This is not at gear blog, installment 1

I have done some of these before, but not in English. As stated, this is not a gear blog. Nowadays it is hardly a blog at all for that matter, but I won't let such petty details ruin my train of thughts here. Anyway, even if this is not a gear blog (there are enough of those around), I still occasionally write about gear. The subject this time is my play bike, the Orange MIII. One of the reasons for this text is that then I was researching the frame before I bought it there was hardly anything to read about it on the whole internet. This might in part be because it is a niche bike, partly because on retail it isn't exactly cheap, and partly because it is made by bearded (at least that is what I hope) men in Halifax.
So, what is it then? It is something as exotic as a 4x race frame, designed to compete in a format the UCI recently killed off. Basically it is BMX racing on a sloping course, think big jumps, berms, crashes and that sort of thing. As might be obvous to the astute reader, I do not race 4x. Mainly due to the lack of courses around here, but on top of that I am shit at jumping, and fast smooth courses are really not my cup of coffee. So why do I ride such a frame then, one might ask. Due to the special prerequisites in the race format, what you ideally want is a low, nimble bike with plenty of stiffness for sprinting, that excels in corners and has plenty of toughness to handle the occasional cased jump.

To me this sounds like the ideal play bike. Easy enough to ride to encourage trying out new things, stiff enough to tell me when I am running out of talent, and tough enough to take the beating when I do. Equipped with 100mm forks it has a slacker head angle than most xc bikes, but steeper than your average AM bike, giving alert steering but still keeping some stability at speed. Frame stiffness is immense, there is not much give anywhere at all. This makes for a fairly harsh ride, but since I stand up all the time on this kind of bike anyway it is not a problem. On the contrary it is part of what gives it that special feel.

The MIII constantly urges me to move around and try to be smooth, doubling roots and hopping rocks no matter how small they might be. Not a very efficient style of riding, but very fun and challenging. It always wants to be padalled that little bit harder, manualled a little bit longer and pushed a little bit more in every corner. Especially the cornering capabilities are fantastic, I guess the low bottom bracket really helps here, together with the sorted steering geometry and the overall stiffness of the frame. The low seat tube puts the saddle well out of the way, allowing one to lean the bike over really aggressively.

The MIII on one of my lunch rides The MIII on one of my lunch rides

As for kit, I have what I would call a sensible build focused on strenght and reliability without too much weight. Suspension is taken care of by Marzocchi 4x forks, which complement the frame beautifully. I would have preferred the rc3 damping and coil spring, but they are not avaliable any more. Anyway I was very pleasently surprised by the forks, they give good traction but still stay high in the travel without diving och wallowing, having plenty of travel in reserve for when things go pear shaped. 760mm Blackspire bars and 50mm point one stem round out the cockpit, giving stability and leverage but still don't ruin the inherent nimbleness and flickability of the frame (some specialty mtb lingo there, special thanks to the joint British mtb press).

The bike is rolling on Stans arch ex rims and Hope pro 2 evo in the front and Mavic 521 on King in the back. The Mavic rim is heavier, but also burlier and cheaper to replace when (and not if) I overcook it properly. The King hub might seem excessive, but I really appreciate the quick engagement  for slow, techy, trials style riding. Tyres are Mountain king 2 ProTection, that are fairly fast rolling but still give nice predictable cornering.
Braking is taken care of by the phenomenal Formula The One brakes, I cannot stress enough how much I like these. Well modulated, immensely powerful and light to boot. Other bits to keep me moving along are x9 9-speed drivetrain, E13 32 special chain device and bash guard, xt cranks on Saint bottom bracket and Nukeproof pedals.

Overall I am very happy with how the bike turned out. Of course it is not very good for all day epic map crossing missions, but for sub 2 hour blasts it i brilliant. The frame handles beutifully, but slightly shorter chain stays would be interesting to try, maybe something around 410mm. The 420mm chainstays of the MIII are maybe short in XC terms, but definitely longish compared to other contemporary 4x frames like the Yeti Dj, Commencal Abs 4x and Santa Cruz Jackal. On the other hand, I guess they add a bit of high speed stability and calm down the chatter from the back wheel a tad, so it is always a trade off, and it is not exactly hard to loft the front wheel of the Orange anyway. All in all a brilliant bike, well done Orange!