Land Rover’s Vorbano hardtail boasts a classy carbon frame with interesting looks and a comfortable, conﬁdent ride, but a carbon frame on a £1400 bike means spec compromises and it’s harder work uphill than its competitors. If the Land Rover badge appeals, this is something a little out of the ordinary.
Not a lot of people know that Land Rover makes a decent bike range. In the past few years they have been aimed at relative beginners, although they’ve built a few specials for adventure race teams.
This year there are several really classy bikes in the line-up, including two carbon-framed models – this, and the Kuvarra at £1199. Both would be perfectly capable of tackling the occasional race – but, at nearly 28lb, the Vorbano is the heaviest bike on this test as well as the most costly.
Ride & handling: comfortable, controlled but hefty
The Vorbano is a comfortable bike with well sorted, neutral-handling geometry that boosts conﬁdence simply because it feels relaxed.
There’s barely a hint of unwanted ﬂex if you get out the saddle and stamp on the pedals, and a set of proper off-road tyres would add considerably to the bike’s prowess through rocky, rooty singletrack– the WTB NanoRaptors ﬁtted are a semi-urban compromise.
While the belt-and-braces, cautiously overbuilt approach of the Vorbano sits well with the Land Rover corporate identity, it also adds heft.
You can feel that heft on the climbs. The carbon frame and 100mm travel fork combine to perform a nice job of taming trail shocks, but the Vorbano is harder than similarly-priced hardtails to pedal up to speed and to get up hills. That’s despite the fast-rolling tyres, which we would change, as they spin out far too easily on greasy or loose climbs.
Chassis: super-stiff carbon
Land Rover describes the Vorbano as a “carbon ﬁbre monocoque frame with unique tube proﬁles and shapes, designed through its construction to disperse stresses and maximise strength”.
Laterally, it’s incredibly stiff, which isn’t surprising if you take a close look at the heavily triangulated and bi-axially ovalised proﬁling of every single bit of the frame apart from the seat tube.
The pot-bellied down tube and a top tube that swoops straight into wishbone seat stays are distinctively different from the mainstream, and seem to divide riders into love/hate aesthetic opinion camps.
Structurally, though, everything makes a lot of sense, from the braced rear triangle by the rear disc brake to the double-bolted seat clamp and triple-bolted gear hanger. There’s masses of mud room but only one set of bottle mount bosses, presumably because an extra set on the down tube would interfere with its structural integrity.
A RockShox Recon 100mm travel fork is a good choice here, because it’s plush but sturdy, with nicely controlled and adjustable damping, and a lockout dial on top of the right-hand leg.
Equipment: okay, but downspecced to make way for the carbon frame
The components on the Vorbano are not as good as you’d score on an aluminium-framed bike at this price. The Shimano Deore XT Shadow rear mech is welcome, but the Deore crankset and shifters would be more at home on bikes at half the price.
Still, the WTB SX24 rims are decent enough, and the 2in WTB NanoRaptor treads are fast-rolling if not among the grippiest offerings in the wet.
Avid’s Juicy Three brakes are merely adequate – like the saddle, seat post, bars and stem – but you can’t expect to get classy lightweight components as well as a carbon frame at this price.
Summary: more Freelander than Defender
The Land Rover Vorbano may be more semi-urban Freelander than pure Defender, but it’s more than a Chelsea tractor, and it really wouldn’t take much to make it a thoroughbred. In fact, decent treads might be enough.
You can’t get away from the fact that the Vorbano doesn’t offer the low weight that you might expect if you’re buying a carbon-framed bike, but that’s just a function of the price. If it cost another £500, the weight savings in better quality parts would be noticeable.
This poses the question: is it worth going for a carbon frame on a bike at this price? We’d have to say no if you’re looking mainly for low weight. However, the Vorbano is worth a look if you want an interesting frame on which to upgrade eventually.