The 140mm Stage 6 EVO is Orange’s aggressive trail/enduro bike. Having been raced at the EWS by Orange Factory Racing, and only recently being replaced by the Switch 7 as their longest travel single crown bike, the Stage 6 EVO looks fast just standing still thanks to its low and sleek profile. Typically Orange, a single pivot rear suspension design doles out 140mm of rear travel with a 150mm fork up front.
Beginning an article about Orange Bikes without first talking about where and how the bikes are made seems like a faux pas, so let’s go over that before we go any further. Everyone knows that all Orange full suspension frames are handmade in Halifax, and have been since the company’s inception back in 1988. What is perhaps less known, is that the methods that Orange use to make their frames are totally unique within the bike industry. Folded sheet metal makes up every tube of the Stage 6 EVO’s frame, giving the bike not only a totally unique look, but great strength to weight characteristics.
Intricately formed sheet metal and full length seam welds might not be to everyone's taste (for the record we think they look absolutely stunning!), but to accurately and repeatedly make frames in this manner requires skilled craftsmanship and years of experience. Look over the frame and it’s clear that a lot of time has gone into getting the details right. Perfect rear end alignment means no rear wheel jiggling to get the axle through, neat cable routing and plenty of mud clearance mean that the Orange is as easy to live with as it is on the eye. Famously low maintenance, the Stage 6 EVO is the bike for the hard hitting trail/light enduro rider who wants to maximise their time on the trails and minimise workshop time.
An asymmetric pivot location shifts the bearings slightly over to the non-driveside of the bike, allowing the designers to lower the pivot location to behind the chainring. This slight alteration in pivot location has given a slightly more progressive suspension curve than on previous Oranges, this is still an almost perfectly linear bike however so any increase in progression is minor, retaining the sporty ride that Orange Bikes are loved for. Think of Orange Bikes like Porsche or Land Rover, they aren’t looking for design revolution year on year, rather a gradual iterative evolution of a proven design. The end result of this is a bike that just works. Well rounded, easy to live with and maintain, and fast enough that you’ll be hassling people on much longer travel bikes (more on that later). They might not be for everyone, but to the people that ‘get it’ these bikes offer a unique ride that isn’t replicated anywhere else.
The build of the Stage 6 EVO is unlike the majority of standard builds from most manufacturers today. With a selection of parts that you’d be forgiven for thinking belong to a custom build, the Stage 6 EVO’s build clearly points to how Orange envision the bike being ridden. Spending high on brakes, suspension and wheels, Orange have maximised the descending performance of the bike.
An Öhlins TTX1 Air rear shock gives a huge amount of twin tube damper adjustability and a shock specifically designed for linear bikes. Paired with an RXF 36M.2 air fork, the suspension on the Stage 6 EVO leaves nothing to be desired and allows the chassis to perform at its best.
Hope Tech 3 E4 brakes provide huge amounts of stopping power via 203mm/180mm floating Hope rotors and plenty of modulation and control. Stan’s Flow mk.4 rims laced onto Hope Pro 4 hubs gives a high performance alloy wheelset that should be reliable and true through plenty of hard hitting rides.
A Shimano SLX 12 speed drivetrain gives a wide range without breaking the bank, freeing up spending budget to allow Orange’s buyers to spec such boutique suspension, brakes and wheels. The SDG dropper might not be flashy but it does the job reliably.
The build of the Stage 6 EVO maximises the descending capability of the bike by spending more on parts that directly impact performance, while spending less on parts that have less of an influence on the overall ride quality. This focus on the descending capability of the Stage 6 EVO is carried over into the geometry of the frame. Orange’s EVO geometry concept aims to bring the performance of heavy hitting long travel enduro bikes to shorter travel aggressive trail bikes, creating a chassis that is a competent all day pedaller and a versatile trail bike, but one that excels when the going gets steep and tech.
The Stage 6 EVO gets long reach figures (487mm on our size Large), a steep seat tube angle (76°) and a slack head angle (64°). All par for the course for making a bike ride confidently over rough terrain and have it climb back to the top comfortably. What is different about Orange’s EVO geometry is the long chainstay length. Conventional wisdom says that a short chainstay is favourable, making the bike agile and easy to turn. However, when reach figures increase without a proportional increase in chainstay length, you can be left with an unbalanced bike that has far more length in the front triangle than the rear. Orange have fitted the Stage 6 EVO with 467mm chainstays, some of the longest fitted to a current mountain bike. Lengthening the chainstays allows for a more even weight distribution between the two wheels, giving the bike a more predictable feel when close to the limits of grip.
Riding the Stage 6 EVO
The large reach figures on the Stage 6 EVO might lead you to believe that this bike is only good for people 6’ and up. With the dropper up however, the cockpit is nice and compact, making the Stage 6 EVO a comfy place to sit and spin up climbs. This is mainly due to the steep seat tube angle and makes the seated climbing very comfortable, even when the climbs get fairly steep.
For a bike with a 64° head angle, the front wheel doesn’t wander at slow speeds on climbs, again thanks to the steep seat angle. The long chainstay makes it easy to balance weight fore and aft on really steep pitches, meaning you can winch your way up sections where other bikes might have you spinning rear wheels. This fore aft balance is also handy on technical sections of climb. While it may take a few rides to dial in your timing to the longer chainstay, once you’re in tune with the bike the level of traction from the rear wheel is fantastic, and lets you claw your way up some surprising features.
Point the Stage 6 EVO downhill and one thing becomes clear very quickly, this bike is fast! On open sections of trail where you can let the bike run, the Stage 6 EVO remains calm and balanced, riding with an assertiveness that belies its 150mm/140mm travel figures.
The long chainstays give the Stage 6 EVO an incredibly stable ride, which should come as no surprise; we all know a longer bike is a more stable bike. What was more surprising is the traction and balance of the bike in turns. Lean the bike into a flat turn and the traction developed by the long chainstays lets you carry loads of speed with a predictability that makes it feel as if everything is happening in slow motion. A BB drop of 40mm complements the rest of the geometry and gives a feeling of being ‘in the bike’.
With the 467mm chainstay, and wheelbase of 1291mm on this size Large, you’d be forgiven for thinking that as soon as the trail gets a little tighter that everything falls to pieces, but that’s not the case. While it’s certainly not the bike for a rider who loves darting around on the trail, the Stage 6 EVO is more than capable of linking tight switchback turns together. In fact the extra traction generated by the long chainstay encourages you to drive for off-camber high lines to open up each turn and carry more speed.
On mellower terrain, the Stage 6 EVO stays high in its travel and holds speed on flatter sections. A relatively stiff frame makes pumping berms and rollers rewarding and lets you flow through trail centre descents at a decent pace.
The Orange Stage 6 EVO is a versatile, superbly put together trail bike that punches well above its weight on fast and rough terrain.
Set any ideas of how you think these bikes ride aside, and swing a leg over one for a day and you’ll be greeted with a level of confidence and stability that is rare from a 140mm trail bike. The traction and predictability at the edge is what makes this bike really shine, letting you ride more assertively than you can on some other 140mm trail bikes.
We have our ex-demo Stage 6 EVO in size Large available for sale. Pop by the shop and check it out in the flesh, you won’t be disappointed!
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