21/05/2012 | 1 comments
Orange Five Pro £3089 (as pictured)
Some wonder what all the fuss is about with the popularity of Orange’s Five. It’s been around in some form or another for well over a decade. Can a bike that has fundamentally changed very little in that time be that good? Seems it can, as we found out when we tested a 2012 Five recently.
Turning the review format upside down, let’s start with the most imporant stuff; the performance.
Well, I’ll be honest, I didn’t click immediately with the Orange Five when it first arrived. It took a while to find the sweet spot; a little less air in the forks, a little more pressure in the rear shock, a change of stem and handlebars (for something shorter and wider). I still wasn’t quite at home.
Then on the second ride, a day that dawned bright and sunny, that all changed. It started clicking; I felt the rhythm of the bike. It was while hoofing through a fiddly rooty trail that the transition happened: suddenly I felt right at home, at one with the bike.
And it was huge fun. The more I rode, the more I felt able to exploit the Five, pushing it faster and harder through my favourite trails. The Five was opening up to me. Engaging and responsive. The reason it’s such a popular trail bike really hit home. In that one ride, I too had become a fan.
On that day, I hit the corners with more confidence, railed harder through the berms, barrelled over roots like they weren’t even there. Bursting out of the final corner, a plume of dirt and dust in my wake, I hit the fireroad that marked the end of the decent with a huge smile plastered across my face, eyes streaming with water. So that’s why the Five is so popular then, I found myself concluding: the Five is simply a lot of fun to ride.
With its pressed and folded aluminium frame and single pivot suspension design, it should have been confined to the skip a long time ago. The fact it’s still here today isn’t because of the company’s unwillingness to move with the times, but the continued demand for a bike that just works.
To say it’s simple and outdated is a little unfair. It’s been constantly updated, tweaked and massaged to perfection. Rock up next to a vintage Five on this, the 2012 model, and the similarities will be few and far between. And for 2012 Orange have massaged it a little further, and in doing so have hit upon the golden formula. It’s the best Five ever.
The bike we’ve got our hands on is the new 17in size option. It sits nicely between the current size options, the same reach as the 18in but with the standover of the 16in. Fit and ride wise it’s been perfect for this tester, standing at 5’11″.
Other changes? The seat tube is now dropper post-ready, with a 30.9mm diameter. There’s the necessary cable guides along the top tube too to keep hoses/cables all tidy. The head tube is tapered, a necessary standard on 140/150mm bikes these days. And at the bottom bracket Orange have made the smart choice to add ISCG05 mounts, so it’s ready for a 2×10 or 1×10 chainset with a chainguide, something we’re seeing more commonly out on the trails.
Cables are routed through the swing arm, which is a nice touch giving clean lines. Here it would be nice to see Orange overcome the annoyance of the chain slapping against the large section swing arm with some sort of tape wrap to quieten it down. One of the new clutch-style rear mechs would be a better solution, though an expensive upgrade.
The most fundamental change however is the geometry. Now a relaxed 67 degree head angle gives the Five massive stability at high speed and over rough trails. Climbing is a tad compromised, but that can be sorted with shifting the saddle forward a little. We’ll take it for the much improved handling anyday. 67 degrees is slowly becoming a pretty standard figure on 140mm bikes these days, as it strikes the right balance needed for the style of riding these bikes encourage.
Elsewhere the Five has a 73 degree seat angle, 342mm bottom bracket height, 422mm chainstays and a 1,130mm wheelbase.
It’s easy to set the Five up. Running about 30 per cent sag on the Kashima-coated Fox RP23 shock (a £100 upgrade on the standard Pro bike) gets it working nicely out of the box. The new high volume shock is a noticeable improvement, the bike setting nicely into its sag, without getting at all wallowy or sloppy.
Single pivot bikes are where you really notice the difference the ProPedal lever makes; switched on it’s more controlled for tacking fast across the hills, while it’s easy reach down to the shock to switch it off for the fun bits: the descents. We left it open nearly all of the time and this cause no complaints at any point on our test rides.
The appealing aspect of single pivots is how communicative they are. You can feel what the rear wheel is doing, albeit heavily damped through the 140mm suspension, and exploit that through the corners. There’s the occasional rearing up of the suspension under heavy braking, and it’s not as composed through repeated hits as a linkage bike, but the Fox shock does a fantastic job of controlling matters.
Up front a Fox 32 Float Performance RL FIT 140m fork is an impressive bit of kit. Easy to tune up, its performance is fantastic; super smooth on rough terrain with incredible mid-stroke performance when you really push on. It doesn’t feel as immediately plush in the car park, but through deep rooty corners the difference is immense. A 15mm bolt-thru axle keeps it stiff and a tapered steerer tube slots into the new Five head tube.
The Pro tested here comes with a mix of components. For braking duties there’s Hope Tech X2 brakes, which makes personalisation easy with bite and reach adjustment.
Transmission is a combination of a RaceFace Evolve XC triple chainset, Shimano SLX shifters and front mech and an upgraded XT rear mech. Wheels are trusty (but noisy!) Hope Pro II Evo hubs on Mavic XM317 rims. Maxxis Advantage 2.25in tyres provide stacks of grip when it’s not too muddy with decent cornering bite when the riding gets a bit juicy.
For finishing kit Orange sent us a bike fitted with their Performance Pack 1, a £190 upgrade which sees an Easton Haven Carbon riser bar fitted to a Thomson X4 stem. A Thomson X4 and Gobi XM saddle completes the upgrade package, which is money well spent in our books.
Not the most technologically advanced bike, but its simplicity has a proven track record, with a fantastically poised, balanced and capable manner. This latest iteration, with its slacker geometry, finally ticks all the boxes for an 140mm all-rounder. I’ve ridden few bikes that have had me grinning as much as the Five.
140mm bikes are about the best all-round mountain bike for UK trail riders, and the Five is vying to be crowned the best of them all. Has it got the market all to itself then? Well there are a handful of bikes vying for the crown, with some seriously strong competition that the Five is going to have to fend off with its. What are the choices? There are contenders from Lapierre, Ghost, Specialized and Marin, to name a few… It’s a competitive place to be at the moment.