Orange's Prototype 29er DH Bike - Eurobike 2017

Aug 31, 2017
by Mike Levy  
Eurobike 2017


Orange 29er DH Prototype


Orange is one of the few brands with a new downhill rig on display at Eurobike, theirs being a 29'' wheeled prototype that falls under the 'Strange' development banner that the UK company uses for development work. The 180mm-travel machine pictured here is the result of over a year of work, says Ash Ball, Orange's owner and managing director, although he was also quick to point out that they've been working with 29'' wheels for many years now, and that the new downhill bike is a culmination of that history.

My first question to Ash was an obvious one: will this thing ever be for sale? His answer was ''Of course,'' although the exact timeframe for its release is still to be decided.


Orange 29er DH Prototype
Orange 29er DH Prototype


Big-wheeled downhill bikes came on quick in 2017, with World Cup teams scurrying to cobble together their own 29er race bikes so that the fastest riders in the world could at least test them. But it turns out that one of the biggest challenges has been getting the racers themselves to be open-minded enough to try 29ers, which is an odd thing when you consider that their job is to get from point A to point B as fast as possible and regardless of the tools they need to do that; if 29'' wheels are faster, then that's what they should want to be on, old fashioned ideas about image aside.

''I reckon that this is the fastest downhill bike that we've ever made,'' Ball replied when I asked him if his racers have done timed testing on the new bike. They have, he said, and it's been quicker everywhere. That should make it a pretty simple decision if you ask me.


Orange 29er DH Prototype


The new bike looks a lot like their current 324 production downhill sled that rolls on 27.5'' wheels, but it features completely revised geometry and suspension kinematics that suit the larger wheel size. Ball didn't get into the numbers, however, but he did say that it sports 180mm of rear wheel travel - 10mm less than the 324 - that's paired with a 200mm-travel Fox 29er downhill fork. Orange has investigated using a linkage system in the past, but Ball is adamant that it isn't required and that it offers no benefits over a well thought-out single-pivot system.

He might be right about that, but there's no denying that current trends say otherwise. Either way, it's refreshing to see the small UK company stick to their guns when they could easily have jumped on a different layout and surely sold more bikes.


Orange 29er DH Prototype

Orange 29er DH Prototype
Orange 29er DH Prototype



136 Comments

  • + 134
 "He might be right bout that, but there's no denying that current trends say otherwise. Either way, it's refreshing to see the small UK company stick to their guns when they could easily have jumped on a different layout and surely sold more bikes."

I'm calling bull on this, whenever orange has launched a pivoted bike it has bombed. They know their customers, simple, cave dwelling troglodytes who's only servicing tool is a hammer.

However there are definitely days when nothing will put a smile on your face like an orange.
  • + 11
 if the blood would've had a 1.5 head tube it would've sold
they released it with a 1+1/8th when EVERYONE else went tapered..........
  • + 9
 Would give more than one prop if I could. Troglodyte- heheheh
  • + 35
 He is right though - Orange seem to have obtained a good level of stiffness to weight ratio with their frames and the leverage ratios are not too disimilar to many linkage operated single pivots so what would be the point in adding a linkage to the frame other than to please people that have no idea about suspension.

Why use a linkage with a single pivot? Like the Nukeproof Pulse, Kona, previous Transition etc etc - A linkage is only used to either increase stiffness / reduce shock side loading or provide a desired change in leverage ratio.

This is not intended as a comparison between a single pivot and other designs such as Horst and short link, vpp but even here unless the engineer applies the correct design there is going to be no benefit, in some cases they ride much worse (case in point older Intense DH bikes that were so progressive the last inch of travel was useless, or some Santa Cruz bikes with horrible leverage curves that cause wallowy mid-stroke where you want support)

I am not going to say there are no benefits of a more complicated suspension design over a design like the Orange but I would much rather ride an Orange with predictable suspension behaviour and great geometry over a poorly designed fancy design with odd characteristics and crap geo.
  • + 92
 The fastest way from point A to B is Aaron Gwin on a 27.5 wheels.
  • + 28
 @enrico650: Yea, thats entirely relevant to a new Orange DH bike.
  • - 33
flag richierocket (Aug 31, 2017 at 3:53) (Below Threshold)
 Wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it but they found a way to make Oranges uglier.
  • + 10
 @Racer951: I absolutely agree with you. I'd like to add that it is also easier for the tuner of the rear shock to work with, compared to a design with a linkage driven shock.

