Whilst we only enjoyed a quick ride on those two bikes, the Stage 6 joined us as a proper long-termer. It came to Les Arcs for a week of back-country singletrack, we chucked it down the Megavalanche and generally spent most of the year thrashing it round our local trails.
First, the basics. The Stage 6 has 150mm travel and 29″ wheels. Like all of Orange’s mountain bikes, it has an alloy frame and simple, single-pivot suspension. There’s internal cable routing, boost spacing on the rear and, thankfully, a normal threaded BB shell.
Like most of Orange’s mountain bikes, the Stage is completely designed and manufactured in the UK. That may or may not appeal to you but it’s nice to know that the bike is a proper homegrown British-built product.
The Orange Stage 6 arrived as a frame and I got it built up with Stans No Tubes Flow Wheels, a Fox 36 fork and DOS dropper post, Shimano XT 4-pot brakes, a Funn cockpit and a GX group set.
Out of the box I ran a RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock. In the workstand the Orange was easy and aside from a bit of internal routing (thanks Shut up and Ride, Bristol), the simple design made assembly a breeze.
An Orange Stage 6 frame will cost you £2050 with a RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DB or £2400 with a Fox Float X2 Factory. If you’d prefer a complete bike, Orange have various options from the Stage 6 Pro (starting at around £4,000) to the mighty Stage 6 Factory (starting at at around £5,000).
It’s worth saying that the Stage has been around for a couple of years now and is one of the few bikes that hasn’t had a recent overhaul. It stands to reason that it’ll get a few modest updates in the next few months.
My first outings were interesting. I’d expected the bike to ride like the numbers suggest, a big hitting monster truck. The reality was a little different. The Stage 6 felt much more like a nimble trail bike. It was immediately very easy to chuck around, very capable on big pedally days and surprisingly light. What it wasn’t, on first impressions atleast, was a mini-DH bike or EWS stage killer.
On those days exploring steep, slippy South Wales singletrack it felt immediately at home. At the bike park or on big, rough, gnarly fast stuff it didn’t feel like the gnar plough I’d expected. There wasn’t that bottomless travel feeling or the ability to let off brakes, drop the heels and just hammer big root and rock sections that’d I’d expected of a big(ish) travel 29’er.
A minor point annoyance is the lack of bottle cage. I love riding without a bag and the Stage means I’ll always need a base-layer with pockets or a bum-bag to carry water. The new generation Five and Alpine bikes both have cage mounts so, hopefully, we’ll see this added as the Stage evolves.
Over the next few months, I had a lot of fun on the Orange, using it as my go-to for almost all of my riding.
The ‘big travel trail bike’ personality makes for a very fun, confidence-inspiring all-rounder for the UK. With the right tyres, it’s a very fun bike to take around your local woods, round a trail centre or on those all-day weekend rides in the hills. It’s light enough to pedal all day and a big wheels/big travel combo give you just enough to point it down your favourite downhill track.
Orange get a bit of stick for their seat angles at times and the Stage 6 does possess a few of the numbers that get people worked up. I can sympathise but equally, it’s not my experience. I’ve found the ‘6 to be a comfortable bike that I felt at home on immediately. I’m 175cm and the large is spot on. Swing a leg over one before you buy to see if you agree.
A 65.5d head angle is by no means the slackest out there but sets up a good aggressive, all-round position. A 462mm reach on the large feels roomy but not too long or too short and the stand over feels nice and low to avoid seat-up-the-arse problems. 450mm stays are pretty long compared to most bikes but somehow the overall package doesn’t feel sluggish or hard to chuck around.
The slack 72° (actual) /74° (effective) seat angle isn’t my favourite aspect of the Orange and won’t suit everyone but, you know what, it’s pretty easy to get used to. Adjust your seat position a little and you’ll stop noticing it on the climbs.
I haven’t had back pain or sore calves, neither has the world ended or my brain melted as the internet swears will happen on a seat angle any slacker than 75d.
The Megavalanche came and went without any disasters. I completed the race, I had a blast, it never skipped a beat and I finished the week without so much as a bolt coming loose.
That said, I still felt that the bike was missing a bit of oomph. The ‘big travel trail bike’ vibe left the bike feeling under-gunned and the trails felt a little rougher and rattlier than I’d hoped.
Orange stepped in and loaned me a Fox X2 rear shock to try in place of the Monarch.
Hey presto, the bike came alive. Suddenly the bike felt way, way smoother down rough and choppy trails. It fired through the roots and rocks in a much more settled, comfortable and stable way and instantly felt like a much more aggressive and capable bike. Much better.
OK, sure, the difference in price between the two shocks is significant. If you’re getting a Stage in my opinion you need a decent shock and you need to spend a bit of time on setup and tuning. The X2 made a significant difference and transformed the bike.
The Stage 6, like all Orange mountain bikes, favours the confident pilot.
Even with the upgraded shock the bike tends to squirm, rattle and buck when you hit rough terrain. If you’re feeling confident you’ll let off the brakes, hold it on track and you’ll be rewarded with speed.
If you’re grabbing the brakes, it’ll hit a hard edge and instantly shed speed like you’ve dropped an anchor. If you’re willing to take command of the bike and ride it aggressively, you’ll do well.
That personality is something the Orange designers talk proudly about. They want a raw, unassisted, classic sports car feeling. The bikes thank you for investing effort rather than riding like a passenger. It’s not always the easiest experience and it can be pretty fatigueing on long, rough trails. It may not be your bag but I find the experience very fun, very engaging and – when you get it right – it really puts a grin on your face.
I think the 29″ wheels of the Stage can both help and hinder here.
