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2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS (discontinued)

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2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS bike
2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS 2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS 2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS 2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS 2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS 2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS
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2015 Test Sessions: Orange Alpine 160 RS

Rating: Vital Review

Reviewed by Dylan Stucki and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller

For 2015, Orange moves to the 27.5-inch wheel size and slightly more aggressive geometry on their Alpine 160 RS. Still sporting the trusty single pivot suspension design that has taken them through many years of mountain bike history, the Alpine 160 RS aims to contend with the industry’s finest enduro rigs. Vital MTB's Test Sessions was the perfect opportunity to evaluate the merits of the handmade British bomber.

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Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
  • Tapered head tube
  • 65-degree head angle
  • 74-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 344mm (13.6-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 439mm (17.3-inch) chainstays
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size L, no pedals): 31-pounds, 9-ounces (14.3kg)
  • £4130 MSRP as tested (approximately $6,300 USD)

Born from craftsmen at their Halifax factory, Orange has always been known for robust and moto-esque single pivot designs. Although the single pivot is far from new, it has certainly held its own as a reliable suspension design and capable performer. Just look to Greg Minnaar (2001), Steve Peat (2002, 2004), and Tracey Hannah's (2006) Downhill World Championships for indisputable proof. The Alpine 160 RS builds off that legacy with 160mm of travel and geometry numbers that rival those used to win downhill races not long ago.

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A quick glance at the spec sheet and you'll see it's a true modern enduro machine with a proper 65-degree head angle, 465mm reach on the size Large frame, and 640mm effective top tube. It was among the slacker and longer bikes of the 19 in our Test Sessions round up. Orange has always pushed the long front center concept, and the Alpine 160 RS goes even further to provide more stable handling at speed.

Visually, one might argue that the 6061-T6 monocoque/Reynolds custom butted aluminum frame is a little stuck in its glory days with the basic design and bulky rear swing arm, but there's certainly something good to be said for simplicity and the reliable traits that can result. Surprisingly, though, a visual inspection of the welds raised a few eyebrows with many bead inconsistencies along the downtube.

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Orange hits the major notes on the features list pretty well, including 27.5-inch wheels, a threaded bottom bracket for creak-free performance, tapered headtube, ISCG tabs, ample mud clearance, and stealth-style dropper post routing. Aside from the dropper, cable routing runs along the outside of the downtube which makes for easy service and a rattle free ride. With single chainring drivetrain systems absolutely taking off, Orange makes a confident vote for the 1X setup by making it an integral piece on the RS build, however the frame includes an E2 type front derailleur mount if it's needed. There's no water bottle mount, so plan to figure out an alternate hydration transportation method.

The Alpine 160 is offered with "RS" and "AM" build kits, both of which are customizable from the factory. We spent our miles getting used to the RS, which is geared more for the descents and starts at £3800 (~$5,875 USD). The AM model has increased usability with a 2X drivetrain at £3000 (~$4,335 USD). Frame and shock packages start at £1700 (~$2,625 USD). A whopping 13 frame colors are available, as well as S, M, L, and XL sizes.

On The Trail

The Orange was put to good used on the trails of West Cuesta Ridge and Madonna Mountain in San Luis Obispo, California, where a great mix of long climbs, high speed chunder, big rocks, tight switchbacks, and ripping turns made for some of the better zones to test bikes.

Orange recommends 25-30% sag, so we began with 28% on the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 shock. The RockShox Pike RCT3 SoloAir fork was also set to the recommended pressure for our body weights. Visual indicators and/or charts on both made the process painless.

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With 800mm wide Kore Torsion bars and a 35mm length Kore Repute stem, the cockpit components provided a setup ready for some good old fashioned aggressive fun. The bars can always be cut to fit, if needed. Our 6'3" tester ran the stock stem length, while our taller 6'5" tester opted for a 50mm to keep things consistent between bikes and gain a little extra length.

