Designed to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, the Orange Stage 6 Evo sounds like concentrated orange cordial in two wheel form.
Tired of feeling disconnected from the trail thanks to miles of suspension travel? Well, the Orange Stage 6 Evo aims to deliver that frenetic, plugged-in feeling you get from the very best full-suspension trail bikes. Does it deliver? Let’s find out.
Need to know
- Alloy trail bike with 140mm travel, 150mm fork and 29in wheels
- Orange’s Evo treatment sees the bike get less travel, but tighter suspension
- New asymmetric swingarm design makes the back end vertically stiffer
- Ohlins TTX1 Air shock and RXF 36 M.2 fork tip the bike north of £6k
- Two bikes in the range, including a Team version with Formula coil shock
Orange bikes are born for slop. That single pivot swingarm has always generated stupid amounts of grip on anything off-camber and slidey, so I knew just where I had to take the new Stage 6 Evo SE, the latest 29er trail bike from the Halifax brand. Somewhere that stinks. But in a good way. Grimy trails duly found – not hard this winter – I proceeded to get the usual reward of tenacious grip and emerged spattered and smiling from the first descent. But there was something else going on too, something relatively new to me. The bike felt tighter and stiffer, with more zip when cranking it up. Orange has entered the modern age of the trail bike.
In truth Orange entered this age in 2020 with the Stage Evo 29, a 120mm travel bike that’s led directly into this new Stage 6 Evo here. That bike showed us the direction Orange wanted to go in with its Evo trail bikes, stripping away as much weight as possible, a little travel, and tightening up the suspension to really differentiate them from its big hit and plusher enduro bikes like the Alpine. Making a 120mm travel bike zippy and tight makes sense, and Transition, Evil, YT and loads more brands have been hammering this point home with brilliant down-country bikes for a few years. But with 140mm travel isn’t the Orange Evo approach just going to rob the bike of its plushness without giving enough of a reward in terms of low weight and speed?
First to the details though. The Stage moniker tells you the bike runs on 29in wheels, and the Evo treatment means travel is nipped back by 10mm from the old bike, to 140mm with a 150mm fork. The SE version comes with Ohlins suspension, or there’s a Team version with Formula coil shock and air fork for £1,200 less. Naturally there’s also a frame-only option for £2,600 with a RockShox or Fox shock.
Orange might not have moved on much in the materials it uses or its suspension layout, but it’s become an expert in tweaking the tried and tested design, now using FEA. The Stage 6 Evo gets a new asymmetric swingarm design where the non-driveside chainstay drops lower, while the wall thickness of each part of the frame now varies from 1.3 to 1.6mm. The upshot is a bike that’s stiffer vertically, but actually slightly more compliant laterally than the old design, Orange says. In really simple terms that means more grip when the bike is lent over, and better efficiency when you’re pedalling. The shock has moved too, it noses slightly further into the down tube, which makes the suspension a little more progressive. And perhaps most importantly, the main pivot position has moved lower to reduce pedal kickback and make the bike more neutral feeling.
The elephant in the room is the price, at £6,400 you’d expect to see a motor on there somewhere, or perhaps a carbon frame or wheelset. Instead you get alloy rims and Shimano SLX cycling you through the gears. I’m not going to pass judgement on this though, the internet will do this for me, instead I’ll explain why the costs are high. Most obviously, the bike uses Ohlins suspension which is far more expensive than RockShox Ultimate or even Fox factory. Orange also says this is 2022, which is its way of saying that inflation has ripped up the rule book on bikes made by hand in the UK. The rest of the specification is grounded in good sense, with excellent Stans Flow Mk4 rims, Hope Pro 4 hubs and a great Maxxis Minion DHF and DHRII tyre combination. And while the Renthal bar and short Hope stem feel right, the only irritation is that the 150mm stroke dropper post is too short.
How it rides
Tight, in a word. Tighter than the Oranges of the past, in a complete sentence. I remember the comfortable, almost effortless grip on off-camber, rooty terrain of the previous Oranges I rode and it’s just the same with the Stage 6 Evo. Aim it obliquely across some slippy, mud-smeared roots and somehow it holds its line and steers you out safely to the other side. The long 471mm chainstay length probably helps too as it keeps the front end loaded.
What I don’t remember is the level of support now on offer, there’s no harsh bottom out even when you’re running it pretty soft and it really helps you stay in a neutral riding position on the bike. The bottom bracket is reasonably low, and I avoided whacking my pedals on rock or root, but honestly I’d be happy to have it a few millimetres lower, especially given how supportive the shock is.
How much of this support is down to the bike’s suspension characteristics and how much is down to the shock I just don’t know. What I did feel is a remarkably composed ride for a relatively short travel bike – it’s controlled, balanced and supportive. The suspension travel measured up bang on 140mm, with plenty of clearance between the back of the seat tube and rear tyre at bottom out. The trade-off of course is that it’s not as supple as some bikes out there; don’t expect the Stage 6 Evo to eat up those big hits, instead you’ll need to use that new found support to dance round it all.
Dance you will though, because the bike isn’t crazy heavy and all that FEA seems to have paid off to help deliver a pretty nimble bike. You benefit on the climbs from this of course, and from the lofted seat position and steep seat tube angle. My only gripe comes from the sizing though, my bike came up significantly shorter in terms of reach than Orange’s numbers on the website. My own ride experience echoed that too, I felt a little cramped on the bike and wished I’d opted for the XL for my 6ft 1in frame.
I thought I’d enjoy riding the Stage 6 Evo SE, Orange is too well practiced to get it wrong. But I didn’t think I’d be surprised by it. It’s got good pace, it’s fun to ride, and it somehow made winter fun again.