@richierocket : It is all personal preference of course. I still think Orange bikes are prettier than any Santa Cruz or Trek bike I've seen.
  • + 3
 @enrico650: No. It's Minaar with bombproof wheels ;-)
  • + 25
 @Imself: ...
and frame lol
  • + 4
 @Racer951: "I would much rather ride an Orange with predictable suspension behaviour and great geometry over a poorly designed fancy design with odd characteristics and crap geo."

Luckily those aren't your only options. These days there are companies that have good leverage rates on their frames while also achieving design goals that Orange hasn't, such as having nearly 100% anti-squat throughout travel while also having very low pedal kickback. (Orange may have good AS but their PKB is quite large).

I'm not saiyng that's impossible with a single pivot (I wouldn't really know) but there are surely more constraints between leverage rate, anti-squat, and PKB than with the collection of multi-link designs. At any rate if a more optimal combination exists for their single pivot, Orange haven't found it.
  • + 6
 @WaterBear: You cut and pasted what I said without including: "I am not going to say there are no benefits of a more complicated suspension design over a design like the Orange" - If you had included that part you wouldnt have needed to re-word pretty much what I said - The Orange isnt perfect, there are benefits to other more complicated suspension designs.
  • + 3
 @WaterBear:

Actually there are not many, Mondraker, Niner and the Geometron have the best kinematics on paper, according to the portuguese guru Antonio, BUT what this transcribes to on the dirt is anyones guess!! Having seen a World cup rider (top result 9 th) ride a humble Orange Five, I reckon it had much less to do with the bike!! I don't think he cared about what was going on at the rear tyre!!
If you have ever had the privilege to jump on Bryceland's 5010 the shock is that firm it might as well be a hard tail, go figure!!
  • - 1
 Orange has investigated using a linkage system in the past, but Ball is adamant that it isn't required and that it offers no benefits over a well thought-out single-pivot system. - So basically @ridewhenever , your comment backs this up but in the fact they had no idea what they were doing building a linkage.. so lets just keep moving the pivot and change the wheel sizes. got it.
  • + 7
 Don't underestimate single pivot. Very predictable through its stroke
  • + 3
 @nojzilla: I've had my blood for 7 years and its still one of the most fun bikes I have ridden, and its easily the best looking bike orange made, they just dropped it because it didn't follow oranges standard look
  • + 3
 @Racer951: only a reason to add a link is to get a water bottle inside the front triangle...
  • + 1
 @mark3: totally, I as SO close to getting one second hand. If it was'nt for trying to find a fork for it!
I did hear a roumer aboot transition sueing but i reckon that's bull
  • + 3
 @nojzilla: I think its bs, I went to an orange day at Cannock chase 18mths ago and met the designer of the blood, he said orange dropped the blood as it didn't follow there theme of design, even he said it was the one bike most of the employees loved to ride the most.
  • + 0
 @Murfdog: when Dirt were on them then? One of their rider said he'd be better off nose manualing into a turn to avoid the brake jack.
  • + 2
 @ridewhenever I laughed. However, there's lots of evidence, both technical and anecdotal, to suggest a good single pivot works as well or near as well as a linkage system. The worst part is pedaling, and considering the current shock tech and the fact that this is a dh rig, mixed with Orange's belief in single pivots, I don't think he's BS'ing
  • + 1
 @Murfdog: It depends on what you mean by "best kinematics." I had in mind the Canfield Bros designs. Whatever the leverage rate curves are, the bikes neither bottom too easily nor resist bottoming to any extreme. On the other hand they have great anti-squat and little pedal kickback.

@Racer951: I guess I'm confused. It sounds like you're saying on the one hand that multi link designs are better when engineered well, but worse than an Orange when not. Correct?
  • + 2
 @Racer951: Oh, I think I get it. You were saying in essence that it's not clear when a multi link design is done well, but you feel sure the Orange is done well. Perhaps you are even saying that going with a multi link design is, by conclusion, a gamble.

Gotcha.

