Orange’s new steel trail warrior has big tyre and wheel capability and a rock-solid, damped ride feel. Its handling balance is grounded rather than giddy though, and the tyre and brake spec don’t help first impressions.
Unsurprisingly, the Orange’s steel frame (£550 separately) looks a lot more traditional compared to other alloy bikes. The 44mm head tube relies on an oversize external-bearing headset cup to handle a tapered fork.
Gusset plates reinforce the junctions with the stout, round down and top tubes. The tapering, swerved chainstays and straight-gauge seatstays are much skinnier. Add a long 445mm back end and there’s space for 2.6in tyres in 29er format or 27.5×3.0 rubber if you go plus-size with some fresh wheels.
Neat cloverleaf dropouts house a Boost rear axle. Brake and gear lines run through bolted guides under the top tube, while the dropper seatpost cable exits at the base of the seat tube and runs up alongside the down tube bottle bosses.
There are ISCG tabs on the threaded bottom bracket shell. The 29er is only available in M, L and XL sizes, but Orange also makes a 650b P7 with an S option.
The Orange P7 29 S is a durable and solid optionMick Kirkman / Immediate Media
Orange P7 29 S kit
Orange has matched the tough frame with similarly durable parts. The Race Face cranks use a long-life steel chainring to turn dependable Shimano SLX gears.
MT500 brakes are refreshingly glitch free for Shimano stoppers, but a 160mm rotor leaves the rear low on power. The 130mm-travel RockShox Revelation RC fork gave me no trouble while taking the trail in its stride.
Wheel weight is pretty high, despite Light WTB tyres that are undergunned for the fights the Orange encourages. The 30mm-wide rims proved sturdy, though, and Kore also provides the 150mm dropper.
Orange P7 29 S ride impressions
The P7 has extra weight and it’s obvious. Skinny rear stays mean power transfer feels diluted rather than direct, too. The harder compound of the Trail Boss rear tyre and the need to run a higher pressure to stop the carcass crumpling or pinch-flatting also undermine traction. This can all make slow technical climbs a fight, because each stall or slip is harder to regain speed from, which leads to steering wander too.
On the plus side, the rear tyre rolls fast on straighter, smoother climbs and there’s decent ground clearance even with 175mm cranks. On mellower trails the large-volume 29er tyres bowl along nicely, and those long stays mean you can upgrade to bigger rubber to max out ground-hugging grip.
And you can do the same up front. While the stock Vigilante tyre uses WTB’s High Grip compound, it has the same Light carcass as the rear, which means grip turns to slip sooner than on other Maxxis-equipped bikes in high-load corners.
The Orange’s 66.5-degree head angle means it isn’t as front-end stable as bikes with 65-degree head tubes. Its long rear triangle also pulls its handling centre backwards for a less aggressive feel, and the smaller rotor makes it harder to rear-wheel steer.
The stout front end means the Orange stays precise with its handlingMick Kirkman / Immediate Media
Once you’ve switched tyres and heaved your way to the top of the hill, though, the P7 gets a chance to show why steel hardtails still have a fanatical following. That damped feel through the pedals becomes a bonus, as your feet and knees get a smoother ride down rocky descents.
Once you’re rolling at a decent pace, the back-end screens out stutter bumps better too, sustaining pace and keeping your spine fresher. While the stout front end means the Orange stays precise with its handling, the steel tubes help skim off some of the buzz and chatter that can numb hands or tire arms quickly on long days.
It’s definitely on the solid rather than springy end of the ferrous frame spectrum, though, so pick the P7 for durability, not dynamic excitement.