One of the most popular bikes for Alpine adventures, the bombproof Orange Patriot, is a totally honest package. But does racing the biggest mountains bring out shortcomings that you would gloss over at home?
Looking at old Patriots in the lift lines, you realise how much evolution has gone into the smooth stripped-down bike of today. You still get the big slab-sided swingarm but the front end is all moulded and curved now. The downtube gets subtle convex fluting down the sides rather than blunt creases and there's a smoothly flowing saddle gusset ahead of the skinny seat tube. The swingarm still clamps onto the bearings for easy replacement, but the main pivot has dropped down towards the bottom bracket. Our bike was threaded for a Maxle screw-through spindle at the end of the stout windowed dropouts tips. And as you'd expect for a handmade UK frame, this is not a cheap option - it's more of a long term investment.
The shock sits in a sliding cradle so you can fine adjust bike geometry and it takes a wide variety of shock lengths. Other practical touches include masses of mudroom and easy cleaning. The internal cable and brake hose routing looks neat if you're patient enough to install it, but if you're swapping lines around regularly you'll probably end up getting the gaffer tape out instead. There are no ISCG (International Standard Chain Guide) tabs either, a shame on such a gravity loving bike.
It's been a punishing intro for the new Fox forks and shock, but they couldn't have performed any better. The new QR axle on the 36 has lost its initial wobble and stayed totally locked down, when pretty much everything else worked loose.
Even on the basic 'R' version, the new damping set-up is leagues better than '07, too. It sits fairly high and firm when unloaded but remains totally controlled through the most random, punishing boulder fields and braking bumps, with no spiking on the compression/rebound turnaround.
A ti coil on the rear DHX5 dropped 220g out and increased the smoothness. Hope's Moto brakes with vented rotor also stayed consistent and powerful when everything else was burning, fading, warping or pulling to the bar.
SRAM X.0 gears held up really well too, despite having an adjuster screw entirely sheared off in one crash, and we love the attack position created by the RaceFace Evolve AM bars and stubby Hope stem.
This isn't a new bike to us, but we really appreciated its straightline stability in a new way on the Megavalanche. Get your elbows wide, drop your heels, and with the fork sitting relatively high you can let her fly for as long as your balls let you. And the suspension will just suck it all up and float through without drama.
The issues start when you interrupt it. With the big Hope rotors fighting against the suspension it was getting rattled by the long braking rut sections and it kicks around if you try and get the power down before the ground wants you to.
Start to work with it though, and it noses down into corners and stands up to sprint intuitively and naturally. You just have to learn to let it go and let it flow for as long as possible before slamming on the anchors at the last moment. It's certainly a tactic that worked well enough for Steve Peat when he was riding for Orange, so there's no reason why we shouldn't do the same.
One big plus is that it was the only bike here that we had absolutely no issues with. Despite months of pounding and several big offs at home and in the Alps its bombproof reputation is still firmly intact.
- Super communicative and rider reactive suspension
- Excellent all-round weight balance and shock/geometry versatility
- Bombproof, totally reliable and very easy to live with
- Handbuilding in Halifax costs more than bikes built out east
- Noticeable pedal kickback and brake jack on long descents
- No ISCG mounts and internal cable routing is a bit of a faff
© BikeRadar 2007