The very boxy front-end section has now gone, in favour of a more organic form. Rounded upper and lower planes ape the slightly-dropped top tube, and folded creases within the sides improve torsional rigidity in the front triangle.
The creases are mimicked in the swingarm, performing the same function, and previous angular aesthetics are also banished here. With rounded edges, the top section now flows into the CNC shock mount, making for an overall look that is much less disjointed than early models.
Despite the large-scale tubing, this more curvy form is less prone to mud catching, as there are fewer ledges for the gloop to sit on. Cable routing also plays a part. Rather than having stops and exposed inner cable, the Five runs the rear derailleur cable through the swingarm. Full cable enclosed in an aluminium box: you can’t get much more of a weather-proofing system than that. Machined pivot shrouds give the sealed pivot bearings a similar level of protection. A £50 custom colour option brightens things up too.
We have chosen a common option a lot of customers make, going for the £65 upgrade to Fox’s Float R fork rather than RockShox Revelation. More complex damping internals banish the harsh compression that can be felt on some lower-end RockShox forks. The simple positive air spring, and external rebound adjust also mean that set-up is simple and performance is always controlled and reliable.
Like all Fives, the S comes with Fox’s RP23 shock. Three options for the platform damping can be dialled in. With the setting chosen, flicking the lever turns ProPedal on or off by opening a bypass valve. Thanks to a well-placed pivot — in front of and just above the middle ring — pedal feedback is minimal in the most often used gears and we never felt the need for oodles of ProPedal. We kept the dial at one and occasionally flicked the switch on smooth, pedally sections.
With Shimano Deore shifters and front mech and an upgraded LX rear derailleur, Orange has cut costs where possible but increased life expectancy and long-term shifting accuracy where it counts. Truvativ’s Firex 3.1 two-piece chainset not only increases bottom bracket longevity over a three-piece set-up but also facilitates better shifting than similarly priced Shimano chainsets.
Own-brand finishing kit is to be expected at this price bracket and gives a solid enough performance. Worth a mention is the SDG Bel-Air saddle — there are few as comfy.
We previously tested the Five as a frame-only, hung with our choice of parts, but when saddling up on the cheapest Five (with a couple of upgrades) we didn’t feel let down. From the first pedal stroke it shows that what’s important is geometry. Out of the box, there are very few trail situations that this bike cannot cope with. The most rugged trail centres will not faze it, but even on less extreme terrain you rarely feel over-biked. Lower-specced parts do not affect the balanced riding position that lets you attack every trail as if it’s your last, and a stiff, simple, single-pivot chassis mean there are no sudden changes in chain tension that can plague linkage bikes mid stroke.
While tyres are a personal and area-specific choice, we couldn’t help but think that the rubber on the Five let the bike down. 2.4 inch tyres are all well and good if they let you tackle the rock gardens with aplomb, but the Speed Kings are not a tough tyre and the soft-edge tread meant they were the weak link in the overall ride. At least the centred rider position meant when (not if) they let go, holding the drift was never an issue.
Saving cash where it has little effect on the ride has allowed Orange to bring a great performing rig to market at a very competitive price. Low weight, good brakes and gears that always work are all much appreciated, but the Five S’s raison d‘être is a near perfect shape and riding position. It makes for a steed that will age well and be ripe for upgrades.
To be frank, it’s what everyone should look for and that very few will be disappointed in.
MBR RATING: 9/10