Downhill Bikes

Orange 324 Factory

There are more cultured bikes here, for sure. But if you plump for an Orange you know you’re not buying a bike squeezed out of a mould in a clinically-clean, Far Eastern Factory. Instead you get something far more soulful. Hand-bashed aluminium plates, chunky welds and history, so much history. Special things are brewed in the Halifax cauldron and the 324 carries on that unique lineage.

Is it antiquated to have a simple single pivot keeping you stuck to the ground? Marketing men would have you believe so but we simply can’t see it. In fact, consider this bike a throwback at your peril. At 34 lbs, it was one of the lightest bikes in this list – and full aluminium.

The silent ride and the brilliant head angle/bottom bracket/wheelbase combination marry together with a suspension dynamic whereby you can pick and place, skip sections, drive hard into corners, and really make the most out of the terrain that’s being ridden. There’s a real poise to this bike in the air, it inspires confidence to just keep progressing to bigger things.

“Orange may no longer have a World Cup team but this bike is up there with the fastest in the world.”

What certainly isn’t old hat are the numbers that can be kept bang up to date and consistently refined thanks to short production schedules and hand-made artisanship. Orange may no longer have a World Cup team but this bike is up there with the fastest in the world.

Our prayers were answered for 2017 when Orange brought out a full Factory build to furnish this livewire frame with everything it needs to excel. Fox 40 dampers at the front are a big step up from the Boxxer Team forks on the version we tested back in April. The Vivid is also a bit dated now (and has recently been superseded by the Super Deluxe Coil) so a DHX2 seems a worthy replacement

A lot of the kit on that former bike worked faultlessly, but it didn’t have that sparkle of brilliance you would expect from a flagship bike. No more. RaceFace wheels and kit, Sram Transmission, Hope hubs and headset are all quality bits of kit. They feel like the kind of parts that should be on the fastest Orange bike going.

There are still a couple of things missing. A bump stop would be nice to avoid chipping the paint in the headtube/toptube junction area. As gripes go this one is easily solvable or, to be honest, ignorable – there aren’t many downhill bikes that stay pristine for long.

Orange 324 Factory

In short, the 324 is finally everything we knew it could be. We’re glad Orange had the confidence to load up this winner with a worthy spec. Underestimate this at your peril.

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Selected for Dirt 100 2017

View the full 100
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