Orange Stage 6 RS long-term review

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

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Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £4,900

Our review

A solid feeling, exciting to ride bike that has enough suspension compliance to get you out of serious trouble when things go very wrong
Pros: The 'feels like home' ride characteristics and infrequent maintenance intervals
Cons: The drivetrain is getting a bit long in the tooth and I'm still searching for a rear shock that really works with the bike

Orange Stage 6 RS long-term review update six

Now I’ve spent a bit more time on the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels I have certainly noticed that they make the ride on the Stage 6 smoother.

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Although they don’t necessarily absorb bumps in the same way that soft tyres or supple suspension can, they do make the bike have a marked feeling of compliance and smoothness on really rough terrain.

Of course, that smoothness is relative. If you crash and bang though rough and wild terrain they aren’t going to turn what you’re feeling into sanitised numbness, but they do help with bike control. And when you’re really pushing your limits it does feel like they aren’t hindering speed and control.

Orange Stage 6
Who’d have thought the weather in Wales could be this good in February?
Alex Evans

Some of my impressions might differ to to Seb’s findings, but this is probably down to how I like my bike set up with stiff suspension and harder tyres, putting the onus on other components to do more of the bump absorbing work, rather than a disagreement among testers.

I’ve also been testing the Manitou Mara shock, and my initial impressions of it feeling like it needs a larger or higher-pressure negative air spring still hold. I’m pretty close to compiling all of my thoughts into a full review soon, so keep an eye out for it online soon.

So what’s next for the Orange? As someone who’s fairly adverse to change, I think it might finally be time to chop the Orange for a new bike – this has to be one of the longest test periods for any bike.

Orange Stage 6
Stay tuned for a full review of the Mara rear shock soon!
Alex Evans

I’ve got a few models and bikes in mind, but maybe the new Stage 6 is a good bet. I’ll be able to see how the bike has been updated, too. Equally, I did enjoy my time on the latest Pivot Switchblade when I tested it in Gran Canaria earlier this year.

Although I’m also open to suggestions for bikes that are suited to gravity-focused riding and can be pedalled to the top of the hill. So, if you’ve got any ideas let me know.

I’m hoping that my next update will be the last one on the faithful Orange.

Orange Stage 6 RS long-term review update five

True to the form of many mountain bikers – especially those who are strapped for cash or just lazy – since my last update I’ve managed to do absolutely nothing about the worn-out drivetrain currently sitting on my bike.

Instead, I’ve diverted my attention to trying out a set of Zipp’s 3Zero Moto wheels that our Seb tested earlier this year. Zipp claims that the wheels offer exceptional levels of compliance, which should improve grip and comfort.

While Seb wasn’t totally convinced about their performance, noting Zipp’s claims about the wheels not to be as pronounced as he imagined they might be, he did notice that they were good at damping bigger impacts, particularly when the tyre bottomed out on the rim.

It’s also worth noting that Seb runs lower tyre pressures than I do and, after testing 15 wheelsets back to back, he concluded that tyre pressure is the most vital element for ironing out trail buzz.

Orange Stage 6 RS
The Orange loves razzing around turns and I can’t wait to carry on putting it through its paces.
Andy Lloyd

So, because of my preference for higher tyre pressures, it might be possible for me to feel the benefits of the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels more. I’m excited to find out and will report back accordingly.

I’m also hoping to put a bit more time on the Manitou Mara rear shock and, while initial impressions are good, it certainly feels like the negative air spring could do with being both bigger and having more pressure in it.

Unlike a lot of shocks on the market, the Mara’s negative air spring pressure doesn’t equalise as you inflate the positive chamber. Instead, it’s inflated during shock assembly and inflates to a pre-defined pressure.

The Mara Manitou supplied to me for testing has the middle-sized negative air spring. I am currently in the process of seeing how performance changes after refilling the negative spring – by simply removing the shock’s sleeve and then reinstalling it – and am hopeful this will solve the feelings I initially experienced.

The next step will be to get the bigger negative air spring to see how this changes the shock’s performance. Like the wheels, I’ll report back!

