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Orange E.P.O – First Look

Alpine 6 based E-MTB from the Halifax crew

Is the Orange E.P.O the first British built full-suspension e-mtb? It’s certainly the first that we’ve had through the doors of Dirt HQ. Spotted earlier this year in its prototype stage, this is our first Look at the E.P.O – a full test will follow soon.

Words: Sean White Images: Steve Jones

Yeah, Orange have joined the ever expanding number of bike brands to offer an e-mtb in the range. The folks at Orange have taken their time though, watching the steady development of drivetrain systems and components designed specifically for this type of machine. We’ve spent plenty of time on this type of bike now and explored a good chunk of what is currently on the market with Dirt’s E-MTB guide. Things are gathering pace in this category with developments in brakes, tyres, transmissions and suspension that are either e-bike specific or a great choice for this application. SRAM’s EX1 drivetrain and Guide RE brakes are good examples.

With design, testing and production all here in the UK (with plenty of challenging riding right on the doorstep), Orange Bikes can really develop a bike that fits their agenda with as few compromises as possible. They’ve spent plenty of time developing this design, as they did with the current Stage 5 and 6 29ers and as with these trail bikes the wait looks like it was worth it. The Electric Powered Orange – let’s take a look…

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’

GEOMETRY AND SIZING

It’s good news here. A frame with 160mm of rear travel paired to a 160/170mm fork needs bang on geometry for hard hitting riding, especially descending at speed with the added weight of the motor, battery and controls. Take a look at the geometry charts of a standard Alpine 6 and this is what we have here. A size ‘Large’ bike has an 18″/45.7cm seat tube, a slack 64.5° head angle and a relatively steep 74° seat angle. A reach of 461mm and a 1231mm wheelbase allows a short stem to be used as stock and gives a planted and controlled ride. Great numbers for Orange to base their first e-mtb around.

components

We’ve not had confirmation of the exact specs and model range for the E.P.O. Rest assured though that Orange have picked up their well considered component choices from the Alpine 6 range and carried them over to this bike. Renthal bar and stem, a Fox Transfer dropper post and chunky Maxxis tyres are all Dirt 100 hits that we agree on. With the Steps drivetrain on board it’s naturally over to Shimano for shifters, chain and cassette from the XT level.

Suspension needs a careful tune, especially with the added weight that these bikes naturally carry. A Fox X2 air shock is fitted on the rear with a Fox 36 (with we hope the stouter e-bike specific chassis) fork giving reassuringly good damping, grip and support when pushing on hard.

TECHNICAL SPECS

Here are the initial technical specifications of the Shimano E8000 drive unit.

PEDAL ASSIST MODES

All three support modes will assist until 16mph.

  • ECO – Riding support while enabling maximum range
  • TRAIL – Gradual support for encouraging sportive riding
  • BOOST – Full support for maximum boost and uncompromised climbing
  • WALK ASSIST – As additional mode, walk assist can be easily enabled with the assist switch

COMPACT CONCEPT

  • Short chainstays (shorter chainstay length ensuring better manoeuvrability)
  • Narrow Q-factor of 177mm (compact and lightweight design for better handling with same Q-factor as current Shimano XT)

PERFORMANCE

  • Maximum power: 500 W
  • Nominal power: 250 W
  • Maximum torque: 70 Nm

WEIGHT OF DRIVE UNIT

  • Under 3 kg

LI-ION BATTERY

  • Integrated version (504Wh)
  • Charging: 80% after 2,5 hrs / 5 hrs from 0 to 100%
  • Battery life: 1,000 cycles

PRICE: To be confirmed

orangebikes.co.uk

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