Wednesday, May 31, 2006 11.00pm
By Seb Rogers
Halifax-based Orange has never done cheap. Long-time purveyor of bikes designed for the gritty reality of British trails, the Gringo is its cheapest entry to the brand. But is it a bargain or a compromise too far?
This bike needs to
be told where you
want it to go
The Gringo's common-sense design is like a breath of fresh air. Plain ol' round tubes make up the main triangle, with a slightly fatter down tube - strengthened by a welded gusset up front - providing the obligatory extra stiffness.
Orange's experience in building bikes to cope with the schizophrenic nature of the UK's slimy, hard-packed, rocky, loamy trails is apparent the moment you climb aboard. A long top tube and lanky stem combine to give a stretched out ride position that could easily be out-and-out racing snake, were it not for the wide riser bars and 100mm fork friendly geometry. It's not exactly beginner-friendly, but it makes for a powerful pedalling platform and excellent front-to-rear wheel weight distribution, and makes a willing trail companion on all sorts of terrain.
The long stem's only downside is a slightly - subtly - slow feel to the steering. This bike needs to be told where you want it to go, although once you've adopted an assertive riding style it does so with panache. The addition of optional adjustable compression damping to the RockShox J2 fork elevates its performance from mediocre to really quite good. It's still heavier than the similarly-damped J3 though, and ultimately it's the Gringo's slightly weighty feel that marks it down.
As such a cheap bike you'd expect Orange to have saved some pennies somewhere, and you'd be right. The Gringo's transmission boasts the underrated Shimano Alivio components - with just 24 gears - but in performance terms this is nothing to lose sleep over. An eventual upgrade will mean the replacement of the whole transmission, but you can buy 9-speed-compatible parts as individual bits wear out, and this should be worth it in the long run. The hubs, at least, are disc-ready and the Orange has plenty of longterm potential.
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