Travel Tech Feature: Riding The Orbea Homeland
What happens when Orbea launches not one, not two, but three new bikes? Well, the company brings a handful of travel-hungry journalists to an old village in the country where Orbea was born 175 years ago as a firearms manufacturer. We must say, the countryside at the base of the Spanish Pyrenees Mountains isn’t a bad place to be in June. Every day we rode very similar trails, but the differences in the three bikes made them three completely different trail-riding experiences.
Jumping the moon: The terrain of Zona Zero, Spain, often resembles the scene of a different planet. Endless line choices allowed us to find flow through some bigger lines and get creative on the Occam TR.
FULLY REVAMPED OCCAM
Long days on the trail require a specific type of bike, one that is efficient enough to keep your legs on their game for hours but is still playful enough to make all the climbing worth it when you come to the descents. The third generation of the Occam is that kind of bike. While trailbikes generally appeal to a large cross-section of riders, Orbea caters to specific riding preferences with its Occam AM (27.5-inch wheels) and Occam TR (29-inch wheels.). The OccamTR is for riders who desire the speed of 29-inch wheels and appreciate any additional efficiency for long days in the saddle. The Occam AM is for riders who like to get rowdy with a bit of extra travel and prefer a bike that excels when it comes to agility. Orbea not only took different riding styles into account, but also recognized the need for each model to be offered at various price points, so the TR and AM models come in aluminum and carbon versions.
Fully committed: “Steep” and “rocky” are two words that bode well with the Rallon. Slacked out with a short stem and long reach, it has proven itself as a true enduro bike.
Key updates on the new Occam include longer reach, a lower bottom bracket height, shorter chainstays, slacker head tube angles (67 degrees on the AM and 68 degrees on the TR) and steeper seat tube angles. Confidence, speed and capability were clearly all part of the design focus. Orbea not only brought down the weight of the Occam, but did so without increasing the complexity of the bike. The fewer moving parts on a trailbike, the greater the reliability, which is why Orbea uses UFO (U-Flexion Orbea) technology in the seatstays to provide 25 millimeters of vertical flex without introducing any lateral flex into the rear triangle. The UFO system also provides a claimed weight savings of almost 140 grams. Orbea minimized the effect of side forces on the suspension system by connecting the shock to the rear triangle through an attachment that pivots to counteract flex and ensure the shock is compressing in a straight fashion.
Plenty of consequences: Sometimes you need to simply let the brakes go and commit to a line. The narrow ridges of Spain are terrifying if you look over their edges, but we preferred to dive into tunnel vision and ride the narrows.
We’ll have to ride the bike for a longer period of time before we can offer a definitive verdict; however, our day of riding the narrow ridges and rocky chutes of Spain certainly proved the Occam to be a very capable and versatile bike on a variety of terrain. The geometry balanced efficiency and agility, and the bike felt comfortable being laid over in the air.
THE PLUS-SIZE LOKI
It’s getting to the point where manufacturers don’t feel their model lines are complete unless they include a plus-size bike. The 27.5+ Orbea Loki is an affordable hardtail designed for riders who may be new to the sport and are looking for an advantage in traction and comfort. It also offers versatility in that standard-width, 29-inch wheels will fit in the frame with- out any issues and won’t mess with the geometry; however, plus-size hardtails are so much fun that we only see ourselves using standard-width tires in a race. If this sounds even remotely crazy to you, we strongly suggest trying a plus-size hardtail so you can experience for yourself exactly what we’re talking about.
Shred with a view: The all-new 27.5-plus Loki had riders shredding much more aggressively than they expected. It took a few miles for each of us to get used to the larger tires paired with a relaxed geometry, but we ended the day pointing down rocky chutes and leaning it over in corners.
Available on some models of the Loki, the all-new Digit seatpost certainly caught our eyes. A simpler, more reliable and more affordable alternative to complex dropper posts, the Digit seatpost mechanically limits the height to which the saddle can be raised or lowered. Riders tighten down an adjustable set screw that limits the saddle to a height that feels comfortable for climbing, while a lower-limit set screw prevents it from dropping down further than it needs to. One portion of the clamp is screwed down to keep the Digit clamp in place, then the height adjustment of the post is achieved via a quick release that allows riders to simply open the clamp, pull the saddle up as high as it is able to go and clamp it back down. This way the rider can be assured the saddle is in the ideal position for climbing.
Named after a national forest in Spain that is well-known for its technical trails, the 2016 Rallon (pronounced ray-yoan) only received a few changes this year. All-mountain bikes are quickly adopting the geometries of enduro race bikes. All- mountain riders are gravitating towards bikes with a longer reach, then pairing them with shorter stems and wider bars. The Rallon is designed to meet this need for versatility. The shock mounting allows for two different geometry settings, which are each half a degree slacker than last year, with 66- or 66.5-degree head tube angles. The reach is 5 millimeters longer than on the previous model, and the wheel- base is 10 millimeters longer. Additionally, the Rallon is now built around Boost 148 spacing in the rear and has exchanged its forged suspension yolks for concentric pivots near the rear axle, which save weight and increase stiffness.
It’s in the name: It may be named after an area of Spain known for its technical trails, but we prefer to believe it’s derived from its ability to rail trails. It’s certainly a bike that requires a rider who prefers to stay off the brakes.
We were disappointed to learn the new model would not be available in carbon fiber and still lacks a bottle-cage mount. Orbea claims the reason for the aluminum frame is to allow small, on-the-fly changes to geometry. In our opinion, such an excuse is no longer acceptable. Orbea should have committed to carbon geometry this year, and this mistake in judgment will surely affect Orbea’s sales in America. While Orbea argues that Spanish riders always ride with hydration packs, in the rest of the world riders are finding ways to store essentials on their bikes, making the lack of a bottle-cage mount a deal breaker for many.
Let’s get fat: Orbea has introduced the Loki as their first plus-sized bikes.
Everything else aside, the Rallon is still a ripping bike that provided hours of fun on the moon-like terrain we were riding. In the rockiest sections of trail, the bike stayed planted to the ground, and the extended reach of the bike inspired confidence through it all. If the aluminum frame truly allows for on-the-fly changes, the addition of a bottle-cage mount would tide us over long enough to wait for a carbon frame and we’d then be able to recommend the Rallon as one of our favorite all-mountain bikes.
The manual dropper: Orbea’s new Digit seatpost provides a reliable and affordable alternative to adjustable seatposts that are controlled remotely from the handlebars.
Steer away from the edge: Many of the trails around Ainsa, Spain, had us riding on the edge of deep crevasses. When in doubt of what’s on the other side of a drop, steer the other way!
ZONA ZERO GUIDES
Based out of Ainsa, Spain, this guide service is among the best we’ve ever experienced. Not only did the guides know the trails like the backs of their hands, they also provided information about the history and current state of each village we rode through. Insider tip: Only a small handful of the guides don’t speak English, but it helps to request one who does ahead of time. Martin Campoy was our guide throughout the week, and we highly recommend visitors request him. The summer months consistently deliver scorching temperatures, but we suggest visiting www.bttpirineo.com to plan your next winter mountain bike vacation.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION
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