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Orbea Orca M10i review

13 Dec 2019

Orbea's latest Orca is a versatile race bike that does pretty much everything very well, without costing the earth

Cyclist Rating: 
Fast • Light • Great versatility • Sharp, predictable handling • Good value
Stiff competition from the likes of Specialized Tarmac and Cannondale SuperSix

When Orbea began life back in 1840, it didn’t make bicycles. Initially it was a manufacturer of guns and rifles, before turning to bikes in 1930. Intriguingly, it wasn’t alone in having this slightly odd backstory – BSA, later bought by Raleigh, started out as the Birmingham Small Arms Company.

That aside, we’re glad that Orbea decided to make bikes and not war, and the flagship Orca is the latest product of its years of experience.

Back in 1969 Orbea ran into financial trouble, and with some perseverance the workers in the company bought it from the Orbea family to form a cooperative.

‘Maybe the fact Orbea is a cooperative, and that we employees are the owners, makes us think in a different way,’ says Joseba Arizaga, the company’s road product manager.

Being based in the Basque country, Orbea has access to a wealth of hilly terrain, and the Orca reflects that. It comes in at a highly respectable (for a disc brake bike) 7.1kg, while also boasting aerodynamic finishes borrowed from the Ordu time-trial frame, even though it was not itself honed in the wind-tunnel. Perhaps the main story of the bike, however, is its stiffness.

‘We wanted to target a weight of 820g [in a size 53] for a disc brake frame alongside 94Nm of stiffness at the bottom bracket,’ Arizaga says. ‘This ratio is quite challenging.’

While the frames are fabricated in the Far East, assembly and painting is done in factories in Europe. That’s becoming increasingly rare among big brands, most of which use China and Taiwan as a one-stop shop for all manufacturing and assembly.

‘Orbea’s factories in Europe allow us to have a very flexible business model,’ says Arizaga. ‘That allows us to do things like offer custom graphics and more spec options.’

Indeed, anyone looking for an Orca will notice the wide variety of spec options. Each frame is offered with almost every groupset from Sram and Shimano, while there’s a dizzying array of colours to choose from. That’s before we even begin to consider Orbea’s MyO bike customisation platform.

What makes it impressive is that it’s all done while keeping prices relatively low. A £7,599 bike is not cheap, but for a Dura-Ace Di2 build with deep section DT Swiss carbon wheels and full carbon finishing kit, it is £2,000 below similarly specced alternatives from Specialized or Trek.

I was left hoping that the Orca would live up to its potential, but secretly concerned that there would be some unseen flaw. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried.

Buy the Orbea Orca M10i from Tredz for £5,999

The killer Orca

When I first hopped aboard the Orca it reminded me just how good modern bikes have become. It was so responsive, smooth and comfortable from the outset that a few years ago it would have stood out as the absolute class leader.

Today, though, it has tough competition. However, I’d argue the Orca still manages to hold its own while also boasting a distinct ride quality to the increasingly similar road bikes at the top of the market. Which isn’t easy.

The first thing that struck me about the bike was the smoothness of the ride. Given the Orca’s stiffness and aero finishes, I expected the tubes to deliver a harsh rebound from the road.

Instead, while it fed some of the jolts through the handlebars they had largely dissipated by the time they reached the rear of the bike.

Some of that might be down to the seat clamp (although Arizaga suggests it was designed purely to prevent the seatpost from slipping). A neat rubber spacer conceals that the seatpost has a relatively low clamping point, which increases the flex of the exposed post and helps to soften the rear end.

It’s not magical – this is no Trek Domane or Lapierre Pulsium – but it does buffer out enough vibration that the road surface never disturbs the ride.

For me that was perfect, because it meant the Orca retained the sensation that it was firmly planted on and connected to the road. What’s more, with space for up to 30mm tyres, you could easily dial in extra comfort by running wide rubber at low pressures if required.

What really impressed me about the Orca was that it was simply fast. It repaid my inputs of power with eager accelerations, and had me pursuing PBs on local loops for the first time in months.

When I squeezed out a few extra watts on climbs it was gratifying to see the bike surge up by a kmh or two. On the flat it held speed well, no doubt helped by the deep section DT Swiss wheels and neat front end, even if it maybe lacked the all-out speed of some more dedicated aero bikes.

It sprinted decisively and coupled that with extremely predictable and sharp handling, which surprised me given the relatively long 414mm chainstays that would normally signal a more stable and less snappy ride.

The Orca encouraged me to push into corners and keep my fingers clear of the brakes on fast descents. Perhaps it lacks the exhilarating handling character of some of the tighter and sharper endurance road bikes such as the Trek Émonda or Cannondale SuperSix, but I can’t imagine there are many riders whose skills are so honed that they would find the Orca limited their cornering ability.

I really couldn’t find much to fault on the Orca at all. Orbea has done a great job of integrating disc brakes into a light and racy bike, and the ride quality speaks of a brand that lives and rides the bikes it makes.

Perhaps the only detraction is that the Orca doesn’t boast anything particularly cutting edge. There’s no great innovation that stands it apart from the crop of superbikes at the top end of the market.

So if I wanted a bike that could quote industry-leading performance stats, I’d be tempted to look elsewhere. However if I wanted a versatile race bike that did everything in a way that was difficult to fault, at a pretty reasonable price, I’d look no further.

Buy the Orbea Orca M10i from Tredz for £5,999


Frame Orbea Orca M10i LTD-D 2019
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace 9170 Di2
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace 9170 Di2
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace 9170 Di2
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace 9170 Di2
Bars Vision Metron 4D Compact  
Stem FSA OS-99
Seatpost FSA K-Force Light
Saddle Selle Italia SLR carbon
Wheels DT Swiss ARC 1400 Dicut 48 DB, Hutchinson Fusion 5 All Season TLR 25mm tyres
Weight 7.1kg (size 55)

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