Compared with many of the curved swooping frames prevalent today, Orca’s Orbea has a distinctive, more angular, modernist design. While those sharp angles, ridges and sculpted cable stops all make for a bike that’s beautifully realised, it isn’t all just about surface gloss.
Testing in the wind tunnel has optimised those ridges and the profiling, and Orbea’s designers claim that this has improved the bike’s wind-cheating abilities. Unlike with most modern frames, however, Orbea have chosen to keep the major cable routing external. They claim that the straightest cable runs with the least interference offer the best shifting performance. That makes sense, and the Orbea Bronze’s gold medal shifting quality certainly seemed to back this up.
In a break from the norm, the Orca doesn’t have internally routed cables
It’s rare that we get to test a company’s base model and pro-level bikes so close together. We recently tried out Orbea’s euskaltel-euskadi GDR team bike, and riding the Bronze so soon afterwards we were surprised at just how different the two outwardly similar bikes are.
The GDR is taut, stiff and responsive in its hi-mod carbon guise. This, however, is made from Orbea’s bronze level carbon. While the Bronze’s handling is still as sharp and quick to respond as its more exotic sibling, this is countered with a smooth, buoyant feel from the unique rear end.
Its large box-section chainstays stay tight to the rear wheel before kinking outwards a few inches in front of the rear dropouts, with a diagonal transition where it meets the dropout.
The seatstays start with a monostay design, twisting in their profile along their length. The extra surface area compared with a conventional rear end, and the quality of the carbon, give the back of the Orbea a suppleness that we found most welcome over longer distances – though it’s never too soft to be detrimental to the purposeful ride.
Most of the Orbea’s £1,800 cost has gone into the frame, as its spec is closer to that of a £1,500 bike. The Shimano 105 drivetrain is what you’d see at £1,500, and you might expect to see an upgrade or two – we’d certainly have expected Shimano brakes. Fortunately, Orbea’s own Pro dual-pivot brakes have plenty of stopping power and a decent soft compound pad.
The wheelset is also quite modest for a bike at this price, and Shimano’s WH-R500 wheels and Vittoria’s Rubino tyres don’t make for the lightest hoops. The wheels are tough enough, but the Rubinos lack sparkle and their wet weather performance is average at best. We’d expect more for the money.
The same is true for the finishing kit, although it all functions well. The aluminium bar and stem create a stiff cockpit and contribute to the bike’s sharp handling, while the standard drop bar has a distinct flat shape at the top curve which is comfortable when riding on the hoods.
The quality of the frame keeps vibration and chatter to a minimum. The parallel 73-degree seat/head geometry, mid-height head tube and a wheelbase less than a metre long result in a bike that’s more racy than comfort-orientated in its proportions – but which offers a smooth, supple and very rewarding ride when you’re out on the road.
We certainly enjoyed our day-long 120-mile test ride on the Orca – though we’d still have liked to have seen better wheels for this kind of money, and definitely better tyres.