Orange have long been associated with World Cup podiums thanks to the likes of Steve Peat, Josh Bryceland and Brendan Fairclough. Now, if they could get the rider, they could very well be back in the mix - the Orange 329 (prototype) is the new 29” dh beast form Halifax and it follows in line with a wealth of rapid 29ers from the brand, including the charging Stage 6.
We were lucky enough to get an Orange 329 prototype on loan and vanned it up to Farmer John’s for a race weekend shake down first ride/race - no pressure.
With none of the numbers currently being concrete, the 329, this prototype has a 64.5° degree head angle, a wheelbase of 1271mm and a bottom bracket height of 338mm. Hopefully they make it to the final version as for me they up well. Full aluminium tubing makes up the Orange 329's classic silhouette but with the same slick looking design that can be found on recent models like the Alpine 6.
The 324 shocked us all when it weighed in at 33 lbs and the new bike comes in at 34 lbs 10 oz so 15.7 kg. We don’t have any real-world comparisons for other 29” dh bikes (although Trek claim their carbon Session frameset weighs 6.17kg) but we're guessing that's going to shake down as equally light.
A metric Fox X2 coil rear damper (measuring in at 250mm eye to eye) gives 180mm of rear travel and is matched up with the Fox 49 factory fork - so Orange have really fitted the 329 with a full arsenal.
Shape and Fit
The bike that I got my hands on a few months back over at Farmer John’s bike park was the medium/large. This has a super low standover and seat tube height, if you think back ten years ago to Oranges of old - that seat tower! The bike did not fit at all but it looked the part, I rode a small (15”) bike to keep it looking cool! Now the larger bikes have the correct chassis length to go with the look.
Orange 329 prototype spec
Frame Orange Strange 329. Full aluminium construction, 150mm x 12mm axle, 180mm of rear travel
Fork Fox 49 Factroy Kashima Float. 200mm travel, 20mm x 110
Shock Fox Factory Kashima X2 metric. 250mm eye to eye
Wheels 29" Stans NO-Tubes flow rims laces to Hope PRO 4 hubs
Gearing SRAM X0 DH 7speed
Bar Renthal carbon, 800mm width, 35mm clamp
Stem Renthal direct mount 35mm clamp
Brakes Shimano Saint, 200mm rotor size
hainset SRAM X0 carbon DH 165mm arms
Tyre Schwalbe Magic Mary ADDIX 2.35X29"
This is Orange’s flagship bike so nothing has been spared. Along with the top end Fox dampers comes an array of parts you would expect to see on any big hitting bike. A mixture of SRAM 7 speed X0 DH gearing with a carbon crank, a set of hoops from Stans and Shimano Saint stoppers give a high end finish.
A Renthal cockpit is always welcome and a staple on Orange bikes we test. It gives more than enough room and a good feeling. Overall, this is one of those bikes I knew would be fast just from parking my arse on the saddle.
Orange have always been a company that people have criticised for the single pivot design but why change what works? And there is no one slating the Evil bikes with the same system. The new frame tubing has also given the shed gate look a new appeal. Smooth lines and curved tubing, the 329 really is a slick looking bike. Rowan Sorrell has been doing the laps testing this bike and positive things have been said so I knew I was in for a treat.
The first thing you notice is the grip. The 329 could be thrown into a corner and trusted to hold the line without having to adjust the body position to go with the expected loss of traction, it was next level. The 29” wheel may be slightly harder to get up to speed but the ease in rolling over obstacles is where the benefits come in. The head angle is relatively steep for a dh bike but still felt plenty slack enough for the job in hand thanks to the wheels and definitely helped with cornering pace. Fast with the ability to keep the fun.
With any luck Orange will have this bike all dialled in soon so I can get my hands on one for my own bike. It is great to see a smaller company keeping things fresh and with the times - it is not just the likes of the big brands that can fire money at innovation. On a bike that was not setup for the rider on the second time throwing a leg over, the pace was not far off. The second place to Jack Reading in the race proved this.