After what feels like the world’s slowest rebuild, I am finally back on an Orange Four mountain bike. Except that it is not my old one, well mostly not…
My last ride on the Four was on the 31st of December 2021 – a session at the pumptrack, it was feeling tired and in need of a full rebuild. The next day I swapped the wheels and brake pads onto my other bike and left the Four hanging in the garage for a few months. In what was to become the norm for this project, work was in fits and starts, the first bit of progress being after I struggled riding my hardtail at Woburn. At the time I thought that my difficulties were due to all of the roots across the trail and riding a hardtail, but I did also test positive for Covid the following week. At least it gave me some motivation, and the enforced time at home gave me the opportunity to strip the bike down. After the tedious job of removing the stickers, I could send the frame to the Orange factory for a repaint, and the suspension to Fox UK for a full service. The suspension came back quickly, but I had not heard anything from Orange. Until a large box unexpectedly arrived at the door, but it did not have my frame in, it was an updated warranty replacement, still painted the new colour I had asked for! I still do not know what was wrong with my old frame, but the new one looked great in the lighter “Norlando” grey colour.
The worst part of the build was fitting the headset cups, as the tool I have does not seem to play well with Hope headsets, which is all I use on my mountain bikes. Hitting setbacks like these seemed to put me off spending time in the garage and are probably the reason that the build took so long. As the wheels from what I am now calling my old Four, had been fitted to my hardtail I needed to build up some new wheels. I had one decent Hope rear hub from the hardtail, after an expensive trip to my local bike shop, Albany Cycles, I hard the remaining components to make my perfect wheelset for trail riding – Hope hubs, DT Swiss XM481 (30mm internal) rims and back DT Swiss spokes/nipples. The bike shop recommended using the Squorx nipples, which needed a special tool, but it made the build a lot easier. Unfortunately, the rear wheel of the hardtail (which was the wheel originally fitted to my old Four) died last autumn, and could not be repaired, so it seemed logical to pinch the new rear wheel that I had built up for the Four, and fit that to the hardtail to keep me riding. Meaning another expensive trip to Albany Cycles for the parts to build another wheel.
This took us into 2023, and realising I had been without my bike for a whole year motivated me to spend more time in the garage, and the bike slowly started to come together, until there were two main jobs left, both of which I had been dreading: servicing the dropper post and fitting the rear brake, which now had to be routed through the frame. As I stripped down the dropper post, I began to remember just how bad it had been the last few times I rode the bike, it needed a full service, including an oil cartridge – the parts for this came to over £100. The dropper post I had fitted on my hardtail had not even cost that. However, remembering that the dropper post on the hardtail was not great, I did the sensible thing and bought a One Up dropper post, more expensive but with better performance than either of my existing dropper posts. As the One Up post did not come with a remote lever, I also ordered a Wolf Tooth remote – I have one on the hardtail and it works well, spares are readily available and it can be mounted to brake levers directly, rather than adding another clamp on the handlebars. I did manage to resist the version with the purple anodised lever – it worked out as twice the price of the standard black version I bought. On the subject of purple bling, purple tubeless valves and a black/purple version of my go-to saddle (SDG Bel Air 3) also found their way onto the parts pile, along with the purple parts removed from the old Four. I also have some fresh DMR Deathgrips to fit, also in purple.
The dropper post and remote proved easy to fit, which gave me some hope for the rear brake. I decided to buy a new hose, as although the new frame was the same size as the old one, the hose routing was slightly longer, and this was one job I did not want to do twice! Routing the hose was not too tricky, but getting the rubber grommets to fit was an absolute nightmare, which I am dreading having to do again. I made a last-minute decision to fit the same brake pads as on the hardtail, which were originally on the Four, Shimano finned sintered pads, as I was fitting new brake discs – when it came to bedding in the brakes I was glad of this decision, as have bedded in nicely. Every mountain biker seems to swear by a particular brake pad, I have tried a few over the years, but keep coming back to Shimano pads for Shimano brakes.
The final step was fitting the tyres and setting them up tubeless. I made the decision early on in the build process that I would use the Maxxis Minion DHR/DHF tyre combination. For years it was almost the defacto choice for mountain bikers without a tyre sponsor (and occasionally even riders sponsored by their competitions rode DHF/DHR tyres with the Maxxis logos Sharpie’d out), Continental and Michelin seem to have caught up with Maxxis, but their tyres are only available in a 2.4″ width, which I fear may be a bit too wide for the rear end on the Four, so I have stuck with 2.3″ Maxxis tyres. The front, DHF, tyre is the only part of the build that I am unhappy with – it has a wobble. I noticed on the first ride, just up and down the road to bed in the brakes, and worried that I had messed up the wheel build somehow. Putting the wheel back on the wheel-building stand vindicated my skills, the rim was perfectly true, it was just the tyre that was deformed. Online research has indicated that this is a fairly common issue with some models of Maxxis tyres.
Parts in italics are carried over from my old Four:
- Frame: 2019 Orange Four, size medium.
- Fork: Fox 34 130mm travel
- Shock: Fox DPS
- Wheels: Custom build, DT Swiss XM481 laced onto Hope Pro4 hubs. DT Swiss spokes, nipples and washers and Muc-Off valves.
- Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF/DHRII set up tubeless.
- Brakes: Shimano XT M785 levers and calipers. Shimano RT-76 180mm discs. Shimano J04C pads.
- Drivetrain: Shimano M785 11 speed mech and shifter. Sunrace 11-46T cassette. Blackspire 32T chainring. KMC chain. Shimano XT BB-800 bottom bracket. Race Face Aeffect cranks. Crank Brothers Stamp 7 pedals.
- Cockpit: Renthal Fatbar Lite. DMR Deathgrips. BrandX 50mm stem (temporarily to confirm size). Wolftooth ReMote dropper post remote. One Up v2.1 150mm dropper post. Ride Works seat clamp (made in Coventry!). SDG Bel Air 3 saddle.
The First Ride
After all of that work, what was it like to ride? Bloody awesome!!! The suspension is not quite fully set up to my liking, but on my first proper ride, at the Forest of Dean, it felt super fast, to the point I was carrying too much speed into some corners, after being used to a bumpy ride on the hardtail for the last sixteen months. Fortunately, the new brakes and grippy tyres allowed me to reign in the speed and make the corner safely. I hit a variety of trails – starting on the blue-graded Verderers Trail, then switching to the new red-graded Adit Trail, which is more natural (read as muddy) with a fun final descent. Then after a short stop for lunch, some suspension tweaks and swapping to my full-face helmet, I hit the downhill trails. After the long ride/push up the hill I hit the Countdown and Launchpad trails – both fast, flowy and seriously fun trails. I was really tempted to hit them again, but on the push back to the top, I decided that as fun as they would be, I would get more benefit from riding the last sections of the Verderers Trail, which are not quite as fast, but still flowy and fun. I felt like a bit of a wally riding down the blue-graded trail with a full-face helmet and goggles, but re-riding some of the sections from the morning let me confirm my updated suspension settings. And it was good to ride the longer, slightly rougher, Verderers Final descent to get experience with the bike on a different trail. As you can see from the muddy image below, the Four has been suitably christened!
The ride was split into three Strava sections, as my Apple Watch was running low on battery, so I had to switch to recording on my phone, then a third for the downhill session after lunch.