If 2017 is going to go down in mountain bike history for something, it'll probably be the emergence of the 29er DH bike – and Orange looks set to join the crowd.
2017 has seen big-wheeled, big-travel bikes from the likes of Santa Cruz, Commencal, Bergamont and Mondraker, easily visible on the World Cup circuit, but it's Orange who're stealing the show at Eurobike with their Strange DH29 prototype bike.
With a growing number of 29er bikes in their fleet, plus the relative simplicity of their single pivot design, it's not really a surprise to see something similar coming out of their Yorkshire factory. Orange has a long history in DH, with plenty of world class riders having slung a leg over their dropped top tubes and simple swing arms, including Yorkshire's own Steve Peat.
At 180mm, the Strange DH29 has a touch less travel than most DH bikes (which usually sit in the 200-210mm range), however with the bigger wheels, space is at a premium – we've seen a number of other 29er DH rigs with similar travel numbers, and even ones where the travel depends on the frame size, such as Greg Minnaar's Santa Cruz V10.
Keeping the length of the bike balanced is key for getting a bike that's fast and stable, yet doesn't feel like a barge. While we're unable to confirm the geometry of the bike so far, Orange claims that it's worked on keeping the back end as compact as possible, while still keeping enough space for the 29" wheels to travel 180mm.
Without riding the bike, it's impossible to say whether Orange has the pivot in the right place, but with the pivot sitting just above the 36t chainring, it looks like there should be a good balance between pedal efficiency and a reduction in pedal kickback. The swingarm has a 150mm spacing for wider hubs, leading to a stiffer, dish-less wheel build.
Orange says that it's kept the bottom bracket low for better stability and cornering performance. There's an ISCG05 mount there to mount a chainguide.
Will we see the bike in production soon? Orange isn't saying but we definitely hope so – we think there's reason to believe 29ers will really find their feet in DH in 2018. Orange clearly believes that its simple design should be just what privateer racers need.