Firstly, the swingarm profile was rounded to reduce weight, while the chainstay length was increased by half an inch, upping travel from 5in to 5.5in. More recently the down tube changed profile to help dissipate forces from the shock mount.
The 2007 version sees additional creasing in the swingarm and down tube, which adds stiffness, but we also feel that it enhances the look of the bike. The swingarm shock mount is now a CNC-machined component, which eliminates two welds and improves post-heat treatment alignment. Finally, all new 5s get a kinked, triple-butted top tube for a slight improvement in standover clearance.
Of the four bikes on test the Orange 5 has the most straightforward suspension design. The Ultra Lite Beam swingarm joins the main pivot, (which is in front of and just above the middle ring) to the rear axle. This set-up gives a fixed axle path, and the construction technique used by Orange ensures that the swingarm is stiff enough to avoid side loading the shock or any additional reinforcing links. The bulk of the weight of the swingarm is concentrated at the pivot so it contributes less to the unsprung mass (the bits that move up and down), allowing the swingarm to get out of the way faster. Orange offers a Fox RP23 shock upgrade on the 5, but the frame comes as standard with the new Manitou Swinger 3-Way, so we thought we’d give it a go. The main difference with the new shock is that the SPV charge is factory-set, and if you want to increase the level of platforming you now simply flick a lever.
At 44.25in the Orange 5 has the longest wheelbase on test, but it also has the shortest chainstay length, so there is plenty of room in the cockpit. This means riders of average height can ride a 16 or 18in frame. The 18-incher will have increased stability at speed and be more comfortable on long rides, while the 16in will feel more flickable but not too short up front.
When we pulled the complete Orange 5 out of the box we could tell immediately that it was designed and built to go fast. With 140mm of travel front and back, as part of a 27lb package, with angles that held all our choice components in perfect harmony — the Orange simply looked right.
On the trail it felt instantly comfortable and confident. The 5 is sure-footed in every situation and the ultra-stiff chassis means that it feels more solid than its weight would suggest. It’s easy to pick up and manoeuvre and, because it’s incredibly stiff and very well balanced, if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re out of your depth, the bike is sturdy enough to let you hold on and try to ride it out. Obviously you won’t always get away with it — short-travel bikes have their limitations — but with the 5 you are going have to push it really hard to find them.
If Orange offered to build us a custom 5 frame with our choice of geometry we’d be hard pushed to find something on the production bike to change. Granted the Orange 5 is not the plushest bike we’ve ever ridden, but the suspension gets the job done without slowing you down or trying to be so soft as to iron out every ripple in the trail and losing a feel for how the bike is behaving in the process. Uphill, downhill or just bowling along on a flat fire road, the Orange 5 has an amazing ability to keep on carrying speed and put a smile on your face. What more could you want from a trail bike?
MBR RATING: 10/10