If you read my last review on the 29’ers you will see that even though I observed all the merits of the bigger wheel, such as increased speed, graceful flow and massive grip and stability, that it still was not my bike of choice due to the slight conservative and isolating ride. It is unfortunate that a lot of 29ers seemed to be pitched solely towards XC races and ‘be different’ riders. What the big wheel movement needs is a bike that ticks all the boxes for the good old ‘weekend warrior’, the kind of rider that scours through MTB magazines day dreaming of the next big trail adventure. This kind of rider does not care for power outputs or seat tube angles, and wants nothing more than to have fun on their pride and joy.
So it was with some excitement that a week before its official launch, we received the latest bike to enter the big wheeled battle. It arrived in unmarked packaging and with strict orders not to circulate any photos before the official fanfare. When I first heard about this bike it made me smile for two reasons, firstly that it seemed to be the first 29er that seemed to be marketed less towards the ‘faster and longer’ race brigade and more towards the average trail rider. The second reason is that due to a bit of travelling in my youth I realised that the bike was amusingly named after a Greek chip kebab, enter the new Orange Gyro
On the Orange website they state that the new Gyro is “Aimed squarely at the rider who wants to cover ground quickly, the 110mm Gyro matches efficiency and balance to create a fast but engaging ride. Every bit an Orange, the trademark monocoque and custom butted 6061-T6 Reynolds tubing form an obvious lightweight silhouette. With its perfectly optimised pivot position, the suspension provides the same balance, sensitivity and reliability that make all our bikes ridiculously fun to ride.” Now I have always sat on the fence when it comes to the design of the Orange 5, but you cannot fault the engaging and swift ride that makes the bike one of the most popular bikes you will find at a Scottish Trail Centre. Looking at the new Gyro, I think that the design seems well balanced with the bigger wheels, seemingly offsetting the chunky swing-arm and giving the bike a more elegant purposeful look. Available only in a run of ‘Black Gold’ builds, the black frame is stylishly adorned with gold stickers and componentry and the all important Kashima coated fox suspension. Even the most ardent Orange critics would have to agree it does look the part! Your £2799 gets you a SLX/XT drive train mixed with race face chain-set and own brand finishing kit (you may want to buy a wider more ergonomic bar). The Avid Elixir 5 brakes are a bit of a disappointment, with the levers lacking both the ergonomics and power of the newest Shimano XT and SLX offerings, but they are solid performers and never failed to haul the bikes speed down. It’s a nice package, simple lines and good solid componentry. The excellent Kashima RP23 and 32 float fork are excellent performers straight out of the box and are a welcome sight on a bike at this price.
When it comes to the all important riding, have Orange managed to scale up the fun of the five into the bigger wheeled chassis? It is always a bit odd testing a new bike, when you ride enough to notice even a tiny change on your own bike stepping onto a whole new steed is certain to feel unfamiliar and alien initially. From the first few pedal revolutions on this bike it is evident that Orange have done a fine job with sorting the geometry (for those who have not seen it you need to check out Guy Martins tour of the Orange Factory). All the other 29ers I have ridden seem to have the feel of a race machine, a bike that demands you to flog yourself up hills, shave your legs and worry about cadence and power output. The Gyro instantly feels homely, comfortable, engaging and most importantly fun. The wheelbase feels short and snappy and it is easy to loft the front wheel, there is none of the barge like quality that often curses the big wheels.
Climbing is a breeze, the Orange getting down to business with minimal fuss and torrents of traction and grip from the rear end. Step ups and technical sections and slippery roots are dispatched with ease and the simple single pivot design seems to keep bobbing down to a minimum, presumably due to the shorter travel of the bigger wheel allowing a more supportive shock tune. But to talk about climbing with this bike would be missing the point of what separates this bike from the current crop. Yes it is a great climber and yes it is a great mile muncher, but this is a quality that is shared by most of the big wheeled bikes currently available. What makes this bike so special and what should be Oranges crowning achievement, is that they have produced a big wheeled bike that is perfect for the modern trail rider who wants their bike to be fun. It takes about 10 seconds to feel at home, the low slung frame and perfect geometry feel stable and engaging from the outset and the bike has the expected huge speed and momentum found in big wheeled bikes. But somehow Orange have cranked the fun factor up to 11 and made this bike a hoot to ride, not 5 minutes into demoing the bike and I was looking for jumps and hips to mess about crossing up that big front wheel, and trying to find things to throw it off. There is no feeling of unfamiliarity with the larger wheels and it all feels ‘just right’. It is a blisteringly fast bike, on the first run down spooky it was only 6 seconds slower than my personal best on my Enduro S-works and that was hardly even trying. Popping with ease of the jumps and tabletops and carrying gigantic speed through the pedal sections, I cannot really think of a faster trail bike for the everyman rider. Flowing single-track becomes a warp speed adventure and you will be throwing it into ever sharper turns until you get a small twitch of oversteer from the front wheel to let you know that you are on the edge of the envelope. If you enjoy ‘covering miles and climbing faster than your mates’ but also want a bike that rails corners, is fun to jump and can handle anything you throw at it, you need to demo this bike.
It is my opinion that this is the first bike that truly bridges the gap between the 29er and the best of the current crop of 26inch wheeled trail bikes. It is a viable contender for a ‘do it all’ bike that not only rewards with immense performance but will also put a smile on your face every time you ride it. If you have a 26 inch trail bike, this bike is faster, fact! and it will make you love every second of your time on the trails. The 29er barge is dead! Long live the Kebab!