When Orbea launched the Loki, it was one of the first 27+ hardtails on the scene. I rode the Spanish brand’s top-spec Loki H-LTD on the slopes of Ainsa, Spain, and were shocked by how fun, confident, and fast it was.
I wanted to get one on more familiar terrain before putting pen to paper and judging it with a score. This time I went for the mid-price H10. So would our Spanish soirée turn out to be a mere holiday romance?
The 3in Maxxis Chronicle tyres offer impressive traction
Orbea markets the Loki 27+ as a hardcore trail hardtail, with a little added comfort, traction and confidence offered by the big tyres. When you first hit the trails though, the fat rubber doesn't appear to make up for a lack of rear suspension.
Bumps are still transmitted to your back end and there’s a little more undamped bouncing from the rear when riding seated over rough ground. After doing a lot of testing on Specialized’s plus-size tyres, I started with 18/19psi in the Loki’s Maxxis Chronicles, but soon found Maxxis’ stiffer sidewall allowed me (I'm 83kg) to comfortably go down to 16/17psi.
This helped with climbing comfort hugely. Smaller bumps and loose stones were dealt with extremely well, with impressive climbing traction even with poor technique. Some techy climbs, which regularly challenge us on regular trail bikes, were no problem on the Loki, especially with its low gearing option.
Long stem shortcomings
When descending, the stock 90mm stem was as welcome as ther proverbial fart in a space suit, causing wildly unpredictable handling. Our test bike in Spain came with a 60mm stem, so we replaced this one with a similar item, which made the XL frame feel a touch cramped when climbing for my 6ft 3in / 190cm frame, but transformed the handling.
We swapped the 80mm stem for a 60mm one for improved handling
Tackling really technical descents, the Loki was able to take on rooty, loose and off-camber lines, which had previously pushed enduro bikes too far. In muddy conditions though, there was a definite lack of traction from the smooth-treaded tyres, especially under braking, but the huge mechanical grip was sublime in the rough.
The 120mm base-level Performance damped Fox 32 fork is unsupportive, and easily bottomed out despite using just 15% sag. It dived through its travel when cornering hard, causing wayward handling. We soon learned to run it in the medium compression setting, and would recommend adding more volume spacers to add support. It also suffered from flex and binding when tackling steep and rough descents, but to some extent the big, soft tyre made up for this.
As usual, Shimano’s Deore brakes performed brilliantly while the Shimano XT/SLX shifting equipment worked fine, although a huge gearing gap between the 22/36t chainrings tends to kill momentum when shifting to the granny ring at the foot of a climb.
Some of the Loki's test loops were completed in blisteringly fast times
Orbea’s Digit seatpost is halfway between a fixed post and a dropper. A groove down the back keeps it straight and you can pre-set the upper and lower heights for rapid raising and lowering on the trail. Ours got really sticky after being splattered with mud, though, and you still have to stop to raise or lower your seat height.
Tyre clearance is tight in the rear – just 5mm each side with the 3in rubber – and our Northern English tester Guy Kesteven had issues with rubbing chainstays with a previous Loki H-LTD test bike. This one had no such problem, though.
You might imagine that plus tyres are slow and draggy. Not so. In back-to-back timed testing, we’ve found them to be only marginally draggier on tarmac, while they offer less rolling resistance over rough terrain. The more abrasive the ground, the more the terrain-smoothing effects give the bigger tyres the edge in speed.
We took the Loki round the blue and red loops at the Forest of Dean, on the English / Welsh borders. On the fast but bumpy final descent of the blue trail, I was second out of 11,850 Strava times for this segment. I think the fast-rolling Chronicle tyres are what did it.
Clearance is tight at the rear
Depending on what pressures you run, the big tyres give a certain vagueness and disconnect from the trail, which some riders may simply find less enjoyable. But they also offer a huge advantage in terms of comfort, confidence, and speed too.
They also open up a range of different line choices and make those previously unattainable climbs possible. I for one am a big fan.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.