The downhill bike test 2018: Orange 329
Enter the big-wheel featherweight
If you follow us here at Dirt, this bike should be no stranger to you. Orange have really been busy championing the 29” wheel platform in recent times with the “Stage” model range and this 329 looks set to complete the package. With no plans to abolish the 27.5 wheel size, Orange have instead incorporated a model with equal travel in both sizes.
With this downhill bike being the flagship of the Orange quiver, it’s clear that the fellas in Halifax are really putting some effort into making this bike as perfect as possible. That being said, the bike that we had is most definitely a work in progress with a few different prototypes floating around featuring minor changes such as damper length.
Orange supplied us with the shorter dampered bike (230mm) in a size L. This bike was by far the lightest in the test coming in at 33lb10oz or 15.26KG; no small feat when carbon is not incorporated anywhere on this frame. Full details of specifications and prices have not yet been finalised, but the release date will be coming before long. We didn’t let this put us off though. Having ridden this bike already earlier in the year it was clearly a formidable force, so it would be interesting to see how it handled going head to head with the best in the business.
Orange 329 detail gallery:
Orange 329 Specification
Frame Orange 329, 230mm, Metric Rear Damper
Fork Fox 49 Float Factory
Rear Shock Fox X2 Factory Coil
Brakes Shimano Saint
Gearing Sram GX DH
Wheels Stand No Tubes Flow
Stem Renthal 35mm
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR
Grips Orange Strange
Seatpost I-Beam Light
Seat SDG I-Beam
As I have already said Orange have not yet finalised the finished build kit for this bike but it will most likely be near enough what we have here. Featuring the likes of Fox dampers, Shimano stoppers and a great set of hoops from Stans, it is not far off what you would expect to see on an Alpine or 324.
Opinion - IEUAN WILLIAMS.
Here it is, back again. It’s not long since I last rode the Orange 329 prototype bike at home in the UK. To be honest, I really liked it. A flighty trail bike feel balanced with some extra bounce in the rear end makes for a very fun ride. Pair this trail bike feel with a nice lightweight build and the 329 picks up speed incredibly fast. With very little effort on the pedals you can have this bike flying, all while using very little energy, meaning you can save it for when it really matters on a dh bike. Going downhill.
As soon as the nose is pointed down the Orange is good. Very good. But this is where the weight almost comes back to bite you in the arse. The heavier weight of the Canyon or Commencal allows those bikes to track through the terrain with ease. I’m not saying the orange does not keep to its line, but you have to work harder for it. We found that, when riding the two 29” bikes back to back, the Commencal was planted, meaning you could sit back and pay more attention to line choice, whereas the 329 felt more flighty and would easily ping off things if you weren’t paying full attention.
Ride the Orange hard though and the benefits are amazing. That light chassis comes into its own and the ease with which you’re able to smash it through corners and pick the bike up over sections is astonishing. Combine all of this with the flex from the rear end and there was very little in the way of fatigue, the main thing tiring you out being having to pay attention to work for the odd line or pick the bike up over certain parts to make things easier. The 329 may well be directed more to racing, but with such a great feel you could easily just lap the park on this bike. It really is hard to notice them big wheels when pulling shapes in the air!! It’s always a hard thing to decide where the perfect weight for a downhill bike is. But this all depends on what you are after.
It did not take long though to realise that the 329 was not quite finished. After getting more confident on the bike the rear travel soon started to blow through. In my opinion the 250mm dampened bike should feel better in this respect, also with the aid of some more compression damped tune possibly.
The build kit on the 329 was faultless though, with no mechanicals and the GX gearing never skipping a beat. Orange have stated that the 329 will come in at roughly the same price as the 324, around the £6,200 mark, with the Fox Dampers and a great build. This really is not bad when you consider that Orange are not a direct sale brand.
All this being taken into consideration, the plucky Halifax race machine did well. Better than well in fact as it was hard to find many faults here. If the rear damper had a little more love and wasn’t as keen to blow through its travel at times then this would most definitely be a contender at the moment. You really do have to tip your hat to the boys in Halifax considering this bike isn’t even finished yet! And I am sure one of the lads will have the welder out next week, making changes that will make the 329 a formidable force to reckon with.
Opinion - TOM COOPER
This Orange is one of the bikes that I was most looking forward to riding. Ieuan had lent me a 324 in the past that I really got on with, and this one had to be even better. The 329 was the lightest in the weigh in, coming in over 2 KG lighter than the other 29” bike on test, the Commencal. The light weight build and design made light work of pedaling and the bike picked up speed fast. I did feel that the Orange was perhaps a little too light though. Where at times you wanted to have a downhill bike between your legs it felt almost too much like a trail bike, being moved about more than the heavier Commencal. The Orange also rolled well; compared with the smaller wheeled Propain or Canyon it would munch metres faster.
The only real issue we found with the bike was the rear damper. I don’t know whether it was the tune or the short damper itself but it was a little linear. Comparing it to the supple, yet progressive feel of the Propain and the Commencal it felt slightly out gunned.
All in all, the Orange held its own well, but it was not quite my favourite for the week.
Check out MTB Beds for the best accommodation in Morzine