Introducing the 2020 Orange Bikes Alpine 6 Factory
Words: Jamie Edwards
Photos: Andy Lloyd / Orange bikes
Here it is then, our first 2020 bike, the brand new Orange Bikes Alpine 6 Factory in Wasabi Green.
Orange invited us out to Punta Ala Trail Centre in Italy to meet the bike, meet the design team and get some time on the trails for a review. And, of course, drink some great Italian coffee!
- 2020 Orange Alpine6
- 165mm travel
- 27.5″ wheels with up to 2.4″ tyres
- 2020 sees updates to geometry, cable routing and frame design
- Available in Pro, Factory, RS and XTR specs (with an S to come later)
- From £4,000 to £6,500
Classic cars and Orange Bikes?
I always felt a bit lazy throwing around the “it’s like driving a classic car” cliche when talking about Orange bikes.
I always felt like it was over-romanticising the Halifax work-horses in order to side-step around what the bike should be doing. Like giving an inanimate object a behaviour or a quality instead of pointing out an absence of something.
I spent most last year on the 2019 Orange Stage 6, wondering if I was piloting a classic car through a stripped-back, raw and ‘real’ riding experience.
Or, if they keyboard warriors were to believed, I was on a bike that was missing something, lacked something, was out of date, out of touch, from the dark ages. I’m sure you’ve read the comments about skeletons and biscuit tins.
Introducing the 2020 Orange Alpine
The invite to Punta Ala, Italy to test the new 2020 Orange Alpine answered that question head on.
You rarely get to meet the designers of the bikes you ride, let alone ride with them.
But there I was, chasing Orange’s owner and designer Ash Ball down a white-knuckle Italian rock-fest, slapping into pedal deep ruts and bouncing from corner to rock garden back to corner.
Between runs and over drinks and dinner Ash talked passionately about his bikes and, you guessed it, classic cars.
He’s a man with a lifelong love of fast, noisy, British-made and old-school, vintage cars and bikes. I couldn’t scribble down the list of his what he’s owned personally but it includes at least a Porsche 911 and an Aston Martin.
He explained his design philosophy is inspired by what he loves about those cars. He wants his bikes to ride with a certain ‘personality’. They’re bikes for what he calls ‘enthusiasts’. People that are willing to put time into learning how the bike behaves, what it does well and what it doesn’t.
He doesn’t believe, he explained, in bikes that do all the work for you but in bikes that you have to actually ‘ride’.
For him at least, it’s about the experience of riding, letting the bike move around, reacting to the trail, working for your speed rather than being spoon fed. No traction control and no ABS, no computers and no high-tech.
That’s why, amongst other reasons, the bikes are single pivot, alloy, fun to ride, tricky to master and (in my opinion at least) at times, unforgiving.
Let’s come back to that in a minute.
Sizes, shapes and geometry
So, the new Orange Alpine then. You’d be excused for asking “what’s changed?” as most of the updates are subtle, but significant to the development of the bike.
First up, Orange’s long travel, 27.5” wheeled, big mountain smasher has had a pretty significant size and shape overhaul.
There’s now an XXL model (20″) added to the range for taller pilots and the XL version has been sized down to be more like a 19” than a 20” as before.The BB drops by 5mm. The chain stays grow by 11.3mm and there’s an increase in the reach across the board by up to 6mm.
The bike is now ½ ° slacker, with a 64° head angle and the rear travel changes from 160mm to 165mm with an increase in shock length from 216mm to 230. That change is to accommodate those new(ish) standard Metric shocks.
That classic Orange swing arm has also had a few refinements. One of the main changes here is a 10mm (5mm each side) increase in the width of the pivot. That means increased stiffness and, more noticeably, you can now fit up to a 2.5” tyre an some 2.6″. Orange told us that “we ran 2.6″ Maxxis DHR’s on the bike with 30mm wide rims with no problems”.
Interestingly, one of the few numbers that hasn’t changed is the seat angle. Orange tend to get a bit of stick for their slack seat angles but are sticking to their guns for 2020.
Orange’s Product Manager Kelvin Lawton explained that “for us, this feels great. Moving the SA would mean significant changes to the bike and the reach, head angle and more would need to change”.
You’ll also notice some cable routing improvements.
The previous generations of Orange frames have had some absolutely stinking cable routing that is, thankfully, fixed with the Alpine. Hoses and cables now exit the frame much closer to the head tube and at a much steeper angle.
They also now pass neatly under the swing arm, rather than through its front-most face. Welcome improvements.
Last but very much not least, yep, you can now fit a bottle on your Orange Alpine. The frame now includes bottle cage bolts on the underside of the bike, down towards the chain ring.
The old ‘down below’ mount is never as pretty as an in-frame bottle but, hey-ho, that’s what the frame allows. Wear a bum-bag if you don’t like it.
How does it ride?
Back to classic cars then.