Orange Stage 6 RS long-term review update four

It only feels like yesterday that I was enthusiastically ripping the cardboard box open for my 2018/2019 Orange Stage 6 RS – in probably one of the hastiest and most rushed moments of recent memory – in a bid to throw my leg over a box-fresh bike.

After a solid 10 months together, those enthusiastic pre-ride feelings are still there and I’ve really gelled with it during this time. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not had its faults.

Impressively, the XO1 mech has brushed off knocks well
Impressively, the XO1 mech has brushed off knocks well.
Alex Evans

Most recently, the problems have been sprouting from general wear – notably with the rather used and abused drivetrain.

The chainring’s rather grim life of helping to propel the bike forward through mud, dust, sand, grit and rain has meant that its teeth have started to wear significantly and, when first gear is selected, the angle of the chain successfully pulls it from the chainring’s teeth.

The SRAM chainring has fared well considering the amount of abuse it's had
The SRAM chainring has fared well considering the amount of abuse it’s had.
Alex Evans

Although it’s not the end of the world, it can get frustrating. The remedy, of course, is a replacement chainring. SRAM’s X-Sync narrow-wide Eagle chainring will cost around £80 to replace, although aftermarket options from other brands are going to cost quite a bit less.

While you’re replacing your chainring, it might be wise to check out how worn the chain is too – SRAM 12-speed chains start from around £25.

Even the chain has done well considering how much use it's had
Even the chain has done well considering how much use it’s had.
Alex Evans

If you do replace your chain, it might also be wise to change the cassette because chains and cassettes are ‘mated’ to one another.

The cheapest 12-speed cassette from SRAM is the NX at £99, but it uses a Shimano freehub body not SRAM’s XD driver. I’d need the GX Eagle cassette at a minimum and would be looking at a £170 purchase price.

The narrow-wide teeth now refuse to keep the chain on when it's at a wide angle in the easiest gears on the cassette
However, the narrow-wide teeth now refuse to keep the chain on when it’s at a wide angle in the easiest gears on the cassette.
Alex Evans

To get the Orange’s drivetrain ready for another winter of abuse I’d be looking to spend £275, which isn’t an insignificant amount of money in one hit, although when divided up over the 10 months of relatively abuse-filled ownership, keeping the Stage 6 running sweet works out at £27.50 a month. That’s really not too bad and much cheaper than a car or a Sky TV subscription.

It's recommended you replace the cassette when you change the chain and chainring
It’s recommended you replace the cassette when you change the chain and chainring.
Alex Evans

What else has happened in the land of Orange, then? Well, the British brand has released an updated Stage 6 (among others), which we spotted at Eurobike, with a longer reach, steeper seat angle, slack head angle and revised suspension kinematics.

As tempting as it is to ask Orange for a cheeky upgrade – because I’m sure the new bike is an impressive improvement over the older one – I’m going to stick with my 2018/2019 model. That’s because I’ve finally managed to get a new shock for it.

Now with a Manitou Mara rear shock, Alex hopes the Stage 6's rear end will be brought to life
Now with a Manitou Mara rear shock, Alex hopes the Stage 6’s rear end will be brought to life.
Alex Evans

To match the Mezzer fork, Manitou has sent out a Mara — its new rear shock — to test. Hopefully the Mara will provide a solution to the problems I’ve experienced with the RockShox Monarch that’s supplied on the bike.

Stay tuned for more updates as I continue to put the Stage 6 through its paces.

Work or party? We know which one we prefer
Work or party? I know which one I prefer.
Alex Evans

Orange Stage 6 RS long-term review update three

Where does the time go? It seems like this year has been on constant fast forward and the summer has been passing at a deadly rate. But that isn’t to say that I’ve not had much opportunity to ride my Orange.

Actually, quite the opposite is true. I’ve been out on it loads during the nice, hot weather. And that’s probably why it feels like time has been flying. What’s changed then?

Manitou Mezzer fork

The Mezzer has impressed so far!
The Mezzer has impressed me so far!
Alex Evans

I’ve managed to swap some parts out — finally. Unfortunately, those parts weren’t quite the ones I was hoping to swap — namely the rear shock, but also the wheels at some point (see the updates below for more) — instead I’ve managed to get my hands on a Manitou Mezzer fork and a set of Pirelli mountain bike tyres.

