The Stage 6 is Orange’s biggest, gnarliest and burliest single crown 29er. First released in 2017, it represented a response to riders wanting to take 29er bikes to new limits.
And the bike was well received, retaining Orange’s lively, poppy and engaging ride feel that is truly engrained in the company’s no fuss ethos, while providing a stable platform for those who want to get gnarly.
The Stage 6 is about enduro as it gets, designed specifically for riding and racing as quickly as possible over the hardest gravity-focussed trails you can imagine.
Orange says this is thanks to excellent lateral stiffness, low standover heights and the single pivot suspension system that Orange claims is virtually trouble-free.
My Orange set up and ready to roll
To top it off, it’s got a five-year warranty. The bike isn’t for the faint of heart though, and even Orange says it best suits skilled and confident riding.
Over the course of this year, I’m on a mission to find out whether I’ve got the mettle to tame the Stage 6 and get the most from it.
Orange Stage 6 RS specifications and details
Out of the box, the Stage 6 RS is a well-specced bike, but it had better be for the £4,900 asking price.
Although RS doesn’t stand for ‘RockShox’, this model is dripping in RockShox and SRAM kit.
Up front, it’s running the high-performing and award-winning RockShox Lyrik RC2 with 160mm of travel that’s paired with a RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock.
The Monarch hasn’t impressed me so far Alex Evans
While the fork has both high- and low-speed compression damping and low-speed rebound adjustment, the shock only has low-speed rebound and a three-position compression lever with open, trail and climb modes.
The Lyrik is one of the best forks out there if you’re looking for enduro performance Alex Evans
It’s running SRAM Guide RE brakes that use the trail-focused Guide lever body matched with the top-of-the-line Code DH-biased caliper. These brakes have a reputation for being a bit of a winning combination.
There’s a mix and match of SRAM Eagle drivetrain parts, too. The X01 Eagle mech is paired with a GX Eagle shifter and Descendant cranks, and the 10/50-tooth cassette is combined with a 32-tooth chainring.
The finishing kit has a mix of top parts from Renthal, Hope, SDG and Race Face. The 800mm-wide FatBars use a 35mm clamp and SDG’s Radar saddle has Orange branding on it.
The ARC 30 Race Face wheels are made from aluminium and are laced to Boost 148x12mm rear and Boost 115x15mm front spacing Hope Pro 4 hubs. The wheels are clad in Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II wide trail rubber.
The Reverb dropper is a fantastic performer Alex Evans
To top it off, there’s an internally routed 150mm-travel RockShox Reverb dropper post.
Orange Stage 6 RS full specification
Sizes (*tested): M, L*, XL
Weight: 14.49kg (31.96lb), size L without pedals
Frame: 6061 T6 monocoque aluminium, 150mm/5.9in travel
Fork: RockShox Lyrik RC2, 160mm/6.29in travel
Shifters: SRAM GX Eagle
Derailleurs: SRAM X01 Eagle
Cranks: SRAM Descendant carbon cranks (1×12)
Wheelset: Race Face Arc 30 on Hope Pro 4 hubs
Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT 29xx2.5in (f) and Maxxis Minion DHRII 2.4 WT 29×2.4in (r)
Brakes: SRAM Guide RE 200/180mm rotors
Bar: Renthal Fatbar M35, 800mm
Stem: Hope, 35mm
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb 150mm dropper
Saddle: SDG Radar
Orange Stage 6 RS geometry
The Orange’s geometry is relatively modern, but it would be fair to say that it isn’t groundbreaking. My size large has a 65.5-degree head angle and a 450mm chainstay length that’s mated to a 1,245mm wheelbase.
The reach is 462mm, making it bang on the money for a size large bike. The effective seat tube angle is 74.5 degrees.
Head angle: 65.5 degrees
Seat angle: 74.5 degrees
Chainstay: 450mm / 17.71in
Seat tube: 457cm / 18in
Top tube: 613mm / 24.13in
Head tube: 110mm / 4.33in
Bottom bracket drop: 35mm / 1.37in
Wheelbase: 1,245mm / 49.01in
Stack: 643mm / 25.31in
Reach: 462cm / 18.18in
Why did I choose this bike?
As someone that used to race and ride downhill, it kind of goes without saying that most of my rides are gravity orientated. I’ll find the most efficient way to the top of the mountain, using as little energy as possible so that I can enjoy the descents the most. This narrowed my choice down to enduro-focussed bikes. I also dislike spending more time than necessary maintaining bikes, and although I’m not too bad at fixing things when they go wrong, I’d rather just spend my time riding. That focused my choice down further, highlighting that I needed a bike with as few moving parts as possible.
I also thought it would be good to go for a bike that’s built in my home country, the UK, and something that I knew suited the way I ride (I didn’t want to be committing to an unknown quantity for a year of riding).
