FRAME AND SUSPENSION
With an aluminium frame, constructed in their own factory, Orange are in as good a position as anyone when it comes to integrating a drive system and battery into an e-bike. It’s never going to be easy though. With these power assisted bikes coming under attack from many riders, the compromised looks (as well as increased bulk and weight) of many brands’ offerings is one of the reasons many folk are deterred from looking any further. These are areas that are now improving rapidly as we head into the 2018 model year.
Orange have opted for the Shimano E-8000 Steps system for power on the E.P.O. They believe, after much testing, that it has the fewest compromises and gives the right control that they’re looking for. So where have they pitched this bike? What model does it mirror from the 2017/18 Orange range?
The blueprint for this bike is the much-loved Orange Alpine 6 – a bike that has evolved over many years. If you’re designing and building an e-bike, with the added weight that comes with it, then a tried and tested frame design is a reassuring place to start. Orange know this category very well; the Patriot, short-lived Blood and Alpine 160 models have all proven solid performers in year round UK conditions.
With the Alpine 6 sizing and geometry as starting points, Orange’s choice of the Shimano Steps drivetrain means a standard size single chainring up front – definitely a plus point in muddy conditions compared to the tiny cogs on some systems. The drive unit sits forward of the cranks and the battery is encased in a wider down tube. It’s bulky, as this technology currently stands, but we are now seeing more integration when it comes to batteries. Move up from the crank area and we see a standard looking Alpine 6 frame – a single pivot suspension design with a low stand-over height and plenty of mud clearance for chunky rubber.
When it comes to wheel sizing, we have a preference for ‘Plus’ size 2.8/3.0 tyres (with a tough casing ideally) on 35-40mm 27.5″ rims, as seen on both the Trek Powerfly LT and the Specialized Turbo Levo bikes. Orange however, have stuck with standard 27.5″ wheels, and with Boost hub spacing can run the new generation 2.5/2.6″ rubber. It looks like we’ll be seeing more of this tyre size from many brands over the next year.
Here are Orange’s words on their thinking:
‘We looked at the options available, and soon realised the Shimano E-8000 pedal assist drive unit has a lot going for it. So working with Shimano, we’ve based our designs around that. We want a bike with a decent amount of suspension travel, that’s versatile and proven, so we started with the proven Alpine 6 for our geometry. We know the bike rides really well, so we have some data points we trust’