The steel P7 has been a stalwart of the Orange range for more than 10 years, but recent tweaks and refinement mean it isn’t ready to receive its P45 any time soon.
It’s not without its glitches, though.
Ride & handling: steady, tractive trail manners
The P7 is the epitome of sorted, steady-away trail manners. The wide Supercross bars and short stem immediately give it broad-shouldered power steering assurance. The relaxed head angle keeps it composed and calm across random rocky terrain, even when you’re flat out first time at night in the middle of nowhere.
That steep seat angle and mid-length top tube keep the front end in constant communication with the trail, giving decent cornering traction without you having to deliberately push forward onto the cockpit. Relatively long chainstays and wheelbase add stability to the ride at speed or in the steeps, as well as keeping the nose down on climbs.
Given all of this, first impressions aren’t of a rapid-response vehicle when it comes to whipping round trees, but you’ll soon learn to get that long back end round sharply enough. The P7 story has always been more about measured, assured reactions to situations when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, rather than hyperactive nervousness.
The steel tubeset adds a whole extra dimension to the ride. Again, it’s not ‘wham, bam’ instant when you press on the pedals, but there’s a building surge that lengthens and livens up as soon as you get into your stride. The slight steel resilience means a consistent ground contact for surefooted traction under power or through turns too, which is lucky considering the sketchy-when-wet tyre choice.
The same slightly sprung feel adds a top note of control and comfort when you’re rattling over rocks, frozen tractor ruts, or any other hard surface. While you’ll still get walloped hard by square-edged stuff, or successive impacts you can’t avoid, you’re always aware – and glad – that you’re on a steel bike instead of an alloy one.
In short, it’s no wonder that the P7 has proved such a popular long-term trail choice.
Frame: Sorted steel, but watch the dropouts.
Not many frames can boast a decade of continuous development, and Orange has dialled the P7 chassis to exactly the tune it wants.
The double-butted chromoly steel tubes are cold drawn to maximise long-term strength and resilience. The head tube gets thick reinforcing rims top and bottom to stop the headset splaying it out over time, and there’s an extra gusset at the throat to cope with longer forks. The seat tube is oversized for extra strength and then shimmed back down to 27.2mm for a springier seat post feel.
The relatively slim stays leave plenty of mud and ankle room thanks to a little bit of curved kink, while the short wishbone section has both rack and mudguard mounts on it.
On the subject of finish, white is the standard colour, but you can have the trademark orange of our test bike – or any of the 14 other colours on offer – for an extra £50.
The dropouts on both sides are formed from flat plates anchored by two bolts each side, so that they can be slid back and forth to adjust chain tension on single sprocket setups. Unlike other designs, there’s no threaded ‘chain tug’ to act directly against chain pull though, and the small M5 bolts proved to be a real Achilles heel of the otherwise tough frame.
Although we tested the tightness of the Orange’s offside sliding dropout when we assembled the bike, we still managed to lose one dropout and shear the other in half after only a few hours’ riding. Finishing a descent with only the rear brake hose holding the wheel on, and only one bolt replaceable ended that test as conclusively as it would your ride.
To be fair, we’ve tested plenty of P7s without this happening, but it’s definitely a design weakness to watch out for.
Components: decent selection but contentious rubber
The Pro is the stock top-of-the-range P7 (assorted upgrades are available), and by and large the equipment is pitch-perfect for its tough trail persona. The Vanilla coil forks are heavier than an air-sprung Fox, but still lighter than the Tora on the Saracen. They totally outstrip them in terms of smoothness, floated damping accuracy and overall confidence, too.
New Shimano XT shifting feels great, and the Race Face cranks are a tough trail setup. The Avid Juicy 5 brakes have great feel and power once they’ve settled in, although we did miss the lever adjust fitted to the Juicy 7s on the Whyte.
Hope Pro II hubs are a byword for longevity and simple servicing.
The Continental Speed King tyres are a contentious choice for a trail tough-nut, though. They’re certainly fast and astonishingly light for their generous girth, but they tend to ping all over the place and puncture fairly easily. The basic versions here don’t get the impressively grippy Black Magic rubber compound either, which makes the delicate downsides worth working round.
The SDG saddle and Orange own-brand finishing kit are all welcome on the menu, however.
Summary: a classic
Surefooted, ready-for-anything handling, the comfortable confident feel of steel and a spec list full of classic long-haul kit mean the P7 is still a classic choice for pioneering explorers. It’s more of a steady state than a snap-reaction ride though, and those dropouts need watching.