There were several contenders for the winner of the naturally fast yet technically tenacious XC/trail 29er sub category of Trail Bike of the Year and this well-equipped, naturally sorted, user-friendly and infectiously rapid all-rounder from the Basque Country is definitely up there.
For a start the triple-butted frame makes the Occam one of the lightest bikes on test, despite its 29erwheels. The short ‘Advanced Dynamic’ kicker linkage and rear-axle concentric pivot combine to deliver an efficient and well-balanced suspension action even if you run the compression damping fully open, with fine tuning easy via the extra three-position low-speed compression fine tuning on the gold Kashima-coated Factory shock.
And it doesn’t throw its travel away, so you can push it hard through punishing terrain as long as you use its precision to stay clear of, or finesse, the really big stuff. The Factory fork is similarly smooth and tunable, and at 120mm travel isn’t over stretched in terms of stiffness.
Combined with the stout down tube, asymmetric 148mm-wide Boost rear axle, yoke-mounted shock plus seat stays and rear top-tube section that’s exactly aligned with the shock loads, it’s a very accurate chassis despite its low weight. The DT Swiss Spline wheels with their straight-pull spokes and Boost-width hubs are equally light and accurate, underlining the naturally precise and responsive feel of the Occam.
As a result, while the 68-degree head angle elicits faster steering than some of the other 29ers here, the stiffness and communication make it actually feel more on point and controllable. The 740mm-wide bar and 60mm stem are appropriate to its XC/trail character and together with the sorted suspension it just feels ‘right’ as soon as you’re aboard.
Apart from the obvious lurch into the biggest 46t sprocket of the rear cassette, the XT gears benefit from a direct-mount derailleur to stay accurate and positive. While all the bikes are built to order near Bilbao, they are delivered to your local Orbea dealer for final set-up so you’ve got local dealer support but with internet price advantage.
Despite being one of the cheaper bikes on test for Trail Bike of the Year, the only thing obviously missing is a dropper post. While the auto-align ‘Digit’ seat post sounds a good idea, it rapidly becomes sticky in muddy conditions. Note that the online options buffet gives a Reverb option for £239 extra. I’d also recommend switching the tyres so that the grippier Forekaster is on the front not just the back, but that’s the only odd aspect of an outstanding high-velocity package.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.