Mtbr Visits Orbea and Test Rides the New Occam 29
After 3 years of development, Orbea unveiled their Occam 29 full suspension bike. Orbea is located in Spain, in the heart of Basque country. We were privileged to be invited to their launch venue and enjoy the full Basque hospitality. It was quite evident that the Spaniards were highly engaged in this project. It was designed for XC endurance racing and trail riding.
Orbea has been in the business of building bikes since the 1930’s. Primarily a road bike company early on with the Euskaltel-Euskadi team. But in the last 5-10 years their mtb athletes have been winning World Cups. Julian Absalon has been their poster boy. The Luna Chicks have also been representing at World cups with dominance. This new bike isn’t necessarily designed for the world cup competition, but more for longer endurance style races or general XC trail riding.
They didn’t just take the success of their 26 spec’s and make them fit the 29er wheels, they developed this as a separate platform. Targeted for the endurance/trail crowd they really took time to address the common 29er issues. They wanted a bike that didn’t give up agility and stiffness.(mas stiffer) After much design efforts they developed his bike with shorter chain stays to keep it quick and nimble on the trail (445 mm).They had a prototype last year, but wanted to perfect it. They really worked on keeping it stiffer. So it may not fit their current world cup athlete’s needs, I think this bike is going to compete nicely with the other 29er fs bikes on the market in the US.
After following the TdF for so many years I’ve always loved when the race got down into the Pyrenees and into Basque country. It always seemed like something exciting in the race would happen. The mountains were steeper than the Alps. The Basque people showed up in their orange colors and reeked some craziness into the race. My perception was soon changed as I met the guys behind the new Occam 29er project. These guys were hard core mt bikers. They truly were passionate about the sport. Their presentation was methodical in their approach to a new platform. They’ve had great results from the elite mtb team on the World cup circuit on the 26 platform, but they designed this 29er Occam platform from ground up. Don’t look for Julian Absalon to ride this at the Olympics. The Olympic course isn’t going to be conducive for a 29er. It’s a full on 26 hardtail type of course. But look for the Occam to show up at races like the Cape Epic and other marathon events next year.
As soon as I threw my leg over the S10 Occam I could feel how solid the bike felt. The Mas Stiffer effect of Orbea’s goal was evident. I’ve ridden most of the brands in the US in this category and the Occam meets the expectations of what you want in a 29er XC rig.
We were bussed up from a little town in northern Spain call Hondarribia A beautiful place where the yearly Clasica San Sebastian and the infamous road climb Alto de Jaizkibel take place. We were met with the full team Orbea and a huge Orbea tent and the pro mtb team mechanics. After a 3km loop to work on suspension pressures and dialing in our fit, we set out for the bigger loop. Doug from www.basquemtb.com was leading our group. Lush Santa Cruz like trails with some tricky rock sections really put the Occam to a test right off the bat. This Occam came with Fox’s new CTD lock out system (Climb, Trail, Descend). The CTD system allows you set the suspension according to the terrain you are riding from a handy handle bar mounted switch. The thumb levers were a bit big and got in the way for some guys. But after some repositioning it was fine. I flipped the stock negative degree rise stem so it was a little more up right to my liking.
I could feel the stiffness in the front end. The combination of the 15 mil through axle and the Sram carbon wheels really gave it a nice straight track through the technical stuff. 25% sag seemed to be the sweet spot for the rear suspension. After some fun twisty descending I was impressed with the Occam’s agility. I smacked a couple of hidden rocks but the Occam wasn’t phased. We turned up a steep climb and switched into the C position on Fox’s handle bar mount. It climbed like a billy goat with no fighting the front wheel coming off the ground. Next we had a slight grade uphill on some rocky double track. The T (trail) setting was perfect. Just enough to take the big bumps out but not enough to cause any unnecessary bob on the climb. Almost like the Specialized Epic brain.
This bike is ready to race if you wanted or plush enough for every day trail use. A light weight XC endurance 29 platform that’s stiff, but yet plush enough for longer events. Think Trek’s SF 100, Specialized Epic, and Santa Cruz Tallboy that are prevalent in the marathon distance events in the US.
They explained the high (but not too high) rear pivot point. It’s the sweet spot so that the angle of the chain in tension as it relates to the rear pivot, so not to cause unwanted bob in high torque conditions. (steep climbs) The shorter chain stays helped with agility in tight terrain. I felt like the bike was super responsive and quick. Another feature they are proud of is the cabling system. It’s a slick organized system to reduce cable noise and rub marks. The 15 mil front through axle definitely helped in keeping the front end stiff. Orbea’s objective was to have a longer top tube so you could utilize shorter stems. They feel it puts you more in control and over the front end of the bike. Another cool Orbea feature is a life time warranty. This is what gave it 5 chili’s for value.
The Occam OM comes with a full carbon front triangle with aluminum seat stay and carbon chain stays. The seat stay didn’t make sense to make in carbon. For the limited weight penalty the aluminum seat stays can handle the forces subject to this area while keeping the stiffness.
I have to give it 5 chili’s for performance and value. Everything is an option for Orbea. Build it the way you want it. Since they will be selling in September of 2012 you should start to see some of these out on the trail or on the podium at some of your local races. 3 sizes available (S,M,L) The Aluminum version is the Hydro.
Here are some key points on the bike that I feel make it a bike to consider for 2013. Actually 2012 since the dealers will be taking stock and ready to sell in September.
- Higher pivot point
- Short chain stays (make it handle better)
- Slick cable routing. (no noise or rubbing)
- 15 mm front through axle (stiffer front end)
- Longer top tubes with shorter stems (better forward position onthe bike)
- OLT (Orbea Lifetime warranty)
- Aluminum or Carbon (OMS or Hydro)
- Stiff Sram carbon wheels (mas stiffer) S10 and option on any model
- 12×142 rear through axle
- A rubber protection shield for the down tube and chain stay
- Ball bearing rear shock linkage
Video from Orbea