Bike name choices can often seem pretty opaque, but in the case of the Crush it's safe to assume that Orange's marketing types had half an eye on its intended use. This is a big, unsubtle bruiser of a hardtail, utilitarian in its matt grey paint finish and uncompromising in its promise of a stiff, strong platform for aerial antics.
Every inch of this frame's girder-like construction promises huge rigidity and strength. The down tube sets the pace, morphing from a relatively demure circular section at the bottom bracket to a positively enormous rectangular section at the butted head tube. With all that aluminium real estate welded to the front, Orange's designers obviously didn't feel the need for any extra gussetry to add crash resistance. Up at the rear, box braces for both seat and chainstays add to the sense of total rigidity, albeit at the expense of mud room: they're a magnet for gloop, leaf mulch and small rodents picked up by the rear tyre. The cantilevered, cutaway dropouts are the only part of the frame that look as though they've been designed with half an eye on the scales, the rest is pure, unadulterated abuse-ready heavy metal.
The burly effect is heightened by the Marzocchi Drop Off fork. This doesn't try to be all things to all riders; it's essentially a cut-down triple clamp designed to soak up big hits. It's heavy, has enough travel - 150mm (6in) - to eat large boulders for breakfast, and when you get out of the saddle and heave on the bars it bounces and wallows all over the shop. Not a fork for the faint-hearted, but it delivers on its promises. Despite an irritating rattly clatter in the first half inch or so of travel, it offers smooth, well controlled and seemingly bottomless bump absorption.
This is the most expensive bike on test by a big margin - and it shows. With more room in the budget to play with, Orange have been able to cherry-pick the most important bombproof parts for trouble-free hard-riding abuse.
To go along with that super-rigid frame and hard-as-nails fork, there's a set of RaceFace Evolve DH cranks. With a chunky spider and arms, steel pedal thread inserts, a bashguard and outboard bearings, this is a crankset that should remain intact and straight in the face of almost any hard landing.
Truvativ finishing kit, an XT and Deore transmission and Hayes brakes with big, dime-stopping rotors add up to a great value package. If we were nitpicking it'd be nice to see the bolt-through axles and freeride-friendly rear mech of Shimano's purpose-built Hone group, but that would push the price up well over the magic grand.
With all that emphasis on reinforcement, big welds and lots of metal, you'd quite rightly expect the Crush to be stiff. It is. This isn't a bike for finessing over the rough stuff; it's one for blasting straight through. Or preferably over. Great big tyres, that bottomless fork and cranks so stiff they feel like they're connected directly to the rear wheel all add up to a ride quality that's about as subtle as a knockout punch from a heavyweight boxer. And it's heavy, too. All that extra metal may add up to extra strength and stiffness, but it comes at a price: chances are, you won't be winning any sprint competitions on board the Crush. And yet... despite all the weight, despite the bouncy fork, despite the heavy wheels, this is a bike that's surprisingly easy to ride. Maybe it's because the downhill parts are so much fun, or maybe it's because the longish top tube actually creates a reasonable pedalling platform...
Whatever the reasons, the Crush isn't as much of a pain to ride back to the top of the hill as you might expect. And once you're up there at the top, contemplating the free trip to the bottom, the only worry you've got is to remember that this isn't a full susser. It might sound really obvious, but the combination of big, plush fork with super-stable frame and stop-on-a-pinhead brakes makes it easy to bite off more than you can chew. Of course, the reassuring thing about finding yourself going too fast or too high on the Crush is that the bike'll almost certainly live to tell the tale - and leave a huge grin on your face. And you can't really ask for more than that.