Orange Clockwork S £1149

A new 29er take on the classic hardtail

BikeRadar score 3/5

Orange’s Clockwork was once an iconic entry point into mountain biking, from a brand with more hardcore kudos than most. In 2013 the Orange a-peel (good night, God bless!) is as strong as ever, but the Clockwork may still wind you up.

  • Highs: Smooth fork, capable wheels and surefooted, long-wheelbase handling
  • Lows: Long footprint can stumble at lower speeds; less prestigious brands deliver better pricing
  • Buy if… You want a confident rough trail roller with hardcore kudos and legendary back-up service

The most obvious changes for the new Clockwork are its 29in wheels, tough Mavic rims and fast-rolling Continental X-King tyres. An only-just-sub-30lb overall weight means the Clock takes a bit to get it going, but once rolling those slick treads tick off the miles.

The smoother rollover of the bigger wheels means you’re less likely to get bounced off line or knocked back by rocks and roots, which in turn makes the relatively simple RockShox Recon fork feel smoother than it is – until you start bouncing down steps or serious rocks, that is, when the basic damping gets indigestion pretty quickly.

Trading up to this S model from the basic Clockwork (£850) gets you a 15mm screw-through front axle for much better tracking stiffness and security than a quick-release axle, plus an extra 20mm of travel for 120mm in total.  This smooths bigger hits and slackens the head angle a degree to 69 degrees, boosting confidence at speed.

The rounded-cross-section Continental tyres smooth sharper lips and edges before they get to the skinny wishbone rear stays, and the frame is compliant enough that you can stay in the saddle for consistent traction, even across staccato rock sections. The Clockwork’s a bike you’ll be happy riding all day long.

While the angles are relatively conventional, Orange have reinforced the bike's hardcore credentials with a short 60mm stem to keep the front end alert. Yet however twitchy it feels through the stem, the long wheelbase and stable front end mean you sometimes have to get pretty deliberate with it to get your singletrack rave on if you’re hauling in a straight line. It also needs a firm hand to keep it pointing skywards on crawler climbs, where it has a tendency to flop about.

You’ll be taking the long way round trail centre switchbacks or tight tree-weaving sections compared to tighter-angled, shorter bikes, though the new Clockwork has much better cornering traction and generally higher entry and exit speeds than the old version. At least, it does fitted with tyres that aren’t made of scarily slippery plastic. That’s pretty much a universal criticism of bikes at this price, but the Clockwork is costly for its kit levels anyway.

The new Clockwork is a confident ride with the smooth speed-sustain bonus of bigger wheels, though even with the short stem it needs a bit of nursing through tight stuff. While the parts levels may not impress, Orange’s value comes from the brand, its high standards and its back-up, not specs.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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