Orange’s hard-hitting Crush hardtail has been through various incarnations over the years. After an early outing as an uncompromising headbanger with big fork and monocoque frame construction, it’s settled down to its current position in the Orange range – an all-mountain all-rounder, light enough to ride all day but tough enough to take a bit of abuse in its stride. The AM is the baby of the range. Is it worth the asking price?
Frame and equipment: old-school appeal
The Crush’s refreshing lack of shapeshifting tubes means it oozes a retro, no-nonsense appeal. Actually, that’s not entirely fair – the down tube shifts slightly in cross section, from square-ish up by the massive head tube to oval-ish at the bottom bracket. But the rest of it is pure, unadulterated round or rectangular tubing, none of which appears to have been anywhere near a hydroforming machine.
That down tube forms a backbone that’s plenty stiff enough to hang everything else off, reinforced by a chunky gusset up front to help keep the head tube where it ought to be in case of a hard frontal impact. The steeply sloping top tube almost – but not quite – forms an uninterrupted line into the fastback stays, which are welded ahead of the seat tube in order to improve mud clearance. Square section chainstays help keep the rear wheel tracking true. Cables run neatly below the top tube, and there’s provision to route the cable for a ‘stealth’ dropper post internally. ISCG mounts and a single set of bottle cage bosses complete the detail.
The Revelation serves up 140mm of plush, accurate travel – a lot for a hardtail, but it suits the Crush
Plugged into the front is a RockShox Revelation RL Solo Air fork with 140mm (5.5in) of travel. It’s a solid mid-range performer that’ll keep most riders happy, combining enough travel to keep even the hardest riding of trail tamers rubber side down with plenty of steering precision.
Other price-equivalent hardtails manage to shoehorn a smattering of XT components into the spec list. The Crush AM’s SLX and Deore kit doesn’t have the same kudos, but it doesn’t sacrifice anything in performance terms. And the double-and-bash crankset is the perfect set-up for a hard riding trail machine like this, giving a good spread of gears and massive amounts of ground clearance. It’s good to see Orange didn’t forget to fit a 180mm rotor up front too, for more consistent braking on long descents.
Ride and handling: working the angles to great effect
Orange has created a bike with a slightly unusual mix of slack head and steep seat angles. The relaxed front end and long wheelbase hint at big-hitting high-speed stability, while the weight-forward stance created by the steep seat tube and inline post are straight out of the cross-country race bike cookbook. But here’s the thing – it works.
Pushing the rider’s weight forward means an efficient position for getting the power down, and this is heightened by the wide bar, which shifts body weight even further towards the midpoint of the bike. A roomy top tube means there’s plenty of room for this in spite of the stubby stem, giving plenty of scope for shifting weight backwards and forwards as trail conditions dictate.
The Crush is light enough to ride all day but tough enough to throw around
The Crush’s compact frame structure translates into instant get up and go. It’s no featherweight, but much of the extra heft over more cross-country biased trail bikes is in the fork – and it’s the fork that’s the Crush’s secret weapon. Ride with your weight forward, hovering over the saddle, and the Revelation’s accurate steering and implacable rock-swallowing ability allow the Crush to devour choppy, rocky sections of trail as though they’re not there. The rigid rear end keeps up a constant chatter of trail feedback at slow to middling speeds without ever becoming harsh, but at high speeds it simply tracks accurately in the fork’s wake.
We’ve just two minor niggles. First, the bottom bracket is low enough that we gouged the pedals on rocks occasionally. And second, steep and slippery climbs need some judicious rearward weight transfer to keep the rear wheel dug in, thanks to the steep seat position. But these are minor grumbles. While it lacks the all-out pace and grace of lighter trail machines, the Crush AM adds a great dollop of can-do fun to any trail ride. If you like to ride big, fast and hard, the Orange should certainly be added to your shortlist.