Orange Stage 6 RS long-term review update two
After finally getting my act together and handing the shock over to Jake from Sprung Suspension to fettle, I can confirm that the Monarch Plus RC3 just isn’t up to the job of suspending the Orange’s 150mm of rear wheel travel.
The Stage 6 has proven to be a worthy companion of Alex’s stringent requirements. Alex Evans
The shock’s stock compression tune certainly felt digressive — that is to say it has a very quick rise in the force it takes to compress the shock’s shaft at the start of its stroke.
This steep rise then flattens off very quickly once the shock is about a third into its travel. The compression damping still increases from here but remains fairly flat throughout the rest of the shock’s stroke.
The Monarch shock’s standard tune wasn’t very good. Alex Evans
The idea behind this type of shock tune is to give the bike a supportive beginning stroke and to stop it diving into its travel. Then when you’re deeper into the bike’s suspension, provide plenty of plush cushion for bigger hits. In theory, at least.
The Orange has a virtually linear suspension kinematic. A digressive shock tune on this bike means that it’s very harsh off the top, requiring plenty of force to initiate the bike’s suspension. Then, as the bike compresses through its travel, it becomes less resistant to compression forces and blows through its suspension, bottoming out easily.
Even after a retune the Monarch still wasn’t up to scratch. Alex Evans
The digressive shock tune seems to go against a lot of thinking and work that brands have been doing on suspension. They’ve been trying to increase air chamber sizes to help improve sensitivity, adding bands or tokens so that air shocks have better end-stroke ramp, which allows you to run less air, resulting in a suppler beginning stroke. Quite the opposite to a digressive tune, then.
This shows examples of how digressive, linear and progressive shock tunes could look. AccuTune Offroad
I was hopeful that Sprung would be able to work its magic on the shock, but after a gruelling week of riding in the Scottish Borders it seems that the Monarch Plus RC3 just isn’t suited to the way the Stage’s suspension works.
As I mentioned in a previous update, I didn’t struggle with these issues using a Fox Float X2 shock on the same bike, so this once again points the finger at me needing to find a different shock to use with the Stage.
Stay tuned for that one, I’ve got some ideas brewing.
The grips have softened and moulded to Alex’s hands perfectly. Alex Evans
In other, more positive news, the stock Orange handlebar grips have really come into their own.
They started off being quite tough and hard but, like a fine whiskey, they’ve developed well with age, turning into a soft, hand-fitting and very comfortable set of grips.
Look at that lovely patina! Alex Evans
Orange Stage 6 RS long-term review update one
Since my last long-term update (scroll down to read my initial musings on life with the Orange Stage 6) not a huge amount has changed with the bike — testimony to the bike’s fantastic standard spec and quite possibly in part to my inability to be organised and get some changes sorted out.
So, what did I want to do? Well I spoke quite a bit about the rear shock not feeling as good as I’d hoped and I mentioned that I’d had better experiences with Fox’s Float X2 shock on the same bike. I suggested that maybe the bike would benefit from a lighter shock tune from the factory and with more bottom out spacers.
It’s a demon around the turns too! Andy Lloyd
Orange got back to me saying that this is the right course of action and I’m in the process of investigating using more bottom out spacers before changing the shock’s tune — that is already very light.
Changing the shock tune could be on the cards, though, and Orange has said that I should go and visit Jake from Sprung Suspension to get the necessary work done. Hopefully I’ll have more to report on this next time.
Otherwise in the world of Orange, everything seems to be running as it should and the bike is taking any abuse I can throw its way like a champ.
The Race Face Arc 30 rims on Hope Pro 4 hubs have started to lose spoke tension every once in a while, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly problematic — the wheels are still staying true and retightening the spokes returns them to their original tension.
I also said that I was hoping to find a different set of bars, stem and some different wheels to try on the bike to see if any particular component provides a greater share of the bike’s ride feel over another. Like the rear shock, this is still work in progress but I’ve narrowed down the list of parts that I’d like to test and try out.
I’m looking to get a set of Race Face Next R31 wheels to test against the alloy Arcs that are already fitted. This should give me a relatively close level of comparison — they’re made by the same company and have a very close internal width measurement.
The Stage 6 loves gnarly terrain and really thrives on rider input Andy Lloyd
I’m also looking to change out the alloy Renthal Fatbar with the carbon fibre equivalent: the Fatbar Carbon with a 35mm clamp. I’m also hoping to change the Hope 35mm stem to a 40mm Renthal Apex number to see if this makes any difference.
Original post (15 May 2019)
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.
It’s full enduro-spec with a 1-by drivetrain, long travel forks and a dropper post Andy Lloyd
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.
RockShox’s Monarch shock hasn’t impressed me so far Andy Lloyd
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.
RockShox’s Lyrik is a fantastic performer and Alex loves his Andy Lloyd
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 Renthal bars are also a firm favourite amongst loads of riders Andy Lloyd
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 DHF is great for turning and most conditions until it gets really muddy and boggy Andy Lloyd
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
Orange’s Stage 6 is their longest travel 29er and is one burly bike Andy Lloyd
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 ML tune on RockShox’s Monarch isn’t very supple at the start of its stroke, despite it having the lightest tune available Andy Lloyd
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.
The Guide RE callipers are actually Codes with Guide branding. This means they’ve got plenty of power Andy Lloyd
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.
Orange is a classic British brand Andy Lloyd
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.
The carbon SRAM Descendant cranks wore quickly, but Alex does ride this bike a lot Andy Lloyd
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 smaller 180mm rear disc rotor can get quite hot, and Alex’s is already charred black from use Andy Lloyd
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.
Stage 6 equals enduro Andy Lloyd
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.