The updated geometry of the Alpine 160 made for a well rounded fit well suited to the enduro and all-mountain genre. The top tube and reach provided plenty of room to move around comfortably, and combined with a 65-degree head angle the bike handled well on the steeps and at speed. The 439mm chainstays kept things lively and maneuverable, allowing for quick changes of direction, and getting the front end up was never an issue. The 344mm bottom bracket height fit the build perfectly, being low enough to keep the center of gravity down, but still high enough to provide ample clearance through the rough bits.

While the bike's geometry added to the confidence inspiring feel, once we got fully up to speed and really started charging hard, the rear end seemed stubborn, not wanting to stay planted with an almost springy, uncontrolled feel. Adjusting the sag down to ~35% greatly improved cornering and traction in this scenario, and finite rebound adjustments made incremental improvements as well. Even so, the bike still wanted to skip around, lacking that super stable feel of many of its competitors. This was amplified with the front wheel off the ground when charging through rock gardens while the rear end seemed to wander and deflect.

Although the ideal rear suspension feel was never achieved, perhaps due to a lack of truly adjustable compression adjustments, the Monarch Plus provided decent small bump compliance at all times despite not having the DebonAir can. The shock also ramped up nicely through the stroke, providing good support in g-outs and big compressions that the perfectly linear leverage curve of the single pivot design doesn't naturally provide. Ripping fast, smooth turns was another notable highlight.

While the single pivot design does see some brake squat, the pivot placement keeps things in check without any truly odd braking characteristics.

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The frame is fitted with a nice and steep 74-degree effective seat tube angle, making the climbing position more optimal than many other bikes in the enduro/all-mountain category. This improves the 31.6-pound bike's willingness on climbs without needing to integrate travel or geometry adjustments that can hamper performance on the descent. Both suspension components feature pedal-friendly compression modes that aid in getting back to the top of the fun, though the bike pedaled efficiently even with the rear shock wide open.

Build Kit

Orange keeps an eye on true performance gains versus value with the Alpine 160 RS, selecting components they know work well from a variety of companies. Select upgrades are available for those wanting a boost here or there. We opted for just two of the more popular upgrade packages, which included Stans wheels, Maxxis tires, and an improved gear range on the rear cassette.

The top end Rockshox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork performed flawlessly with a sufficient level of adjustability, that renowned smooth-as-butter small bump feel, and a solid chassis to push against. Hard chargers will be pleased with the ability to add Bottomless Token volume spacers for greater bottom out support.

The 2.3-inch, triple compound Maxxis Minion DHF EXO and High Roller II EXO tires were a nice change from the standard Continental Trail King spec, and really allowed us to get the most out of this bike on loose and rocky terrain. Paired with the Stans No Tubes ZTR Flow EX rims featuring a 25.5mm internal width, the tires had a robust profile, solid footprint, and secure tubeless connection. The rims were laced to Hope Pro II Evo hubs which we've found to be very reliable. After several days of abuse the wheels were still in good shape.

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The drivetrain was fitted with a Shimano Zee rear derailleur, 10-speed Shimano XT cassette, and Hope’s 40-tooth REX cog to give the bike a bit more range. Unfortunately there was an insufficient amount of B-tension available on the derailleur, and the chain was very loose in the bottom of the cassette as a result. This led to the bike being incredibly noisy on fast descents (as did the lack of a chainstay pad), and shifting was sub-par due to the maxed out B-tension lifting the derailleur too far off the cogs. The Zee setup seems to work well paired with an 11 to 36-tooth cassette based on past experience, however the 40-tooth add-on seems to push the derailleur beyond its ideal limit.

Orange smartly includes a MRP AMG chainguide to help the somewhat small 30-tooth Raceface Narrow/Wide chainring do its job while also providing some bash protection.

Shimano's XT brakes lived up to their popularity, and we'll once again praise them for their reliable, sure-footed stopping performance. The bike has 203 and 180mm rotors which help provide plenty of power.

The build was topped off with a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post that also worked flawlessly.

Long Term Durability

The Alpine 160 held its own in the rocky terrain of San Luis Obispo, leaving little concern for long term durability issues. Orange backs the frame and pivot bearings with a five year warranty, and maintenance is as easy as can be due to the design.

