Orbea Loki H-Ltd review£2,159.00

Plus-sized Basque bike is a mixed bag

BikeRadar score3/5

Named after the Norse god of chaos and mischief, this long and low, custom configurable hardtail is a lot of bike. But is it too much in places?

A few clearance issues

The Loki frame has some neat touches, but also causes potential rear end clearance issues for rider and rubber. The tapered head tube is backed up by stout curved main tubes to hold the 15x110mm axle Boost fork on target. A conventional threaded bottom bracket (BB) shell with ISCG chain guide mount makes for a versatile, durable transmission point.

Related: Orbea Loki 27.5+ - first ride

The side exit for the internally routed cables at the bottom of the down tube gives smooth-looking lines, the rear derailleur sits on a forged direct-mount arm and there are fixtures for a front derailleur in case you tick the 2x10 gearing option on the build menu. You can also select which of the three paint options (pale blue, yellow or black) is applied in Orbea’s in-house shop.

The teensy 28t chainring will winch you up some ridiculous climbs:
The teensy 28t chainring will winch you up some ridiculous climbs:

The teensy 28t chainring will winch you up some ridiculous climbs

The decision to make the Loki work with either plus-size or taller 29in wheels means the BB is very low in default trim. Despite a driveside chainstay plate and relatively long rear end, the Orbea has surprisingly tight mud clearance too, and leg rub is a real issue.

As well as offering colour choices, Orbea’s online bike builder lets you switch to a double crankset, add an MRP chain guide or upgrade the bar, stem and brakes. The standard kit list was fine for us though. The direct-mount rear derailleur and XTR shifter mean ultra-crisp shifting from the 1x11 Shimano XT based transmission, and the 28t Race Face chainring gives proper crawler gears for the climbs. The slick Kashima-legged Fox 34 fork adds stiffness and smoothness up front, and the well shaped Race Face cockpit, Fizik saddle and RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post are quality control- and comfort-enhancing components.

Ready to get rowdy

It’s obvious straight away that the Loki is ready to look for trouble. The wide, 35mm diameter bar and short stem mean maximum feedback through the cockpit as well as plenty of light-touch leverage.

The direct-mount rear derailleur helps coax ultra-crisp shifting from the 1x11 Shimano XT based transmission

The 34mm-legged Fox fork with its broad Boost stance gives a connected feel to the front wheel too. Add a relatively relaxed head angle and very low BB and the Orbea has confident swagger on the trail. If conditions are dry enough to keep the bulbous Maxxis tyres hooked up, that means you can throw it down the throat of the steepest, twistiest descents with reckless confidence. The short stem means you can Scandinavian Flick the front wheel off line to drop the weight of the bike hard into turns. The long wheelbase and low centre of gravity then mean extended slide control as you twist your hips to rip it round as hard as possible.

Despite the big Maxxis rubber and flattened rear stays the Loki is relatively rigid, with a rather thumping ride feel on harder, rockier trails. That makes correct pressure settings even more crucial, but once you’ve found the sweet spot (we settled on 10-12psi, with slightly less up front) it still lets you cane your way down seriously rocky descents with a much more planted, impact-ignorant feel than you’d get from a hardtail running smaller volume 650b or 29in tyres.

The big Maxxis tyres roll surprisingly fast, but are frustratingly limiting

The lively ride feel extends up the far side under power too, and while their bulbous volume means they can start bouncing at low revs, the Maxxis treads roll surprisingly fast, with excellent rock and root swallowing speed sustain. Grip in the dry is impressive, allowing the tiny 28t chainring to winch you up some crazy climbs.

Fair-weather friend

While the Loki is a lot of fun on steep, techy stuff, it’s frustrating in other places. For a start, the tyres are treacherously useless in wet wintry conditions, sliding wildly and spinning out just when you think their big footprint might be a bonus. There’s no shoulder on them to even try to initiate the counter steer needed to lurch the ultra-stable bike into turns, which tends to mean multiple coaxing tweaks to get it onto target on flat or climbing trails. There’s no tyre change option on the Orbea menu either.

We had a lot of fun with the loki on dryer technical descents:
We had a lot of fun with the loki on dryer technical descents:

We had a lot of fun with the Loki on dryer technical descents

While this is an issue with all plus-size bikes, not just the Loki, the wide tyres also catch rocks and rut edges, scrubbing or twisting you off line on sections you hadn’t even registered as a challenge. That’s compounded by the super-low BB, meaning regular sumping out or crank clatter moments. The super-wide rear stays regularly contact your calves and shoes when pedalling too, and we’d polished all the paint off them and got raw patches on our legs within just a few hours’ riding.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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