I’ve just moved house. Though it’s only down the valley, I’m still charting the new tracks about the place, and I’m never sure where anythings going to go, or what the track is going to do over the crest and round the next corner. I’m also riding singlespeed quite a lot right now. You’ll find out more about that later on in the year, but riding rigid singlespeed is about as far away from this bike as you can get. Charlie Kelly once said that a bike test was simply a comparison of the bike being tested with the writers own bike. That’s possible and logical I guess. However, starting from the baseline of a rigid singlespeed would seem a pretty logical point to compare a full suspension geared bike from. Regardless, I’ve ridden enough bikes to know what works and what doesn’t. Infact you don’t even need fifteen years riding behind you to tell what either works or doesn’t, but it comes in handy when you get to the hair splitting stages.
The Orange Sub 5 is good. Really good. Those tracks that I’m just learning the whereabouts of were a match for sure, but the remarkable thing I found was the change in my attitude as the ride progressed. I went from thinking “I don’t know if I can get through this section”, to “yeah – I’m going to nail it through here” and ended up doing some insane no-track riding when things really started to get fun.
The saddle wobbled loose, the gears graunched (and bent tooth on the middle ring it turns out), but it was still delightful in it’s ride.
I’ve no idea what goes on inside that Fox rear shock, but it floats over stuff like it’s simply not there. Our Manitou XVert LT forks were slow and overdamped on compression and rebound, but the back end made it possible to manual the bike through the tricky stuff and get away with things that you thought weren’t possible.
Climbs – even silly technical rock-strewn climbs were accomplished with an ease which belies the bikes simplicity. And just riding along bits, the rear end soaks up the terrain in such a competent fashion you think the grounds been smoothed over.
Orange bloke Michael told us a story of how a rider thought the bike was only getting 2.5in of travel. We couldn’t understand why someone would think that if the suspension worked properly. But it’s right. There’s none of the wallowing, bouncing and floundering that you’d expect with a bike with five and half inches of rear wheel travel. The combination of the smooth bearing pivot point, light and laterally stiff rear triangle and well damped Fox shock mean that the bike scoots through rough stuff like it’s not there. Ditches are particularly well taken, showing the Fox negative spring working well.
Downsides? Wouldn’t like to try and carry it up a hill – not that it’s heavy but other than the seat, there’s no way you could stick an arm through the main triangle. Oh, and the seat clamp is a bloody nightmare. All horrible plastic and machined aluminium. So that’s another thing it’s got in common with a Marin. And the tyres are light, do grip well, and are always a compromise, but are a bit on the small side. We’d prefer some bigger rubber. Easily fixed I guess.
It’s slated as the Mount Vision beater. I’m not sure. We’re planning to put them head to head, but for my money this one’s got a bit more renegade about it than the Mount Vision, which is pitched more at the serious XC hacks.
For my money, the Sub 5 is a baby Patriot, which for one night (and possibly one night only) turned me into a freerider. Is that a good thing?