This is why god gave us the graphs of the leverage rate curve, anti-squat, and pedal kickback.
  • + 0
 @enrico650: yes but the fastest way from A and B will be Aaron Gwin on 29er wheels.
  • + 1
 @nojzilla: The only issue I had with the Blood was that they made about 200 of them total, far more interested buyers than bikes available. I always assumed they canned it for reasons of marketing and/or range streamlining.
  • + 1
 upvoted for use of " troglodytes"
  • - 1
 @enrico650: Aaron's been testing with the 29 already, I can guarantee that when it is ready he will be racing it.
  • + 1
 @TerryJAdams-Monster: I just love it when people claim to have inside information just to win an argument. #weak
  • + 0
 I love single pivots. And have ridden and own both single pivot and VPP. I'd love to buy an Orange bike. They look to be virtually indestructible. I'm hardly a troglodyte. I restore vintage guitars for a living and people trust me to do very fine delicate historically accurate work on priceless delicate wooden boxes. An example of my work is in Martin guitars museum collection, I built the Living Sea guitar that's on the cover of the electric guitar blue book 12th edition. I'm also giving a TEDx talk this month in Utica NY about the need for artisanship in an age of automation. I think the above listed items hardly put me in the league of "Cave dwelling Troglodyte". Orange bikes embody the spirit of hand mad artisanship.
  • + 1
 @fattyheadshok: dang that is so rad. Reminds me of a guy by the last name of Montaleone
  • + 1
 My first DH bike was a single pivot and I have not ridden anything since that was as fun and plush. But at the same time, I'm not chasing Aaron Gwin.
  • + 3
 @fattyheadshok get a load of this guy. I have many leather bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.
  • + 1
 @WaterBear: actually this looks like a very valid effort. the pk should be lower than on other orange bikes due to the pivot beeing closer to the chainring. also the bike should be (slightly) progressive due to the lowering of the frontshockmount. i ll buy it put an external cup a 180 fork and x1 in and destoy alpine parks!
  • + 32
 First question - does the wheel still hit the frame before the shock bottoms out - like it does on the 27.5 one?
  • + 40
 That is to tell you that you are at the end of your travel
  • + 58
 'Pneumatic bump stop'
  • - 9
flag lockwood (Aug 31, 2017 at 5:01) (Below Threshold)
 @aljoburr: you cant get full travel as the wheel hits the frame
  • + 9
 kind of third air chamber of formula dh fork
  • + 2
 @carlos671: my bike does that too and it feels kinda nice -although the paint on the seattube is gone
  • + 16
 having 40 riser crowns and not having the stanchions slid all the way down is just a disgrace.
  • + 1
 Are they deliberately steepening the head angle? It looks pretty high to me. As though the bike doesn't work if it's proper DH slack. Are other 29er DH bikes like this?
  • + 1
 Look at that headtube, it's ridiculously short! I wonder why it is like that, the frame could also be made stronger with a taller one.
  • + 5
 @hirvi: could be the went with a short head tube to achieve a particular stack height. Its already going to be higher on 29r than on smaller wheels.
  • + 1
 @freestyIAM: Could be. But i think 29er downhill bike is going to suit taller riders like myself better, who don't really need low stack heights anyway.
  • + 1
 It should be the stiffest option with the shortest amount of stanchion possible past the crown.
  • + 15
 Orange, about your bike design, could you pleaaaase... keep doing what you are doing Big Grin
  • + 13
 Yay 29" dh, just in time for every rider who isn't over 6'2" to realise they're a bad idea lol. When will a company bring out another 26" dh with new stool geo for those of us who aren't wc racers
  • + 37
 Going to take a dump and check out my new stool geometry. Sorry couldn't resist
  • + 2
 @dwojo: haha damn auto correct
  • + 7
 @dwojo: Without riding it I can tell you it's going to be shit.
  • + 1
 @dwojo: Hopefully it will be a coiler.
  • + 10
 Excellent, keep it up Orange and keep doing what you do, haters gonna hate. I expect to hear some key words and descriptions like. Filing cabinet. Giant Warp. Wagon wheeler. 1998 called. Brake jack. Single pivot. Ugly.
  • + 2
 I call dibs on brake jack.
I really do have a soft spot for orange and I like the looks idea philosophy ect.
But then I ride one or look at the welds and price of late and it a no thanks. Shame
Will the wagon wheels make the brake jack worse? I don't know enough to suss that out
  • + 5
 You don't know jack.
  • + 1
 You forgot chain growth
  • + 1
 @markg1150: Suss that out, i see what you did there.
  • + 1
 @markg1150: welding is awful on a lot of new Orange bikes.
  • + 0
 It ain't brake jack , it's brake squat- dialling in the shock helps eliminate it, no im not a fan boy of orange either but love a single pivot @markg1150:
  • + 8
 I think it looks great. Spends rest of day hiding under desk.
  • + 2
 "
But it turns out that one of the biggest challenges has been getting the racers themselves to be open-minded enough to try 29ers
"

Personally I had the feeling that early in the season had many riders giving them a shot. Just many went back to mid sized wheels later in the season. So I'd say many were open minded right away and many found out it wasn't for them. Maybe later, when UCI allows them to compete with 29" in the front and 27.5" in the rear.
  • + 3
 if i ever start dhilling again -this would be the bike. i am saying this as not a big orange fan (this sounded weird in some way)
  • + 5
 One word I think everyone has failed to read 'PROTOTYPE'
  • + 1
 ^^^^^^^^^^^^ at least TWO of us can read!
  • + 0
 "don't look, don't look, don't look...uuh can't not look".

