Orange Alpine Evo LE review
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Orange Alpine Evo LE review

Dec 09, 2023

British-built with an iconic design, Orange's Alpine Evo stays true to the well-formulated recipe

This competition is now closed

By Alex Evans

Published: February 25, 2022 at 2:00 pm

Orange's Alpine Evo LE is a remastered, modern take on its ever-popular and long-standing Alpine trail bike, retaining Orange's iconic single-pivot, monocoque frame aesthetic.

This latest version runs on 27.5in wheels, has 155mm of rear-wheel travel and features the brand's Evo geometry, taking its figures to the more extreme end of the spectrum with a 63-degree head tube angle and 495mm reach (size large).

Before we get started, I also pitted this bike against the Norco Shore 2 in my low-pivot vs high-pivot test, to determine which rear suspension system rules the roost, but here I’ll focus specifically on the performance of the Orange Alpine Evo LE.

The Alpine Evo's main frame and swingarm are built using monocoque tubing, made from 6061-T6 aluminium.

Orange says it has redesigned the frame to use thinner tubes and has re-sketched the swing arm to better resist twisting loads under pedalling, but still while retaining the desired amount of lateral flex for when the bike is leant over.

Changes to the swingarm – achieved using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) – have resulted in structural design modifications and a subsequent asymmetrical shape. This has created a claimed 20 per cent overall increase in longitudinal stiffness and a claimed 15 per cent increase in overall strength.

Elsewhere, Orange has updated its rear dropout and now uses SRAM's UDH. Its internally routed cables now pass under the swingarm, instead of into its face, and Orange has added accessory mounts under the top tube, accompanying the down tube bottle cage mounts.

The suspension and kinematics have been redesigned for the Evo model. The low-pivot placement is claimed to give it a neutral suspension feel, reducing pedal kickback.

The new kinematics make it the most progressive Alpine Orange has produced to date. Although, according to my calculations using BikeChecker's linkage application, the Orange is just five per cent progressive across its range of travel.

This should mean the frame is best used with air-sprung shocks that have progressive spring rates that can be tuned with volume-reducer tokens.

With 155mm of rear-wheel travel, Orange claims its rider will never feel over-biked on local trails, but it offers more than enough forgiveness for its Alpine moniker.

Although I’m sure the changes to the frame's construction and suspension kinematics will play their role on the trail, it's the Evo geometry that gets me excited about the Alpine.

Its slack 63-degree head tube angle and generous 495mm reach, along with 445mm chainstays and a 1,280mm wheelbase, all indicate the Alpine Evo is set to be wildly capable when descending.

Add in a reasonably steep 76-degree seat tube angle for ascending, and it appears to be something of a masterpiece in terms of geometry.

The LE version of the Alpine Evo is Orange's launch edition, where during a pandemic-ridden, post-Brexit bike boom standard build kits have made way for more creative, and at times pleasingly considered, spec choices so a brand can bring a bike to market.

Fortunately, the Alpine Evo LE falls into the considered and creative categories. Headlining the spec is RockShox's Ultimate suspension, with a 160mm-travel Rockshox Lyrik fork up front and a Super Deluxe shock at the rear.

It's got a Shimano XT M8100 12-speed drivetrain with Hope Evo cranks and 32t chainring. It rolls on e*thirteen's TRS rims, built on Hope Pro 4 hubs, wrapped in Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II rubber front and rear respectively. Stopping power is provided by Shimano's XT M8100 four-piston brakes with a 203mm rotor front and 180mm rear.

A Renthal Fat Bar M35 bar and Hope 35mm stem are fitted, while there's an SDG Tellis 150mm-travel dropper post, SDG Strange Bel Air II saddle, and Orange Strange Grappler lock-on grips to finish off the build.

The size large Orange Alpine Evo LE I tested weighed 14.33kg without pedals.

Thanks to its RockShox suspension front and rear, the Alpine Evo LE was easy to adjust for my riding style and 76kg kitted-up weight. I dialled in my preferred fork pressures (85psi, three volume-reducer spacers) and low- and high-speed compression settings (initially LSC and HSC fully open, then LSC -17 clicks back from fully closed).

I initially set the shock to 160psi with the stock single-spring volume reducer installed. This gave 20 per cent sag, but after an initial shakedown ride, it felt a bit harsh, so I decreased spring pressure to 150psi.

This caused the mid-stroke to lack support, so I added another volume reducer. Once added, I could drop pressures further, this time to 135psi, and added a third volume-reducer spacer.

