Today Orange released two new bikes at the Bike Place trade show, the Orange Stage 5 and Stage 6, both boasting 29-inch wheels and 135 mm and 150 mm travel respectively. While we’re in no doubt that the Stage 6 will be a true Alpine smasher, it was the 135 mm Stage 5 that really caught our attention.
We spent the last few months riding a prototype version to see how it performed. While our bike had a different build, we took some time to get to grips with the character of the unique bike. Be sure to check out the press release to see the production Orange Stage 5 that was released today.
We can hear the comments already; “ it look’s the same”, and indeed nothing radical has changed. The signature swingarm and pivot location look familiar, it looks, well, like an Orange. But, that’s not a criticism. There can be few bike companies out there that boast the same design confidence as Orange, bucking trends and hype the company has stuck to what it knows best – making bikes that ride well and are easy to live with. This approach has gained them an almost cultish following with passionate UK fans and their reach is spreading globally.
The New Orange Stage 5
With the demise of the popular Alpine 5 140 mm 29er, Orange have been lacking a mid travel aggressive 29er in their lineup. This is where the new Stage 5 will fit, boasting the same essential angles, but stretched (2 cm in size Large) in the reach and slammed at the front (2 cm lower in Large), and complete with the more aggressive frame lines that characterize the new Orange lineup. The bike will initially be available in a ‘Launch Edition Specification’ for £5500.
Specification of the Orange Stage 5
The bike we received for testing was a pre-production prototype, with a different build kit from the production model so we will not comment on the specification, only the ride quality. You can see the production ‘Launch Edition Specification’ model here, it features 135 mm of suspension controlled by the same impressive Fox Float X2 Factory shock, offering impressive damping for the single pivot platform. A full Shimano XT 11 speed drivetrain looks after the drive, with the burly Hope Crank as a centrepiece. The obligatory dropper will be the formidable FOX transfer and reliable and easy to bleed Hope Tech 3 / E4 brakes. The all important fork on the prodcution bike will be a 140 mm FOX Float 36 Factory FiT4, a team favourite at ENDURO. To match the Kashima bling, Orange have also specced an 20 mm rise 800 mm Renthal 35 mm Carbon Fatbar and Renthal Apex 50 mm stem. We like that Orange recognise the benefits of wider rims, and have chosen to fit Boost Easton ARC 30 mm internal rims. It’s all well chosen stuff, no alarm bells are ringing about reliability and owners should expect trouble free riding.
Geometry of the Orange Stage 5
When it comes down to the numbers, Orange have kept to their proven geometry, the Stage 5 shares a lot of vital statistics with its popular 27.5” wheeled stablemate, the Five. With a 66.5-degree head angle, it’s the same as the old Alpine 5, and the -35 mm drop of the bottom bracket keeps the centre of gravity low. The 74-degree seat angle is on point for good pedalling efficiency, and we like that the chainstays are not ultra short at 445 mm, striking a good balance and helping keep weight over the front wheel. We were riding the Medium size model, which for our 1.8 m testers was a touch small, though we had to admit the bike felt roomier than the 436 mm reach would suggest, no doubt helped by the full-width bars. The low standover means we would certainly size up if on the border between sizes. The short 100 mm head tube and low 624 mm stack height feels very aggressive and the 800 mm wide bars quickly gave us the confidence to light the fuse, feed it some speed and hang on.
|Head Tube Angle||66.5°||66.5°||66.5°|
|Seat Tube Angle||74°||74°||74°|
|Top Tube||585 mm||604 mm||623 mm|
|Head Tube Length||100 mm||110 mm||120 mm|
|Seat Tube Length||43.18 mm||45.72 mm||50.80 mm|
|BB Height||335 mm||335 mm||335 mm|
|Chain Stay Length||445 mm||445 mm||445 mm|
|Wheelbase||1183 mm||1204 mm||1225 mm|
|Stack||624 mm||633 mm||642 mm|
|Reach||436 mm||453 mm||470 mm|
Riding the Orange Stage 5
The ride position on the Orange feels aggressive and confident, putting down the power on hills results in a surge of speed, and long days in the saddle are dispatched with comfort and ease. As soon as you point the Stage 5 down the trail the ride is iconically Orange. It’s hard to describe in words, but the laterally stiff frame and single pivot design feel very lively, taut and responsive, easy to lift into the air and push into turns. It’s a bike that feels good on the edge and gets better the more speed you feed in; at full speed, the Stage 5 really starts to sing. Yes, there are suspension designs that feel more composed at high speeds, but most lack the fun and visceral energy that the single pivot design brings. We were surprised how easy the Stage 5 handled really rough terrain, it’s a very fast bike indeed.
The long single pivot swingarm soaks up impacts well, no surprises really as the FOX Float X2 is a very high-performance shock; brake jack when charging hard into steep corners is very well controlled and damped, and small bump sensitivity is class leading for an air can. Running 30% SAG, we did find the long lever of the Orange blew the shock through its travel on big hits and G-outs, heavier or more aggressive riders will certainly want to fit some volume reducing tokens to tune the spring rate for more compression. The beauty (and sometimes a curse) of the X2 is that it’s very easy to adjust and tune to rider’s preference and we would add a volume reducer or two.
Through the corners, the wide, flat bar and low cockpit give the bike real confidence, it’s easy to weight the front wheel for maximum grip, helped by the not-ultra-short 445 mm chainstays which throw more weight forwards. In between the turns, the big wheels gather, then hold, momentum exceptionally well. The Stage 5 is one of those bikes that gives you back what you put in, ride it slowly and it cruises nicely, confident and encouraging, wring the hell out of it and it pulls up its sleeves and gets stuck in. As an aggressive trail bike, we could not fault it, it’s simply a great bike.
So where does the Orange Stage 5 fit into the current Orange lineup?
Sitting between the Orange Segment and Stage 6, the new Stage 5 should be considered a bigger wheeled alternative to the Five. The Segment is an amazing bike that loves to be thrashed hard, but in doing so can often tempt you into terrain where an 110 mm bike has no place being. All too soon you find yourself thumping into a rooty rock garden at warp speed while in one ear the Segment whispers “go faster”, and in the other ear the suspension fork and shock scream “Help us! We’re all going to die!”. This is where the new Stage 5 fits slots in nicely, the big wheels carry effortless speed and stability, and the 135 mm of travel is well up to the task for everyday trail riding and aggressive enduro dabbles. If you only ride full bore enduro trails or alpine terrain, then the 150 mm Stage 6 may be the better bike, but for everything else, the Orange Stage 5 is the definitive trail bike, a true category blaster. Against the 27.5 inch wheeled Five, the Stage 5’s improved stability and blistering momentum would make it our pick.
With the Stage 5, Orange have brewed up another classic bike. The Stage 5 captures all the traditional flavour that Orange fans will love, but in a sharper and spicier package. With a little shock tuning it punches above it’s 135 mm of travel, it’s just as happy riding for a 70 km loop on the moors, or being thrashed to the limit down a DH trail. If you value speed, fun and elegant simplicity, this is best trail bike you can buy.
We tested a prototype version with a different build, so be sure to check out the production model of the Orange Stage 5 here.
Words & Photos: Trev Worsey