Orbea’s 2020 Terra M20 certainly stands out from the crowd with its wild yellow/black frame and lime green/orange fork. And if you’re going to make this much of a statement in the looks department then you’d better have the chops to match (for the less extrovert rider, there are also anthracite/silver grey and black/red options).
Thankfully, the Terra scores highly in the chops department and it’s all down to the way in which the bike feels both off- and on-road.
Geometry is close to Orbea’s endurance range. @JuanjOtazu / Immediate Media
The Terra’s geometry is a little different: the fork, for example, is a touch longer than a standard road fork. Orbea says this allowed it to design an amount of flex into the lower two-thirds while maintaining rock-solid rigidity at the head tube – in effect giving a direct steering feel while allowing flex to create comfort. A smart piece of design and, most importantly, it works.
Although this gravel machine comes equipped with 40c tyres, in these days of monster gravel bikes going way wider than that, I thought I’d challenge this bike off-road.
It comes with Vittoria Terreno tyres but I switched to Schwalbe’s G-Ones and despite traction in sloppy mud lacking, on rocks and roots I found the front end to be superbly balanced.
Comes with Vittoria Terreno, but we switched to G-Ones. @JuanjOtazu / Immediate Media
The back-end is pretty accomplished, too, with a unique carbon fibre layup used through the head/seat/top-tube junction and above the rear dropouts. This ‘dynamic structure’, as Orbea calls it, is designed to absorb vibration and therefore smooth things along as you ride.
There could be a risk that by increasing the compliance at the back you’ll sacrifice some of the torsional rigidity of the bike, causing movement laterally, which could make it more difficult to track straight when being bounced from rock to root and beyond.
The Terra fork has fittings for racks and ’guards. @JuanjOtazu / Immediate Media
But the experience with the Terra is one of riding a bike that feels absorbent over rough terrain, and it has such well-balanced steering responses it makes an ideal companion for when you want to ride challenging off-road terrain but not get caught out with a laborious stretch on the tarmac in-between trails.The geometry of the Terra is close to that found on Orbea’s endurance range and on bikes such as the Avant, so there’s a reasonable 600mm stack and 392mm reach on my large test bike.
Orbea has, however, lowered the bottom bracket (to take into account larger tyres) and lengthened the chainstays for a longer, more stable wheelbase.
The Terra has always been one of the more versatile gravel machines around with its familiar geometry and excellent on-road manners. And with a set of road tyres this is a very capable endurance bike so it’s worth considering investing in a second set of wheels to make the Terra a one-bike-for-all solution.
Gravel-specific setup with 1x gearing from Shimano GRX. @JuanjOtazu / Immediate Media
If you’re looking for more of a gear spread than this 1x set-up, Orbea also offers 2x-equipped models (the closest to this spec is actually slightly cheaper), and you can customise the specification of this version and change the paint scheme using Orbea’s online MyO tool, which will calculate the cost of any upgrades as you go.
So, if your budget stretches to lightweight carbon wheels, or you prefer a different saddle, these will be factory-fitted for you before you buy.
Impressively, the custom paint is a no-cost option, so if you fancy having your name – or whatever you want to call your bike – emblazoned on the frame, you can do so without handing over any extra cash.
The gravel-specific gearing of a single, 40-tooth chainring and an 11-40 cassette is perfect for off-road duties, where lighter gears mean agility when the going gets steep or sticky underfoot.
It’s fantastic to see Orbea spec a chain device on the front ring, working in conjunction with the clutch-equipped rear mech that all but eliminates chain bounce and slap on rougher rides – with the added advantage that it makes dropping your chain a thing of the past.
The Terra will see you traverse terrain it has no right to be on. @JuanjOtazu / Immediate Media
The downside of such off-road specific gearing, however, is that on the road the Terra is left a little wanting at the top end.
A 40-11 is good to spin you up to the mid-20mph range but at a frantic cadence. So, if you’re riding with double-equipped friends, prepare for an aerobic workout.
Spinny gearing aside, it’s a wonderful on-road machine: the handling is lively, yet the Terra feels stable and Schwalbe’s G-Ones fizz along on tarmac and grip well with none of the squirmy feel you get with more aggressive treads. They are a little bit slower than a road-racing slick, as you’d expect.
Back-end ‘dynamic structure’ is designed to absorb vibration. @JuanjOtazu / Immediate Media
For the money, Orbea offers a great package with the Terra. Shimano’s gravel-specific GRX 810 is Ultegra grade, it performs superbly and the bike comes with quality Ice Tech rotors for squeak-free braking.
The OC2 bar and stem are simply excellent – the bar has just enough flare to help on the rough stuff but is not so oddly wide as to feel weird on the road – the seatpost is carbon and the Selle Italia X3 saddle is comfortable too.
Fulcrum’s mid-range Racing 6 wheels run on smooth hubs and aren’t overly weighty at 1,680g a pair, which means that the bike’s overall heft is competitive for one at this price point.
New OC2 components are a cut above the usual own-brand kit. @JuanjOtazu / Immediate Media
There is a lot to like here: it’s a blast to ride, well-equipped, light, lively and well-priced, too.
Orbea Terra M20-D1x GRX geometry
Sizes (* tested): XS, S, M, L*, XL
Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
Head angle: 70.5 degrees
Seat tube: 59cm
Top tube: 57cm
Head tube: 18.2cm
Bottom bracket drop: 6.8cm