Versatile, balanced, efficient and above all fast, the Orange Switch 7 SE is everything you want from an enduro race bike
When it comes to manufacturing bikes in the UK, no one can accuse Orange of simply flag waving. Based in Halifax, and with over 25 years of manufacturing knowhow, it is arguably the quintessential British bike brand. Models like the Five and 224 making Orange a popular mountain bike household name. The Orange Switch 7 is a 170mm mixed-wheelsize enduro bike that justifies being rated as one of the best enduro bikes out there.
Need to know:
- An Ohlins TTX2 Air shock and RXF 38 M.2 fork control the 170mm travel
- MX wheels with longer 446mm chain stays give the Switch 7 a almost 29er feel
- Adding the linkage brings more end-stoke progression to the rear suspension
- Tabs under the top tube allow you to squeeze in a 500ml bottle
And while the ingredients that go into Orange’s full-suspension bikes haven’t changed dramatically over the years, mostly seam welded sheet aluminium to form the monocoque tubing, combined with a single pivot suspension design, Alex Desmond, senior design engineer at Orange has added a new ingredient without completely changing the flavour profile.
That’s right, the Switch 7 has a linkage actuated shock to give the bike more progression. Not that you could tell by looking at the side profile of the bike as the linkage is neatly concealed by the swingarm. The linkage adds about 400g to the overall weight of the frame, when compared to the Switch 6, where the shock is driven directly by the swingarm. And most of that weight is in the bearings.
Working on the bike should be relatively easy though, thanks to the service position, which gives you access to all of the bolts on the linkage without having to remove the swingarm.
How much progression does the new linkage add? It’s about 20% more overall compared to the Switch 6, which also makes it more progressive than Orange’s 279 DH bike with the pierced downtube. Progression then, quite literally. But that’s not the whole story. The first half of the 170mm travel (we measured 175mm) is pretty linear, where the ramp up comes into play in the second half of the shock stroke.
Doing it this way has allowed Orange to retain some of the initial support and feel its bikes are renowned for, without the bike bottoming out too easily.
Adding the linkage has other benefits too. It helps eliminate sideloading on the shock. And because the swingarm is now anchored to the front triangle at two points, rather than one, the frame can be made stiffer. Orange claims that it hasn’t gone overboard here, but the combination of the smaller 27.5in rear wheel and more open triangulation of the swingarm certainly makes the Switch 7 stout enough for smashing out bike park laps, even if it has been designed with enduro racing as the focus.
A lot of work has gone into the front triangle too. Moving to a zero stack head tube has allowed Orange to drop the downtube down a touch, again boosting stiffness and strength.
The Switch 7 frame also has size specific wall thickness on the downtube to fine tune the stiffness across the size range – S and M using thinner walled aluminium than the L and XL sizes. There’s also a large dimple in the downtube to make it easier to attach a 500ml bottle to the underside of the top tube.
At each step of the design process, the frame has undergone extensive finite element analysis, and Orange is so confident in the strength of its latest creation that the frame is backed up with a 5 year warranty.
So the rear suspension on the Switch 7 is progressive, but what about the anti-squat? At 30% sag it is around 119% on the size L, in the 45t cog. It also remains above 100% though the full range of travel.
In practice that makes a lot of sense, as no bike with this much travel should really pedal so well. Yes, when you stand up and stomp on the pedals the shock compresses, but sit and spin and there’s a calmness to the Switch 7 that’s surprising. We found that adding some additional low-speed compression to the Ohlins TTX2 Air shock helped boost its start gate sprint, while keeping the front tyre loaded even with a high handlebar position.
So while you may notice the 16.06kg overall weight when climbing, you won’t notice any loss of efficiency through the suspension. The steep seat tube angle and longer 446mm chain stays really help out in that department too.
Up front, the 170mm travel Ohlins RXF 38 fork shares the same damping adjustments as the shock, so you have a 4-position high-speed compression dial and low speed compression and rebound adjusters. The damping is relatively straightforward to adjust. You run the HSC wide open and add a little low-speed.
