The Orange Clockwork Evo Pro blends the low weight of the Clockwork with some of the features and attitude of its fully hardcore P7 and Crush bikes to create a really fun, ‘ride anything’ all-rounder.
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New investment and management have allowed the UK-based firm to overhaul several bikes in its range for 2017 and the Evo is a totally fresh squeeze of Orange. In a departure from its normal in-your-face joint scars, the frame is smooth-welded right through. The top and down tube are subtly shaped and tapered, with a large throat gusset and extended junction behind the reinforced 44mm head tube.
The internal cable routing pops out briefly above the bottom bracket shell for smoother cable pull. Otherwise things are kept practical, with a screw-in external bottom bracket, ISCG tabs and external top tube routing for the rear mech and brake.
Tyre clearance is OK for up to 2.4in rubber, but you’re not going to get a plus tyre in there and the boxy, hollow-back rear dropouts take a 142x12mm axle, not the latest 148x12mm Boost standard.
Although the Fox 34 fork is Boost-width for extra stiffness it’s a conventional 650b unit otherwise, so you’ll struggle to squeeze a plus tyre in there too. More steering stiffness comes from the 770mm wide, 35mm diameter Race Face bar, though the scrawny stem means there’s a slight disconnect between bar and bike when you’re pushing hard.
The Race Face crankset is a solid unit though, and the MRP 1x guide keeps the chain on track when you’re losing the plot. The Shimano SLX/XT shifting is solidly reliable, if stiff compared to SRAM, and the Deore brakes are equally consistent.
Orange has specced relatively narrow Alex rims, but they’re still pretty heavy and the Formula hubs have a gappy 20-degree pick-up. The triple-compound Maxxis Minion DHF front tyre and dual-compound High Roller II rear aren’t short on control, whatever the weather.
A KS Crux dropper post gives you room to writhe about and the component level and overall weight are on par with bikes from similar brands like Whyte.
Making a bike to fill a gap between two well-defined existing models is inevitably a balance of compromises, but Orange has done a great job of making sure that the Evo feels like a totally cohesive and current bike in its own right. For a start, everything feels set up for properly pushing your skills and/or luck, with a massive 473mm reach to the 770mm bar and a 66-degree head angle creating a 1,200mm wheelbase on the large size — the kind of numbers normally only seen on long-travel enduro bikes.
The shorter 130mm fork means less stroke-choking flex and a smoother and more consistent feel than we got from the other GRIP-damper-equipped, Performance grade Fox 34 forks on test too.
There’s a sense of resonance and flex from the frame that saves your knees and wrists from the worst impacts. This also acts as a subtle reminder that while the Evo will do its best to save your skin if you plough into problems, its natural preference is to skip round or over where it can. That’s helped by the short (425mm) back end, which aids rear end flicks to get the long front end through tight situations.
Despite narrow rims, the wheelset is relatively heavy though and while the Evo has a smooth ride for a conventional 650b bike, the arrival of plus-size competition has changed the whole frame of reference for what hardtails can flow over.
You’ll still have to wait a bit for an Orange plus bike though, and if you just want a naturally forgiving and super-surefooted hardtail for taking you as close to edge as you dare without kicking the crap out of you, then the Clockwork Evo is another well-sorted addition to the hard-riding trail hardtail breed.