With the shock rebound and compression adjusters set to fully open (counter-clockwise), this setup felt like it gave the Orange the most sensitive, supportive and bottom-out resistant setup. I left these settings for the duration of the test period.

The lengthy 495mm reach, when coupled with a rather diminutive 607mm stack height, meant I struggled with getting this bike's bars high enough for my preferences. I felt stretched forward, with my chin closer to the bars than I wanted, which compromised downhill stability and flat-ground comfort because my hands were much lower than I wanted in relation to my feet and hips.

Its low 10mm-rise handlebar and a steerer tube that was cut with only enough room for 15mm of stem stackers exacerbated the problem. The only way I could raise the front end of the bike was by installing a higher-rise bar.

Once I’d installed a high 35mm-rise OneUp Components Carbon Handlebar, the bike felt much better, with the overly stretched forward and low hand position rectified.

I contacted Orange to find out why the Alpine Evo has a short stack height compared to other similar bikes on the market, and whether a customer's bike would be supplied with a steerer tube that was cut as short as the bikes I tested.

"The geometry on our bikes is always rider-led [and] based on feedback from consumers, test team and sponsored riders we arrived at [what] we have with the Alpine Evo. Over the last few years we’ve found that bar height has become one of those topics where people have various preferences especially when you include the topography that they generally ride in. Thankfully our bikes are supplied to the dealer with uncut steerers and there are numerous options for high-rise bars if that's what people feel they want."

Orange Bikes

I inflated the tyres to 25psi front and 29psi rear, to compensate for the thinner EXO protection casings, but soon replaced the rear tyre with a DoubleDown Minion DHR II to avoid the inevitable punctures and grotesque-feeling carcass squirm. This meant I could lower the rear pressure to 26psi without issue.

The Alpine Evo remains true to Orange's reputation of feeling best when worked hard, whether that's pumping small bumps, hopping up and over square-edged hits, or taking opportunistic moments to put in pedal strokes to top up speed.

When ridden proactively with plenty of energy, there's something massively rewarding about the Alpine Evo, and it epitomises the saying ‘you reap what you sow’.

If you’re passive over rougher terrain, it can beat you up, and can throw you off-line, especially if you’re expecting it to do most of the hard work of ironing out bumps for you. It's not a trail neutraliser, and shouldn't be ridden with the expectation that it will sanitise the trail ahead.

Its taught ride can feel great, especially when you nail a technical climb full of bumps and steps with precision and speed.

On the gas, especially when you’re seated at mid-to-high cadences, the Alpine Evo's suspension doesn't bob in and out of its sag point, remaining static. Little energy is lost, which gives it a sharp-feeling ride on the pedals.

Stand up and crank at lower cadences in harder gears and there is some bob, but it's not enough to cause much concern. And should the shock's movement be too much for your tastes, the lockout lever does an efficient job of neutralising it, but this does negatively compromise traction and comfort on rougher sections.

Thanks to the steep seat tube angle and long chainstay figure, I felt well centred when climbing, with my hips placed comfortably over the bottom bracket. I didn't need to continually shift my weight fore or aft to find the compromise between enough rear-wheel grip and stopping the front wheel from lifting when gradients steepened.

With a relatively low weight and generous Shimano XT 12-speed gearing, the Alpine Evo was particularly capable of winching up steep, long climbs to the tops of well-hidden trails, but also at home on flatter man-made trail-centre loops.

Once I’d mastered how to get the most from its suspension and generate speed, it was a great climber and really rewarding to ride. Arguably, this type of bike suits some people better than others, and if you’re a passive rider, the Orange probably isn't going to gel with your style.

Descending, the Orange feels poppy and lively. It thrives on being pushed hard through turns and loaded up where the trail is smooth, with a following lightness over the gnarlier, rougher sections of terrain.

It feels great when you perfect jumps and hops over features, and each time the Orange lands there's a notable surge in speed. Ridden like this, there's little that makes the Alpine Evo feel out of its depth. It works best when you’re well braced to handle the sections of trail where you’re loading the bike into the ground for grip.

Orange's claimed 20 per cent increase in frame stiffness is noticeable out on the trail, where steering accuracy is good, needing only small movements to change direction, and its chassis is incredibly responsive to rider inputs.

Hitting turns aggressively gets the most from the bike, where unweighting it before the corner, then pushing it hard into the ground and turning quickly at the apex, rather than carving a smooth curve, feels addictive.

