Orbea’s range used to be simple. The Orca was the racer’s choice, the Avant the sportive option. For 2021 the Avant is now an aluminium bike, and there are two distinct Orca framesets: the OMX and OMR.
The more expensive Orca aero models feature Orbea’s OMX frame while my more sportive-friendly Orbea Orca M20 has the OMR frame.
This is constructed from high-modulus carbon fibre and has a claimed weight of 1,030g for a 53cm frame, while the OMX frame weighs 830g.
You won’t be surprised to hear that Orbea claims the Orca M20 is 10 per cent more compliant than the 2020 OMR Orca Team bike, with greater stiffness in power transfer areas and a lower weight than the 2020 standard modulus frameset.
One difference that demonstrates the diverging aspirations of the OMX and OMR frames is the OMR’s endurance-friendly OC1 riser handlebar – similar to Specialized’s Hover Bar – which increases the effective stack height by 15mm.
As with its more expensive OMX brethren, my Orbea Orca M20 features the Spanish company’s very neat ICR front end, which routes all the cables neatly through the bar, stem and headset for a clean look and improved aerodynamics.
The Shimano Ultegra-equipped Orca M20 has a retail price of £2,799, though I used Orbea’s MyO – ‘My Orbea’ – online customisation program to upgrade the wheels, tyres and saddle, which nudged the price closer to £3,000.
Orbea Orca M20 frameset
The Orbea Orca M20’s OMR frame and fork offer compliance over poor road surfaces and a riding position that’s more relaxed than a race bike’s – even more so with the Orca’s riser bar. But while it’s not slammed like a full-on race machine, the Orca’s riding position isn’t so relaxed that you’re in slow-motion cruiser mode.
And though the Orca comes with 28mm tyres as standard, there’s room for 35mm rubber if you want further comfort and greater all-road capability; the racier OMX will only take up to 32mm tyres.
The frame and fork come with some well-considered details that make the Orca easy to live with. Many of Orbea’s rivals use a wedge-style seat clamp in the top tube for a clean look and improved aerodynamics. Yes, it’s effective, but the resulting bolt angle can be difficult to reach with a torque wrench.
Orbea puts the bolt through the side of the frame at the junction of the seat tube and top tube junction – it’s neat, simple, torque wrench-friendly and makes it easy to adjust saddle height.
Orbea has also adopted the Mavic-developed Speed Release system for the Orca’s dropouts. Speed Release uses a 12mm axle that screws into the dropout like a standard thru-axle but the lever side has a slotted dropout, allowing you to release and do up the axle in five turns rather than the usual 10.
A rubber ring stops the thru-axle sliding out completely so that you never need to remove the thru-axle entirely to switch wheels. This makes changing a wheel quick and clean, and reduces the chances of contaminating the axle’s grease when you’re repairing a road-side puncture.
Orbea Orca M20 geometry
There are a few subtle differences between the OMR’s sportive-friendly geometry and the more aggressive geometry of Orbea’s OMX chassis.
My 57cm test model’s 597mm stack compares with the OMX’s 597mm figure. This combines with the OMR’s shorter reach – 395mm compared with 398mm – to deliver a slightly shorter, marginally more upright riding position, though the differences aren’t that extreme.
But we’re not talking sit-up-and beg here, especially as the OMR-framed Orca M20 shares the same steep parallel 73.2-degree head and seat tube angles as the OMX.
The OMX and OMR framesets also share the same 43mm offest fork design. And though the bikes come with different size tyres – 28mm for the OMR-framed Orca, 25mm for the OMX – the resulting trail figures are within a millimetre of each other, 59mm for the Orca, 58mm for the OMX.
I think Orbea’s idea of fitting a riser bar as standard to achieve a more endurance-flavoured riding position is a smart one. This keeps the ride comfortable for newer or improving riders and if your fitness or flexibility improves, you can swap to a non-riser bar rather than having to invest in a new bike.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74||73.7||73.5||73.5||73.2||73.2|
|Head angle (degrees)||71||71.5||72.2||72.8||73||73.2||73.2|
|Seat tube (cm)||44||46||48||50||52||54||57|
|Top tube (cm)||51||52.3||53.5||54.8||56||57.6||59|
|Head tube (cm)||10.5||11.3||13||14.8||16.8||18.6||21.3|
|Fork offset (cm)||4.8||4.8||4.8||4.3||4.3||4.3||4.3|
|Bottom bracket drop (cm)||7.2||7.2||7.2||7||7||7||7|
|Bottom bracket height (cm)||26.7||26.7||26.7||26.9||26.9||26.9||26.9|
Orbea Orca M20 kit
The Orbea Orca M20’s most distinctive feature is its ICR – Integrated Cable Routing. This is Orbea’s tidy and user-friendly take on internal cable routing.
There are aerodynamic benefits to routing cables through the bar, stem and head tube but the trade-off can be the need for special components and maintenance headaches. Orbea’s ICR greatly simplifies the system.
It’s not only tidy but makes the Orca easy to pack for travelling, which is just what you want on a bike built for sportives and gran fondos.
At 100g shy of 9kg, the Orbea Orca M20 isn’t that light, though I suspect a disproportionate amount of the overall weight comes from its rolling stock. And that’s after I ticked a few of the boxes in Orbea’s MyO customisation program.
Orbea’s MyO is an online tool that offers you a series of custom options, calculating the cost of upgrades as you go. It’s available on most of Orbea’s carbon and high-end alloy models and is a feature that few mainstream brands offer, especially those selling on the high street rather than online.
