Is the Orange Crush the perfect trail hardtail?
The Pro model is the latest addition to the Orange Crush family. It neatly bridges the gap between the entry-level Crush S — that won this test last year — and the all-singing, all-dancing RS model.
The idea is that the Pro comes with all mod-cons as standard, but has Orange done enough to maintain the Crush’s test-winning pedigree?
Orange Crush Pro
Well, it’s certainly trying. It has slackened the head angle by 1° to 65°, which increases the wheelbase by over 10mm to give the Crush an even more composed ride. It has also upped the suspension fork travel by 10mm to 150mm; the taller fork maintaining the same bottom bracket and handlebar height as last year’s bike. All positive changes, then.
Along with geometry and fork-travel revision, the addition of the 100mm drop KS Cruxi dropper post has further brought the Crush in line with modern expectations. It’s a much-needed component and will undoubtedly add to this bike’s pedigree.
Sizing on the Crush is also spot-on. With options from S all the way up to XL there’s quite a bit of leeway for riders looking for the perfect fit, or taller riders struggling to find a bike that’s actually big enough.
A lone wolf in this test, the Crush Pro features the latest Performance series Fox 34 Float fork, rather than a RockShox Yari like its rivals. With an identical chassis to its premium counterparts, and a sealed GRIP damper cartridge, it boasts premium performance at a lower cost than the Fox Factory series units.
It’s easily the best and most consistent fork on test, with damping characteristics that you’d be hard-pushed to distinguish from the top of the range FIT units. That said, it’s not a night and day step-up over the Yari in terms of grip, comfort or control.
Fox forks don’t come cheap, and Orange has been careful with the rest of the bike’s specification to offset that extra cost. As such, the Crush get’s Shimano’s basic Deore M506 disc brakes. These have always been a favourite of ours on lower-cost builds, and while they have fewer features than SLX units, they still have great modulation and ample stopping power. And because they do not feature Shimano’s cam system in the lever, they felt better too.
With a slow response, the 100mm drop KS Cruxi seatpost struggled to perform its job. We found ourselves repeatedly waiting for it to return to full extension — far from ideal when you’re quickly transitioning from a steep downhill into a climb. What’s more, on steep descents we had to lower the post in the frame to get the saddle low enough. Thanks to the handy quick-release seat clamp, no tools were needed, but the Crush really would benefit from a 125mm, or even a 150mm, dropper.
Even with its more complex internals, setting up the Fox 34 is easy. Dial in your spring pressure, set the rebound damping to match, then tune in the compression damping via Fox’s GRIP damper. There are three main levels of compression adjustment that you can toggle quickly between, with several micro adjustments for really fine-tuning the fork’s response.
It still took us a couple of rides to really feel at home on the Crush, but it was actually something as simple as the grips that were putting us off. The concave profile and wide collars forced us to take a narrow hold on the 760mm bar, effectively reducing their width by 30mm. And that really took a toll on our confidence and control. Once a different set of grips were fitted, and the stem dropped 10mm, the bike really came into its own.
Just as it did last year, the Crush’s rear end immediately impressed us with its forgiveness. Whether we were climbing in the saddle, or blasting down a descent, the frame exhibited a clear damped feel. This allowed us to attack, and even jump into, certain rough sections as it has the rare ability to fill in some of the holes in the trail.
The Crush Pro bends the rules when it comes to hardtails. With its extraordinarily well-damped frame and generous sizing it encourages you to stay off the brakes and charge hard. Factor in the lacklustre performance of the KS Cruxi dropper post, the weird-shaped grips, and the fact that it commands a £175 premium, and it seems Orange has opened the door to its closest rival. Still, with another degree off the head angle and those few creases in the specification ironed out, the Crush would be unbeatable.