Orange Switch 6 RS Review
Halifax in North England lies in the county of Yorkshire. There’s a saying about people from Yorkshire: “they say what they like, and they like what they bloody well say”. And that rings true when it comes to making mountain bikes.
With its heritage steeped in racing, Orange Bikes has a cult following in that part of the world. The legendary Orange race team of the early noughties, featuring Steve Peat and Greg Minnaar, is etched in the memories of many.
Orange is a proudly British brand, and Yorkshire’s Steve Peat was the perfect match. Nothing screams Orange like the sight of Peaty piloting his 223, with its distinctive oversized swingarm, to overall World Cup glory in 2002.
There was no razzle dazzle or corporate bullshit about the Orange race team. It was never boring, but they certainly went about doing things a new way—their way—with as many British products as possible.
Fast-forward to today and that ‘made in Britain’ ethos is still a cornerstone of the brand. All Orange frames continue to be hand-welded in the Halifax factory and still carry that distinct look from the early days.
The other good news is that Orange Bikes are now available in New Zealand. While I’ve always been a fan, I’ve never ridden one, so I was fizzing when the courier dropped off a test bike for me—a Switch 6 in traditional Orange orange.
The Switch 6 is Orange’s mid-travel mixed- wheel offering, aimed at trail riders looking to get the best of both worlds. There’s 160mm of big-wheel, point-and-plough up front, mixed with 145mm of small-wheel agility at the back, combined into a ped- al-friendly, single-pivot package.
Our test model was the well-appointed RS version. Rockshox provides the cushioning for the tempered aluminium hand-welded frame, with the top-end Lyrik Ultimate fork and the Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, both of which get a big tick.
E13 wheels covered with Maxxis Minions are another solid choice, as are the Fox Transfer seatpost and Burgtec bars. However, the full SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and Shimano SLX brakes, while both tried and tested performers, are a little underwhelming for a bike of this price point—XX1 and XT would’ve been preferable.
The oversized swingarm and exposed welds that are hallmarks of Orange Bikes initially give the impression that this is an unnecessarily heavy bike, but I was surprised when I first picked it up. The Switch 6 is deceptively light, sitting around 14.5kg.
Geometry-wise Orange has gone all-out with a mullet option that pushes the limits of modern long and slack numbers.
Our medium test bike had a bloated reach of 467mm, a slack 64-degree head angle and
a steep 76-degree seat tube, all of which, when paired with the long 447mm chain stays, results in a massive 1250mm wheelbase. And that’s on a medium.
While this is all cutting-edge in the current uber-trendy world of bike geometry, I was initially rather sceptical. As an old-school rider I definitely prefer more ‘middle-of-the-road’ reach numbers, but the fact that the Switch 6 was a mullet convinced me to keep an open mind. Perhaps the small rear wheel would offset the oil tanker-esque proportions up front.
Uphill always precedes the fun, descending bit. In my experience, mullets aren’t natural climbers, especially ones in the ‘long and slack’ category or with single-pivot designs, so my expectations were pretty low. But the Switch 6 performs admirably in this department, and I was surprised by how well it negotiated ascents.
The steep seatpost angle helped a lot to set me in a good position to deliver power, while the climb switch on the Deluxe shock helps alleviate any pedal bob. As you’d expect, though, the front end tends to wander, particularly as things get steeper, but overall, I give the Switch 6 a solid pass mark for its climbing performance.
The ultimate goal of the longer, slacker mindset is increased stability when descending. The extended wheelbase and that feeling of sitting behind the front wheel, rather than over it, are very confidence-inspiring when you’re going fast in a straight line. These classic traits were instantly noticeable when I pointed the Orange down some of my more flow-orientated local trails, and my first impressions were excellent.
As I worked my way onto more burlier trails, the single pivot’s plushness over small bumps was really noticeable and the Orange felt like it had heaps in reserve.
The real test, though was as things got steeper and tighter: could I keep enough weight over the front end and steer the behemoth around corners?
I was pleasantly surprised as the Switch 6 again exceeded my expectations. It felt very composed and balanced in the steeps, giving me the confidence to get forward over the front end, which then made it easy to flick the back end around.
Considering its wheelbase, the Orange is reasonably nimble. I think a lot of this can be attributed to that 27.5 rear wheel and the excellent suspension platform, plus I was riding trails that I knew very well.
I do have the underlying feeling, though, that the Switch 6 might run away on me on more unfamiliar or rowdier trails, as it felt like maintain- ing an excellent bike position was paramount. To get really comfortable on it would involve changing some of my old-school riding habits.
Finally, getting the opportunity to ride an Orange felt like a long overdue accomplishment and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. The Switch 6 filled me with confidence on the fast, open trails, and it never felt under-gunned. The Rock- shox suspension package works superbly and I was impressed by its cornering prowess.
I’m also a fan of mullets and feel like they’re a great balance, particularly for smaller riders, but alas I think the Switch 6 is a bit too contemporary for this old dog. However, if you’re a fan of long, modern design, this is an excellent bike worth considering and the mullet definitely gives it surprising agility.
Orange’s line up of bikes is extensive, so if mullets aren’t your jam check out their other offerings, as the lads from Yorkshire sure know how to make a bloody good bike.
Exemplary craftmanship and simplicity of the single-pivot design.
Excellent suspension components. Fast and unflappable on open trails.
Long reach and wheelbase requires a brave riding position at all times.
It’s not cheap to own a piece of British heritage.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While Orange’s unique atheistic has always been polarising, I personally have a soft spot for it.