The tautness of its chassis, when loaded up like this, feels like a full battery of potential energy, ready to propel you down the next section of trail as you exit the corner. It has a real snap to its loading, which can feel incredible.

A pay-off for this taught, accurate ride is it punishes its wheels and tyres, especially when ridden with straighter legs through choppy, bumpy terrain and turns. I noticed the rear DoubleDown tyre I installed, despite the good amount of carcass stability and damping, tended to burp on the e.thirteen rims much more regularly than on other bikes.

I feel this was down to the chassis’ stiffness and suspension's linear feel rather than a tyre and rim compatibility issue. The suspension was less willing to enter the first portion of its travel, and instead the tyres and wheels were doing more work absorbing smaller, chattery bumps. This tyre deformation caused the burping.

For the rider, the wheels, tyres and dampers insulate most of the harshness from being felt, but they do take a sacrificial battering in the process.

The Alpine Evo arguably treads a very fine line between being too harsh and incredibly precise, although sometimes it punishes its rider when I felt like it should have had more to give.

When the rear shock was installed with three volume reducers and its spring pressure reduced, it felt as though it provided more than enough traction on rough trails without bombing through its travel in the mid-stroke.

Its rear wheel doesn't stick to the floor like a coil-sprung multi-link bike, but it wasn't skipping around and fishtailing down the trail uncontrollably.

Equally, it wasn't truly calm and composed. The margin for error is also quite narrow, where the suspension isn't able to provide much leeway for bad line choices, and won't make up for a lack of skill or confidence.

Thanks to those volume reducers, it also felt as though it had enough bottom-out resistance to not clang into the bump stop on large drops to flat or particularly large, square-shaped compressions.

Most people know what to expect from an Orange's suspension, and the Alpine Evo doesn't deviate from that well-tested formula.

Its geometry certainly augments and improves its ride considerably, but only once I’d fitted a higher rise bar. The slack head tube angle (63 degrees) and long reach figure (495mm), combined with a long front centre (835mm) and generous 1,280mm wheelbase, make loading the front wheel in turns and down steeper sections of trail rewarding, without fear of it tucking, causing a loss of control.

Equally, the long 445mm chainstays mean there's plenty of bike behind the rider, so even if you lean back a long way, distributing your weight unevenly to the rear of the bike, it doesn't cause the front wheel to go light.

The geometry figures create most of its chassis’ stability, and helped it feel at home on a wide range of trail types.

Because its numbers are progressive, being much closer to a bike with more travel, it was able to punch way above its 155mm-travel figure, feeling controlled and confident on the fastest, gnarliest descents.

In this respect, the Alpine Evo proves the point that geometry trumps all.

Despite its less than perfect rear suspension and rather taut-feeling chassis, it was still a hoot to ride quickly almost everywhere, and I put this down to its forward-thinking geometry.

If you’re a rider who likes to pop, pump, play and hop your way up and down the trails, the Alpine Evo is likely to be suited perfectly to your style.

The ultra-quick cornering and super-responsive chassis give it an addictive ride quality, where turns can be dispatched with impressive accuracy accompanied by massive boosts in speed. Those same traits don't provide much in the way of forgiveness if you get things wrong, or just want to cruise around, however.

Its geometry does complement the high-paced riding style it's best suited to, and those long, slack and low figures really make the Alpine Evo the performer it is.

Just make sure you leave enough steerer tube on the fork to have the option to raise the bars if the stack height is too low for your preferences.

Senior technical editor

Alex Evans is BikeRadar's senior mountain bike technical editor. He started racing downhill at the tender age of 11 before going on to compete across Europe. Alex moved to Morzine in the French Alps at 19 to pursue a career as a bike bum and clocked up an enormous amount of riding. Hitting those famous tracks day in, day out for eight years, he broke more bikes than he can remember. Alex then moved back to the UK and put his vast knowledge of mountain biking to good use by landing a job working for MBUK magazine as features editor. Since working for MBUK, Alex's focus has moved to bike tech. He's one of BikeRadar's lead testers and knows how to push bikes and products to the limit, searching out the equipment that represents the best value for money. Alex is also a dedicated eMTB rider, and still dabbles in racing of a sort, doing his best to top the Strava leaderboard on the steepest, gnarliest and twistiest trails the Tweed Valley has to offer – just for fun, of course. Alex is also a regular on the BikeRadar YouTube channel and BikeRadar podcast.