Orange’s short-travel ST4 has been overshadowed by their ‘so successful they can’t make it fast enough’ Five. It's been revamped for 2011, but it's still unlikely to steal the limelight.
Ride & handling: Neutral pedaller that loves to climb
The immediate impression is of a well sorted but unremarkable trail bike. The steering is quick and keen enough to chase tight singletrack lines or feather front wheel traction on ﬂat, fast tracks, and the frame is long enough for breathing space on climbs. It’s a lot more neutral in terms of pedal action than the simple swingarm Five too.
This means you rarely need to touch the ProPedal platform damping on the Fox shock, and traction is consistently good as far as the tyres allow. Less brake jack and travel mean it doesn’t pitch to and fro as much in stop/go moments, but it’ll still land a drop or suck up the odd big-hit ﬁne.
There’s deﬁnitely less of an interactive, permanently playful feel than on other Oranges. Twist and reduced stability from the steeper, non-tapered head tube mean it’s less conﬁdent on really steep or fast descents too. At 28.5lb (12.9kg) minus pedals, weight and effort are high for price and travel.
Frame: 'Detuned' chassis would benefit from tapered head tube
The most surprising, potentially controversial thing about the new ST4 is that Orange told us it’s been detuned to stop riders ragging it too hard. That means there’s a conventional rather than tapered head tube and a 120mm-travel fork limit.
The head angle is a quite conservative 68 degrees, and it’s topped with a cross-country length stem and mid-width bars. There’s still a big gusset under the head tube though, and the linkage plates have been beefed up as well.
Chunky rectangular chainstays have also been added to combat rear end ﬂex, though the seatstays are still skinny and braceless for maximum mud clearance. A machined horseshoe at the shock end and pivots above the big dropout sections complete the suspension circuit.
The overall effect is a 110mm-travel (4.3in) frame that weighs 200g less than the equivalent sized 140mm-travel (5.5in) Five. It also costs £90 more to cover the cost of the extra linkages and bearings.
Equipment: UK-proof toughness comes at a cost
Orange have matched this practical UK-made trail bike with similarly practical UK kit. Hope brakes and hubs are a highlight, with solid Mavic hoops removing any wheel worry. We’ve yet to ﬁnd Maxxis Advantage tyres an actual bonus, though, besides their relatively low weight.
The Fox open bath fork gets a screw-through 15mm axle to increase stiffness and nurture what traction there is.Transmission is an equally reliable Shimano SLX/XT mix, and the Race Face ﬁnishing kit is okay too. Considering Orange’s small volume production and the fact you’re getting a handmade UK frame, it’s not a bad price.