The history of Orbea is the history of Europe in miniature.
The history of Orbea is the history of Europe in miniature. The Orbea brothers, based in the Basque town of Eibar in Spain, started their company in 1840 to make guns to supply Europe’s booming market (a fact of which the company seems unusually proud). Through the 1800s and throughout the bloody years of World War I, the company grew and flourished, taking advantage of newly available electric technology.
Business was good until peacetime brought a comprehensible downturn in the demand for deadly weapons, and in 1930 Orbea began making bicycles, with sponsored riders pedalling to success in a nascent Tour de France. Since then, the company has survived more than a couple of economic downturns and the seismic shift of manufacturing from Europe to Asia. Orbea remains true to its Basque and European roots and over the decades has built a reputation that stretches across all disciplines of cycling.
The new Occam range (profiled by Wil Barrett in AMB’s Issue 149) has been launched afresh for 2016, with many updates and new design features. Now in its third generation, the Occam has evolved from a five-inch travel trail bike through to a marathon race rig before its new incarnation as an all-rounder trail bike this year. Available in two wheel sizes – the AM in 27.5” (S, M, L) and the TR in 29” wheels (M, L, XL), Orbea have nodded in the direction of size-specific wheel sizing, leaving all but the short and tall consumers to decide what’s right for them. One deciding factor for those in the crossover range is fork travel, with the AM offering 140mm, and the TR 120mm. Interestingly, Orbea have endeavoured to keep handling the same in spite of this variation, equipping the TR with a 51mm offset fork, maintaining the same trail figure.
The TR M30 is the first carbon model in the range, with some high-specced alloy versions priced below, and two more up-specced full carbon models above.
Like almost any bike brand you care to mention, for 2016, Orbea have put a lot of energy into creating a mountain bike for general trail use – from tough climbing to aggressive descending and everything in between: the kind of bike that’s perfect for taking away on holidays to explore new trails, or for hitting up the local MTB park. To quote Orbea, it’s the bike that brings back the essence of mountain biking, the bike to ride ‘anywhere, on any trail, until you can’t ride any further’.
Initial impressions of the Orbea Occam
The Occam’s full carbon frame is beautifully finished and completely redesigned for 2016. In bright orange it makes a big impression and also follows recent trends for bold, block-colour frame finishes.
This year the Occam borrows technology from its little sister, XCO trail whippet the Oiz, incorporating a pivotless carbon fibre rear triangle that relies on controlled flex through the seat stays for suspension action. There’s a tonne of standover height, internal cable routing that works with Shimano’s new front derailleurs and includes options for stealth or external droppers), a hugely beefy chainstay and bottom bracket. The most notable new feature, however, is the incorporation of new Boost axle spacing of 148mm rear and 110mm front to allow for stiffer wheels and potentially, shorter chainstays, which should provide stiffer, stronger wheels and provide sharper handling. Both these design features are particularly effective in use with 29” wheels, overcoming the constraints that left us with wheels that were more likely to flex, and less responsive handling.
Getting ready to ride was straightforward. Suspension setup was just a matter of setting sag and making sure the DT M1900 wheel set were setup tubeless. The wheels are tubeless ready, with tape installed, so it was just a matter of fitting valves, adding some NoTubes sealant, and inflating the Maxxis tyres with a track pump – they beaded easily.
I was a little surprised to see that the M30 comes specced with 2x10 gearing, and, unusually for a ride in this market and for this price, without a dropper post. There is the option to build your Occam with a stealth dropper when you order, but you’ll have to get the next model up if you’re after different gearing – more on custom choices later.
The Occam’s DT Swiss M 1900 wheelset is a dependable, strong trail all-rounder and a great choice for this ride. While it uses pawl springs rather than the higher quality star ratchet in its freewheel internals, with proper maintenance this wheelset should be long-lasting and resilient. The Boost rear axle size provides a flatter spoke angle, making for stiffer, stronger wheels, particularly where this has been most challenging to engineer – in large wheel sizes. I thought the Maxxis Ardent Race and Ardent in 2.2” and 2.4” were the perfect tyre choice for all-round riding, but you could always swap them for beefier or tougher options, depending on your preferred riding style and terrain.
