The newest Orcas have been designed to blend the latest in carbon lay-ups and low weight while introducing some aerodynamic elements.
This is most apparent at the front, where the shaped and smoothed head tube is accompanied by a wide-legged fork with narrow but deep legs. The semi-aero down tube meets an oversized bottom bracket shell, while the wheel-hugging bladed seat tube rises to meet a diamond-shaped seatpost.
- Highs: Beautifully balanced handling, smooth ride and excellent equipment
- Lows: Issues with a slipping seatpost
- Buy if: You want a true racer’s machine with more than enough comfort for sportives
A further nod to aerodynamics is the full internal cable routing. But unlike some companies Orbea uses permanent internal channels. This makes the Orca easier to re-cable than most and means it stays rattle-free on the road.
The cutaway shows the Orbea’s racy intentions
The narrow seatstays and chainstays kink outwards quite sharply before the rear dropouts. Orbea claims this helps them to dissipate vibrations and prevent road buzz from reaching you. And over broken surfaces the frame and fork certainly do a good job of nulling road noise. Yes, the overall ride is quite firm, but it is never uncomfortable – which is a difficult trick to pull off.
We like the fact that Orbea fits size -specific stems, our 57cm test bike coming with a 13cm stem rather than the usual ‘10cm whatever the frame size’. This long, low position places the rider over the cranks and enables you to generate maximum power when seated while still giving you plenty of room to get out of the saddle and attack on the hills.
Despite being racy as hell, this Orca won't leave you bruised at the end of a long day
In spite of that racy setup the handling proved reassuringly neutral, hovering between the relaxed nature of an endurance bike and the snappy handling of a circuit racer. Like a Grand Tour machine this is the perfect jack of all trades. On fast descents it holds no surprises, it tracks perfectly through fast corners and doesn’t bite back (unlike an actual orca) even in mid-corner corrections.
Its kit is just what we’d expect at this price: a full raft of Shimano’s excellent 11-speed Ultegra, with no cost-cutting measures on the drivetrain or brakes. The 50/34 chainset and 11-28 gearing is ideal for most riders, offering a gear range low enough for most climbs and high enough for fast efforts.
The standard M50 comes with Mavic’s Aksiums. We went for the Mavic Ksyrium Equipe upgrade. This is the default high performance alloy wheelset: tough, light and very well put together (though we’d have preferred 25mm rubber to the 23mm Yksions fitted).
It all looks very neat, but we had problems with a slipping seatpost
Our only issue was with the carbon seatpost. This is fitted using a beautifully machined fluted seat clamp, with a Torx bolt securing an internal wedge. It should have proved a neat solution, but our post was very prone to slipping – getting scored as a result. Carbon prep did hold it, but Orbea should have pre-treated it or supplied some carbon prep. After all, you really don’t want to be left mid-ride regretting having packed a Torx-less multi-tool.