds it puts lightning-quick reflexes and easy direction change into the palms of your hands.

The slack head angle keeps it tracking well when you don’t want to turn and also increases confidence on steep descents. Add the shock absorbing spring of the steel frame plus the composed control of the RockShox Recon fork and, when steps or rocky chutes are on the menu, the P7 makes mincemeat of most of the competition.

The fact that the P7 distorts and smears slightly under load rather than chattering over the surface like an alloy bike gives it a real traction edge when it comes to pushing the pace through tight singletrack. The sprung ride and stiff Race Face crankset add a squirt of muscular speed into the exit of every corner, compression or kick-off from a lip.

The acceleration doesn’t last long though due to the overall mass, so be prepared to tough it out if the climb is a long one. Otherwise the weight is only really obvious when you have to hoy it over a stile or schlep up something unrideable.

Frame & equipment: Sweetly balanced trail-ready frame on a good value bike

The air-hardened Reynolds 631 steel frame is a break from the ranks of identikit hydroformed alloy bikes in both appearance and ride character. Steel feels different because its better fatigue properties mean it can be used in smaller tubes, which flex and spring more easily.

Reynolds’ latest steel alloys (853 and 631) add the neat trick of increasing in strength around the welds where ferrous frames normally weaken. At 2.7kg (6lb) the P7 frame is a hefty piece of kit though, and complete bike weight is quite high at just under 30lb.

It’s designed to handle a long 140mm-travel fork, and if you really get into your radical riding, the downhill-style ISCG bottom bracket chainguide mount will come in handy. Sliding dropouts make the process of going singlespeed much simpler, as they let you take up chain slack without adding a roller or other additional device.

There’s ample mud room even for 2.4in tyres and Orange's Halifax-based designers have provided Crud Catcher mudguard mounts. The ‘S’ is the basic P7 model but you still get Race Face trim and a cracking wheelset.

Orange offer a wide range of component upgrades too, and ours came with a RockShox Recon 351 fork rather than the standard Tora. It costs an extra £105 but adds 10mm of travel and all-important Motion Control damping.

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