Swapping out the RockShox Lyrik fork for the Mezzer wasn’t something I was expecting to do mainly because I don’t have any complaints about how the Lyrik performs. In fact, it would be fair to say that the Lyrik is probably one of the best-performing enduro forks on the market at the moment, so the Mezzer’s got quite high expectations to live up to.

The Mezzer's decals are chromed out
The Mezzer’s decals are chromed out.
Alex Evans

Fitting them was relatively easy; the steerer tube needed cutting down and a star nut installing. The brake mount from the Lyirk was the same and the custom-built Mezzer mudguard was simple to fit with just two Allen bolts attaching it.

Likewise, the cable guide just needed fitting and it’s good to have the option of fitting it either on the front or rear of the fork’s brace.

The integrated mudguard is a nice touch and is fairly flexible
The integrated mudguard is a nice touch and is fairly flexible.
The integrated mud guard is a nice touch and is fairly flexible

I encountered a small issue when fitting the front wheel. The Mezzer fork isn’t compatible with the torque caps that are fitted on the Hope Pro 4 hubs from the factory, so that they work with the Lyrik fork — these are the adaptors either side of the hub that give it the correct axle spacing and diameter for the fork.

£18.50 later and the wheel was ready to work with the Mezzer forks.

I’ve done some preliminary testing on the forks and can confirm that, while set up is a little tricky — especially getting the correct air pressure dialled — they seem to be performing exceptionally well out on the trail and offer a surprisingly good balance between small bump sensitivity and ramp up.

Pirelli Scorpion S and R tyres

The Scorpion S is designed for soft terrain
The Scorpion S is designed for soft terrain.
Alex Evans

As a self-confessed Maxxis and Schwalbe fan, it’s always tricky swapping to a different brand of tyres. But in the true spirit of being a bike tester, I’ve got to be as open minded as possible.

Pirelli launched its first range of mountain bike tyres at the start of 2019, but has slowly been releasing more sizes over the course of the year. Now it’s got some chunkier tread on offer, it only seemed appropriate to a slap a set on my bike.

The fairly blocky treads should provide good mechanical grip
The fairly blocky treads should provide good mechanical grip.
Alex Evans

I’ve opted for the S — which stands for soft, denoting the type of terrain they work best on — to the front of the bike because it best suits the UK’s soggy conditions and an R — the rear-specific tyre — on the back of the bike.

Like the fork, I’ve only done some preliminary testing, but they feel good and the chunky tread seems well-suited to the UK’s climes.

Expect more in the next report and full reviews soon.

I am really enjoying my time on the Orange Stage 6, even though the bike has now been updated to a fresher model
I am really enjoying my time on the Orange Stage 6, even though the bike has now been updated to a fresher model.
Alex Evans

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.
Orange Stage 6 enduro mountain bike in a field
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.

Orange Stage 6 enduro mountain bike in a field
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.

Orange Stage 6 enduro mountain bike in a field
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.

A graph to display the differences between digressive, linear and progressive suspension compression tunes
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.

Orange Stage 6 enduro mountain bike in a field
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.

Orange Stage 6 enduro mountain bike in a field
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.

BikeRadar Technical Editor Alex Evans rides his long-term Orange Stage 6 RS enduro mountain bike around a bermed corner in the forest
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.

I’m looking to get a set of Race Face Next R31 wheels to test against the alloy Arcs that are already fitted

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.

BikeRadar Technical Editor Alex Evans rides his long-term Orange Stage 6 RS enduro mountain bike over some roots in the forest
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.

Orange Stage 6 full suspension mountain bike
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 Monarch rear suspension on an Orange Stange 6 mountain bike
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 Lyrik mountain bike suspension fork on an Orange Stage 6 bike
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.

Renthal Farbar mountain bike handlebars
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.

Maxxis Minion DHF mountain bike tyre
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 Stage 6 full suspension mountain bike
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.

RockShox's Monarch rear mountain bike shock on Orange Stage 6 mountain bike
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.

Guide RE mountain bike brake callipers
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.