Don’t be fooled by the Orange Alpine 160 RS’ looks – this is an all-new frame, taking the familiar single-pivot layout and handmade monocoque of old, but slicing away nearly 300g of frame weight. The pivot location has been slightly tweaked, while the geometry-adjusting shock shuttle seen on the Patriot 66 (the Alpine’s spiritual forebear) has made a return.
Ride & handling: Fast and predictable if you engage with it
From the first pedal stroke, the extremely firm tune on the Kashima-coated Fox Float shock lets you know it’s about speed, not comfort. The bike is alive; a slight degree of twist through the back end when you pin it over rough ground makes the Alpine feel like a living animal rather than an inanimate object.
It’s not a smooth, ground-hugging bike, but one that happily skips and scurries across jagged terrain without ever getting bogged down. The long cockpit and single-pivot suspension see it sit into bermed corners in a supremely confidence-inspiring way.
We found that running it in the Trail setting tamed pedal bob and gave a slightly perkier feel, and it thrived when we ran the rebound on the fast side. We’d love to try this new model with a chunkier Fox 36 fork as the 34, though not flexy, can’t cash the just-smash-it confidence cheques the Alpine’s frame writes.
The 34s are pleasingly supple, though, and a Trail Adjust lever lets you set three positions of low speed damping in Trail – useful for steep, techy tracks – though it doesn’t affect the fully-open Descend mode.
If you’re expecting thudding, brain-out point and shoot downhill performance, the new Alpine 160 will surprise you. The crash diet and revised suspension have improved pedalling manners, and downhill the bike is more flighty, meaning you have to hustle rather than lean back and relax. If you’re willing to get involved, its classic, predictable handling rewards you well with rapid, sparkling progress over rough ground.
Orange alpine 160 rs: Russell Burton/Future Publishing
Orange Alpine 160 RS
Frame & equipment: Lighter and with a long upgrade list
Noticeably slimmer, the swingarm has been updated to fit a 142x12mm axle rather than the more fiddly 135mm thru-axle that preceded it – this RS model Alpine is targeted at the enduro racer, with a pared-down single-ring drivetrain, MRP Mini G3 chain device and a 32T ring making steeper climbs tolerable.
There’s a Reverb dropper as standard, and the short-cage, clutch-equipped Shimano Zee rear mech is a nice touch – spoiling Orange’s ‘spanners in a shortbread tin’ reputation for being heard on descents several minutes before arrival, it keeps this bike relatively quiet.
Orange offers a list of upgrades as long as your arm, including a £175 bump for a Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock. We’d be tempted to take the £100 upgrade for the 780mm wide Renthal bar, stem and SDG saddle over the fitted 740mm Race Face Chester items, and benefit from extra control.
One thing we wouldn’t opt for would be the brake upgrades. The standard Shimano SLX items are plenty powerful, impervious to heat and give great bite and feel. The Maxxis Minion/High Roller tyre combo works well too.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.