Since the 222 back in the early noughties, Orange’s downhill bike has flown the flag for great British engineering. The 322 is the latest incarnation and, having been in the pipeline for a while, it ought to be a good ’un.
Frame and equipment: shock of the new
Built from sheets of aluminium made into a custom shaped monocoque mainframe, the 322 resembles Oranges of the past, but with one big difference. Its shock is mounted in a cradle within the down tube, meaning Orange can get the bike to behave exactly as is desired, and can achieve a more progressive spring rate. The vital statistics include a 135x12mm back end, 73mm BB shell and 1.5in head tube.
The tidy cockpit on our custom build came courtesy of renthal: Steve Behr
The cockpit came courtesy of Renthal
Although the 322 is only available as a frame and shock package, Orange built us up this complete bike to test, with a Fox 40 fork and DHX RC4 shock. The Shimano Saint shifting didn’t miss a beat, even after the MRP S4 chainguide took some big hits.
Carrying on the British theme, the bike runs on Hope Pro2 hubs, stops on Hope M4 brakes and has a Renthal cockpit, consisting of their Fatbar and Integra direct-mount stem. The 322 frame complete with this solid, dependable build kit tips the scales at a reasonable 17.7kg (39lb).
Ride and handling: harsh but fair
Rolling into our local downhill test tracks, the first thing that really stood out was the 322’s massive amount of lateral stiffness, which meant the bike would, on occasion, deflect and slide when leaning over in particularly tight turns.
This is by no means a bad thing though, and when you’ve become accustomed to it, is a large part of what makes the Orange feel so solid and dependable. Although the 322 isn’t necessarily the comfiest of bikes to ride, being unforgiving at times, this solid, bombproof feel will no doubt win over a lot of riders’ hearts.
The revised shock position has made a big difference to the suspension feel, especially towards the end of the stroke where a ramping-up is now far more apparent. In large, slower compressions such as when landing big jumps, the progression is perfect and feels really well controlled.
The new pierced down tube design gives a more progressive suspension feel: Steve Behr
We appreciated the revised shock position
However, the rear end can feel rather harsh over larger high-speed compressions and square-edge hits such as big rocks or roots. This is the flipside to that simple, cheaper to maintain single-pivot design.
The sizing of our ‘long’ test bike was perfect for our 5ft 8in tester, with the 63-degree head angle and 1,210mm wheelbase creating tons of stability and a reassuring, confidence inspiring feel. The 445mm chainstays help to position you centrally on the bike and make shifting your weight around the cockpit that bit easier, yet they’re not long enough to prevent you hoofing the front end up as and when it’s needed. This is the quietest Orange downhill rig we’ve ever clattered down the hillside on too.
Spec as tested
Fork: Fox 40 RC2 FIT, 203mm (8in) travel
Drivetrain: Shimano Saint mech and shifter, RaceFace Atlas cranks, MRP S4 chain guide
Wheelset: Hope Pro2 hubs, Mavic EX721 rims
Brakes: Hope Tech M4
Bar: Renthal Fatbar
Stem: Renthal Integra
Seatpost: Thomson Elite
Saddle: SDG Falcon