Project Unbreakable | Part Three – Counting the Cost
The old saying goes, “Light, strong or cheap – pick two” well this certainly seems to have been proven in Project Unbreakable. In Jim’s quest to shave weight from the reliable Orange Alpine 160, with each and every gram saved the cost escalated also – the build is over and it is now time to count the cost!
The winter’s at that stage now in the UK, where we’re over the shortest and darkest days, but it still drags on, with the odd glimmer of sunshine amidst the gloomy damp cold days. It seems to have been a long off-season so far, so what have I done to the Alpine 160, how’s it performed and more importantly, has it been reliable?
When I received the bike she was weighing it at a hefty 15.90kg (35.06lbs), that was in standard form with my Time carbon pedals and tubeless fitted, so something needed to be done about that. The thought process was, shall I do it on the cheap way or go at it all guns blazing and fit her out with some bling? Well you know me, I just couldn’t resist the trickery. However, this decision was only made after noticing just how much trick gear a lot of the proud Alpine owners adorn their trail weapons once bought. First up were the cranks, the standard Raceface Respond cranks were replaced with the very sexy Raceface Carbon Six-c, these were literally half the weight but came in at €572 (£429). Talking of carbon the standard Mavic 319 alloy rimmed Hope Pro 2 wheel-set was replaced with the 1600 grams pimp-assed Enve 60/40 rimmed Chris King hubs connected with flat blade spokes, giving some major weight loss and a shit-load more stiffness for a wallet-busting €3,330 (£2,500)
Those were the main offenders in the weight department, but I felt I may as well go a bit further and drop some weight off the smaller components. The Kore Torsion bar/stem combo was swapped for the Renthal 780 carbon with 40mm Apex stem. Changing the SDG Falcon Chromo saddle for a San Marco Protec saved a little more and the full top/bottom MRP Lopes SL chain guide was ditched for the lighter Hope Slick top-mount. Pedals went from my usual Time hollow stainless shafted ones to their much lighter hollow Ti shafted version, these too are lots of dosh at €299 (£224)
Some other parts were changed too, but this was more along the lines of testing for future articles on long term tests, like the Reverb swapped for a KS Lev, Hope T-Rex Expander 1st gear sprocket added (as it’s 10 speed) and the great Shimano XT brakes were replaced with the new SRAM Guides. These made no real changes to weight to speak of, just test products with verdicts to follow.
Now as I was at it, I thought it was maybe time to change the look a little, so the stock frame/fork/shock graphics were removed and replaced with this awesome yellow set sent over from Slick Graphics. They do all sorts of graphic changes for all types of bikes, shocks and forks; these came in at €106.70 (£79.94) Also the standard white/grey Enve decals were changed to blue and yellow €26.70 (£20) per set.
A few other changes were made just for personal preference, these included the replacement of the Continental Trail King to a heavier but much grippier (on mud) Shwalbe Magic Mary, adding traction benefits for the winter training. The stock grips too were changed, being replaced by my personal favorites, the hand shaped Ergon GE1’s, these are a big personal choice of mine, making any bike feel like my own.
Well the whole point to this little winter project was mainly about the reliability of the bike. Granted I had changed a fair few things for weight and performance, but has the frame itself coped well so far with its 31 shitty winter rides totaling 563.3 kilometers? There are literally three things which have let it down, but believe me they really are miniscule. One is the standard cable clips holding the cables on the frame, with the movement of the suspension and the cables sliding through a tad each time, some of the paint and alloy has become rubbed away, as was the gear cable, right through to the steel inner. That was simple to cure, just replace offending items with tighter cable ties. Number two and three are faults of the shock and not the frame, after around two months the Monarch Plus rear standard shock bush developed wear and play, this was replaced with a heavier duty J-Tech version. The final issue, which doesn’t seem to affect the performance, is the loss of the black anodizing from the shock’s inner shaft surface. Like I said the issues really are tiny, so I would say the Orange Alpine 160 is definitely a bike that does what it says on the tin, single pivot, simple reliable and trust worthy, fantastic really!
I know I may have got a tad carried away on the upgrades, maybe coming away from the point of the standard bike being a reliable bit of kit out of the box, and I certainly don’t doubt it would have been, if not a heavy one! But like I say, Orange really is a ‘like it or loath it’ kind of bike and their very loyal owners really do spend money on them, plus the latest Orange 5 was on show just last week sporting the Expensive Enve’s as an option. So exactly how much difference did it make to the performance with all the components changes? In a nutshell, it’s all just down to weight changes in the right places, its not just about losing weight, its more about losing it in the places you have to spin, so cranks and wheels did all the work there. Plus with the added major stiffness of the high-end Enve carbon rims, cornering the long high speed loving demon became more manageable and matched with the added grip of the Super Gravity sticky Magic Mary, optimum performance of this big hitting machine was achieved.
One thing you do have to sometimes remind yourself on this bike with it’s 29er matching wheelbase is that although it’s high speed gnarly stability seems second to none, on the slick tighter turns on the woods the length of it definitely requires more work and wider line choices. Plus getting the front end in the air with it’s long swing-arm also requires a bit of man handling, ‘but this is all good training’ I keep telling myself! Overall for a ‘do it all’ reliable kind of bike, it really does live up to its name well and on the faster rougher stuff its just unreal.
One final thought I had was ‘If I add up the total cost of just the main weight-loss items, how much would it be?’ Wheels, Cranks, Bars, Chain Guide, Saddle and pedals amounted to a whopping €4716 (£3543) and with a total main weight saving of 1390 grams, taking the weight down now to a more reasonable 14.51kg (32.01lbs) This meant every gram saved cost €3.39 (£2.55) Now that’s a pretty bazaar thought. So I will leave you with this interesting but totally useless fact to ponder over, take it as you want. Cocaine is 20 times more expensive per gram than it costs to loose that much weight from an Orange Alpine 160 RS……apparently, so mountain biking IS cheap!!
Words: Jim Buchanan Pics: Doc Ward, Trev Worsey