There are few brands that are as iconic and rich in heritage as Orange, their single pivot frames still sharing the same silhouette as they did when they first headed down that design path in the nineties. Their aluminium monocoque fabrication is pretty unique within the cycle industry and is a technique they have been developing and honing over a long period of time. Pulling out the flat sheets of aluminium from the racks it’s hard to imagine the final product destined to be ripping down the trails…
Based over three sites a stone's throw apart in West Yorkshire, Orange has always stayed true to themselves, their philosophy, and is far from the image of ‘a bloke in his shed’ that has been thrown around before. I’ll admit to being naive to the amount of time, effort, and sheer skill these guys put into their bikes, but seeing the production first-hand makes it clear in my mind of not only what makes an Orange an Orange, but why they have and will continue down their individualistic road.
Last year was a transitional phase for the company with original founders Lester Noble and Steve Wade stepping aside and Ashley Ball taking the reins; a man no stranger to the company having been in charge of Bairstow Sheet Metal, the company that fabricates Orange’s iconic frames. Now with both companies ‘unified’ and under the same guidance of Ashley, it has opened up a fresh and exciting chapter for Orange to push forward into the future.
Orange is spread across three sites all local to one another around Halifax, North Yorkshire.
The Orange frames start life as a flat sheet of aluminium, ready to be cut, shaped and welded.
The designs are entered into a computer program which sends data to the laser cutting and punching machines.
The aluminium monocoque design is almost like a giant Airfix kit with such a wide range of components coming together.
The front edge of that iconic and unmistakable Orange swingarm.
Each section of frame is shaped (a process Orange are understandably reluctant to share) before heading to the welders.
Orange machine their own shockmounts...
...and dropouts at their engineering works.
Orange have over the years developed and honed their processes meaning they now work to tiny tolerances.
The frames are pretty low volume, with two welders producing around 20 bikes per week.
Frames racked up and ready to be put into the jig.
Making sure the angles add up before being carted down the road to the paint shop.
This is the final stage for the frames in this factory, they are then taken a short drive away to the paint and assembly line.
The mode of transport for the day was pretty apt. Iconic bikes, iconic cars.
10 minutes from factory to the main base where the office, painting, and assembly are located.
The first full suspension Orange; the X628. The name coming from the fact it could swap between 6 and 8" of travel.
Orange are well known for experimenting with their 'Strange' prototypes, even giving gearboxes a shot.
After welding the frames need to be cleaned up before painting.
This gives the best possible surface for a hard wearing powder coat finish.
From Kermit Green to Minion Yellow, there's plenty of bright colourways to choose from.
After being given a base coat, the frames will then be baked in the oven before being repeated again with the final colour.
The bikes are then built up to order with a wide range of finishing kits.
A Four ready to be let loose on the trails!