With many of their bicycles hand built in the UK, Halifax based Orange Bikes has a reputation for creating some of the finest dirt-ready machines on the market.
Brand new for 2014, the Diva range is, according to Orange, tailored for women from the ground up, with four machines ready for the discerning female rider to jump aboard.
I was lucky enough to get the Orange ‘Alpine 160 Diva’ for a few weeks and wasted no time in putting her to the test in a myriad of locations, to ensure she could handle multiple kinds of trails, ascents and descents.
Fresh out of the box, this bike is very easy on the eye, and I like the bright ice white colour. Monocoque/6061-T6 Reynolds Custom Butted Aluminum tubing, welded by hand, makes for a lean, mean Enduro machine, ready for all you can throw at it.
Orange has stuck with its classic single-pivot layout, and despite the debate over how many pivots work best, I can confirm that this set-up is a winner. The bike feels smooth, very responsive and I had no problems with it locking up when breaking downhill.
160mm of travel, courtesy of the high end Fox ‘34 Float 26’ fork makes this a natural all-mountain machine that easily soaks up everything from exposed roots to spiky rock gardens whilst eating up lumps and bumps along the way.
Obviously the bike is not designed for full-on World Cup downhill trails, but the fork and rear shock are a good combination. The bike is more than capable of a day out with the big girls.
I followed several ladies down the black trails at Bike Park Wales, and it handled everything well, meaning I could hit up every drop and jump with confidence. For 90% of the trails that you are likely to ride, the fork and shock combo are more than enough.
While the suspension does work well, this is no soggy ride. The 1.5” steerer tube and front 15mm through axel stiffen up the front end of the bike, making it enjoyably responsive without being jerky, and it grips well on tight turns where I gave it a lot of welly.
The bike also performed well on ascents. It is not a XC bike, so don’t expect to glide up the hill with the same ease as you would on a hardtail. But you are assisted by a nifty trail adjust lever that lets you set three positions of low speed damping. This means that you can lock out the shock to stiffen up the bike so that you lose less power. Even with the shock and fork locked, there’s a slight bit of bob, but no more than you would expect.
Flipping the switch on the clutch to ‘trail’ mode, gives a well-balanced ride for swooping along singletrack, stiff enough for pedalling through flatter sections, but with enough give for ironing out kinks on the trail.
Another nice feature is the unique geometry adjusting shock-slider, which means you can customize the frame according to your riding style – upright and responsive, or low-slung and stable for your more challenging downhill sections. Essentially, moving the shock changes the head tube angle, raises and lowers the bottom bracket, and adjusts the length of the wheelbase.
The bike is rolling on 26-inch wheels – Formula hubs laced to Mavic EN321 rims, all finished off with Maxxis tyres – the ‘Minion’ up front, and a ‘High Roller’ on the back. Get them at your preferred PSI and they perform really well.
The Race Face ‘Respond’ crankset comes with a double 32:22 chain-ring and bash guard which coupled with the 10 speed rear block gives you the right gear ratio for pretty much everything.
Bars, stem, seatpost and bottom bracket are Race Face again, with the bars a good length – wide enough for plenty of control, but not so long that you find yourself breathing in between tight trees!
Brake levers and gear shifters come courtesy of Shimano’s SLX series. Shimano Deore hydraulic brakes with 180mm rotors on front and rear give plenty of stopping power, in fact I had to be cautious for the first few runs as they had a lot of bite.
So, I should probably get to the women’s specific part of this machine… let’s cut to the chase – the Orange Alpine Diva, is a regular Alpine 160 frame, but with a women’s saddle, and available in an extra, smaller size. But as it’s available in a teeny 14.5” frame as well as a 16” model, the Diva opens up these rather nice bikes to us smaller ladies, so that’s not to be sniffed at.
Maybe it’s not the most tricked out with female specific parts, but I suppose it’s a classic case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ If you’re above average height, well, I’m sure you wouldn’t be losing much by buying one of the men’s bikes instead.
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If, like me, you want a versatile bike that can handle every part of the mountain, I’d heartily recommend the Orange Alpine 160 Diva. I felt more confident than ever on it, completely at ease with everything I rode. As an all-mountain machine, this bike keeps its end of the bargain, taking you down steep, bumpy descents but still allowing you to pedal when you wish. What’s not to like?
Built for everything
Easy to fine tune
As it’s handbuilt, it’s fairly expensive
A remote lock-out for the fork would have been nice on a bike of this price
What do Orange say about the Alpine 160 Diva?
No punches pulled, no quarter given. This is the bike for ladies who launch.
Taking our proven hard-hitting 160mm chassis, the Alpine 160 Diva is designed to make you feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. There’s no dilution of performance or intent just subtle changes to make the ride more enjoyable for our female fans.
The latest Alpine 160 is our most polished long travel bike to date and the Alpine 160 Diva is no different. With geometry designed to wring the most thrills from every descent and a pivot point and fighting weight that makes light work of the climbs it’s ready and willing to go wherever you point it. All mountain? All right.
With 26inch wheels, a 1.5inch headtube, 142mm back end and our unique geometry adjusting shock-slider the Alpine 160 Diva gives you options to tune the frame to the way you ride. It doesn’t stop there. Air suspension and female form conscious component highlights all help with making form fit with the function you expect from an Orange bike.
MORE INFORMATION available from Orange