It was mbr’s Trail Bike of the Year three years running — but can the Halifax-built Orange Five S still cut it in a sea of hydroformed, linkage bikes coming straight from Asia?
Since the last round of major frame revisions, the Orange Five now sports a 67° head angle, a tapered head tube with Zero Stack headset and dropper post-friendly 30.9mm Reynolds seat tube. The huge head tube junction means the Five is nice and stiff for steering precision, and there are line guides under the kinked top tube for securing a dropper post remote cable.
This year sees a more beefed up rear too, as Orange has dropped the QR swingarm on the entry-level Five S for the more secure (and previously £100 extra) 135x12mm Maxle bolt-thru design.
Easy to dial in suspension has always been key to the Orange Five’s appeal. With the latest Fox CTD shock, the single-pivot design still offers the same grip and predictability throughout a wide window of sag settings, but the shock simply isn’t progressive enough to stop the bike bottoming harshly on descents. Orange is aware of this issue and is currently working on a fix with Fox — all bikes leaving the factory will have a revised shock tune by the time you read this. One very positive aspect of the CTD shock is that the rider-selected Climb mode transforms the Five into a maximum efficiency pedaller that can lurch up steeps like a hardtail.
We chose the 140mm Fox CTD Evolution fork over the stock RockShox Sektor from the list of optional upgrades on the Orange website, but it didn’t bring the performance advantage we’d expected in Climb, Trail or Descend modes.
The Mavic XM319 rims are 2mm wider than those previously specced on the Orange Five S, and offer a solid base for the best-in-test Maxxis Advantage tyres. The overall wheel set-up isn’t the lightest, but it’s solid and reliable, and the fat tyres are durable and grippy with good puncture resistance, making them up to the job of trail riding in the UK.
We can live with the fact that the 44-tooth outer ring on the Race Face Ride XC chainset looks old-school and the forged crank arms aren’t as stiff as the Shimano units, but the 3×10 design means the 10-speed chain occasionally gets stuck fast between the middle and granny ring when it jumps off while riding — seriously annoying. The Avid Elixir 5 brakes squeal like a banshee, and the levers felt sticky after a few weeks’ riding in winter mud. Worse still, the old Avid issue of a constantly changing bite point is back, and very unnerving.
Wider bars are what the majority of trail riders are rocking, so the 710mm Ride XC bar and inline seatpost (which puts you in the optimum position for seated climbing) are welcome additions to the Five’s standard build kit.
After years of development, the predictable Five chassis delivers a near-perfect rider position and balanced geometry. In typical British riding conditions — namely, grease and slop — it inspires confidence with a solid ride quality, keeping you composed and the bike stable.
With the new Fox CTD shock in Descend mode (and a lot of sag) there’s ample grip on loose and jagged terrain, albeit with frequent harsh bottom-outs. Less so than the Lapierre Zesty, the Fox fork feels slightly out of balance with the rear (our over-inflating it for extra support made matters worse), which also reduced available travel and small bump sensitivity.
As a UK-ready trail bike, the Orange Five is still one of the best, no-nonsense, durable rides on the market. However, the Five S is hampered by a heavier weight, no dropper post and an uncompetitive spec compared to its peers. Compounding its problems is a rear shock set-up that needs tuning.
That said, the Five has always proven extremely reliable, it’s so easy and fun to ride and still has that certain x-factor; if Orange gets the shock tune dialled, it will definitely be back in the running.
MBR rating: 8
Frame 6061–T6 aluminium, 140mm travel
Suspension Fox Float CTD Evolution shock / Fox Float CTD Performance 140 FIT fork
Wheels Formula hubs, Mavic XM319 rims, Maxxis Advantage tyres
Drivetrain RaceFace Ride XC X-Type, Shimano Deore shifters and f-mech, SLX r-mech
Brakes: Avid Elixir 5
Components Race Face Ride XC
Weight 13.7kg (30.2lb)
Size tested: 17in
Head angle: 67.2°
Seat angle: 73.4°
BB height: 340mm
Front centre: 714mm
Down tube: 665mm