Has pace and comfort in spades but needs better tyres and contact points
The Orange Clockwork is something of a stalwart in the Orange hardtail range, but the latest EVO version brings this timeless classic bang up-to-date.
Orange Clockwork Evo 29 S review
Billed squarely as a trail hardtail, the Clockwork Evo S is available with 27.5in or 29in wheels. Both versions share the same price tag and near identical build kits, but each model gets a unique alloy frame with geometry and sizing dedicated to the specific wheel size. Sizing is wheelsize specific too: the 29er comes in M, L and XL while the 27.5in is also available in a size S.
Both bikes look really similar, but that’s not to stay the build are the identical though. To help keep the overall height of the front end in check, the 29er version comes with a 120mm travel RockShox Revelation suspension fork, while travel on the 27.5in bike is upped to 130mm to balance things out.
The rear centre, or chain stay lengths are also different, the 29er is 17mm longer than the 27.5in bike, the 442mm chain stays helping keep that 29in front wheel from getting too wayward, even on the steepest climbs.
Why did we choose the 29er over the 27.5in version, when all of the other bikes in this test are rolling on 27.5in wheels? Ultimately, it came down to tyre size. We’ve long been convinced by the benefits of fatter tyres on hardtails, and with the 27.5in bike and 29er both coming with relatively slender 2.4in WTB tyres, we opted for the increased roll over of the bigger wheels to help smooth out the bumps.
Even though the Clockwork has the shortest travel fork in test, the 120mm Revelation doesn’t hold this bike back. There’s even argument to be made that having less travel on the front of a hardtail as it helps reduce dramatic swings in the geometry and weight distribution of the bike, which ultimately leads to more control. In fact, the Clockwork Evo S 29 is an easy bike to ride fast, the 29in wheels compounding the overall sense of stability.
With a dropper post and quick-release seat collar, a both though 148mm rear end and 15mm QR up front on the Orange, you’ll never need a Allen key to adjust the saddle height, but you’ll need one to remove the rear wheel if you get a puncture. Confusing? You bet! We also don’t understand why there’s an over bar dropper remote when all models come with 1x drivetrains.
The contact points are, err pointy. Well at least the Fazor saddle is. Also the Orange lock-on grips are too thin and don’t provide adequate cushioning. It’s the tyres though, that are the real limiting factor on the Clockwork Evo S. The 2.4 in Ranger is akin to a semi-slick, and you can actually feel it struggling for traction even on mellow gradient climbs. Given the choice, we’d take the Trail Boss off the front and run it on the rear, then swap to something like a Vigilante up front to increases cornering confidence further.
Orange’s alloy hardtails have always had a great feel to the them, the choice of tubing offering a unique blend of stiffness for steering precision and power delivery, while still having enough give in the stays to round the edge of the squarest hits.
The Clockwork Evo 29 S continues in that vein but it could offer an even more composed ride with just a few subtle changes to the specification. Simply adding more tread to the rear tyre would help cushion the blows while reducing the risk of punctures. Fatter grips, or ones with less plastic and more rubber, combined with saddle that had round edges and a more supportive profile would both go a long way to help isolate the rider from trail buzz. Possibly the simplest change though would be to add a chainstay protector to silence the chain slap. All small modifications that are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, but when Nukeproof and Whyte are sweating these details for you, they are enough to separated a good bike from the best bikes.
With the Clockwork Evo 29 S, Orange has nailed all of the fundamentals. The geometry and sizing are bang up-to-date and, more importantly, the ride quality of the 6061 alloy frame is second to none. As such, Orange has delivered a 29er that’s easy and fun to ride. It’s also fast and engaging, without feeling painfully harsh. Which makes it doubly frustrating that Orange hasn't quite delivered on the finishing kit. All of the contact points need addressing and Orange needs to decide if it's going down the quick release route or Allen key bolts for both wheels and the seat post clamp.