Our latest review features a guest appearance from Nigel at bowerwood.com who’s recently bought himself a new bike and has been good enough to write up his experiences and thought process in choosing his new steed.
Many thanks to Nigel for doing this. If anyone else would like to contribute a product review, please contact us.
Over to Nigel.
First off, a bit of background. I’m riding a 7 year old Marin Mount Vision at the moment, so that’s my baseline. All the bikes in this review were ridden on the same trails and in dry conditions.
Orange Five SE
The first bike up was the Orange Five SE demo bike from Cycleworks. My, how bike designs have moved on, in contrast to my Marin Mount Vision. I liked the SRAM X0 groupset which had a nice solid feel about it, though I wouldn’t like to replace the rear mech too often at £165 a go!
I found the Orange was a bit draggy on the flat. It tracks well on singletrack, although it did creak like an old bed. The shop said someone might of jet washed it.
My confidence started to grow on the two rides that I completed with one trip round Swinley Forrest, the other up onto Winterfold and Pitch Hill, with a blast down Barry Know Best (BKB) at Holmbury Hill. It did descend well, with the scenery coming at me faster than normal. I’m not sure I have the confidence to be able to ride the Orange Five to its limits; mind you I have my moments.
Whyte E5 XT
The next week it was the turn of the Whyte E5 XT. During the time I had it, I rode the same trails as the Orange Five, plus my regular Thursday night ride and a trip over to Hascombe to a bridleway along Vann hill, across Hydons Ball.
The E5 XT is a very light bike, it just flies along so there was no trouble in keeping the speed on the flat, especially with both the front suspension and rear shock locked out.
It was also very good at climbing. I did find that the 5″ travel on the front forks (Rock Shox Revelations) took a bit of getting use to as they tended to dive under braking, and I nearly had a trip over the bars. After some fiddling with the settings and some air taken out of the shock they improved no end. Even so, on straight, loose descents the Whyte E5 did feel skittish.
Singletrack and descending is where I get most of my fun and this bike was a real corker. On my test ride I found the bike telling me to ride some more trails, even though I wanted to go home. It’s superb at carving singletrack and tracks spot on.
The one thing that had me thinking was the cost of the two bikes, the Orange Five and the Whyte E5. They’re both about the same price, but the Orange has X0 components and a better (more expensive) front fork. The E5 has XT throughout which is cheaper than the SRAM X0 gear, a carbon seat post and the same Fox RP23 rear shock, so the cost must be in the carbon swing arm.
It makes the Orange look good value components wise.
Specialized Stumpjumper Expert
Next up was going to be the Spesh Stumpy Expert.
Luckily I came to my senses, when I found out that the Brain gubbins costs £120 to have serviced excluding the shock itself.
They must be OK though, because they are very common out on the trails, but I’m not too keen on a bike that weighs 29lbs. The final nail in the coffin though is that come September they will be £500 cheaper in an Evans sale!
Intense 5.5 EVP
So I took the Intense 5.5 EVP, on the recommendation of a friend.
I really liked it, it’s terrific at climbing, easy to ride to the fun spots and trailhead and it was a real blast tracking round the singletrack and trees on Xmas Pud. Up front were Rock Shox Pike forks, and a mix of XT and LX groupset, running on Panaracer Fire XC Pro tyres, which are my favorite in the dry on Surrey Hills trails.
I was very tempted the buy the Intense. My heart said Intense but my head said Whyte E5.
Finally, the Mount Vision was next up, and I had high hopes for it. Avid Juicy 7 brakes, XT everywhere else, and Fox Pro Pedal rear shock. A Fox fork on the front and the same Panaracer tyres as the others.
The first thing I noticed after a few miles was that the bike felt a bit dull. Sure, it was no trouble to run on the flat and not too bad at climbing, but my first generation Mount Vision does all of that.
It was OK at singletrack, and the trip down Barry Know Best (BKB) was quick. But I could not get the rear shock to give its full travel, no matter which setting I used on the RP23. Towards the end of the ride I was fed up with the harsh ride, in fact for my ride on Sunday morning along the North Downs Way (NDW) to see the Blue Bells, I took my old bike.
So I after all that, I ordered a Whyte E5 come the Monday, with 07 Hope brakes, 180mm floating discs and Panaracer Fire XC Pro tyres.
Nigel (nigel [at] bowerwood.com)
Thanks again to Nigel for his thoughts.
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