Enter the Orange Stage 6 RS that’s handbuilt in Halifax, UK. It was an obvious choice for me.
Orange Stage 6 RS initial setup
I found the beauty of the Orange was how easy it was to set up. The suspension has a fairly predictable leverage rate — that neither drops off nor rises aggressively — and its axle path is relatively vertical.
Luckily, I’ve already ridden several sets of RockShox Lyrik RC2 forks so I was able to quickly dial in my preferred settings. I fitted two tokens and put 95psi in the air spring. I adjusted the rebound to my preferences and put three clicks on of low-speed compression from open.
The iconic Orange logo hasn’t changed much over the years, reasserting the brand’s identity Alex Evans
I set the rear shock up with no tokens and 195psi, once again setting the rebound to my preferences.
I left the 800mm-wide bars uncut and pumped the tyres up to 28psi in the front and 30psi in the back. The tubeless set-up tyres inflated without issue.
I had to angle the seat nose down and push it as far forward in the rails as possible to help overcome the relatively slack seat tube angle, which has a tendency to make uphill progress less comfortable.
It was relatively difficult to get the SRAM Guide RE brakes set up correctly, though. Out of the box they had lazy pistons that needed freeing up.
By clamping the moving pistons and forcing the lazy ones to move it was possible to get the brake’s pistons to centralise over the discs.
The internal cable routing means that Orange has to bleed its brakes at the factory. This process did lead to the bike’s rear brake feeling particularly spongy, requiring a re-bleed right away.
Orange Stage 6 RS ride impressions so far
For me, jumping on an Orange is like meeting up with an old friend. The bike’s inherently predictable feel has made it a bit of a benchmark from which I compare other bikes.
One of these predictable and resoundingly Orange traits is its snappiness. It’s instantly noticeable when pedalling or descending, but that same characteristic comes from different parts of the bike depending on whether you’re fighting or working with gravity.
When you’re climbing, the bike’s anti-squat helps to propel it forward. Sitting at around 133 percent at sag in first gear, it’ll keep the bike sitting up in its travel rather than compressing with each pedal stroke.
Flicking the back end of my Stage out at the Forest of Dean Steve Behr
The bike has a penchant to move forwards efficiently when you’re putting power through the pedals. And, because the suspension isn’t especially active under power, it doesn’t feel like the bike bogs down when you hit bumps.
Instead, it makes a dull thud as the back wheel strikes bumps and then duly lifts up and over the obstacle without a huge amount of fuss. When you’re pinning it, this translates to a rather snappy-feeling bike that’s eager to move.
The Guide RE levers don’t have much adjustment but that doesn’t seem to affect performance Alex Evans
Point the bike downhill and that peppy and poppy ride is still there. While this is in part down to the bike’s suspension having good levels of support (thanks to the anti-squat), the frame’s aluminium construction and single pivot layout makes it feel like you’re riding a taut rubber band that you can flick and flex around turns and through holes.
And that feeling is exceptionally rewarding, especially when you’re working the bike hard, pushing it through, over and on the terrain you’re riding.
The bike builds speed with rider input and it doesn’t feel like there’s a significant amount of energy wasted when giving it the beans.
My bikes have always suffered from plenty of foot rub and the cranks looked like this after just a few rides Alex Evans
The characteristics that give you those same feelings descending and climbing are a double-edged sword, though.
Fall asleep behind the bars or become disengaged from the trail and the bike will punish you, kicking you up the arse without an apology at the first opportunity it gets. So Orange’s warning should be well heeded.
The RS bike’s spec is right up there, but the longer I spend on the bike the more it feels like it isn’t suited to RockShox’s Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock, or at least the stock tune that the bike is delivered with.
There’s a lack of beginning stoke sensitivity which is coupled with not very much end-stroke ramp up. This is thanks to the inherently linear suspension kinematic that’s normally easy to modify with shock bottom-out spacers and tunes.
The rear rotor can get quite hot — it’s only a 180mm diameter disc Alex Evans
However, the Monarch doesn’t do a very good job of this, and I would suggest that it needs to have a lighter tune with more bottom out spacers from the factory. This is something I’m going to investigate in due course.
I have found the rest of the bike to perform exceptionally well, though.
Orange Stage 6 RS upgrades
Going forwards, I’m really looking forward to trying out a different shock on the bike.
I’ve ridden a Stage 6 with Fox’s Float X2 and didn’t experience the same problems I have with the Monarch, and although this is a factory upgrade option at purchase, I felt like it increased the price too much.
The Stage 6 is Orange’s gnarliest enduro bike Alex Evans
On reflection, though, this should have been at the top of the list of places where money should be spent. I’d also like to explore how much of a difference changing bars, stems and wheels (individually to each other) makes the bike feel.
So far, the frame’s been faultless and as maintenance-free as you’d hope from a bike that gets ragged and abused.