Orange Five 29 first rides
29ers: They’re not supposed to be good in tight, techy stuff and they’re definitely supposed to be less fun. Somebody better go and tell Orange then, because these fresh Five 29s are, for want of a more objective description, the best bikes we’ve ever ridden.
It was a perfect testing day too – wet, wet, wet conditions on some of the cheekiest hand-dug trails Innerleithen has to offer. The local riders really do know how to cut in a savage line. A full day down there will expose any and every short coming in both bike and rider.
Fogetting the rider’s flaws (ahem) the Five 29 did something it shouldn’t – it felt absolutely spot on right from the very first pedal stroke. Rolling up the fire roads from the golf course it just trundled along happily, with less need for any pro-pedal intervention than it’s 26″ older sibling. Once we peeled off onto some steeper single track climbing it felt freakishly planted and controlled. Clumsy pedalling could still spin the rear wheel but it was more at the bars that the rules were re-written. There was simply no feeling of wrestling the front end, desperately trying to avoid clipping the edge of the rut and generally having to rely on ‘body-English’ to muscle the bike up a loamy heather hill side. Instead steering felt intuitive, like the bike actually wanted to show you the best way up the trail.
Onto the descents – Three Gs, Lone Wolf, Feed the Pony. Anyone who has ridden the golf course trails at Inners will testify to their ultimate suitability for bike testing and having a metric shit ton of fun. And we’ve heard about 29ers for over a decade now so we knew that they’d feel ‘stable’ but less inspiring, ‘predictable’ but clumsy in tight stuff. These givens make it very hard to adequately explain just how the Five 29 rides. Here’s my best effort:
There’s a dream feeling on a bike, when you’re descending ‘on the rivet’. You’re weighting the bars like a pro, the front wheel is gripping like it grew from the ground and the bike is manouvering on nothing but subtle hip movements and wee leans here and there. It’s minimal in effort and maximal in speed, fun and style. If Mr Myagi taught bike skills, this is what he’d work towards. It’s the best feeling in mountain biking and it usually comes in fleeting glimpses, before you do something silly, shove your bum back in panic and lose the front end on something loose.
The Five 29 rides in this ‘Myagi’ state ALL THE TIME. It makes new trails feel like your back yard favourite. If a ‘normal’ bike is like having a pirate map of the trails saying ‘here be dragons’ the the Five 29 is like having a rally driver’s pace notes in comparison.
As for the drawbacks of 29ers, we just couldn’t find them in evidence on the Five 29. It’s a mite portly so I guess that’s one area to be worked on. The available build options don’t yet include a 1x option, so there’s one more. But the feeling we got from riding it is a first in 20 years of jumping onto new bikes. It truly makes me wonder how the industry has become ‘side tracked’ with 650b when this is the real deal. Why would you want to dilute that feeling?
In one sentence? The Five 29, it’s what Mr Myagi would ride.