It’s the air-spring side of the RXF 38 that’s more complex. It has the normal self-equalising positive and negative air spring, but also has a second air valve that controls the pressure in the ramp-up chamber. Guide pressures on the back of the fork leg give you ballpark figures, and the RXF 38 fork should have a nice smooth progression with a very gentle bottom out. So if you hear a harsh metal on metal clunk at full travel, you need to increase the pressure in the ramp-up chamber.
Thankfully setting up the rear suspension is straightforward. And with a low 342mm BB height, the amount of sag you run is largely determined by how much pedal clearance you require. We found that we could get away with the standard 30% sag, and still use all of the travel.
If, however, you find that the bike is just too low as a daily driver, Orange offers aftermarket dog-bone links that will raise the BB height by 6mm. Also the bike comes with 170mm Hope cranks, so you could always gain an additional 5mm of clearance by simply swapping to 165mm arms.
Given the enduro focus of the Switch 7, Orange has nailed the build kit. The Burgtec cockpit feels great, the 42.5mm stem and 800mm bar perfectly matching the proportions of the frame. We loved the action of the SDG Tellis dropper post and the grip dimples on the remote are a nice touch.
The spec on the Orange website lists the saddle as an SDG Bel Air III and while we really like that saddle we also like the WTB Silverado that actually came on the bike. We’re guessing that the supply of some components is still disrupted.
Given its proximity to Hope we half expected the Switch 7 to come with the new Tech 4 V4 brakes. Instead, Orange has gone with Shimano XT, and interestingly there are no upgrade opinions on this bike. Swapping between the three bikes in test, it was clear that while the XT units lack the lever feel and modulation of the latest Hope brakes, they aren’t short on stopping power. Also we had no issues with variable bite-point that plagued a lot of XT equipped bikes in the past.
Keeping it British, Hope supplies the Pro 4 hubs on the Switch 7 and these are combined with Stan’s Flow MK4 rims to provide a solid MX wheel package. The wheels came with Peaty’s tubeless rim tape fitted as standard, and while the tyres both seated perfectly, we couldn’t stop air leaking out through the spoke holes of the front wheel.
Orange has been conscious of weight and drag with its Maxxis tyre spec, but if you’re going anywhere really rough, or are racing Enduro, we recommend switching the EXO+ casing rear tyre for a Double Down or at the very least fitting a tyre insert.
How it rides
We gave Orange the option to send either a Stage 6 Evo or the Switch 7 for this test and when it confirmed that the Switch 7 was on its way, we began to get a little nervous. Not least because we’d already looked at the sizing and geometry online. This bike is big. No two ways about it. And what were we going to do with all that travel?
Our concerns were unfounded though, as the Orange Switch 7 felt just so from the very first go.
Thanks to the 27.5in rear wheel it has 20mm shorter stays than the Stage 6 Evo so it feels more balanced. At 446mm however the stays aren’t too short, at least not for a MX wheel bike, so it feels more like a 29er. And what the 27.5in rear wheel lacks in roll over, the bike compensated with more travel.
In a straight line the Switch 7 feels unstoppable. There’s no hook-up from the rear suspension and the long, and genuinely low geometry gives you the confidence to really stay off the brakes and let the bike run. It works remarkably well on flatter terrain too, and we had no issues loading the front end on sweeping turns or off camber sections of trial. Yes, the Ohlins fork lacks some sensitivity when unweighted, but get past the sag point and it’s very composed.
The Orange doesn’t offer quite the same degree of grip or comfort as the Hope HB916, but the Switch 7 feels more balanced, more efficient and faster in almost every situation. Which is exactly what you want from an Enduro race bike. Especially one as versatile as this.
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On paper, the Orange Switch 7 looks like a beast of a bike. The wheelbase is longer than most downhill rigs, it actually has 175mm of rear wheel travel and comes stock with a pedal catching BB height and super slack 63º head angle. Don’t let the numbers fool you however, as the Switch 7 is more of a gentle giant. The weight distribution on this MX bike is perfectly balanced, so you always feel composed and ready to attack the trail. It’s fast everywhere too, so for a bike with such extreme numbers it’s way more versatile than you ever could have imagined.