ORANGE 329 - DH BIKE TEST
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
The 329 should be no stranger to you, with Orange having been very busy championing the 29” wheel platform in recent times with the “Stage” model range. This 329 will complete the package. With no plans to abolish the 27.5 wheel size, Orange have just incorporated a model with equal travel in both sizes.
The downhill bike being the flagship model, the boys at Orange are really putting some effort into making this bike as good as possible. The bike that we had is most definitely a work in progress. There are a few different prototypes floating about with only minor changes such as damper length.
Orange supplied us with the shorter damper bike (230mm) in a size L. This bike is one of the lighter DH bikes on the market, coming in at 33lb10oz or 15.26KG. This is a light bike when there is very little carbon anywhere. Having ridden this bike earlier in the year, it was already a formidable force, so it would be interesting to see how it handled going head to head with the best in the business.
Orange had supplied this bike with an unfinished build kit as it was not released at the time of testing. The bike is now live and the build is very close to what we have here. With the likes of Fox damper, Shimano stoppers and a great set of hoops from Stans, it is not far off what you would see on an Alpine or 324.
FRAME: ORANGE 329, SIZE L, 230mm METRIC REAR DAMPER.
FORK: FOX 49 FLOAT FACTORY.
REAR DAMPER: FOX X2 FACTORY COIL 230mm EYE TO EYE.
BREAKS: SHIMANO SAINT, 200mm FRONT AND REAR.
GEARING: SRAM GX DH 7 SPEED.
HANDLEBAR: RENTHAL 35mm. 800mm wide.
STEM. RENTHAL 35mm.
TYRES: MAXXIS MINION DHF/DHR 2.3x29”.
SEATPOST: I-BEAM LIGHT.
SEAT: SDG I-BEAM.
Opinion - IEUAN WILLIAMS
Here it is back again. Now I had not long ridden the Orange 329 prototype bike at home in the UK. To be honest I really liked it. A flighty trail bike feel but with some more bounce in the rear end gives for a fun ride. This trail bike feel matched up with a nice lightweight build makes the 329 pick up speed so fast. With little effort on the pedals you can have the bike flying along using minimal energy. This saves you for the important part of a DH bike...going down hill.
As soon as the nose is pointed down, the Orange is good....very good. But this is where the weight almost comes to bite you in the arse. Where the heavier Canyon or Commencal have more weight, they track through the terrain with ease. Im not saying the orange does not keep to its line, but you have to work harder for it. We found that when riding the two 29” bikes back to back, the Commencal was planted with ease, which meant you could sit back and look more at the line choice whereas the 329 was more flighty and would ping off things if you didn’t pay attention. If you ride the Orange hard, the benefits are amazing. The light chassis now becomes a positive again, with the ease of being able to smash it though corners and pick the bike up over sections.
After all this, with the flex from the rear end, there was little in the way of fatigue. The main thing tiring you out was having to pay attention, having to work for the odd line, or picking the bike up over certain parts to make things easier. This may be directed more to racing but with its great feel, you could easily sit on the 329 and just lap the park. It really is hard to notice those big wheels when pulling shapes in the air!! It’s always a hard thing to decide where the perfect weight for a downhill bike is. But this all depends on what you are after.
It did not take long to realise that the 329 was not quite finished. After getting more confidence in the bike, it soon started to blow through the rear travel. In my opinion the 250mm damped bike should feel better in this respect, also with the aid of a more compression damped tune possibly.
The build kit on the 329 was faultless, with no mechanical's and the GX gearing never skipping a beat. The Orange 329 with the Fox Dampers and a great build comes in at £6,490. This really is not bad when you consider that Orange are not a direct sale brand.
All this considered, the plucky Halifax Race machine did well. Better than well, as it was hard to find many faults. If the rear damper had a little more love and did not blow through it’s travel at times, this would most definitely be a hard decision between the Canyon and this 329. You really do have to tip your hat to the fact this bike was not even finished yet! And I am sure one of the lads will have the welder out next week making changes to make the 329 a formidable force to be reckoned with.
Opinion - TOM COOPER
This Orange is one of the bikes that I was really looking forward to riding. After Ieuan had lent me a 324 in the past that I had really got on with, this had to be better. The 329 was the lightest in the weigh in, coming in over 2 KG lighter than the other 29” bike the Commencal. This light weight build and design made for an easy time when pedalling, with the bike picking up speed fast. I did feel that the Orange was light. Where at times you wanted to have a downhill bike between your legs, it felt almost like a trail bike, being moved about more than the heavier Commencal. The Orange also rolled well. Compared with the smaller wheeled Propain or Canyon it would munch meters faster.
The only issue we found with the bike really was the rear damper. I don’t know whether it was the tune or the short damper itself but it was a little linear. Comparing it to the supple yet progressive feel to the Propain and the Commencal, it felt slightly out gunned.
All in all the Orange held its own well but for me it was not quite my favourite in the back to back test.
Words - Ieuan Williams, Tom Cooper
Photos - Ieuan Williams, Tom Cooper, Scott Windsor