Long term: Jim’s Orange Four RS Long Term review
words and photos by Jim Smith
The Orange Four is the latest addition to the Orange Bikes line up, designed as an out-and-out trail bike without the compromises of its larger siblings. It’s been around six months since my first look so … how has this British-bred, short travel’er fared?
It’s clear at first glance that the Orange Four RS borrows heavily from the Five and the Alpine 160, the intricately folded tubes and lightweight swing arm combine to make a bike that looks very at home at the local woods or the trail centre. There are a range of build kits, from the £2700 ‘S’, the £3200 ‘Pro’, the £4000 ‘RS’ we have here and the top spec £5000 ‘Factory’.
I’ve been riding the Orange Four RS for the past six months, it’s the mid-range option between the Pro and the Factory and probably the one I’d spend my own cash on given the chance.
The Four RS has a sensible but well-performing build. It’s not super light but it’s certainly no slouch. Suspension is handled by the 130mm RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo up front and the 120mm RockShox Monarch DB at the rear. Setting the suspension up was very simple, I’m not the kind to spend a lot of time constantly faffing with the dials so after getting the pressure dialled in for 30% sag at the front and rear, I’ve pretty much left it alone.
The 2016 bike has Alex rims with Hope Pro 4 hubs, for 2017 this has been upgraded to the Mavic XM624 and this feels like a good choice. They’re tubeless ready with a 24mm internal width and what I’d expect from a bike at this price point. Shod with reliable, grippy Maxxis High Roller II tyres I’ve had no reason to change them during this test.
I’m a big fan of SRAM gearing so I was pleased to see the GX1 groupset fitted, with 11 speed and the 1x chainring up front. Again, no problems with this at all, it’s performed well, the MRP 1x Guide has made sure I’m not going to lose the chain and the RaceFace cranks are a worry-free performer. The tiny 30t ring and 10-42 cassette makes all but the most difficult climbs a breeze.
Braking is handled by the SRAM Guide R brakes, again a reliable performer. It’s nice to see the bike specced with a 200mm rotor up front and a 180mm rotor at the back – signalling the intentions of this bike are more than just plain trail riding.
The standard spec seatpost is a KS Lev with 125mm drop, generally, I found this to be pretty annoying. It has a habit of sticking down and the lever isn’t the best ergonomics wise. If you’re going to pick any upgrades, it’s definitely worth upgrading to a Reverb Stealth if you can, Orange do offer this as one of their options. Alternatively, give the KS Southpaw lever a try, which we’ve had good results with elsewhere.
Finishing kit included Renthal bars and stem at a sensible 780mm width which was nice to see. It’s rounded off with Orange’s own-branded saddle and grips, these were the only things I swapped out during the test, purely down to personal preference.
With 120mm travel at the rear and 130mm at the front you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a bike that’s aimed at trail centres and mellow singletrack. In many ways the Four is the bike that the Five used to be many years ago, the Five since developed into a serious trail swallowing machine but has perhaps lost some of the the nimbleness it once had.
It’s only when you start to look at the other figures – a 67 degree head angle, 72 degree seat angle, 473mm reach on this 20” model and a 1196mm wheelbase, that you realise the Four is not just about pedalling efficiency, it’s one hell of a descender too.
The last bike from Orange I rode was a 26” Five with 160mm forks. Coming to the Four I was expecting a downgrade in performance, particularly when the trail pointed downhill. However I can’t say I’ve noticed it, the more modern geometry has worked wonders to make up for the suspension travel.
That said, the change in travel does make a significant difference on the climbs. This bike doesn’t wallow in the travel and the lockout switch on the Monarch helps when things get steeper.
When I first took delivery of the Four RS, I shot over to Coed Llandegla for a few back to back runs of familiar descents, nothing too technical but an opportunity to get the bike setup. On the first run down, initially planning to take it easy, I set what felt like the fastest time down the trail, grinning all the way. The lack of travel is easily made up for in the nimble, intuitive feeling. You can’t simply truck through things like you’d expect from longer travel bikes, but that feeling of sheer speed with minimal effort is difficult to beat.
Naturally, any new bike stirs up some interesting conversations at the trail head. Many have asked how it fares compared to the Five but I don’t think there’s a straight comparison. The Four is more about fun on the trail, a bit of effort on your part and plenty of confidence from modern geometry. If you’re in the market for a Four then you should also check out the 29” Segment with 110mm travel.
I’ve enjoyed riding the Four for the last six months, it’s just as happy pushing hard on a steep, technical descent as it is blasting around the trails in your local woods. The Four is not the lightest bike in its category, make no mistake. However as suspension technology has developed, manufacturers have developed bikes with more and more travel. The Four proves that with the right angles, you can go just as quick without paying for it on the climbs.
You can read more about the Orange Four RS on Orange’s website here.
As we write this, the best price we’ve found for the Four RS is at Leisure Lakes but you can look up your local dealer here and demo days here.