Orbea Compair £869

Classy looking trail bike

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

No brand could hope for a better race-promoted boost than Orbea via multiple World and Olympic champ Julien Absalon. While the Compair isn’t designed as a race bike, it benefits from design trickle-down effects from further up the range, feeling quicker on the trail than its weight would suggest.

The Corsair is not as light and not as well equipped as some of its less expensive peers. But the ride feel goes a long way to making up for this. It feels excellent on all sorts of different trails, with only the loose spokes on our test sample rudely disturbing the fun.

Ride & handling: A lot of fun to ride

The 29lb Compair is a reasonably heavy bike amongst its peers, but fast tyres and good geometry disguise that weight and it feels surprisingly sprightly on the trail. Unlike other bikes we've ridden, it didn’t suffer from an occasional pedal-to-ground strike on technical terrain; the extra quarter inch of bottom bracket height makes a difference.

The initially stiff fork loosened up quickly, boosting front-end behaviour, and the soft roll of the tyres, a comfy saddle and shapely seatstays all help smooth the ride out back. Despite its heft the Orbea is a lot of fun to ride. A few riders felt in need of a wider bar, but the backsweep effectively shortens the stem’s reach and combines with the geometry to give great handling on challenging trails. Fast rolling tyres help disguise the bike’s weight on climbs too.

Frame: Efficient ride posture

The radically ovalised down tube is reinforced behind the head tube, as is the top tube. There are rack mounts plus two sets of bottle bosses and the long top tube stretch promotes a very efficient ride posture. The seat and chainstays are curvy enough to provide loads of heel clearance for riders with large feet at the same time as helping to muffle trail shocks from the rear wheel.

Curvy seatstays help stifle some of the shocks from the rear wheel. We used to be unsure about this, as there’s other stuff going on in bike builds. But after experiments swapping tyres, wheels, seat posts and saddles between bikes we decided that curvy stays do seem to give a slight comfort advantage over straight ones.

Equipment: Not as well equipped as some at this price

The RockShox Tora fork has adjustable rebound damping, effective lockout and preload adjustment. A steel coil sprung fork like a RockShox Tora will be heavier than its air sprung equivalent (Recon) and lighter riders may find they need a lighter spring to achieve maximum performance. But coil sprung often proves to need less servicing than an air sprung alternative, and heavier riders (say 220lb/100kg) will often prefer the performance of coils.

The drivetrain is a 27-speed mix with XT out back, cost cutting Alivio up front, plus dependable Deore cranks and shifters. Shimano clipless pedals are included, which is unusual at this price. Formula RX brakes are probably the best low budget hydraulics and 160mm rotors are more than adequate. Most XC trail bikes come with 160mm braking rotors, like this, but some have 180mm rotors up front. If the brakes themselves are good enough, like the Formulas on the Orbea, then 160mm is fine. But if you like to do a lot of big downhills, go for 180mm so that you use less energy pulling at the brake levers. It’s easy to upgrade rotor size at a later date.

It’s good to see Shimano hubs on a bike at this price. Tough Mavic 117 rims are shod with Hutchinson Python 2in tyres; they’re fast and grippy in the dry but block in sticky mud. Unfortunately our test bike’s wheels came with lots of loose spokes: we had to tighten them all twice during rides. We’d have preferred a slightly wider bar than the 25in one fitted too. The saddle is a slim, comfy but white Selle Qbik.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

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