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Trail and Enduro Bikes

Orange Segment Longterm review

Seg and the City

Call me a sucker for fads but the lure of a short travel 29ers was simply too hard to resist. There’s more than pure fashion in my pick though. Unlike the rest of the Dirt office I’m London based, this means I’m away from the burly mountains of south Wales and more familiar with the short, sharp undulations of South East England.

I wanted something that could chew up the ground beneath me while still providing chuckable singletrack thrills. I first rode 29ers a few years ago and found them to be floppy and dull, partly because I wasn’t riding the good ones, but the recent renaissance drew me back in.

The Boost hub standard has benefitted many short travel 29ers now including the Norco Optic, Transition Smuggler, Trek Fuel and Unno TR. There’s also a school of thought that suggests the 29 inch wheels offer an equivalent feel to an extra few mm travel, making these comparable to the 650b mid-travel steeds I was used to.

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I worried though that this short travel fad (in either 27.5 or 29) was an excuse more than anything – you get beaten by your friend on a descent: “well if I had a bit more travel it would have been different”. Do they also offer that bogus “purity” that hardtail riders bang on about? That idea that shorter travel leaves you relying on your skills more than the bike’s travel? Or was it simply going to beat me to shit not too dissimilar to a hardtail?

Watching the Soho TV Bike Park Wales episode was the deciding factor – Rowan Sorrell, owner of Bikepark Wales, went only five seconds slower down Fifty Shades of Black at his Merthyr venue on his short travel 29er than his full enduro bike… sold.

Shape and purpose

I ended up choosing the Orange Segment (the same bike Rowan used). The Segment has been Orange’s short travel 29er since 2014, but 2016 heralds a new iteration that brings it right up to date. First is the inclusion of Boost but more than that, the new frame is 400 grams lighter and reshaped. Gulleys now scar the top tube and the downtube has become more angular. For me, it’s not a great look, but if Orange Bikes have ever stood for anything it’s function over form.

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Orange have designed this bike to be a fast all rounder, it apparently, “takes preconceptions about what is possible on a short travel bike and pulls them apart.” And although 110mm travel would previously have put a bike like this in the XC category, the Segment clearly has a bit more devilish intent.

On the spreadsheet it’s hardly radical – a 68° head angle makes it steeper than most of the competition and a 1187mm wheelbase in size large is generous but there are longer. Interestingly, despite the introduction of Boost, Orange hasn’t been sucked into the short chainstay trend (447mm). The length of this bike is balanced. At 5’11”, a size large felt like a good fit.

Suspension

With only 120mm to play with at the front, the Fox 34 was great for damage limitation. It was revamped in 2015 and the ghosts of previous iterations were soon forgotten, in fact it made our Dirt 100 and I would be surprised if it doesn’t again this year. With stiffness that felt equal to supposedly burlier Pikes I’d ridden recently, it very rarely felt out of step with my riding and took the bike through obstacles that should have a short travel bike jittery and bucking.

orange-segment-fox-34

The rear end of the bike sometimes felt like it held the rest of the bike back on repeated hits. It wasn’t that it felt unable to handle the burl, or left my body in tatters like a hardtail, it just couldn’t truck through like a more suited machine. It’s tough to say whether this was down to the short-statured Float DPS or just simply a limitation of having 110mm of travel.

Components

This Segment has been given a robust, aggro spec. A SRAM GX drivetrain combined with a RaceFace Turbine crank provided the power. Although a lighter groupset would have been nicer on a trail bike, it performed faultlessly and is very similar to the build we had on the Transition Smuggler.

Stopping comes from SRAM Guide R brakes. These are from the same family as our favourite Ultimates and were upgraded this year to four piston calipers – a hint at just how much speed you can notch up on this bike.

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A Renthal cockpit was a nice addition and worked well with the 34 fork to provide a super-solid front end.

orange-sengment-bar

Feeling

Fast. This is a bike that pricks to attention like a rabbit’s ears then bounds down singletrack. It comes alive on fast, smooth trails with grip that you would normally need a stone circle and 12 naked virgins to channel. Throw in a sprinkling of tech and the grin won’t leave your face all afternoon. Think trail centre runs, natural singletrack or the flowier bike park tracks and that’s where this bike feels truly at home.

rear-close

As you would expect, it’s a hearty climber, attacking the ascents with gusto and it’s easy to sit in and find a rhythm on long ascents, especially if you firm up the Float shock, something we also found on the YT Jeffsy. There is noticeable pedal bob if you have to get out of the saddle and really mash the pedals but that will only be on the steepest of climbs.

Limitations

As I mentioned above, if you take the Segment onto bigger and burlier things it starts to stutter. It feels like the shock can’t keep up with the fork and the bike is swallowed by big holes and hits. I was frequently bottoming out and being stalled by the lack of travel.

Of course, this is a 110mm bike, you can’t expect it to tackle downhill tracks with ease – for those wanting something to handle the bigger hits we are currently testing a longer travel 135mm Orange 29er, so you may be best waiting until that’s released early next year.

orange-segment-ks-lev

The KS Lev seatpost was also a disappointment, it would often get stuck at the bottom of its travel and I’d have to use a thigh-pinch technique to break the inertia. The lever also felt stiff if it hadn’t been used for a while.

Verdict

There’s no doubt this is a great bike. If I wanted one of those “excuse bikes” I mentioned earlier then the Orange Segment isn’t it. With the Orange boys on the tools you also know it’s a bike that will last as well.

Really this bike comes down to a value proposition. It’s tough to know how much this build would cost, as it’s not listed on the Orange Bikes website, but it’s safe to say it would be in the £4-5,000 bracket looking at the other models they offer.

It’s a common criticism levelled at Orange, but that’s a lot of money for an aluminium bike. There are better value bikes out there. Whether they are better than the Orange is up for debate, whether they have as much character is very unlikely.

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