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Orro Signature Gold STC Di2 review

29 Jul 2016

Orro’s range-topping bike gets a disc brake makeover

Thousands of cyclists ride up Ditchling Beacon every year. A good chunk of them are complete novices – not your average Strava baggers – as it’s the infamous brute of a climb onto the ridge of the South Downs that seals the fate of many a rider on the annual London to Brighton charity ride. Few of them would realise, however, that just moments before commencing a losing battle with lactic acid, they had ridden past the headquarters of UK bike brand Orro. 

Back in 2014 I wrote about Orro as a newcomer to the UK market and I was full of praise for its range-topping Gold model’s refreshing approach to frame design. It was mindful of the conditions and demands of UK riding and delivered a polished performance for a relatively modest price. I said then that I thought we’d be seeing a lot more from the brand and, sure enough, in the two years since then Orro has remained true to its original ethos while its portfolio has matured and expanded significantly. 

The Signature Gold STC Disc is its latest creation and by virtue of its custom paint scheme supersedes the standard Gold STC Disc model at the top of the range. 

Carbon journey

The STC acronym relates to the material construction – Spread Tow Carbon. You may be surprised to learn that the carbon fibre is from a UK source, Sigmatex, based in Runcorn, Cheshire. The British carbon manufacturer is highly regarded and its list of customers includes the likes of McLaren, Alfa Romeo and Boeing. 

Orro’s Paul Butler tells us Sigmatex was seeking partnership with a UK bike designer to further its involvement in the sports industry, and having this collaboration has enabled the range of bikes to move in some exciting new directions. Spread Tow Carbon is essentially a weaving technique that reduces tow thickness, which combined with fewer interlacing points (evident by the broad chequerboard pattern it produces) creates ultra-light, super-thin composite layers. Some of the benefits of the way it is created are that even in the cloth state the fibres are secured in some tension such that they will hold less resin and are much harder to crimp, hence the material lies more evenly, with fewer air pockets between layers. The bottom line is that Orro can create lighter frames, and the Signature Gold STC Di2 Disc frame weighs in at a respectable 985g (size medium, painted). 

What’s intriguing about the whole manufacturing process is that the carbon must journey from Cheshire to Asia, where Orro has its factory, before the completed frames make the return trip back to Sussex to be painted. It will take a good few years of pedalling to equal the kind of mileage the carbon has already travelled before the bike has even gone on sale. 

‘The quality of manufacturing in the Far East is still better, with very low failure rates, so it makes more sense to construct the bikes there rather than in Europe,’ says Adam Glew of Orro’s UK distributor i-ride. ‘Also, believe it or not, it currently still works out cheaper, despite the additional logistics.’ 

Lacquer lustre

As mentioned, the Signature Series is defined by its premium paint scheme. This dazzling high-gloss red and gold finish is one of three, termed the Designers Collection, or for an additional £360 you can bring your own ideas to the palette. Beneath the lustre of the paint is the Gold STC frame, so in essence this test is an opportunity for me to see what the STC carbon and next-generation frame design, plus the addition of disc brakes, have contributed to the ride, compared to that original Gold from two years ago. 

From early on it was fairly apparent that things have in fact changed quite a bit from what I recall of the older model. Some things for the better and some, well, a bit less so. On the positive side I was immediately satisfied with the stability of the ride at speed. It felt solid, the kind of bike where I wasn’t troubled by sitting up to fetch a gilet from my rear pocket and slipping it on while doing 40kmh. The solidity was also apparent when driving hard, hunched over the bars on a steep climb or gunning it out of the saddle on the flat. The frame’s lateral stiffness was appreciable and more than a match for the best my legs could deliver, backed up all the way by Fulcrum’s Racing Quattro wheels. In fact, not just the wheels, the entire spec is deserving of a mention as dependable and well considered at this cost.

Taking the Signature Gold STC to some less-than-smooth lanes exposed a harsher side to the ride than I was expecting. The previous model had impressed me by striking an excellent balance of stiffness, weight and comfort, but even with 25mm tyres inflated to 90psi the Signature Gold STC felt a little jarring on the rough stuff, which surprised me given that the Sussex lanes where the prototypes of this bike would have been tested are pretty similar to my rural Dorset routes. 

This is a trait I’m seeing more and more where disc brakes are concerned. Disc brakes undoubtedly bring a host of positives, and the ability to control speed confidently and safely in all conditions can only be a good thing, but it’s my belief that manufacturers are still fearful of problems arising from the bigger, more concentrated forces disc brakes impose on certain areas of the frame and hence are guilty of overbuilding. 

Of course, I’d rather engineers err on the side of caution, especially in these early days of disc brakes on road bikes, but I still felt that the Signature Gold STC Disc frame was a touch overbuilt, leaving it feeling a little wooden at times. 

It’s a problem common to disc brake-equipped road bikes, and for now we may simply have to accept that a disc-brake bike will ride and handle differently to its rim-brake brethren. With that in mind, the Signature Gold STC Disc is still excellent value and has far more positive attributes than negative ones. What’s more, if you are not fussed about the fancy paint and you can live without electronic gearing, you can get the same Gold STC Disc frame on an Ultegra mechanical-equipped bike for a little over £2,000. Bargain.

Model Orro Signature Gold STC Di2 Disc
Groupset Shimano Ultegra Di2
Deviations None
Wheels Fulcrum Racing Quattro
Finishing kit 3T Ergosum Pro bar

3T Arx II stem

3T Stilo seatpost

Prologo Zero 2 saddle

Weight 8.02kg
Price £3,800

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