Orange Stage 6 EVO
Old School Looks, New School Performance
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Adam McGuire
Orange has just released the next EVOlution of their bike lineup – the Stage 6 EVO. We’ve had our hands on the bike for a few rides, and are stoked to share our first impressions on this simple but effective aggressive trail pinner. If you’re interested in learning about the bike, or more specifically, looking for geometry, build specs, or other information check out Orange’s press release below this first ride report.
We received the SE (Special Edition) build spec that Orange is launching the Stage 6 EVO with, except for a Fox Factory suspension combo instead of the Ohlins RXF36/TTX1 air combo that will feature on the bikes for sale. It’s a purposeful and intelligent build “for the riders” with the money spent on items that matter and make the biggest difference to the ride quality, and saved in areas where they are less impactful or more prone to damage and wear. You get an SLX 12spd drivetrain with Raceface Aeffect crank; Hope stem, headset, E4 brakes with floating rotors and Pro4 hubs on Stans Flow MK4 rims; SDG tellis dropper and seat, and a Renthal alloy bar. This comes in at a total price of £6,400, or $7600 if you’re interested in one Stateside. It’s certainly not a budget-oriented bike with this price tag, but then the quality and workmanship of an Orange frame is really quite special, and the build gave us no desire to change anything, save for some more condition-appropriate tires. Though the looks of Orange bikes have been polarising in the Wolfden in the past, we’re digging how this thing looks in the flesh, and that color is just stunning.
Our test rig arrived around a week before the embargo was lifted, during which a storm passed through the UK testing ground, so our time on board has not been extensive. That said, the Stage 6 EVO has encouraged the Eurowolf to layer up and get out there, as its unique character has proven to be a great time out on the trails so far. It’s clear from the get-go that speed is on the mind of the red Orange, with a relaxed handling demeanour that encourages you to push the limits of the suspension package at any given opportunity. They claim it to be “the one where we went full F.A.F. (Fast as F**k), and there’s no doubting that this has been the priority when you ride it.
Initial testing has ranged from old-school rocky downhill tracks through to tight and technical enduro runs, with a bit of handbuilt bikepark thrown in for good measure. In the North-East of Scotland where the Stage 6 EVO has spent its initial test period, the only uplifts are pedal-powered on fireroad and singletrack, so I’ve got plenty to say about the climbing capabilities as well as the way back down, even if my opinions aren’t yet fully formed.
The most stand-out feature when you’re riding the bike is the length of the rear end. At 467mm across the size range, it represents the longest rear end I’ve yet to ride on a human-powered bike, and it really shows on the trail. I spent the first handful of rides blind to the geometry charts, but there was no doubt in my mind that this was an exceptionally long rear end. And honestly, even as a typically playful and active rider, I don’t hate it. It really suits the character and intentions of the Stage 6 EVO to a T. On the way up the hill, that rear end does a fantastic job at keeping the front wheel firmly planted, meaning that even on steep climbs in the biggest cassette cog you’ve got a decent level of steering control. The straight 76° seat angle means that even my awkwardly high saddle position leaves my body weight in a good place on the way up.
Being a single pivot suspension in classic Orange style, the suspension kinematics are very sensitive to the positioning of that pivot. Lowering the position has then changed the pedalling character of the Orange quite significantly – there’s much less of a “stand-up” feeling as you lay down the watts, instead pedalling much more neutrally. This does lead to a little bob as you mash the pedals, but make no mistakes – the Stage 6 EVO is not a soft, wallowy bike under power, and when pedalling seated it rolls along with minimal bob. Orange’s main goal with the pivot position was to improve the pedalling performance in rough terrain, and it’s certainly a more pleasant bike to pedal through the chunder than the bone-jarring rides of Orange bikes of old.
Going back down the hill, the rider position is comfortable for my short torso 6’2” (189cm) height, with the 487mm reach nearing the upper limits of my preferences. But that long rear end makes the reach feel longer in some ways, as you need to position your center of mass further back towards the rear axle in order to lift the front end up off of drops or when trying to unweight for a root or hole. This also carries forward to jumping, where you’ve got to give the Stage 6 EVO a good yank on the bars to generate the pop off a smaller lip. Give it speed and a bigger lip though and it’ll fly just fine.
The positives of this “heavy” front end are the grip that’s generated on the front wheel, especially on flat corners or off camber straights, which make the Orange a speed-hungry machine for sure. Manualling and wheelies are still possible, but certainly require more effort and since the front end has to be so high off the ground for you to sit at the balance point, they’re also intimidating to the less experienced. I’m still very much playing with the suspension at this point to get the most out of it, but initial impressions are quite positive, with a reasonable level of sensitivity while retaining some feedback to “feel the grip” under the tires.
It’s early days for component longevity, but aside from a slightly dodgy rear brake bleed everything is performing great so far as expected. I’m really stoked to put it through its paces over the coming weeks for a long term review where I can deliver a solid verdict.
THE WOLF’S FIRST WORD
The one where Orange went F.A.F. probably wouldn’t have been my first choice, as a rider who enjoys the side-hits as much as holding it wide open. But perhaps I’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion with the Stage 6 EVO already, and F.A.F. instead means Fast and Fun? The natural speed-hungry character it’s exhibited so far has indeed been a lot of fun, and I’m excited to see how it fares compared to some of the longer legged speed machines on the market once I’ve got the suspension dialled in. Stay tuned for the long termer coming soon, and keep on reading below to see what Orange has to say about their new Red Rocket.