Steve Peat had been battling with Nico Vouilloz for many years on GT but when the Americans shut down their race team in 2001 it was the small English brand Orange Peaty turned to in search of success.
At the time it was strange to see such a massive personality and force of the sport swapping from a seemingly giant brand to one of the smaller ones. But it was already successful, and with Greg Minnaar taking the 2001 series from the great Nico Vouilloz it was Peaty’s turn to tackle the Frenchman with a full English attack.
The simple Orange design is one that is sneered at by those who lack understanding of the needs of a downhill bike. The 222 through to the 224 and beyond is a bike that has been fashioned and tuned into a race winner, simple to understand, delivering pace and poise.
It’s sad in a way that marketing and fads have led more and more people to carbon and complexity when in reality real speed can still be found in the bikes from Halifax.
But back to ’01, Greg was on a roll, Orange took their first ever series. The following year, when Peaty moved from GT to Orange, the little company from Yorkshire began a new era. Three world cup series wins in four years – unequalled.
The 222 pictured had famously been in the battle of Kaprun, where Peaty who had been chasing the World Championship title for so long arrived with a strange choice of silver bike.
Andy Kyffin, Steve’s mechanic, had gone to town on the Orange for that event making it as light and as free of grease as possible. Hadley hubs, XLite bar and stem, custom blackbox damper, it featured a long swingarm (only the Honda RN-01 was longer), one of the slackest head angles of the time at 64 degrees and a reasonably wide 690mm bar.
What is most interesting about Peaty’s bike, not just over a few years but over his entire race career, is his end of bar to floor height which has remained consistent for over ten years on each of his bikes at 42.5”. The ’02 bike is also pretty long and low although at 46.65” is about four inches shorter than today’s numbers.
The pivot point is still high at this point and the weight still over 40lb. Steve’s ‘02 bike measures up very close to Nico’s but all comparison ended at Les Gets where Steve took the title, his first and Orange’s second. Yet, as we will discover, over the next few years the bike changed considerably.
At the end of the first decade of world cup downhill Peaty wins the ’04 series on his Orange but Fabien Barel wins the last race in Livigno, Italy, having failed to podium all season. Minnaar was coming back from injury on the Honda, Sam Hill wrapping up a reasonably successful first season in seniors with second overall.
2005 started well for Peaty with a crushing win at Vigo before injury took him out. This was a huge shame because Steve regards the yellow 224 as one of his favourite bikes of all time. And it’s easy to see why because it’s one of the longest, slackest bikes Steve has ever ridden, although it is still carrying a bit of pork (over 40lb /18KG) and has a pretty high bottom bracket and shorter downtube than his ’02 series winner.
Interestingly his 2005 bike geometry will be the same numbers used by Aaron Gwin (a shorter rider at 1.78m) in an unprecedented 2012 record-breaking season. And so it was ’05, the year that Minnaar took eight out of eight podiums on Honda, when Peaty rolls the big yellow beast out for a season finale in Fort William and wins royally.
GREG MINNAAR’S 2001 ORANGE 222
RIDER HEIGHT: 1.90m
RIDER WEIGHT: 87kg
FRONT CENTRE 724mm
BOTTOM BRACKET 360mm
HEAD ANGLE 64°
STEVE PEAT’S 2002 ORANGE 222
RIDER HEIGHT 1.90m
RIDER WEIGHT 90kg
FRONT CENTRE 732mm
BOTTOM BRACKET 335mm adjustable
HEAD ANGLE 64°
BAR HEIGHT TO FLOOR 1080mm
STEVE PEAT’S 2005 ORANGE 224
RIDER HEIGHT: 1.90m
RIDER WEIGHT: 90kg
FRONT CENTRE: 775mm
BOTTOM BRACKET: 360mm
HEAD ANGLE: 62.5°