Our test track for the Alpine was a steep, dry and loose hillside above Castiglione della Pescaia. 4×4 up, fast and rough down, repeat till coffee.
Later we switched to some outrageously good trails that had once been old, rocky walkers paths but had been adopted into a local enduro trail network. Perfect for a bike designed around fast, rough trails.
The Alpine’s changes are subtle but, Orange explained, should be pronounced on the trail. The rider’s weight should feel more central on the bike than before. You should feel like the bike is less “nervous” without losing any of the playfulness. They should be, we were told, “Much more progressive than before, a little more supple and a little more sensitive at the start of the travel”.
Uncomplicated and quick
It’s hard to rule out ‘nervousness’ all together on unfamiliar trails – particularly ones that are flat out, ridden blind and covered in cat-litter gravel.
That said, the Alpine felt like a very easy bike to jump on and enjoy. The geometry feels uncomplicated and quick to understand. I rode a size large and found the sizes and shapes of the bike very familiar. I didn’t need to make any grand movements of the body to balance out the bike. When I occasionally did, the size was right that nothing was too far to move for.
Personally, I really like the size and shape of Orange bikes. They’re not showing off with crazy-numbers. They’re just making sensibly sized bikes that walk a good line of being easy to ride and easy to enjoy. I’m not completely convinced about the seat angle but, with no changes for 2020 that’s that.
Here’s where that classic car thing comes in.
The Alpine shares a particular style of riding with the other Orange full suspension bikes I’ve ridden. Albeit a subtly refined, improved and evolved one thanks to the changes we’ve seen on the new 2020 bike.
Slaying turns and putting trails to the sword
Great geometry makes it easy to hop on and ride. The shock tune and platform mean you’re having a lot of fun and going quick, quickly.
It feels brilliantly fast, smooth and controlled as you push it up to speed, pumping berms and cranking the pedals. You’re having fun within seconds of dropping in. You feel fast. You feel like a hero as you slay turns and put trails to the sword. I think ‘fun’ is really, really important for a mountain bike.
On fast, flowing single track it’s an absolute blast. You’re rewarded beautifully with bursts of speed as you hit corners just right or nail down slopes on target.
It’s the lack of hand-holding, stripped-back, classic-car approach that give the Alpine, and Orange bikes, that sensation I think. There’s no intricate suspension platform at work to smooth out the trail or make life easy . The sensation that Ash and the crew are aiming for, that need to ‘ride’ the bike, is what makes it so fun.
The Other Edge
The other edge of that ‘sensation’ relies on rider confidence.
The Orange design seems to have a particular limit that comes with lack of confidence, banging on the brakes and letting your riding go tense.
The bike slows down fast, momentum gets lost quickly, the guy in front jumps a corner further down the trail whilst you’re working to get going again. That’s fun, in a way, but if your priority is speed and results it may not suit you.
You need to be on your game to ride an Orange fast, I think. You need to keep the suspension active by staying off the brakes. When you’re off the bikes you need to be very fluid and active on the bike. You need to manual and pump, push the bike to do what you want. They’re not bikes, I think at least, for nervous riding and they don’t reward passengers.
But when you do get that right, good bloody lord it’s fun. That’s where Ash’s classic car design philosophy lives and where, I think, the comparison is fair. These are bikes built by people that genuinely want a raw, unassisted, rewarding mountain biking experience.
It’s worth saying, we rode two bikes in Italy. The Alpine was the longer travel of the two. The sensation I’m talking about came far later on the longer travel Alpine, in rougher terrain and at higher speeds.
What do we think?
The 2020 Orange Alpine6 is brilliantly fun to ride and genuinely very rewarding. It’s far more capable in rough, technical terrain than the keyboard warriors might have you believe. The new version won’t answer everyones cries but they do push the bike on to be faster, more enjoyable and with much more up to date standards.
The Alpine may not be everyone. There are easier bikes to go very fast on and maintain speed through rough, technical terrain. I’d argue there are few bikes though, that you’ll have quite as much fun on and spend as little time maintaining. There are also few bikes, if you care about that, that are hand built in the UK with this level of quality, care and attention to detail.
- A passionately built, British bike that’s handmade in the UK
- A very fun, rewarding ride when you’re feeling on your game
- Simple, easy to maintain design
- Simple and subtle updates give the bike welcome improvements
Could be better
- The bike rewards confidence which may not suit everyone
- The bike doesn’t maintain speed in tough, technical terrain as easily as more complicated designs
- It’s a welcome upgrade, but the bottle position still isn’t ideal
Read more about the 2020 Orange Alpine 6 here on OrangeBikes.
Words by Jamie Edwards
Photos by Andy Lloyd
Thanks to Orange Bikes for bringing us along on the press camp. Orange, for full disclosure, covered the costs of the trip which involved a quick visit to Punta Ala Trail Centre in Western Italy.