Orange has made a full suspension mountain bike that is not of their trademark single-pivot design; the all-new Orange Switch 7 is linkage-driven. Let that sink in. The last Orange bike to roll out of their Halifax HQ with any kind of linkage was the Phase Adaptive AD3 mountain bike with a leaning linkage for steering, designed specifically for Lorraine Truong. Before that, there was the Orange 225 DH Bike of 2010, and the Orange Blood AM and Orange ST4 of 2009. While they’ve prototyped may linkage bikes since then, none have made it to production, until now.
The UK manufacturer hasn’t been at the sharp end of any gravity-oriented racing for quite some time; their last elite win was Tracey Hannah’s World Cup DH win at Schladming in 2007, with their last true run of success seen during Steve Peat’s glory days in the early 2000s. Orange is now setting its sights on a comeback, having released their fastest ever downhill bike just last week, and now their fastest ever enduro bike; the Switch 7. From dog-bone links to geometry, to the STRANGE Power Linkage, we have all the details right here.
Orange Switch 7 STRANGE Power Link Enduro Bike
- Intention: Enduro Racing
- Fork Travel: 170mm
- Rear Wheel Travel: 170mm
- Frame Material: 6061-T6 Aluminium (Formed and Welded in the UK)
- Wheel Size: Mixed (29″ front, 27.5″ rear)
- Frame Weight: TBC
- Retail Price: £7,400 GBP | €8,400 EUR | $8,800 USD (Launch SE Model)
In a bid to start competing at the sharp-end of the Enduro World Series, Orange has stepped up with the all-new Switch 7, a bike designed to go fast(er). Like the Switch 6 (which remains in the lineup), it runs a mixed-wheel platform, but travel is boosted to 170mm front and rear.
We’re pleased to see it still looks like an Orange. On closer inspection, you can see the so-called STRANGE Power Link tucked neatly inside the rear swingarm, enabling the shock to be driven from a much lower position on the frame. The Power Link articulates about a second pivot on the swingarm, positioned about the main pivot, swinging out from its upper mounting point at the seat tube.
Skip to 00:46 on the following video to see the linkage in action.
The shock is compressed along the axis of the down tube which is said to significantly reduce the stress in the down tube caused by shock loading. Design Engineer Alex Desmond says this was one way they were able to make the bike stronger without adding weight.
In addition to placing a larger proportion of weight near the bottom bracket area, the linkage brings with it a more progressive suspension platform, far more progressive than we see on any of Orange’s single-pivot bikes. Just take a look at the leverage curves of the Switch 7 and Switch 6 below.
Orange say the Switch 7 has a truly bottomless feel to its rear wheel travel. The leverage ratio falls from 2.85 to 2.10 from top-out to bottom-out. In terms of shock force, the real working progression of the linkage is 36%.
So, what is it exactly that makes the Switch 7 linkage bike faster than any of Orange’s non-linkage driven single-pivot bikes? More grip, primarily. Orange say a large proportion of the additional grip being produced by this bike is down to a design that isolates the shock from the lateral forces coming through the frame, particularly during hard cornering and large compressions, so the shock is only loaded in a linear manner.
The linkage design itself goes a long way to minimizing friction and thus breakaway force at the shock, but Orange has gone further on that front opting to run a full complement of bearings throughout the frame, instead of bushings. That includes the Trunnion mount of the 205mm x 65mm shock and its lower eyelet, as well as the pivots on the frame itself, of which there are three.
Orange Switch 7 Geometry
Orange’s mountain bikes are, generally speaking, rather long, especially when it comes to the reach figure. The Switch 7 is no different with S-XL frame sizes boasting reach figures from 458mm to 502mm (484mm in large). The 448mm stays are consistent across that size range, giving the large a wheelbase of 1292mm. That’s with the 44mm offset 170mm fork at a 63° head tube angle. The effective seat tube angle is stated at 76°, though the saddle height pertaining to that value is not given.
Upon the request of their EWS racers, Orange has made available alternative dog bone links that allow the bike to run a higher bottom bracket than the 335mm stated in the geometry chart herein. Those push the BB up to 340mm, with the concomitant effect of steepening the HA to 63.5°.
Are Orange Single-Pivots a dying breed?
Die-hard Orange fans needn’t fret; they aren’t moving away from the basic single-pivot design entirely. In the Q&A below, Orange Bikes’ owner, Ashley Ball says, “the current crop of single pivot bikes are well and truly on top of their game. The strange link will appear on our more focused, longer travel bikes with 150-160mm travel plus”. So, expect more linkage-driven single-pivot bikes from Orange to come.
Pricing & Availability
Initially, only one model of the Orange Switch 7 is available; that’s the SE model retailing at £7,400 GBP | €8,400 EUR | $8,800 USD. It boasts the Ohlins RXF 38 M.2 fork, an Ohlins TTX2 Air shock, a Shimano XT 12 Speed drivetrain with Hope crankset, Stans Flow Mk4 rims on the Hope Pro 4 hubset, and Shimano XT 4-piston stoppers with a 180mm rotor on the rear, 203mm up front.
Bikes will come with a 5 year bearing warranty for the original owner and any original owners outside of that period will receive heavily subsidized pricing.
From Orange: Q&A with Orange Bikes Owner, Ashley Ball
Tell us about your history with Orange, how long have you been involved with them and how long have been the owner?
I was responsible for making manufacturing full sus frames in the UK from folded sheet monocoque work as a concept and then work as a production reality. I don’t think anybody really thought it could be done. I then built a good team of people and a facility to manufacture the frames in as I went along, including a lot of unique manufacturing techniques and processes. That was in something like 1997/8.
