Orange Crush Mountain bike - review and first ride

Twins! 2016 and 2017 Orange Crush S's - not sure those Enduro guards actually do anything though!
So I've finally done it...  I've swapped out the full-sus frame for a hardtail; the Orange is dead, long live the Orange.
I say finally as G, my long time mountain biking mate, and I have been talking about getting old and the "real life" need (or lack of) for a full suspension bike now due to the riding we now do and our ability to ride when we do manage to get out and hit the trails - or maybe that should be an annoying increase in common sense that stops us from throwing ourselves down mountains like we used to!

Our discussions have focused on the "need" to have a bike that suits the riding that we now do and what we want from a bike - the 140mm front and rear travel of our Orange 5's (yes, we both bought them at the same time back in 2009) are great for blasting down trails in Wales but here in the south of England where bridal ways are churned up 60% of the year by, ironically, horses they don't really add a great deal to the riding we now do.
And, whilst being far from dead as the current Orange 5 frame is not really all that different from our frames there are some noticeable changes that have been made in the mountain biking world that will soon render our poor old "Five's" obsolete or heading that way.

Our discussions always come around to a hard tail - like the good old days when we started mountain biking and were hacking around on 80mm travel XC whippets - but with a decent amount of front travel and finishing kit that can take a pounding if needed and will cope with the UK climate (read; rain, mud, sand!).

Orange bikes, like Hope brakes, have always been near perfect for me and the riding that I do and when my brother, Tim, bought an Orange "Crush" last year (2016 model) I looked with envy at his 27.5" wheel set and trail geometry and on the few rides that we did together (a miracle in itself!)  I was more and more convinced that Orange was the way to go.

So ensued some serious Googling, whittling choices down to 3 UK brands; Orange, Ragley and Genesis. The Orange Crush won not least because I had ridden alongside it and had heard nothing but good things about it, including the 10/10 MBR ratings - consistently good year after year, just like the Five.

Ahh how sweet, fresh out of the factory and standard spec...  Not for long!
2017 Orange Crush "S" - standard spec as per Orange's website (with some comments from me after first ride/look)

Frame: 6061-T6 Custom Butted OS Aluminium Tube
Wheel Size: 27.5 
Rear wheel travel: N/A 
Fork: RockShox Yari 150 RC Boost 
Headset: FPD 44mm 
Rear Axle: 12 x 142mm OLD Bolt Thru Axle 
Wheelset: Formula + Alex MD25 27.5" 
Tyres: WTB Vigilante/Trail Boss 
Crankset: Race Face Ride Single 32t 
Chain Device: Top Guide Chain Device 
Rear Mech: Shimano SLX Shadow + 11spd 
Cassette: SRAM PG1130 11-42 11spd 
Shifters: Shimano SLX 11spd 
Bottom Bracket: Race Face 
Chain: SRAM PC1110 11spd 
Brakes: Shimano M506 180mm/160mm (Um, no.  Bigger rotors needed and something with a bit more bite)
Stem: Kore Cubix 50mm 
Handlebar: Kore Durox 760mm (I know this is the new "norm" but these feel too wide!)
Grips: Strange Lock-On 
Seatpost: Race Face Ride 
Saddle: Kore Durox IE 
Seat Clamp: Strange QR 
Pedals: Kore Rivera Thermo (far too slippy, more grip needed)

And after a few tweaks, here's my bike/spec (changes shown to above std spec);

Headset: Hope Orange top/bottom cups

Shifters: Shimano XT 11spd 
Bottom Bracket: Hope Orange Stainless MTB BB

Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC
Rotors: Hope Orange floating; 203mm Front / 180mm Rear

Handlebar: Easton EC90 Monkeylight 690mm
Pedals: Shimano XT "trekking"

A few tweaks to make things feel more like home!
So, from the basic frameset, what have I done?
Pedals first - I just prefer the feeling of being clipped in so whilst the first ride was on the stock pedals I had to put my XT "trekking" pedals on - it also means that I can wear my GoreTex MTB boots!

Bottom bracket and headset would probably have been fine left with the stock options but as I mentioned before I have a bit of a love affair with Hope kit and the abilty to have Orange Hope finishing kit was too much for my bike OCD to say no to - I'll be honest, even with all the "right" tools, installing the headset was a serious pain and at one point after spending half an hour trying to seat the top cap I thought I'd make a massive mistake, but now its fitted I'm glad I perservered.

The bar is from my Orange Five, I'm just used to it and the extra 7cm width just feels to much at the moment having spent years on a sub 700mm bar - but we'll see!

The shifter change was not a requirement or a planned change - I just couldn't find an adapter for the iSpec SLX shifter to fit the SRAM brakes that was cheaper than buying an XT shifter pod.  Which leads me nicely onto....

Brakes.  I spent A LOT of time looking at and deciding on brakes.  I knew from the off that the Shimano calipers were not going to cut the mustard, and the fact that they'd been downgraded from the 2016 stock brakes was a bit of an extra kick in the knackers, but the "issue" for me was what to change to.

It really came down to this; 2 pot, Hope X2 or Shimano XT (annoyingly I'd given my XT brakes to my brother a year ago and they now adorn his Crush!) or 4 pot, SRAM Guide or Hope E4.
There's a price premium for the Hope's and while the reviews are still good there are other brakes winning more praise but then they do "just work"** and work well with the floating rotors that I'd fitted (203mm up front and 180mm on the back) as the Hope rotors have clearance issues with some calipers and adapters - usually nothing that a few minutes with a file wont sort but you don't always want to do that to your nice shiny bike kit do you!

**it's worth saying that while I love and have always loved Hope kit the Tech E4 brakes that I have/had on the Orange 5 didn't set my world on fire.  They never seemed as powerful as the Mono M4's (which I sold to G who is still riding them and loving them!), hence replacing them with XT's, and suffered from fade even with braided cables, one memorable descent on Snowdon still gives me shudders when I think of it - and while my E4's were 4/5 years old this fact made me slightly more reluctant to spend top dollar on Hope's.

Before - to test out the SRAM Guide brakes but more importantly to have fun!
Opting to sitck with a 4-piston design it was down to E4's vs Guides and in the end I went with the 4-pot Guide brakes from SRAM - the RSC model with adjustable bite and reach adjustment.

After a fairly simple fitting and set up session in the garage (I left the hose for the rear cable long for the initial ride - a job for another day) the first ride was 20 miles around the trails and bridal ways of the Candovers in Hampshire.

A glorious day for getting muddy - and it's February, honest!

First of all - wow! These brakes are awesome.  Bags of power and nice modulation which gave a nice confident feeling on a few fast slipperly and then loose downhill tracks.  There was some pinging of from the front brake/rotor but this was more down to caliper alignment and nothing that half an hour in the garage with the bike up on the stand wont fix.
Am I happy that I decided to go with SRAM's - hell yes.  It's going to take a few rides and workshop sessions to get them dialled in properly but if they can only get better from where they are now then I'm good with that!

Just to prove I am real and I do actually ride my bikes!
Back to the trails, happy riding!


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