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Orbea Avant first ride review

15 Sep 2016

'Everything is designed to help the rider go further and longer,’ said Orbea. And that proved pretty accurate.

It turns out Orbea has been rather busy, and at its launch event in San Sebastian it unveiled not one but two new road bikes. Headlining was the flagship Orca, its all-out race bike, but sharing the bill was the all-new Avant, a ground-up redesign of Orbea’s endurance road offering.

Like the Orca, it’s available in different tiers of confusingly similar acronyms: OME and OMP. Essentially OME – Orbea Monocoque Evolution – is the cheapest, and starts out equipped with rim brakes at £1,349, then goes up to OMP – Orbea Monocoque Performance – with hydraulic disc brakes as standard. Unlike the Orca there is no OMR – Orbea Monocoque Racing – option, as that moniker is reserved for race bikes, and the Avant is aimed more at the sportive/distance market.

Confused? Us too. Anyway, without further ado, here we take a first spin on the OMP level Avant.

But what’s it do?

Product manager Joseba Arizaga introduced the Avant as being for ‘riders who want to set their own challenges and not race; everything is designed to help the rider go further and longer,’ and that proved pretty accurate. 

First off, everything felt solid and somewhat conservative, which is no bad thing: frills are for grandma’s toilet roll covers. Bolt-thru axles pin wheels to frame, and a BB386 bottom bracket was the meeting point for some chunky old tubes, including conspicuously asymmetric chainstays to cope with the extra, imbalanced braking forces of a disc brake. The headtube and downtube are requisitely oversized for strength and stiffness, while the seatstays and fork legs are deliberately spindly for that all important endurance aspect, comfort. On that note, the fork has been lengthened by 10mm to create a more upright riding position without the use of a gangly headtube or unsightly spacer stack. Endurance it maybe, but Arizaga and his team wanted the bike to look racy.

Second, the geometry was bang on for a distance machine, that is, stable at speeds across the board thanks to a longish wheelbase, and with a shorter reach and higher stack that endeared itself to a more upright body. Prawny racing tucks discouraged. That made for very favourable kilometres when cruising, yet the Avant had its moments higher up the rev range.

Unlike some other bikes in this category, the Avant is no barge. It might not swivel on a sixpence like the Orca, but it would definitely turn on an old fifty pence, and we found in all but the tightest spots handling was muted but dependable and accurate. It was also light in feel. It didn’t take much to mobilise the Avant or throw it in to a corner, and nor was tempo climbing an issue. At no point did the Avant feel like it was reluctant, from fast shallow drags to one 20% climb that would make the Lake District proud.

Because of this, our first impressions of the Avant were nought but good. It exceeded expectations for an endurance machine. Most buyers will probably appreciate this Ultegra Di2 setup, but already we can’t help thinking some more exotic wheels than the perfunctory Fulcrum Racing 5s would push the Avant further into ‘true all-rounder’ territory, and make it a more attractive build at this price. Still, it’s a cohesive bike with a refined character, which would suit all but the most demanding racers.

Orbea Avant M20i, £3,199,

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