Orange Stage 6 RS long-term review

The British-built burly descender is an obvious choice for my gravity-orientated exploits

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £4,900
Alex Evans riding an Orange Stage 6 over a jump at Cannop, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. March 2019

Our review

This is a first ride review score and may change as I spend more time on the bike
Pros: The 'feels like home' ride characteristics and infrequent maintenance intervals
Cons: Rear shock needs a re-tune

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.

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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.

Orange Stage 6 RS mountain bike driveside shot
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.

RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock on an Orange mountain bike
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.

RockShox Lyrik suspension fork on an Orange Stage 6 mountain bike
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.

RockShox Reverb stealth 150mm travel dropper post
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.

Orange logo on an Orange Stage 6 mountain bike
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.

Alex Evans riding an Orange Stage 6 over a jump at Cannop, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. March 2019
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.

SRAM Guide disc brake lever on an Orange Stage 6 mountain bike
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.

SRAM Descendant carbon cranks
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.

SRAM CODE disc brake caliper on an Orange Stage 6 mountain bike
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.

Orange Stage 6 mountain bike logo on bike's swing arm
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.

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So far, the frame’s been faultless and as maintenance-free as you’d hope from a bike that gets ragged and abused.