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.
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.
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.