It's just, so...unappealing.... Take an ugly 27.5 bike, and make an uglier 29er. No thanks. In today's day and age with a plethora of great brands and bikes (that both operate well and look great), I really just don't get why Orange is still relevant. Those who like them can claim that they run better than any other brand all day long, but make no mistake: there are at least two dozen other brands out there that will make a bike that runs just as well, and most certainly looks better.
  • + 1
 But possibly not offer the same level of local support to the riders, and aren't made locally by hand for the majority of the buyers (although hard tails are still made in the east). They are very much love or hate
  • + 1
 Perhaps an idler pulley similar to Commencal Commercial and Norco would create better performance and more appeal to their DH bike.
  • + 3
 Designed with a ruler. Still has some style
  • + 2
 I like it. Looks like it should. A bombproof industrial downhill bike. But I love big metal and big welds.
  • + 2
 ""Prototype ""?? ... my ass !!!! Its the final version we all know that.. don't feel the need to try to look cool
  • + 2
 I guess where the shock meets the frame is not a weak point but to me it looks like one.
  • + 0
 Think of the rocks and mud that is going to funnel into that hole all over the top of the shock...
  • + 3
 Sram drive train with shimano brakes ?! ..
  • + 6
 Pretty much every privateers bike!
  • + 4
 Love that!
  • + 3
 Orange should stop this and team with Hope to build their bike(s).
  • + 1
 Oh Orange! Flip that swingarm shape! Amazing working bikes, but those looks...
  • + 2
 Prototype?? But what changed?
  • + 1
 they added more pivots
  • + 1
 I've always liked orange bikes, but god damn I wish their welders did better filleting..!
  • + 0
 Why did the orange stop rolling down the hill?? It ran outta juice

Still fugly as only Orange can make a single pivot...but at least they try
  • + 1
 i love everything ,except the OLD Single Pivot Design. Even KTM came to there sense's,and dropped the single pivot.
  • + 1
 I thought oranges were cool until I rode one
  • + 0
 Just needs some Cannondale Lefty forks to finish off that look.... Does anyone in Canada even ride an Orange?
  • + 1
 You don't deserve oranges.
  • + 1
 If hope stopped doing orange anodizing they'd be fake advertising
  • + 1
 Looks like a 1st gen santa cruz Bullit
  • + 1
 That rear triangle is.......
  • + 1
 Needs a Scurra front end.
  • + 1
 You know most people are gonna want that extra 20mm travel in the rear.
  • + 1
 Either you love this bike or its fugly.
  • + 1
 Is it a replacement for the 27.5 bike or will they be selling both?
  • + 1
 The sensible move would be to update 324 to same frame set but sell both.
  • + 4
 @bxxer-rider: that's what I was thinking. 29ers dont suit everyone.
  • - 3
 @Orange; We all know that yours bikes are not the most beautiful out there. And that's OK. But could you next time at least try to spray on some proper paint job? Some real color. Like yellow. Or pink. Or black with red bears. Or don't spray anything. Raw aluminium is much better than this.
God knows that this bike doesn't need a paint job that will make it look even more ugly.
  • + 23
 Primer grey with the orange accents looks sweet in my opinion.
  • + 9
 @dwojo: It does. On my well hidden sailboat's diesel engine.
  • + 12
 @pakleni: Why is your sailboat well hidden? Are you a spy or a fugitive?
  • + 4
 @Linkpin: I see what you did there Big Grin You know that English is not my first language so please forgive me on bad and unfortunate order of words in that sentence.
  • + 2
 They released some bikes in Nardo Grey with Orange (colour not brand) detailing, and the colour scheme was awesome. Bike looked awful, but colours were sweet.
  • + 1
 How do Orange bikes ride?? I've always been curious
  • + 1
 i love that grey.
  • + 0
 these guys are so "Mad Max"... too much for me...
  • + 0
 Monocross???? Augh...
  • - 2
 Dear Orange, instead of doing a 29er, please try to change your prehistorical geometry !
  • + 0
 I suggest you go and have a look at their geometry on the website.
  • + 0
 soon much welding
  • - 3
 And I thought there is no way to make them uglier ..and ,bang, they did it Big Grin
  • - 2
 Gotta hand it to Orange, they refuse to evolve!
  • - 1
 [deleted]
  • - 1
 Why?
  • - 1
 ugly af
  • - 1
 Hideous
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