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Orange Bikes Factory Visit In Halifax, England

Orange Bikes Factory Visit In Halifax, England

09/02/2015
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09/02/2015

Orange Bikes from Halifax, West Yorkshire in the North of the UK, has been making mountain bikes since 1988. The bike company started as a side show to the owners main business of producing engineered metal based goods and eventually developed into a full blown business producing quality mountain bikes.

Orange over the years became synonymous with a few famous riders most notably Steve Peat who competed in the DH world cup on board an Orange bike and produced quite a few victories. With time Steve moved on and Orange only being a small brand, had grown a stable following in the UK as people liked the style of its bikes and its approach to how they are made.

We knew that Orange were quite unique in the sense that they are one of only a very few mountain bike companies that produces they whole bike in the UK still, most importantly all their frames. Knowing this we managed to organise a visit to their factory to see how they made their frames and witness the construction of their new Five for 2015.

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Halifax calling, as we find our way to Orange’s production facility.

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Great things happen in these buildings.

History

We found quite a few things around on the walls and even bikes used by staff, we were taken particularly by the bike that Steve Peat rode in the early years of his career.

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A road dérailleur on a DH bike… 1990’s riding…

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Steve Peat’s Orange DH 222 bike.

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Peaty won a lot of races for Orange.

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Race proven pedigree.

Design

The design of the frames for Orange is unique as it is based around seam welded tubes that are formed from aerospace quality Aluminium, which is then heat treated to give strength, and then finished in their facility. The design team is local based. Their mainstay of design has been the single pivot Five for the last years and is all about simplicity and reliability.

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This is where the frames take shape, we weren’t allowed to view their latest design.

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Frames are stamped and cut from flat sheets of metal.

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The frame tubes are then folded and welded before being fitted together and welded. Here is a hole for the seat tube to pass through.

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The extra folds add extra strength to each tube.

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The tubes are cut very precisely here, their head production manager explains how each tube fits together.

Material Cutting

The tubes are cut from flat metal by laser with one or two tubes also used depending on the design. All aluminium is of the highest quality and specially selected, strong frames need good materials.

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These are support and reinforcement parts of the frame.

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The main tubes are folded in stages.

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The aerospace aluminium without folding is flexible and light.

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The laser cutting machine that cuts each frame part.

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Orange combine metal fabrication and bike production in the same place, the heart of Orange is engineering.

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Four down tubes from one piece of aluminium.

Frame Fabrication

To form tubes each flat piece of the frame is bent into shape and cut in the right point to make sure the tubes all line up. The more folds in the tubes the stronger the tubes. The whole process is very much hands on, with each stage having a person create the component parts.

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This machine puts each fold into the downtubes.

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These tubes are the down tubes that are also formed with mandrels.

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An old fashion press and mandrel setup.

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Most of these tools are used at some point in the production process.

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A close up of the laser cutting machine.

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Once all the tubes are cut, folded and checked they are sent to these guys who start to weld and put the frames together.

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The first few Orange Five’s start to take shape.

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The parts are stacked up ready for assembly.

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Small frame parts including cable holders and other bits are taken from here.

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Headset tube inserts.

Frame Welding

The metal parts are welded in jigs together with a closing seam weld. The frames are then cooked which heat treats the metal and makes sure that all the joins re-aline and create strength in each individual tube. Frames are welded together in parts and put together on jigs. Each frame is made by a specific welder, all who are highly skilled with many years of experience. No machines here, only tools, concentration and pride in their work.

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These guys are the main workers that weld the frames together, each weld is done by hand with precision.

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The rear swing arms are checked to ensure they are all straight.

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We missed his name, but this guy has been working as an engineer for 45 years.

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The rear swing arm once welded is then put into a heat treatment process which essentially allows the metal to form into one piece.

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The main frame parts are welded here, close slow work.

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Here the rear swing arm is fixed on its jig ready for welding each seam.

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Everyone has a different work area, this is a welder’s work area, with the tools of the trade.

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Frame Painting

Once welded the frames are given a powder coat which is fixed by cooking the paint afterwards.

Video: Spraying the frames

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Once the frame is hung the powered coat electro statically sticks to the frame.

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A very efficient way of paint sticking to the frame.

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Once painted the frame is carefully carried to the oven, where the paint is cooked up to 150 degrees and sets.

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Many frames can be put in at once.

Bike Build

Due to the ability to control its production so closely, Orange allows  a huge range of options when building up a bike, every customer essentially ends up with a custom bike as they are so customisable. Again during this process the frames are built up more and more close checks are possible, thus the quality of finish is always increasing.

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Each part of the frame is checked and bearings mounted.

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The process is really very hand’s on for the hole production process.

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Each bike is built complete in turn at a work station.

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The beauty of Orange bikes is that every bike can have a completely custom build package.

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One of the last pieces to be cut is the steerer tube.

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One of the Orange bike builders is happy with his award…

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The wheel assembly area is where each bike has its particular wheel set prepared.

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The personality to the factory is great and around every corner each worker seems to have their own collection of bike essentials to help them in their job.

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Here are all the frames lined up ready for assembly and shipping, we weren’t shown any complete bikes at the time as they were all under wraps. The colour schemes chosen though were fantastic.

Conclusion

Building bikes this way in the modern West is seen as expensive and most companies don’t do it. However an Orange bike really appeals to a broad stroke of riders that like the exclusiveness of the brand and the styling and the fact that it is all made very close to market, Plus it makes it easy for Orange to up and lower production runs according to market conditions.

One of the key factors that came out from the production run we saw is how much attention to detail goes into bikes like the FIVE and how each stage is closely followed by someone, in the long term it has led to a 0.4% failure when it comes to warranty issues. One element which we felt came out is those that make the bikes, seem to understand what they are making. One thing we learned that engineering is alive well in certain places in the UK and Orange produces a high quality product. Very unusual that every bike has been made by one guy so they all take extreme pride in their work.

We have an Orange Five coming soon and will be putting it through its paces in an extended bike test.

Orange Bikes

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Ian Collins
Ian Collins

Nice!

andreasia610
andreasia610

great job!!!
😉