The electrically assisted Alpine 6
The Orange Alpine 6 E is their first foray into the e-bike market has yielded a motorised version of an old classic.
Orange Alpine 6 E Factory need to know
- Orange’s unexpected entry into the e-bike game is a motorised Alpine 6.
- Aluminium monocoque frame retains regular Alpine 6 geometry with 20mm extra in the wheelbase to keep the front down when climbing under power.
- Shimano Steps E8000 drive unit is paired with Shimano XT Di2 electronic-shifting and wide range cassette.
- Hope Tech 3 brakes would benefit from more grunt for halting such a heavy machine.
Famous for its no-nonsense, folded and welded aluminium monocoque frames, when Orange launched an emtb packing enduro travel and geometry it came as a bit of a surprise.
Essentially it’s and Alpine 6 with a Shimano Steps motor bolted on, and it looks like a smart move for Orange, even if the e-bike thing, with prices up to seven and a half grand for the all-singing, electronic-shifting version here, won’t be for everyone.
This Factory E version brings top-level Fox Float EVOL 36 forks and a Float X2 shock plugged in to chassis. With 160mm rear travel and 170mm front travel it’s very similar to the regular Alpine 6, and even shares the same pivot and shock mount locations.
Conveniently, Shimano’s compact E8000 drive unit with it’s full size chain ring plays nicely with the high single pivot suspension design, so even with a new BB assembly, huge boxy downtube and battery casing, the electric version retains the Alpine’s signature, rugged lines.
Shimano’s smooth E8000 motor doesn’t match the top-end grunt of a Bosch unit, but there’s plenty of useable punch for the steepest climbs, and power delivery is smoother and more refined.
When pedalling without the motor, like when you exceed the 15.5mph speed limit, it’s way less draggy than the Bosch system too, so human power is more effective at topping up or limping home if you run out of juice.
Battery range and the handlebar remote ergonomics are excellent, but the unintuitive Di2 gear shifter is less so. Even when we flipped the orientation of the shifting, the electric paddles aren’t quite in the right position and ‘wrong-way’ accidental shifts are too frequent. And given that E-bikes are notoriously tough on kit, it’s a worry when a replacement Di2 mech is an eye-watering £290 too.
At 50lb, the solid Alpine E loves smashing down fast rough trails, but is also surprisingly chuckable and playful. There’s neutral steering and an excellent rider position with 430mm stays (some of the shortest on any e-bike) that help with getting the front wheel up and really carving or squaring-off corners. Any concerns the short rear might cause excessive wheelies when climbing under power were unfounded too – the Alpine’s well balanced and provided there’s enough rear tyre traction you can winch up any gradient.
E-bikes with 20lb of additional bulk usually have a heavy chassis/relatively light wheels ground-hugging suspension feel, but the benefits of the extra sprung mass are less pronounced on the Alpine E as it has plenty of trail feedback and a sense the rear wheel slaps the ground over repeated hits rather than ironing them out.
Whether this choppy suspension trait results from chain growth inhibiting the suspension on the high single pivot design, or the X2 shock requiring a different shock tune, the effect robs rolling speed and can upset the balance of the bike on the roughest tails, which is at odds with how stable the geometry feels elsewhere.
The extra grip a 50lb e-bike normally helps to prevent overshooting corners when on the brakes, and bring pure DH-bike-like fun factor on the steepest trails. This electric Orange, however, rides more like a ‘standard’ enduro bike with a motor, which could be good or bad, depending on your expectations and riding style.
Either way, there’s a near flawless spec list, it’s built tough and delivers stacks of fun in less time than any regular bike can. Adding a motor hasn’t upset Orange’s superb geometry, but the Alpine 6 E could be even better if the suspension was more fluid and reactive to better match the excellent handling.