Prototype Orange 29er Full-sus.
The article on 29ers in the latest issue of Dirt Mountain Bike Magazine has got me thinking quite a bit over the last couple of weeks. Through my friendships with the guys at Orange Mountain Bikes, I'm lucky enough to get the opportunity to ride and give feedback on prototypes from time to time (I spent quite a bit of time on a couple of different linkage prototypes a couple of years ago, which later became the Blood and current ST4). Recently though, at a Biketreks Demo, I had the offer of a ride on the new full-sus 29er.
Looking very like a five, this bike is actually endowed with a bit less travel, which, as a hard tail and sometime short travel enthusiast, rather took my fancy. The bike looks good, no doubt about it, typical Orange, slack and low. Quick pump around the car park by the shop and first impressions are good, doesn't feel as flickable as a five and it feels a bit 'strange', but there is plenty of grip generated from the conti rubber queen tyres on the damp tarmac. I won't go into the detail of how we run a Biketreks demo (there's a vid on the webber and an article on the Orange website, see the links page) but the mix of terrain is pretty well suited to getting an accurate picture of how a bike behaves.
This bike, however, was a bit of an enigma (wrapped up in a mystery). It was a fast roller, cruising away from the 26ers as we freewheeled, and nimble on the climbs too, quickly dispelling the myth about slower acceleration on a 29er. On the first rocky descent from Iron Keld, however, I'm not sure I was feeling it. A bit slow to change direction and not as easy to whip around the turns as a 26" wheel bike, it also felt a bit skittery when put to the test amongst large loose rocks.
Our demo ride meanders around Elterwater until it rises up and bubbles into Loughrigg terrace. And the bike comes alive! The acceleration is instant, the rolling speed addictive. It's an easy gradient, a smooth and straight run down the contours - but there are a few rocky sections to test the suspension. I know the lines, so I should, and speed needs to be carried. This bike does - KAPOW!
And that brings me back to the Dirt article. I ended my day on the 29er unconvinced. It's a bike which has obvious attributes, it carries speed like nothing else but I felt there was a trade off in the loose/rough and the tight. Perhaps it's time on the bike that I need though? As Dirt say; time to get used to the change in position, the change in the angle of attack needed in the corners, time to settle in, 'find the rhythm'.
I think that a lot of people will love this bike. If smooth terrain, swooping downs, fast climbs and long distance are your thing I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one right now. For me and the riding I do most often, the jury is still out, but I'm not a hater just yet and that Dirt article has got me thinking.
Give it time?