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All DOWN Cycles MTB NewsMain MTB NewsLocal NewsTech Tips & Reviews
Tech Tips & Reviews
11/01/04
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

We all know by now that Orange bicycles win races. We see them in magazine photographs and in all the latest DVD's. The stunning hyroform down tube and the huge swing arm are clear signs that what you're looking at is an Orange bicycle. They seem to be everyplace you turn except in a test review. Recently, the 222/223 has caused quite the commotion in the world of downhill racing due to its, thought to be extinct, frame design, the single pivot.

[More:]

So what's all the hub, bub? The 223 is a lightweight, beautifully crafted, and incredibly strong bicycle. The company takes racing very seriously and sponsors some of the fastest riders in the world. All aside, even I was surprised to see the return of the single pivot design winning major events. I questioned if my complex linkage bike was really necessary. Three UCI World Cup wins in four years are hard to overlook. How could anyone win races these days on such a simple bike? After riding the 223 all season I will tell you how. But first you need to know a bit about the history of our sport.

In the early to mid 1990's, single pivot bikes where all the rage. Actually, for many years, the single pivot design was the only full suspension bike a rider could buy. During the late 90's engineers recognized the advantages of linkage systems and released some very questionable designs. Racers suffered with sloppy, high maintenance pivots. Design failures were prevalent and the simplicity of the single pivot became once again the suspension of choice. Riders/racers have always preferred durable bikes that are easy to maintain. Designers had to go back to the drawing board and figure out ways to improve linkage systems.

At that time in DH bicycle evolution, shock technology was primitive at best. As proven in Motocross, properly designed linkage could improve suspension performance by changing the shocks leverage ratio throughout the travel. This "changing leverage ratios" or "rising rate" suspension reduced shock fatigue thus improving reliability. Innovative designs began to flood the market once again, but his time most designs were stout. "Moto" inspired links, with full bearings, were finally introduced for the Millennium. Racers could now ride with more control at speed. Bike's decked out with fancy linkage systems were inevitable and finally accepted by all. The single pivot seemed to die overnight.

The DH community was alarmed when recently, team Global spanked the Pro field on single pivot Orange bikes. Was it possible that a, thought to be extinct, design such as the 222/223 could still compete against today's modern DH bikes? Many a rider doubted his "state of the art" suspension. Why deal with, NASA, overly engineered, suspension systems, just to get beaten by an old news single pivot? Thanks to a few talented Pro racers, the Orange 222 became a desirable bike to own.

The evolution of the DH bike has come full circle. Fact is, single pivot designs are easier to build lighter than linkage bikes, are more reliable and less work to maintain. Rumor had it that some pro's bikes weigh as little as 34 lbs. Shaving weight anywhere possible has become the new fad. Theory has it a racer could ride technical sections with more caution then make up time with a lighter bike in the pedaling sections.

The rebirth of the single pivot just happens to coincide with a huge advancement in shock technology. Modern rear shocks can be custom tuned to help a single pivot frame perform like a rising rate linkage design. Racers now have the ability to custom tune rear shocks and also have a plethora of brands to choose from. If not for these highly improved rear shocks, the single pivot design could never compete with today's linkage bikes.

Over more than a decade of racing DH, I've owned a fair share of single pivot designs. Regardless of shock technology, single pivots have certain hiccups, sort of design flaws. They pedal poorly through bumps, and are prone to "brake-jack". I should note that not all designs are created equal. Moving the pivot point around changes the ride dramatically, but by nature of design, will have these negative traits. By no means will these shortcomings slow a racer down. It's just something to adjust to. The 223 has a very high, forward pivot location. Because of this, the bike is not good at absorbing small bumps. The swing arm is very long and just can't move fast enough to cushion every little bump. Funny thing is, the bike is lightweight and when ridden properly, a rider should float over obstacles. The frame can be ordered with an optional floating disc brake arm which would eliminate "brake-jack". I recommend the option for riders just starting out. Generating speed takes no effort at all. I find myself entering difficult sections of track much faster than any other bike I've ever owned before. The 223's quality of suspension suits these speeds quite well. This bike has to be ridden hard to perform properly. 223 owners need to charge at everything in front of them. This bike is most definitely a World Cup racer, built for the fastest riders in the world.

The 223 has an adjustable shuttle mounted on the main frame. It's not there for head angle adjustment, the stock 9" x 3" stroke Progressive 5th Element shock worked out well in only one position. With a 7" Boxxer team with the tall crown, geometry is dead on. B.B. height ended up at 15". Head angle should be close to the 64 degree listed on their web site. With 9" of travel, the rear suspension never seemed to bottom out even when the front would. I decided to order an 8 ¾ "x 2 ¾ " stroke Avalanche shock with titanium 450 lb spring. Riders please take note, the 223 with an Avalanche wants to be ridden even harder. Both shocks tested have a very "dead" feel during a parking lot test. Initially, I cried that both these shocks rebound felt too slow. Craig at Avalanche informed me that titanium springs requires more preload than steel springs. Sure enough, 3 full turns did seem to help.

The bike feels long yet comfortable. Everything seems to be in the right place. The chain stays are almost 18". Top tube is tight, but not cramped at 579mm on the 15". The bike is easy to ride in technical terrain at slower speed, but is better suited for steeps and high speeds.

The 223 is a weapon. The bike feels an extension of one self. The speeds I have gone this season aboard this bike are simply ridiculous. I doubt I could go any faster on anything else. I have taken this bike to the edge and back. Structurally, the frame is a solid flex free, reliable design. It's a pleasure to ride, keep clean and maintain.

You can buy a complete DH bike for the price of the 223's frame alone. I suppose the asking price is acceptable for a World Cup winning racer. Be prepared for sticker shock: $3000 with a Hadely 150mm rear hub, the floating brake ($150) and the Progressive 5th Element ($200). White is the only color choice for 2005 with no changes made to the design.

So what are you waiting for? Stop questioning whether the 223 is for you. Are you sick of your link bike's complexity? Are you in the market for a lightweight racer that can handle years of DH abuse without failures? And lastly, are you willing to ride with the fervor of a TV evangelist?


Left Click on Images to Enlarge
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3 Updates

Updates

Hi,
i have an orange 223 with an 5th element and an boxxer race from 2007.

Could you help me with the settings on the rear shock. I Don´t know what type of changes will i make if i change the piece mount on the frame.
fhurter up or down, at this moment i have the shock mounted in the midle holes.

thanks,

Joaquim

Update from: Joaquim [Visitor] — 05/30/07 @ 04:28
Hi AJ,

I have an orange 223 with a Manitou Swinger 4, but I am trying to change the spring from steel to Ti, but it seems like no body has one that could fit my 350 X 3.0 strokes spring. Any tips where could I find one?

Thanks, great site, nice videos and lots of useful info!

Alex

Update from: Alex [Visitor] — 09/12/07 @ 16:46
Hey,

I'm looking at a 2nd hand 223DD, the freeride version. I'm buying online though and have no way of knowing whether a 17" frame will fit me at 5'10. Obviously size is often a personal preference thing but some feedback would be appreciated. I've watched the wheelie vid so maybe we could use that as reference?

Thanks

Update from: Ben [Visitor] — 09/17/08 @ 01:39

You are not authorized to write a update.


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