Orbea Orca M11i LTD review£6,799.00

A new Orca makes a splash

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The latest Orca’s lines are more, well, normal, than some Orcas of old, which stood out with angular tube shapes and profiles that may have defeated radar. This bike’s glossy black paint accentuates the flowing curves, with only a hint of designs past behind the head tube.

The Orca’s wide, flat top-tube and rounded down tube flare massively where they meet the slim hourglass head tube, and with the outwardly curved fork legs, suggest plenty of front-end rigidity.

The straight, asymmetric chainstays are a huge 50mm deep when exiting the BB386 Evo bottom bracket, and very slim seatstays lead to the seat clamp, which is hidden between the top tube and seat tube, allowing the greatest length of seatpost to flex. This apparent combination of beef where it’s needed and subtlety in between seems ideal.

Those relatively conventional lines cloak a frameset of real finesse
Those relatively conventional lines cloak a frameset of real finesse

My 55cm example’s 168mm head tube meant almost no spacers for my 178cm height, and the 25mm offset seatpost allows plenty of scope for the long-legged rider. Somehow it manages to suit tall, brawny rouleurs as well as featherweight mountain climbers, although anyone wanting a very low position may need to investigate angled stems.

It’s a smooth ride, able to dismiss erupting tarmac with no more than a dull ripple

Those relatively conventional lines cloak a frameset of real finesse. The chunky head tube area, plus outward curving, slim fork legs give an unwavering root to any leverage on the compact bar. It’s composed at all speeds, with a light, positive feel, but just a few extra watts of input sees velocity increase. Steep climb hauling or deep drop sprinting result in your energy being channelled rearwards as focused acceleration with no trace of torsional flex.

A 50/34 compact with 11-28 is a fine all-round choice, though less racy, and the Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon rims are 24mm wide, 40mm deep with great lateral rigidity and decent braking. They’re light and responsive enough to complement the frameset’s ability, and the ideal depth to blend decent aerodynamics with handling agility. Their rim profile is pretty modern too, minimising crosswind interference and keeping things predictable.

Whether flicking around potholes or pushing down a descent, it’s surefooted and stable
Whether flicking around potholes or pushing down a descent, it’s surefooted and stable

Crisp sudden direction changes and confidently carved corners were highlights of my time with the Orca. Whether flicking around potholes or pushing on down a descent, the Orca’s surefooted and utterly stable. This is more impressive considering its 991mm wheelbase, and that this is the first top race bike we’ve seen in a while that’s come with 23mm tyres.

Now that 25mm has become the new standard, the thought of narrower rubber didn’t fill me with great joy, but the Fulcrums opened the Vittoria’s carcass out to a more useful 24.5mm. Orbea says the frameset is good for 27mm tyres.

It’s a smooth ride, able to dismiss erupting tarmac with no more than a dull ripple. Maintaining the frame’s smooth lines, SRAM’s Red eTap is like a hi-spec declutterer, doing away with two cables and simplifying shifting. The overall weight of just 6.58kg confirms the Orca’s heritage.

The latest Orca has transitioned in to a road terrain-neutral all-rounder that’ll satisfy anyone looking for a great bike to race or just enjoy covering ground rapidly on.

Tyres aside, it’s a well-specced package, with no major elements that don’t hold their own, and the frameset even has a lifetime warranty.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Robin Wilmott

Tech Writer, Tech Hub, UK,
Robin began road cycling in 1988, and with mountain bikes in their infancy, mixed experimental off-road adventures with club time trials and road races. Cyclocross soon became a winter staple, and has remained his favourite form of competition. Robin has always loved the technical aspect of building and maintaining bikes, and several years working in a good bike shop only amplified that. Ten years as a Forensic Photographer followed, honing his eye for detail in pictures and words. He has shot at the biggest pro events since the '90s, and now he's here, drawing on all those experiences to figure out what makes a bike or component tick.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 178cm / 5'10"
  • Weight: 75kg / 165lb
  • Discipline: Road, cyclocross, time trials
  • Beer of Choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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