Trail riding with the Orbea Occam
Smaller riders should take particular note that the smallest size available in the TR is a medium – so if you’re shorter than about 165cm, you might struggle a bit for fit and should take a look at the 27.5” AM instead. For my 171cm frame the medium was a great choice. The cockpit is appropriately set up for general trail riding, with an upright position, huge standover height with rear shock tucked neatly below the top tube, and short stem and wide bars with the new ‘new’ 35mm interface. It’s stiff and comfortable. While I’ve never ridden previous incarnations of the Occam, so have nothing to compare this year’s design innovations against directly, the ride geometry incorporates all the latest thinking where 29” wheels are concerned. With relatively short chainstays and a wheelbase that doesn’t compromise head angle slackness (thanks in large part to the boost axle width), the bike is manoeuvrable and stable over mixed terrain.
At just 12.2kg straight out of the box, the Occam M30 is a reasonably good climber, with pretty good rear wheel traction and plenty of gears to choose from with the 2x10 setup. It’s worth noting, however, that while the new Shimano SLX front mech design makes for a very easy shift, rear end shifting was the opposite, with a stiff action thanks in large part to full cable outer. The fact that changing gears required a bit of grunt work did interrupt the flow of a Saturday afternoon ride, but with a careful clutch tune and good lubrication in the full-lengthcable outer you should be able to manage this. An XT M8000 upgrade sometime down the track would be a great investment.
One modification that I’d strongly advise is a change to a dropper seatpost. The Occam’s standard QR seat clamp received a thorough working over during testing as I dismounted at the top of every trail to drop the seat height before descending – last in line, of course, if not 30 seconds behind. Handily, the Orbea website allows you to customise parts for your Occam, choosing value-adds such as a stealth dropper or brake upgrades (from the reliable standard M506 to more precise XT M8000s, for example) and allowing you to see how these affect the overall price. While you can’t order online – you’ll still need to visit your Orbea dealer – Orbea endeavour to have your bike plus custom build kit delivered within a fortnight or so – and can generally give your dealer an exact ETA when you pay your deposit, too. The RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper offered as an upgrade will add $438 to your Occam (fully fitted), but it, or any dropper post, will lift your ride quality significantly.
The Occam is a well-priced example of the new generation of trail 29ers. Strong, light, efficient, and manoeuvrable, it’s a great demonstration of the lateral thinking and significant R&D work that’s gone into dealing with the constraints that 29” wheels introduced alongside their many advantages. The Occam M30 is a great bike for riders who want to get the most out of their trail time, ride all day in any conditions, and own one bike that does it all. A few tweaks like the inclusion of a dropper seatpost, and it’s likely a bike like this will serve you well for years to come. Don’t forget to check out the Orbea website (www.orbea.com) to explore custom upgrade options as well.
Tester: Imogen Smith
Riding Experience: A regular AMB bike tester, Imogen has spent her adult life riding and racing mountain bikes.
Generally Rides: Bianchi Methanol 29 FS, Cannondale Caad 9 road bike
Bike Test Track: Noosa trails
Three things you liked about the bike:
- Boost axle width provides scope for great geometry
- Comfortable cockpit setup
- Easy setup, from tubeless-ready wheels to simple suspension tuning.
Things you would change about the bike:
- A dropper seatpost as standard would be a welcome inclusion
- 2x10 setup required some thumb strength to shift
Orbea Occam TR M30
Weight 12.2kg (as tested)
Available Sizes 432mm (tested), 470mm, 520mm
Frame Material Orbea Monocoque Race Carbon
Fork Fox Float DPS Performance 3-Position custom tune
Shock Fox 32 Float Performance 120 FIT4 3-Position QR15x110 Boost
Shifters Shimano SLX 2x10
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT
Front Derailleur Shimano SLX
Crank Shimano M627-B 22/36
Bottom bracket Shimano press fit
Chain KMC X10
Cassette Shimano HG50 11–36 (10-Speed)
Hubs DT Spline X-1900 TA Boost
Spokes DT Champion
Rims DT Aluminium, 27mm
Tyres Maxxis Ardent Race 2.2" TLR Exo & Maxxis Ardent 2.4" TLR Exo
Brakes Shimano M506 hydraulic disc
Stem Race Face Aeffect 35mm
Handlebars Race Face Aeffect flat 35mm, 740mm
Seatpost Race Face Ride 31.6mm
Saddle Fizik Gobi M7