A few years after that I took over the manufacturing company that I was running, and which still makes the full sus frames to this day. I’ve worked with some of the world’s best race teams and riders continuing to design and develop the bikes and our manufacturing processes. Then in 2015 I took the helm as owner of Orange Bikes and things got really interesting!
Now its literally raw aluminium in one door and a painted, assembled, finished bikes out of the other and all in house in a new factory and still in the UK. An incredible amount has been achieved by everyone involved during that 25 year period and I feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the sense of satisfaction and achievement at what we are able to do. That’s the abbreviated version in the space we’ve got, you’ll have to wait for my book to get the full story!
Orange have been a stalwart of using aluminium for frame production, can you give us some insight as to why you stick with this material for full suspension MTBs?
Alloys are light, durable and can be incredibly strong without being too stiff. In short alloys are perfect for harsh terrain, unpredictable forces and potential impact when manufacturing a full sus MTB. The issue is creating the structure you need with all the hard points in the right place for geometry, kinematics and damper mounting without adding too much weight.
We are unique in how we use alloy to make a frame and that’s the big difference. It’s about the process not just the material. Our formed alloy sheet monocoque gives very competitive results in both performance and weight when compared against composites. On top of that its recyclable. Should we really be making bike frames out of plastic?….. sorry I mean composite because that makes it sound better for the planet and helps our industry sleep better at night.
Orange has undergone some huge changes since the famous video of Guy Martin looking around the old factory 10 years ago, what’s changed since then?
10 years! In some ways it feels much longer but then in others it feels like only yesterday. What’s changed since then, absolutely everything. New factory, new machines, new technology and processes, new bikes. All of it except for the philosophy. Guy has a real interest in engineering and craft, he’s also good on a bike, both pedal and engine powered. The fact that he rates our products fills me with pride.
You’re still heavily involved in the production and development of frames at Orange, what is it about that end of the business that you enjoy?
I’m a designer an engineer and a multiple business owner but before all that I’m a third-generation sheet metal worker. I love to make things and I love to make them well.
You were responsible for the ST4, Blood and 225 to name a few of the famous linkage bikes Orange have produced over the years, why has it been so long since the last linkage bike?
Yes, there have been a lot of prototype and development linkage frames over the years and several production ones too, more than a lot of people will be aware of I’m sure. At Orange we do an incredible amount of product design and real world development work, more than most and because manufacturing in house makes it possible. An idea becomes a rideable prototype very quickly.
As a performance brand we have to stay on top of our game. Linkages inevitably fall into this. Damper technology and damper sizing available at the time can affect packaging or specific requirements needed in the performance of the chassis or both when considering the design brief can lead to needing a linkage. Race frames sometimes require a more focused approach to elements of the damper’s performance and a linkage driven damper can aid with this. If we need a linkage to get the results we need then that’s what we do.
We are known for our single pivot bikes and how well they perform but we are not a single pivot only brand. We haven’t done a linkage chassis for a long time because modern dampers are so good and are available in an incredible array of sizing and formats that we continue to achieve the performance we want without a linkage in most cases. At Orange if we don’t need it, it doesn’t happen our products are rated on performance not a trademark.
What does the Switch 7 have to offer which separates it from the rest of the range?
Increased grip, traction, suspension travel and speed combined with the ability to reduce rider fatigue when ridden flat out for sustained periods. In short, it’s a race bike.
I like to ride bikes and I like bikes that need to be ridden. I like to feel what’s going on with a playful chassis that moves about and requires commitment. I still believe in the skill of riding a bike and how rewarding that is. Fast, capable and confidence inspiring but at the same time having a requirement for the rider to contribute. This is undoubtedly reflected in the bikes we make and what Orange stands for. Spend the time you save not servicing/replacing bearings and links riding your bike and perfecting your bike craft. These are performance products built for enthusiasts and those in the know.
What changes with the Switch 7 is the stopwatch. The rewards are not solely measured in smiles per mile the reward is hitting a line perfectly time after time coupled to the ability to carry speed in, through and out of any given situation every time. Neat, tidy and precise. Don’t worry its still very much an Orange just with a slightly different brief.
What traits did you want the Switch 7 to have?
It had to look and feel like an Orange. Anyone who is familiar with the brand will instantly feel at home when they climb aboard a S7. Geometry is all modern Orange and the ride characteristics are there too just smoothed out and with an added air of seriousness.
Chassis feel! I don’t buy into all this neutrality crap, to go fast you need to be able to feel what’s going on and where the limit is. We have increased control and reduced fatigue but not at the expense of chassis feel.
The bike still needed to snap to attention and accelerate like all our full sus bikes do and never feel like its wallowing in overly active suspension travel.
That goes for climbing too. The chassis needed that bit of forgiveness and give, in line with all our bikes, not too stiff and fidgety. Our monocoque chassis system is perfect in this regard. It’s taken a lot of development, but we have got there, and the end result is an Orange full sus bike, just with the wick turned up. I’m extremely happy with the outcome and the team I work with.
Will the linkage end up on all Oranges going forward?
No – we currently make the best range of bikes we ever have. Our current crop of single pivot bikes are well and truly on top of their game. The strange link will appear on our more focused, longer travel bikes with 150-160mm travel plus.
Lastly, if you had to choose between your favourite pint warm and supermarket value larger cold, what are you going for?
I’m from Yorkshire…. what a horrendous situation that would be! Surly nobody would ever have to face such a choice. If you are going to push me for an answer I would say don’t ruin the rest of your life by drinking your favourite pint warm, you’ll never get over it!