Orange's Gringo 2 or G2 has been the baseline of the Halifax firm's MTB range for several years and is available with the option of a rigid fork. Is the idea of no suspension extinct or does it make an excellent no-sus no-fuss winter workhorse?
Always innovative, Orange were one of the first British bike companies to move into big aluminium tubed bikes. They've been creating alloy bikes for well over a decade now and the G2 gets their 12.5 version tubeset. The round tubes look retro compared to the shape shifting pipes on other bikes, but you get butted main tubes and a big throat gusset behind the ring reinforced head tube.
Other thoughtful touches include twin bottle cage mounts, a Crud Catcher mudguard mount under the down tube and an extra hose guide on the top tube to stop the brake line bulging out of place. The seat tube slot faces forward to stop spray getting in too and the monostay rear end gives plenty of tyre room.
The surprising thing about rigid bikes is how capable they are, especially if you compare them with similar priced bikes with suspension forks that are liable to be crap anyway. On smaller bumps and smoother trails the 2.1in tyre cushions the rough and it'll take the initial sting out of bigger lumps. Only a split second later will the delayed 'whump' need soaking up with your arms. As long as you can see and react to each shock, it's easy to control the G2 and stay on course on trails very accurately.
Given the light overall weight (thanks to no suspension fork) it's easy to 'ride light' and float or completely hop over trouble rather than just crashing through it. The lack of fork squish or wander makes the front wheel very precise and easy to place whether you keep it on the ground or wheelie, plus there's no dive under braking which keeps geometry more consistent into turns.
The F8 fork uses curved, constant diameter legs and a neat 'H' design crown to give the same height as a conventional fork. This means going sprung later won't upset steering. You can get the G2 with a RockShox Dart 2.5 fork already fitted for £600.
Hayes Sole hydraulic brakes need setting up manually via the external pad clearance bolts before you ride, but they're okay once sorted.
Kenda 2.1in tyres are reasonably grippy all year with plenty of cushioning to act as suspension, but they can pop quite easily on sharp edges. Sun and Deore wheels are well proven hoops and SRAM's X7/SX5 kit impressed us with dutiful shifting.
Fully rigid bikes are never going to be everyone's cup of tea, but their maintenance is zero come claggy winter mud on trails, weight savings are noticeable and you'll be amazed what you can ride relatively easily. You can always go for the G2 with RockShox Dart forks for a top class pedigree bike if you want though.