DOGHOUSE TESTS –
ORANGE ALPINE 160
SHAPE AND PURPOSE. The bike that cut its teeth on the vertiginous slopes of Verbier intent on getting from A to B in higher places has not quite been re-purposed as the do-it-all bike of everything UK just yet. Still, like its stable mate the Orange Five – a backbone of trail riding – it’s a bike that is built on simple ideas carried out smoothly. No fancy carbon lines, no daft suspension rate curves, just a well-angled aluminium bike with a hefty lick of West Yorkshire paint. But too much paint maybe?
SUSPENSION. An earlier installment on the Alpine didn’t read too well, a bike that had none of the poise and simple ride characteristic of previous versions. This was traced quite quickly to the rear damper as the source of most things unsettling the beast of Halifax. The Monarch Plus damper comes without any volume spacers in its Debonair shell and therefore requires a considerable amount of pressure to keep it propped up. Because of this the bike sits high in the travel which ultimately pitches the bum in the air and the weight onto the front tyre.
A quick dip into the Debonair can with a fistful of red rings (which should come as part of your Alpine kit), will remedy the ride height issue pretty quickly. About three or four usually does the trick thereby enabling the pressure to be dropped and the sag to be lowered without any fear of bottom out. Although it was a better solution we still got a Fox Float X in for comparison
COMPONENTRY. The 11-36 cassette and 30T chainring is one of the few bikes without what seems to have become standard Sram drivetrain builds these days. Shimano Zee does the shifting and Race Face does the cranking and it has never missed a beat. The bike is also anchored with Shimano XT and rolls on Lancashire hubs – from Barnoldswick (apparently the longest place name in the UK not to repeat any letters) – Hope by the way.
FEELING. Those initial rides where there was too much weight on the front tyre was exaggerated even more with the wide bar making a seriously nervous ride but once the Monarch was set up correctly the ride position changed quite a lot. The Orange Alpine 160 became more stable, easier to pick and place. It was still a slightly overactive damper and you can feel this through the pedal especially as you move through flat rooty terrain. Fitting the Fox Float X gave more poise, arguably more grip and certainly less nervousness to the rear. Having said that, and having adapted to the tune of the Monarch its pretty close once the dials have been worked hard.
LIMITATIONS. The sales talk from Halifax talks of “scalpel precision, chainsaw ability” forgetting for a minute maybe that’s there’s a wide range of chainsaw abilities and leading you to think it’s the finest cut in town. Which it is not. Some of the welding on this particular bike was rough. That’s all you can say really.
Weight wise the Orange Alpine 160 comes in a shade over 33lb. Now considering some of the Orange Dirt team downhill bikes weigh close to 35lb with coil springs you have to ask whether Orange could do with a dose of dieting advice on their lesser travel bikes. Something closer to 30lb must surely be do-able lads?
VERDICT. That such a tried and tested design threw a wobbler was really not expected. None of the people that rode the Alpine liked this bike as it came out of the box – and there were many after that first ride. Orange might consider the need to provide set-up advice. I’m sure the point has now been made of the damper tune and the edge that the Fox damper delivers in performance. This obviously comes at an increased cost. Elsewhere there is room for improvement on the finish quality and the weight needs to come down to get at least on par with its competition and …. well, just to make the longer rides a touch easier. Not a major problem though.
What the Alpine delivers however is a superbly confident ride into choppy terrain, one that allows for grip to be sniffed out and for downslopes to be hit with precision. Maybe not scalpel like but certainly with room for error. Some of you might by now be wondering where the sizing advice is? Well a large fits a six foot rider pretty much bang on. Its nice to see that Orange have worked on this and there’s certainly a bike for everyone in there.
ONE FOR THE DOGHOUSE TOP TEN?
You’ll see by the video that the Doghouse is certainly a great place to be, so we’re going to make the Doghouse a place for our top ten bikes. So where does the Orange Alpine 160 sit in the scheme of everything 160mm, most stuff enduro? Very, very highly, certainly one of our top ten. Just thinking that it needs to set higher targets.