When it comes to iconic alternative brands, there are few that can match Orange and its handbuilt-in-Halifax, Yorkshire, bikes. Orange's simple single-pivot swingarm designs have been evolving for more than 20 years and the Five has been the brand's aggro all-rounder trail bike for more than a decade.
The Five had a full refresh last year and the 630mm effective top tube length on the large size we tested is 10mm longer than on the previous model. It’s half a degree slacker up front too (66 degrees), and a claimed 15% stiffer. A new shock mount also disperses loads better into the trademark ‘origami folded’, seam welded down tube.
The brace free, multi-panel wraparound swingarm leaves masses of tyre and mud room, while the gear cables and rear brake hose run inside the big faceted and seam-welded chainstays. Big open dropout sections cantilever off the far end with a 142x12mm through-axle tying them together. If just having an Orange isn’t individual enough, you can choose one of seven custom paint options – including the ‘mountain mint’ colour here.
Orange's industrial-looking single-pivot design is pretty iconic
You can buy the Five as a frame and shock or as one of three complete bike packages. The ‘Pro’ build kit tested here is the base level offering. You can choose to upgrade the standard Performance series Fox fork and shock, headset, transmission, wheels and finishing kit if you want though, so we added a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post. Unless you’re seriously strong or don’t mind pushing we’d suggest swapping the stock 11-36t cassette for the Hope 40t-REx expander ring and 10-speed Shimano XT cassette kit or upgrading to 11-speed XT (check the Orange site for pricing).
A strong character
It’s a sign of how strong the overall character of the Orange is that a mid-range suspension pairing and narrow gear range didn’t ever get in the way of our enjoyment of the Five’s ride. The instantly likeable connection starts from the first spin to the trailhead too. The 66-degree head angle kicks the front wheel a long way out front, and the 780mm bar in the 55mm stem gives a swaggering confidence to the handling before you even hit the trails.
Our ‘Pro’ build came with a dropper post upgrade as well as custom paint
The simple but totally intuitive behaviour of the swingarm suspension is a big part of the Five’s appeal for riders looking for maximum feedback and involvement. Press the pedals and the chain tightens, pulling the back wheel forwards and down for a direct connection to the trail and a stiffer suspension feel. Relax and it’s free to swing backwards to suck up bigger hits and sustain speed far better than you’d expect from its 140mm (5.5in) stroke.
Both suspension units have a firm midstroke that enhances the feedback when you’re driving hard in a way that more aggressive riders or racers will appreciate too. That does mean they can get punishing if you keep the throttle wide open across extended rocky or rooty sections, but never to arm-exploding, momentum-choking extents.
The Five's geometry is bang up to date
The Orange has a stable feel at speed that encourages you to stay off the brakes and push harder. There’s a noticeable amount of torsional twist through the rear end of the frame, which can make you run wide in the first few turns. Once you adapt to it though, the load-dependent deflection adds palpable micro traction to the Five, combining with the long reach and wide handlebar to make it a bar dragging, corner scything ripper.
If you like your riding visceral, this ‘glass half full’ optimism somehow extends to most of the other aspects of the Orange’s ride too. The way the suspension stiffens and digs in under power helps offset pedalling bob and sideways twist of the swingarm.
For every time it slips from too much torque, the direct connection from tyre to pedal lets you judge exactly the right amount of push you’ll need to clean a crux move another time. It doesn’t take long for you to instinctively use the brake jack at the rear to tip the front end into corners harder and faster too, which helps excuse the slap you get off square edges whenever you go near the left-hand lever.
If you like a really suspension-neutral and/or stiff bike with no need to balance kinematic pros and cons, then the Five isn’t going to appeal. If you want to feel properly involved in the ride though, its intuitively interactive character and gravity-biased, full-gas geometry meant the feedback from our test team was overwhelmingly positive.
Orange Bikes have limited availablity in the US – check www.orangebikes.co.uk for further details.