One further feature of MyO is that you can also customise paintwork, even having your own name – or whatever you want to call your bike – emblazoned on the frame.
This is done at no extra cost and only adds a slight time delay to your order because Orbea keeps most of its frames in their raw state ready for painting to order.
MyO’s final benefit is that the finished bike is delivered to your Orbea dealer – so you get the full-service support of your local bike shop.
The standard Orbea Orca M20 costs £2,799 and comes with own-brand Orbea wheels, Vittoria Zaffiro tyres and a Selle Royal Seta RS saddle.
I upgraded to Fulcrum Racing 700DB wheels for an extra £79, tubeless-ready Vittoria Rubino tyres for £25 and a ProLogo Dimension saddle, which added another £29 but is one of my favourites.
I do wish that I had also ticked the £25 tubeless kit option because the Fulcrums, while being well-made and durable, weigh nearly 1,800g and, when you add road tyres and inner tubes, their extra mass does dull the Orbea’s pick-up and acceleration.
If I’d gone for a full tubeless setup I’d have also got the most out of Vittoria’s Rubino tyres. Vittoria has improved these for 2021, the graphene-infused compound gripping well in poor conditions, but the Rubino is still heavier than a top-of-the-range tyre.
Shimano’s mechanical Ultegra shifts as reliably and accurately as it usually does, with the compact chainset and 11-30 cassette pairing ideal for the sporty sportive rider.
This sees you up the steepest ascents, without leaving you short of a high top gear when you want to hustle the Orca along. The hydraulic disc braking, aided by Shimano’s IceTech rotors, is the equal of the gearing.
Orbea Orca M20 ride impressions
The combination of the Orca M20’s capable compliance over rougher road surfaces and a slightly relaxed riding position makes it a smart choice for long-distance riding. It’s a comfortable ride but still retains much of the swift handling of the Orbea OMX frame I tested at its launch.
It has a direct feel and reacts well to your steering input, but there’s a level of vibration damping that keeps the Orca in check over poorly surfaced roads.
The OMR’s 27.2mm seatpost also adds a little more rear-end plushness than the OMX frame’s dedicated aero post.
Orbea’s Orca M20 does feel slightly less impressive when the road starts to rise. There’s no problem with frame stiffness as it successfully balances tautness and long-distance comfort, but the weight from the tyres and inner tubes make for a sluggish feel when climbing.
Even when I was punching hard out of the saddle there was always that slight feeling of being held back, as if you’re riding into a headwind.
But once you’re over the top there are no issues descending on the bike. Wheel weight isn’t a factor here and the Orbea Orca M20’s stiff, well-balanced chassis comes into play.
The sporty ride position, great control from the Ultegra brakes and swift steering show the Orca M20’s potential to the full.
Orbea Orca M20 bottom line
Orbea’s Orca M20 is well sorted from the off. Its contact points – Orbea’s OC1 riser bar and the ProLogo Dimension saddle – are excellent – the latter chosen through Orbea’s MyO program.
The Orca M20 is very capable over rougher surfaces, the geometry lends itself to distance riding without being too laid-back and Orbea has put a lot of thought into its features.
The Integrated Cable Routing (ICR) is clean-looking, aerodynamic and makes the Orca easy to pack for travel. Its side-access seat clamp is easy to adjust and the Speed Release axles make changing wheels a quicker and cleaner affair.
Even with the MyO upgrade to Fulcrum Racing 700DB wheels and Vittoria Rubino tyres, the Orbea’s rolling stock was middling at best, taking the edge off the Orca’s climbing and acceleration credentials.
But Orbea’s Orca M20, with its nimble handling, all-round comfort and smart design touches, still makes a great sporty sportive machine.
And not forgetting Muc-Off, for its help keeping the bikes washed and lubed throughout testing.
Road Bike of the Year 2021 contenders
Thirty-two of the best bikes ridden and rated…
- ARC8 Escapee
- Basso Venta 105 Disc
- BMC Roadmachine TWO
- BMC Teammachine SLR TWO
- Boardman ADV 8.9
- Boardman ADV 9.0
- Boardman SLR 8.9 105
- Boardman SLR 9.4 AXS (winner)
- Cannondale SuperSix EVO
- Cannondale Topstone Lefty 1
- Cervélo Caledonia-5
- Cinelli King Zydeco
- Genesis CDA 30
- Giant Contend AR 3
- Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1
- Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc
- Lapierre Xelius SL 5.0
- Orbea Avant H60-D
- Orbea Orca M20
- Pearson Off Grid
- Planet X London Road SRAM Apex 1 Disc
- Ribble CGR Ti Pro
- Ribble Endurance 725 Base
- Ribble Endurance Ti Disc
- Rondo HVRT CF1
- Sensa Giulia GF
- Specialized Roubaix Sport
- Specialized S-Works Aethos
- Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7
- Trek Domane AL 5
- Van Rysel EDR AF
- Vitus Zenium Tiagra
|Available sizes||47, 49, 51, 53, 55, 57, 60cm|
|Brakes||Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc|
|Cassette||Shimano 105 R7000, 11-30|
|Cranks||Shimano Ultegra, 50/34|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Ultegra R8000|
|Handlebar||OC1 Road riser (15mm rise)|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Ultegra R8000|
|Seatpost||Orbea carbon 27.2mm|
|Shifter||Shimano Ultegra ST-8020|
|Tyres||Vittoria Rubino tubeless-ready 28mm|
|Wheels||Fulcrum Racing 700 DB|