The only real concern lies in the 40-tooth cog upgrade. With excessive chain slap and maxed out adjustments, the potential for wear in the drivetrain area increases significantly.

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What's The Bottom Line?

It’s always nice to compare apples to Oranges, and with the Alpine 160 RS being among the few true single pivot designs still available it was interesting to evaluate its merits against the industry's more intricate designs. What the frame lacks in complexity it makes up for in durability and simplicity, which can really appeal to some riders.

Given our experience, we think the Alpine 160 RS is best for riders who prefer the playful feel of a quick and snappy rear end paired with the stability offered by a lengthy front center. If loose, rocky terrain is your jam, the bike may not be the best weapon because it lacks a composed, comfortable feel when things get truly hairy. In this case the well chosen spec and geometry only go so far, and some bikes with more advanced suspension designs provide increased capability and a more well rounded feel at the same cost.

Visit www.orangebikes.co.uk for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 20 photos of the 2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Dylan Stucki - When he's not busy popping no-handed wheelies or shot-gunning beers you're likely to find Dylan comfortably inside the top ten at Big Mountain Enduro races. Since he's a big guy and charges hard he breaks a lot of stuff. He's naturally a perceptive and particular rider who picks up on even the smallest details.

AJ Barlas - In 15 years on the bike AJ has developed a smooth and fluid style. Hailing from Squamish, BC, his preferred terrain is chunky, twisty trail with natural features. He's picky with equipment and has built a strong understanding of what works well and why by riding a large number of different parts and bikes.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

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About Test Sessions

Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.

Specifications

Product Orange Alpine 160 RS
Model Year 2015
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 600mm 620mm 640mm 660mm
Head Tube Angle 65° 65° 65° 65°
Head Tube Length 120mm 120mm 125mm 130mm
Seat Tube Angle 74° 74° 74° 74°
Seat Tube Length 16" 17" 18" 20"
Bottom Bracket Height 348mm 348mm 348mm 348mm
Chainstay Length 439mm 439mm 439mm 439mm
Wheelbase 1194mm 1212mm 1236mm 1257mm
Standover 762mm 767mm 807mm 850mm
Reach 426mm 446mm 465mm 483mm
Stack 606mm 606mm 611mm 616mm
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Frame Material Aluminum
Frame Material Details 6061-T6 Monocoque/Reynolds Custom Butted Aluminium Tube
Rear Travel 160mm
Rear Shock RockShox Monarch Plus RC3
Fork RockShox Pike 27.5 160 RCT3 Solo Air
Fork Travel 160mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset Cane Creek 49mm for Tapered Steerer
Handlebar Kore Torsion, 20mm Rise, 800mm Wide
Stem Kore Repute Zero Degree, 35mm
Grips Strange Lock-On
Brakes Shimano XT
Brake Levers Shimano XT
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano XT
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur Shimano Zee Shadow +
ISCG Tabs ISCG (Old)
Chainguide MRP AMG
Cranks Race Face Respond
Chainrings 30 Tooth Narrow Wide
Bottom Bracket Race Face, 73mm Threaded
Pedals N/A
Chain
Cassette Shimano HG81, 10-Speed, 11-36 Tooth, plus 40 Tooth Hope Rex Cassette Cog
Rims Hope Pro II Evo + Mavic EN323 27.5 Wheelset
Hubs Hope Pro II Evo + Mavic EN323 27.5 Wheelset
Spokes Hope Pro II Evo + Mavic EN323 27.5 Wheelset
Tires Maxxis High Roller II, 2.35" x 27.5"
Saddle Orange SDG Falcon 2015 Chromo
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth Connectamajig
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Quick Release
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 142mm x 12mm
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts N/A
Colors Apple Green, Charcoal Grey, Cyan Blue, Deep Purple, Ice White, Jet Black, Mandarin Orange, Neon Orange, Passion Red, Plasma Blue, Sterling Silver, Sub-Lime
Warranty 5 Years for Frame and Pivot Bearings
Weight 31 lb 9 oz (14,316 g)
Miscellaneous
Price $6,300
More Info Orange Website

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