This bike is one fun loving animal. It accelerates like a bat out hell, holds lines straight, even through disgusting choppy ground, and has enough mid-stroke and bottom out resistance to provide an excellently precise and speedy cornering experience without reaching the end of its travel too hastily on big, harsh hits. The suspension is composed and supple enough to absorb bumps you weren't necessarily planning on hitting, and the geometry helps make the bike rewarding to ride at speed while retaining plenty of pop and fizz when the trail slows down and tightens up.
Thanks to the relatively high single pivot, the Orange loves to be pumped and worked hard. Ridden like this, you'll get the most from the bike and I was surprised at the amount of speed you can generate on flatter sections of trail. The accelerating forces you can make from the bike and terrain could be in part created by the bike's small amount of chain growth as it compresses through its travel and in part thanks to its supportive suspension. It's much easier to generate speed on a bike that isn't wallowing around and absorbing all of your effort.
I've heard people talking about other Orange bikes with kickback that's pronounced enough to be felt through the pedals, blowing feet off and interrupting the suspension's movement, but in my experience, the Orange doesn't suffer from ride-ruining kickback, and the small amount that is there can only really be felt if you're riding unsympathetically. For example, if you hit a compression that has additional bumps the bike needs to absorb, it can feel reluctant to smooth them out. This normally results in the wheels making a dull thudding sound as they comply with the ground's form, but there are no dramatic foot-flying-off-pedals or kickback-induced moments.
On tight, technical sections the bike's shock and fork helps it stay higher in its travel compared to inherently less supportive competitors. This makes it much easier to turn quickly and maneuver where you want it to go - less of your energy is sapped up by compressing into its travel. The lengthy chainstays don't seem to affect the bike's impressive agility, either. The centering effect of the longer rear end means you don't need to pitch your body fore and aft as much to get the bike to move where you want it.
When hitting higher speeds I felt like the bike was stable and managed to absorb holes and compressions in its path no matter how aggressively they were taken. Once again, the fork and shock's fantastic damping coupled with the bikes inherent predictability kept position-correcting and energy-sapping body movements to an absolute minimum. Okay, so I'll admit this isn't the smoothest riding bike out there and trail chatter isn't ironed out totally, but that feedback is a welcome reminder that you're riding your bike on awesome trails rather than hooning it down a tarmac road. I wasn't left yearning for more suppleness or better suspension, and the bike performed precisely as you'd expect it should.
Under braking through rough or steep sections, the suspension wasn't as compliant, but this didn't result in the bike becoming unwieldy. It was perfectly manageable with technique - drop your heels, look where you want to go and get on with it. Admittedly, this is an inherent problem with the single pivot design, but the Stage's brake jack isn't bad enough to leave me thinking the bike should have a floating brake arm (remember these?) or make me want to stop riding.
This is one fantastic bike to ride no matter where you're going or how hard you're riding. It's just as comfortable cruising as it is hammering down the trail pushing your limits. The predictability of how the bike is going to react means that you can get away with being a bit wild or careless with your line choices without being punished or losing too much speed. The bike loves to accelerate and rewards involved and active riders with brisk increases of pace that are easy to manage and enjoy. You don't need to be in with a chance of getting on the EWS podium to have fun, and riders of all abilities will be able to get a buzz with the Stage between their legs.