The punningly named Segment is Orange’s short travel 29er and it’s been around for a couple of years now, but there have been some subtle but important tweaks for 2017 to help turn it into an even more capable machine.
With 120mm up front and 110mm at the rear, you might well expect the Orange Segment to be a bike completely focused on big days in the saddle with a light bit of cross-country racing thrown in. However, if you know anything about Orange, you’ll know that it doesn’t really do bikes that sit neatly in an easy to categorise box and that’s how it is with the Segment.
The real giveaway is the chunky Maxxis rubber fitted to either end. Up front, there’s a fat 2.3” Minion DHF in a sticky 3C compound while out back there’s an equally chunky High Roller 2. Both get a tubeless ready and reinforced casing too, meaning the Segment sports some properly no-nonsense all-conditions aggressive rubber.
Add in the sturdy chassis of a RockShox Pike RCT3 fork up front, some seriously powerful SRAM Guide R brakes and you should get the picture that this is a bike that’s not so much about riding XC trails but XXX rated ones.
Make it better, do it faster
While the outline of the frame will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with the old bike – and indeed any Orange bike ever – the single pivot monocoque aluminium chassis has seen quite a lot of tweaking.
The old curved top tube is gone, replaced by a gently arced piece of folded section with a brace to help support the seat tube, but the real trickery has gone on by the pivot area, with a new design that’s 6mm wider to boost stiffness.
Devotees of the double ring will be disappointed as this is a single-ring only design, but for most of us the 10-42T range of the SRAM drivetrain will be more than enough, especially combined with a 30T ring up front.
Elsewhere, thinner aluminium sheet has been used, there are new machined bits and pieces and a Boost 148 spacing back end, all of which gives a frame that’s a claimed 400g lighter than the original but actually felt a bit stiffer when out on the trail. With a weight of 13.35kg / 29.43lbs for our size medium bike it’s not exactly a flyweight, but it is built to take a pasting.
The frame geometry is broadly similar to the original, save for the head angle getting 0.5º steeper at 68º and the reach growing by 11mm to 435mm. While the effective seat angle is relatively steep at 74º, the actual seat angle is pretty slack at 71.5º, meaning that the higher you’re running your saddle, the rearwards your weight will be, especially on steep climbs.
It’d be nice to have it a bit steeper to help maintain a nicely aggressive position when pedalling sat down, but the Segment is more about getting up and attacking the trail, which is when the usefully wide 780mm Renthal bar and 50mm stem come into their own, allowing you to muscle the bike where you want it, making the most of the ability of the big wheels to calm down ground chatter and keep you in contact with the trail.
Of course, the relatively limited travel on offer means that the Segment is a much more visceral ride over rough terrain than a longer travel machine, but that’s part of the appeal. You can rattle at warp speed into techy sections and as long as your nerve – and often luck – holds, you’ll be pinballed out of it just fine.
With a dinky 36mm stroke, the Monarch RT3 shock has it’s work cut out to tame the relentless beating it inevitably ends up receiving and if you’re expecting a plush ride you’ve definitely come to the wrong party, but the nicely progressive nature means it never feels too out-of-control, even when you’re buckaroo-ing like mad down a rock section. We suspect the optional Fox DPS Factory shock might feel a little bit more supple and subtle for an extra £120, but Orange’s semi-custom setup allows you to make such tweaks.
While you’re pondering the options sheet, getting shut of the rather workmanlike KS Lev Integra with the rather unpleasant-to-use on bar remote for a much more refined RockShox Reverb is probably a good idea. Unless you beat wheels to death very quickly and will be due replacements soon enough, then moving to the Factory wheelset with wider RaceFace Arc rims from the other rather than the stock Mavic XM624 items is also a good move. The 27mm internal width gives a good, squared off profile to the tyres and they’re also tubeless ready, allowing you to drop some rolling weight almost immediately.
Minor spec grumbles aside, the Segment packs in a lot of giggles into a short-travel machine. Yes, it doesn’t make much sense on paper and yes, direct sales rivals make this UK-made machine look rather poor value, but once you’re letting rip on a twisty techy trail, there aren’t many better ways to put a smile on your face. Add in the simplicity of the single pivot design consequent ease of maintenance and you’re looking at a bike that’s likely to be a bit of a cult classic.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.