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Orbea Orca OMX review

29 May 2020
Verdict:

In the latest Orca, Orbea has found the necessary sweet spot for any all-rounder

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Neat integration • Handling • Well-rounded race bike
Against 
• A little heavy • Orca range is cluttered

It is a popular misconception that aged wine tastes best. While it is true that some of the rarest and most expensive wines can be made more complex through careful ageing, more than 95% of all the wine in the world is intended to be drunk straight away, while it is young and fresh. So to flip the colloquialism on its head, Orbea’s Orca is not like a fine wine because it most certainly has got better with age.

In 2017 I tested a previous-generation Orca, the OMR. It was a light and snappy race bike but was in danger of being outdated quickly. It didn’t have the disc brakes or cable integration, the dropped seatstays or aero styling that was starting to appear on race bikes back then and which has since become standard. Perish the thought, it even had 23mm tyres.

A year later I went on to test the Orca Aero. It was Orbea’s attempt to get ahead of the pack on the aero side of things, being one of the first bikes to exploit the UCI’s relaxation of the 3:1 depth-to-width ratio on tube shapes.

It was undoubtedly a step forward but for me the Orca Aero swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. It was a juggernaut of a bike that felt brutally quick once up to speed but was heavy and on the harsh side of practical.

The latest OMX means the Orca is now 17 years old, which seems to have given it enough time to mature beautifully. In wine terms, if the Orca OMR is a fruity white and the Orca Aero is a powerful red, then the OMX is a refined rosé, blending the best qualities of both.

A little bit of everything

The OMX has integrated cables, aero tube shapes, dropped seatstays and disc brakes, but crucially these features have been added without blunting the bike’s signature razor-sharp handling.

The bike’s inherent stiffness, the result of its massive down tube, bottom bracket junction and chainstays, helps to offset the extra weight required to accommodate the changes. At 7.5kg the OMX isn’t as light as some of the competition, but the bike’s solid spine made it feel like I wasn’t wasting any effort when testing the bike up short, sharp inclines.

At face value the most noticeable update is to the component integration. Cables are managed almost entirely internally and the cockpit and head tube junction is clean, as is the seatpost clamp. At times, the need to hide cables and clamps can mean that maintenance tasks become a nightmare, so it was heartening to find the Orbea has balanced this tricky act well.

Cables are routed from the bars into an extended spacer that runs smoothly underneath a conventional stem. It’s a smart and simple solution that’s easy to work on. Equally, the hidden seatpost clamp is exceptionally neat yet is easy to access.

I got the feeling the aero styling wasn’t just for show, either. It’s always hard to gauge precisely how effective a bike’s aerodynamics are, but I found the Orca could give me an extra kick at high speed.

Buy the Orbea Orca OMX from Tredz here.

For example, there’s a section on one of my test loops where I can cruise down a gentle, prolonged decline at around 45kmh. On the OMX I found I could sprint here and be rewarded with more acceleration than I would typically expect to find.

Don’t fix what ain’t broken

Orbea isn’t exactly trying to do anything new in terms of frame geometry – the OMX feels virtually identical to Orcas past, even with the introduction of disc brakes and the slight changes to geometry that this entails. Tweaks elsewhere have offset any effect the switch may have had.

For example, Orbea’s engineers have kept the chainstays to an exceptionally short 408mm, and consequently I found that the OMX handled like an archetypal race bike, creating the feeling that I could steer with my hips.

It was a case of shifting my body and the bike following, rather than me consciously pointing where I wanted the bike to go. It meant the OMX, paired with Mavic’s grippy Yksion Pro tubeless tyres inflated to a comparatively squidgy 70psi, tracked lines through corners beautifully.

While it may appear that the OMX supersedes the Orca OMR and the Orca Aero, Orbea itself says the newcomer actually sits in alongside both models.

The OMR is a bit lighter; the Aero is heavier but faster. For my money the OMX provides the best balance of attributes across the board, and would be the bike I’d go for. Still, having so many good designs to choose from is a nice problem for Orbea to have.

Alternatively…

Add £400 for wireless

The Dura-Ace Di2 version we tested is only topped in cost by the Sram Red eTap AXS version at £8,299. This wireless groupset cleans up the bike’s neat integration even further for just a handful of extra grams.

Buy the Orbea Orca M11e Ltd-D from Tredz for £8,299.

Half the price, not half the bike

The Orca OMX M20LTD-D is the same frame but married to Shimano Ultegra mechanical shifting and Vision 40 SC Disc Carbon TLR CL wheels. At £4,199 you’ll save several grand on our test bike.

Buy the Orbea Orca OMX M20LTD-D now from Tredz for £4,199

Spec

Frame Orbea Orca OMX M10iLTD-D
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Bars Orbea OC2 Road Carbon
Stem ICR
Seatpost Orca SB0
Saddle Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow
Wheels Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST Disc, Mavic Yksion Pro 25mm tyres
Weight 7.54kg (55cm)
Contact orbea.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£7,899

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