Tested : Pete’s Orange Switch 6 Pro Review.

How has the Mullet-wheeled, 160mm travel, do-it-all machine from Orange Bikes fared over a winter of near constant liquid sunshine?

After a promising start, can the Orange Switch 6 Pro compete with the modern flurry of multi-linked, carbon fibre offerings on the market? Pete casts his verdict.

Photos by Pete Scullion.

Key features:

  • Fox 36 Float Performance 160mm fork
  • Fox Float X Performance shock
  • Shimano SLX 12-speed drive
  • SRAM Guide RE brakes
  • E13 LG1 30mm rims on Strange Pro hubs
  • SDG Tellis dropper
  • £4,900.00 RRP
  • OrangeBikes.com

The Orange Switch 6 Pro is the base model of the Switch 6, Orange’s mixed wheel 160mm travel platform. The frame got a rejig in June last year, with a lighter 6061-T6 frame complete with S.A.F.E. downtube storage. The trunnion top shock mount also allows for a bearing rather than a bushing.

This base model has Performance Fox units on the damping front, namely a 36 and a Float X. Drivetrain is Shimano’s venerable 12-speed SLX setup, braking is handled by a set of SRAM Guide REs at the centre of E13 LG1 rims laced to Orange’s own hubs. These are shod with Maxxis Minion DHR IIs in EXO MaxxTerra flavour.

Geometry

The Orange Switch 6 comes in S, M, L and XL sizes.

Reach on the M is 468mm with a seat tube length of 16″ (406mm). Head angle is 64 degrees with an effective seat tube angle of 76 degrees. Chainstays are 450mm across the sizes with the wheelbase on the M of 1255mm.

Last time I checked in, the Orange Switch 6 Pro had been a lively option that was surprisingly light for an alloy bike, whilst the fast rubber meant that it was happily covering the ground far better than a 160mm bike might. The wide Burgtec bar definitely needed to be clipped to help lever those long chainstays to help the front wheel rise but otherwise all was otherwise good from the off.

With the speed now rising, a few things started to become apparent. In order to shrug off all comers, the EXO casing tyres needed to be run firm, this meant an unsurprising trade off in grip. Despite the bike being only being 6.2% progressive, the bike didn’t feel all that supple on the chatter, which was compounded somewhat by the lack of grip from the rear wheel especially.

At this point, it very much rode like the Orange Five I had in 2012 and I was very much hopeful that the bikes had moved on a touch in the last decade with all the usual improvements in geometry, kinematics and dampers we’ve enjoyed over the last few years.

That said, on the medium to larger hits, the bike performed well indeed, one of the best I have ridden in fact, so I couldn’t fathom what was up with the opening portion of the travel, especially on a bike with only 6.2% progression.

Fox Boa Leaderboard 2024

Thus started a bit of a saga of trying to get the shock to produce full travel from its 65mm stroke. Despite Fox indicating that the shock was functioning properly, I couldn’t actually achieve full shock travel despite letting all the air out.

Thankfully, a test of a Cane Creek Tigon was an option whilst this was ongoing and I had seen a number of people fitting high end coil shocks to single pivots and Oranges specifically to improve the ride. The Tigon’s main selling point is its Ramp Tube which helps add end stroke progression to a coil shock. Hopefully this would get the Switch 6 singing properly. I’d also swap the fast rubber out with some new Michelin Enduro out front and a Schwalbe Big Betty out back to help increase traction.

Initially, running the same 30% sag on the Tigon as with the stock Float X produced exactly the same results. Still the same mid to end stroke support but nothing in the way of traction or suppleness on the chatter. Winding the sag from 20mm (30%) down to 17mm (27%) yielded the results I was looking for. Finally the Switch 6 had the grip and opening travel that felt usable, the traction went through the roof and I could finally ride this bike the way that it was intended.

All that frustration with trying to find the best way to get the Switch 6 riding right melted away as the bike chewed up and spat out bone dry home trails with ease and allowed me to really crack on. The excellent Fox 36s out front now had a rear damper that sang a similar tune and the better rubber meant that grip, whether speeding up, turning or slowing down went through the roof.

When choosing to throw subtlety out the window, the Switch 6 came alive but I should hasten to add, this is not a plush bike. Firm off the top even with the coil and only gets firmer deeper in the stroke. Think of this as the bike equivalent of a proper race car. Unless you’re willing to ring its neck, you will never get the best from it. The tail off at the end of this very low leverage ratio bike also helps explain my inability to get full stroke on the shock.

All this beg two questions, would Orange be better fitting a Fox DHX (the Float X coil equivalent) or a Marzocchi Bomber CR coil to this bike rather than an air shock? Whilst the new Switch 6 might be far more progressive than its predecessor, its still only 6.2% which is low. Secondly, why design a bike to run a 65mm stroke shock if full stroke is unattainable in the real world?

It also starts at a low leverage rate which means that opening portion of the leverage curve is only going to be firm at the start before feeling better later in the travel. A coil would certainly help offset that and get the bike running better. Once the Switch 6 had a damper, albeit an expensive one, fitted it really did come alive and was a delight to ride if you rode it hard. Light for an alloy bike and with modern geometry, one that’s still made here in the UK. Even the heavier, grippier rubber didn’t make it a pig to get back up the hills either.

If you’re dead set on an Orange Switch 6, the LE sports the same shock and tyres but better wheels and brakes, whilst the Switch 6 Factory comes with the excellent Fox X2 Factory shock which I am sure would help get the best out of this bike despite the £1,800 increase in price. In fact, with the Pro coming in at five grand, under seven for the Factory model actually seems pretty reasonable considering the spec.

What do we think?

The Orange Switch 6 Pro is a fast bike waiting in the wings for a rider willing to swing off the back and really ride it hard. It’ll be hard bike to ride any other way. The Tigon did turn it from a frustrating bike to a good one but had a test of a coil shock not been on the cards, it might well have remained that way.

We love:

  • Light weight
  • Covers the ground well
  • Stock drivetrain and brakes perform well

Could do better:

  • Low leverage rate only favours hard, aggressive riding
  • Crying out for a better rear damper
  • Value for money isn’t high

You can check out the Orange Switch 6 on their website here.


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