Orange has totally overhauled its Five trail bike without disturbing its proven dynamic ride DNA and its addictively enjoyable and interactive character.
Orange is now owned and headed up by the metal working company who has always made its custom monocoque frames a couple of miles down the road from its HQ in Halifax, England.
The new frame pushes the limits with its folded and moulded fabrication process to shave 290g – more than the difference between carbon and alloy versions of some frames. The single pivot has been moved slightly up and back and the direct-mounted shock nose lowered to give a more progressive spring rate.
Boost spacing means a 4mm shorter swingarm and 6mm wider main pivot for a significantly stiffer rear end. Reach is 5mm longer at 455mm and the bombproof external bearing BB is 8mm lower to compensate for 150mm travel forks. Production models will have neater internal cable routing and weld details than our sample.
Considering it’s fully hand-built in the UK the Five S is excellent value even with the RockShox Reverb dropper (£290, approx US$367, AU$490) and wider Kore Realm 2.7 rim (£20, approx US$25, AU$34) upgrades here. We’ve no complaints about the Race Face/Shimano stop and go kit, the Race Face 35mm cockpit or the RockShox suspension double act.
The Five was the bike all our testers synced with the fastest. It’s not quite as slack as the Cotic, stretched as the Mondraker or compact as the Specialized, but the overall balance is a superb Goldilocks mix for most situations. The 66-degree head angle is relaxed enough for confidence boosting, self-correcting stability. The long reach keeps trouble at arm’s length when you’re straight-lining steeps and drops, but there’s loads of room to get forward and make shapes if you want to.
Despite the dramatic weight loss there’s still plenty of rich and accurate feedback from the frame. There’s much less of the trademark twang from the shorter, wider back end, too, although it still has enough deflection to find the path of least resistance through rock and root sections.
While the back end stays short (or even shortens) under power for an agile feel, bigger hits pull the rear wheel backwards for extra stability. As long as you’re not hard on the gas, the higher pivot arc also lets the bike roll with the punches so flat-faced hits don’t smash speed out of the Five like they can on the Foxy and Stumpjumper.
While kinematic theorists might be distraught at the idea of obvious pedal pull or braking influence on the suspension, the level of interaction the Orange has with the trail is one of its greatest strengths.
Press the pedals and it naturally stiffens and pulls the Maxxis rubber on to the ground for extra grip and a positive power reaction. Drop the saddle, bend your legs and coast, and the shock is free to sag deeper or suck up bigger hits. Brake hard and weight will shift forwards, increasing front end traction and commitment and making the rear tyre more likely to slide out speedway style.
None of this is anything you have to think about – it’s all totally intuitive and continually communicated so it soon feels like the High Roller tyres are actually the soles of your feet in terms of being able to judge how much traction you’ve got and alter weight balance and speed to match. The suspension is totally sorted, with the progressive shock rate creating a broad bandwidth of acceptable pressure that makes set-up easy, and the Yari is equally accommodating.
Even with the stout-legged fork and 35mm cockpit it’s still lighter than the more expensive Mondraker and Cotic and essentially the same weight as the Specialized. Add that positive power connection and it’s as responsive and eager uphill as it is elsewhere, completing its superbly balanced, confident and playfully communicative character.
Rainbow colours: Tough in-house black or orange paint jobs and decals are free, with a choice of eight other colours for £100 extra and four decal choices for £10 more.
Shaved tubing: Mainframe changes include a curved, ribbed and tapered top tube and reduction of wall thicknesses from 1.6mm to 1.4 or even 1.2mm in places.
Sorted design: Orange has been using a simple single pivot swingarm since the 1990s, but this update is the best yet.