Slow, awkward, technical trails can feel a little more of a handful. You really need to keep the bike rolling, muscle it over rocks, lift the back wheel, pump and shove it around. You need to tell the bike where to go. On faster trails where you’re up to speed, I think the 6 outguns the smaller wheels. The 29″ wheels help that simple, single-pivot fly a little more smoothly and carry speed with a bit less effort.
Some closing thoughts
Whether you love the Stage 6, or any Orange bikes for that matter, depends on who you are and what you want from your bike.
If you want the easiest way to get from A to B then, perhaps, the Orange isn’t the ideal bike for you. There are easier and probably cheaper ways to go fast.
The Orange is a bike that’s tremendously fun to ride, brutally simple, will ride everything from your local trail centre to the Alps and will rarely need so much as a bolt tightened. In the entire time I’ve had the bike I haven’t had a single maintenance issue – no loose bolts, no bust bearings, no wobbly bushes, absolutely perfect reliability and maintenance.
On fast, flowing, trails the bike rips. It’s fast and fun through the berms and through those tight twisty sections. It’s easy to throw onto the back wheel and hop over those gaps and doubles. As I said, it is a bike that needs to be taken in check and ridden very actively. You need to chuck it around, pre-hop, ride aggressively and not be afraid to be bucked around a bit.
That sensation is fun, it’s engaging and it’s very exciting …but it’s up to you to make sure that it’s fast.
It’s a really fun bike to ride
Geometry felt great from the off
Zero maintenance and reliability issues
Super simple design with little to go wrong or get your head around
Could Do Better:
No bottle mount (but expect that to be added on later versions)
There’s easier bikes to ride out there
There’s lower priced bikes that are similarly designed
Long Term: February 2020 Update
The Orange Bikes Stage 6 has been part of the family for well over a year now… and with plenty of miles and a few component changes complete, it feels like a good time for an update.
I spent much of 2019 jumping between the Specialized Levo eBike, a Marin Mount Vision and the Orange Stage 6. Each is a unique bike in its own right but the Orange always feels like a welcome return. There’s no quirky characteristics or things to get used to… it feels pinned and ‘just right’ from the get go. It’s also surprisingly light compared to the other bikes. You’d expect a big, alloy bike to be a bit of a chubber but the Orange is easily the lightest bike I’ve ridden in a good while.
Orange bikes tend to be perceived as being low maintenance, chiefly because there’s only two bearings to maintain (for context, the Marin I’m also riding has 10!). Whilst my time on the bike hasn’t been entirely maintenance free I’m stoked that nothing with ‘Orange’ written on it has let me down in the slightest.
The frame has seen a few scuffs to the paint, mainly caused by my wonky pedaling style but that’s it. I haven’t had to tighten a bolt, replace or even service a bearing.
The SRAM GX groupset is now at the end of it’s working life and a trip to Sterlands Cycle Service Workshop in Bristol (hoping a new BB and a brake bleed would suffice) confirmed it’s time for a new chain, chain ring and cassette. I’ve optimistically replaced the bottom bracket and I’m waiting for pay day…
Throughout the bike’s time I’ve had a really good experience of Shimano’s 4Pot XT brakes. They’ve had loads of power, the pads lasted ages and they didn’t need so much as a bleed for almost a year.
That said, a particularly wet and gritty day at Bike Park Wales kicked their arse a bit hard and finally killed the pads and left the brakes feeling dead. I’ve replaced the pads and rotors with some new Swisstop kit and a Sterlands bleed has got them back to good as new status.
Same goes for the FunnMTB alloy Kingpin bar and StrippaEvo stem – I put them on the bike, they feel good, they work. No complaints!
My earlier opinion of the Fox Float X2 shock hasn’t changed, it transformed the bike versus the RockShox that came as standard. That’s overdue a visit to Sprung Suspension Workshop for a service but has turned an OK bike into a really fast, fun and confidence-inspiring one.
The Fox 36 fork has, as expected, been faultless. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been a bit slack with servicing it but it’s no complaints what-so-ever. There’s an ongoing Fox Vs RockShox debate in the media but I don’t feel like the 36 has let me down on any trail, home or away.
The big upgrade that I made to the bike in 2019 was the Crank Brothers Synthesis Wheels. These top-price carbon hoops are made so that the front is a bit lighter and a bit more compliant, and the rear is a bit tougher and a bit sturdier. The idea is to create a super tough, light and comfortable wheel set that doesn’t suffer from the draw backs you often see with carbon.
Whilst there was nothing wrong at all with the considerably cheaper Stans NoTubes Flow Mk3 wheels I ran at the Mega, the Synthesis wheels are a real treat to ride. They feel incredibly fast down the trail, no harsher than I’m used to on an alloy wheel and they’ve shaved a good bit of weight off the bike.
My only hiccup with these has been a worn-out rear hub bearing, which was replaced after about 6 months of riding and tipped over the edge by that disastrously wet and gritty Bike Park Wales day.
So what’s next for the Orange? 2020 sees an updated version of the Stage 6 on sale with some tweaks to the geo and the addition of an underslung bottle cage mount.
My ‘old’ Stage 6 should be feeling a little long in the tooth now but after a spruce up, a fresh saddle and grips and some workshop time it’s still feeling like a very modern bike that I’m excited to ride. Despite being a couple of years old there’s very little to separate it from a 2020 ‘current’ bike, certainly nothing that’ll put me off riding it.
So, I’m looking forward to more time on the bike and seeing just how long the bike will go till those bearings need a change. No sign yet!
Thanks to Orange for the loan of the Stage 6 and for letting us keep this one long-term.
You can learn more about the bike, and the rest of the Orange range, here on OrangeBikes.