West Yorkshire based Orange Bikes, established in 1988, have been keeping mountain bikers happy for almost as long as there have been mountain bikes. They've made a few road bikes along the way too, so a bike like the £1,100 RX9 was bound to surface sooner or later. It's based around a butted aluminium frame and fork, the geometry is more relaxed than a race-bred cyclocross bike and the emphasis is on all-round utilitarian adaptability rather than outright speed.
With the expansive range of 700c wheels and tyres now available for both on and off-road applications, plus the creeping popularity of disc brakes on road and cyclocross bikes, have-a-go-at-anything bikes like the RS9 are effectively creating an identity bridge for riders who have previously seen themselves as either pure mountain bikers or pure road riders. This looks set to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the market in the near future.
With the frameset emphasis on go-anywhere durability rather than low weight we weren't surprised to find that the RX9 tipped our scales at just over 23lb (10.5kg), a little heavier than a few other cross-bred road offerings we've tried at around this price.
Sturdy Mavic A119 rimmed wheels are shod with tough file treaded 35mm Continental Cyclocross tyres, also emphasising abuse-resistance, with Avid's well established cable pull disc brakes performing stopping duties at the same time as leaving masses of room for mud, full mudguards or fatter tyres. There are two sets of bottle bosses and you get bolted rack mounts on the seatstays, but you'd need to use a spacer on the left hand dropout eyelet to enable rack or mudguard stays to clear the disc calliper.
Orange says the RX9 is built “to ride just about any terrain this side of rocks and boulders” with “a firm tick in the box next to Fun”. The 6061 T6 aluminium tubes are double butted and intended to create a frame that is “stiff enough to put your power to the black stuff, while being comfy enough to take the edge off and road chatter.”
Orange's promotional video is well worth a watch in that is really captures the essence of this sort of bike. It's a lovely vid that's well worth five minutes of your time. Well, 4:42mins, to be precise.
Geometry varies slightly depending on sizing (52, 54, 56, 58 and 60cm sizes are available). Our 56cm sample bike has a 71° head angle and a 73° seat angle, with a horizontal tube tube reach exactly the same as the 56cm seat tube length. Smaller sizes are slacker at the head and larger sizes are steeper.
The drivetrain parts mix Shimano Tiagra (shifters, compact 50/34-tooth chainset, front gear mech) and next-level-up 105 (rear gear mech), Deore mountain bike hubs and a cassette from 12 to 28 teeth.
The stem, the compact drop handlebar and the seat post are decent quality Easton EA50 offerings and the saddle is a tough racy model from SDG.
The Avid BB5R brake callipers are easy to set up and offer easy pad tweaking on the inner side via a hand turned adjustment wheel.
We'll be hitting the lanes and trails on the RX9 over the next few weeks.