Still a great hardcore hardtail
Revised specification and pricing within the Crush range makes the Crush Pro £2K, but the entry-level Crush S has also been upgraded to fill the void.
Back in 2016, the Orange Crush S wooed us with its soft, smooth handling to win our Hardcore Hardtail test with a perfect 10 rating. Last year, the more expensive Pro version missed out on making it two in a row, the super slack Ragley Blue Pig nudging it out by the narrowest of margins.
This Crush is only £50 more expensive than the test winning bike from two years ago, but it now comes with a dropper post, wider bar and a 150mm travel Revelation RC suspension fork. So much for inflation, but has Orange done enough to put the Crush S back in pole position?
Given its track record, Orange didn’t want to mess with the Crush’s winning formula, but it did tweak the rear end to bring the frame up-to-date with the 148mm Boost dropout spacing – a change that added clearance for up to 2.6in tyres. Orange hasn’t gone the semi-Plus route, but to add a little extra cushioning it has upped the size of the WTB Trail Boss rear tyre from 2.25in to 2.4in. Other than that, the frame is pretty much identical to the one Orange introduced back in 2016.
Just like Whyte and Nukeproof, Orange has appointed the new RockShox Revelation RC to take care of suspension duties. The latest version gets a stout 35mm chassis, up from 32mm, for improved stiffness. Because travel is capped at 160mm for the 27.5in version, the Revelation can be build lighter than the Yari. Confused? Don’t be, it’s basically a Pike with cheaper Motion Control RC damper.
With 150mm as its disposal the Revelation RC on the Crush S is the tallest fork in test. But like so many things in life, more isn’t necessarily better. With increased travel you get bigger swings in the geometry. Also, if you run 30% sag on the Orange, that means that the fork sits 6mm lower in its travel than the 130mm fork on the Whyte with the same percentage of sag. Why is this important? It steepens the dynamic head angle, and given that the Orange already has the steepest head angle in test, that’s not idea. Thankfully, the straight XX44 head tube and external lower bearing cup makes it super easy to fit an angle adjust headset to slacken it out further.
The combination of Shimano SLX gears and a SRAM 11-42t cassette meant that the shifting on the Crush wasn’t quite as slick as the full Shimano SLX drivetrain on the Nukeproof. The gear ratios however, were spot on. The smaller 30t chainring on the RaceFace crank providing some much needed reprieve for weary legs on longer climbs.
If you’re planning on running the Crush S through a typical British winter it’s worth noting that while the non-series Shimano MT500 brakes look similar to the SLX units on the Nukeproof, they are designed to operate with softer resin pads only, so you can’t switch to the harder wearing sintered verity once they wear out.
Two years ago the Orange Crush S was genuinely cutting edge. In present company however a few gray hairs are stating to appear. The frame still has a really nice feel to it, but the head angle needs to be a degree or two slacker if Orange really wants to offer a performance advantage over sub £1,000 hardtails like the Ragley Marley.
Sure, the addition of the fatter 2.4in rear tyre is step in the right direction, but on leaf littered trails with hidden roots it felt like the ground was moving beneath our wheels. As such, the Orange needed to be tip-toed down, rather than rallied like the Nukeproof and Whyte.
The Shimano MT500 brakes seem out of place on a £1,700 bike, but it’s really the tyres that put the Orange Crush S on the back foot. Bigger tyres have advantages for all bikes, but it’s the humble hardtail that really stands to gain the most.
There’s no denying that the Orange Crush is still a great hardcore hardtail. With regular size tyres its alloy frame has a relatively forgiving ride, and combined with good sizing it’s easy to see why it won this test back in 2016. So if you have a shed full of quality 2.3in rubber it could be the perfect partner. If you’re starting afresh however, the advantages of higher-volume 2.6in and 2.8in tyres are simply too great to ignore. It’s not that the Orange Crush has taken a step backward, in fact it better value than every before, it’s just that fatter tyres have moved everything forward.