Orange has been producing seriously functional yet fun bikes using UK-built semi-monocoque frames featuring a simple swingarm layout for nearly 20 years. Cut and welded frame sections, durable bearings and super thick paint are big parts of the Orange DNA – and the brand's well-deserved customer loyalty.
Frame and equipment: a tough customer worthy of a rolling stock upgrade
However, it’s the geometry that turns base metal into engaging entertainment on the trail. While 110mm 29ers from most brands would be uptight XC race machines, Orange’s Segment is a slack steering, super long wheelbase sled with a clear downhill dynamic.
Structurally it’s an unashamedly tough and correspondingly hefty aggro machine with the RockShox Revelation fork held in an oversized 1.5in head tube, chain device tabs on the conventional bottom bracket and a 142mm screw-thru axle at the end of the long chainstays. Rear derailleur cable and disc hose disappear into the slab-sided monocoque swingarm and it’s ready to take an internally routed dropper post, which is available on the optional upgrade/custom paint list.
RockShox’ Revelation fork is a great performer, but in its 29er guise on big terrain, the 32mm stanchions can start to feel a bit spindly
The option we’d definitely tick is the Maxxis tyre upgrade. While the stock hard compound Continentals roll very quickly despite a decent looking tread, their lack of wet surface traction is treacherous. With the seat angle and long top tube nudging rider weight back, the front wheel is a long way off and the low-slung frame twists under load. This made the tighter, twistier sections we encountered nerve-wracking, but as soon as we'd got home and stuck on stickier rubber we felt massively more confident.
Ride and handling: a twang-tastic experience
Twist and twang of the mainframe and rear swingarm are still very apparent compared with more rigid rides, and the soft feeling underfoot when you’re trying to stomp power down can be depressing on smoother climbs. The way the Segment naturally distorts and conforms to the trail rather than chattering across it adds micro traction that matches the most sensitively tuned shocks. When you do finally lose traction it does so with a spectacular catapult effect, but all the testers were surprised just how much load you can force through the treads before it will let go.
The twangy frame can make the prospect of a climb a little depressing
It's unsurprising given the long wheelbase, low bottom bracket and trouble smoothing, speed sustaining 29er wheels, but the Orange really comes into its own as the trail opens up and you can let the suspension flow rather than fight against it through the pedals. If you like to feel a key part of the ride rather than a passenger, well, the way the suspension stiffens under power or braking lets you really ride this bike intuitively. Even the ability to twist and twang the long rear end can be a bonus when you’re trying to flick through tight sections, where it would struggle to fit otherwise.
While the UK-built cost means basic spec and a high weight, we’ve no complaint about the function of the Shimano stop and go kit or Race Face cockpit and cranks. What seems like low value now will reveal its worth as a durable investment when you’re still hammering it around years from now.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.