Orbea Orca M20 review

This Orca’s no whale, but is it a killer on the climbs?

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £2,399.00 RRP

Our review

It’s average value on spec, but the Orca is a rider’s delight
Buy if, You want a pedigree racer that does everything well
Pros: Balanced ride quality, funky frame
Cons: Deserves bigger and better tyres
Skip to view product specifications

Based in the Basque country where you’re never more than spitting distance from a mountain, Orbea is an obvious pick when talking about lightweight climber’s bikes.

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It’s worth noting that we recently rode the updated Orca which has undergone considerable changes for the 2017 model year – you can check out our first look here. The outgoing bike is still on sale at the time of writing however, and now is the perfect time to be hunting for a bargain.

One-time arms manufacturer Orbea has been making bikes for the better part of a century, and its Orca is a pure racer that’s campaigned by French Pro Continental team Cofidis. On test we have the second-tier frameset, which gets Orbea’s slightly lower-grade OMP carbon rather than the top-spec OMR stuff. Nevertheless, the frame is claimed to be 180g lighter than its predecessor at around 1,050g, as well as offering the usual cocktail of improved stiffness and compliance.

The Orca’s frame looks like it was sculpted by somebody with an imagination rather than mere CAD skills. Its lines are complex and varied, with the paint job and the two-tone bar tape playing pleasing counterpoint to one another.

Orbea's lightweight Orca M20
Orbea’s lightweight Orca M20
Courtesy

Where the colour scheme has the top-tube flowing cleanly into the seatstays, the transition in the actual tube shapes is more angular and abrupt, and it’s mirrored by the suggestion of a kink at the other end where it meets the head-tube.

There’s a similar sense of symmetry between the fork legs and the seatstays, both of which flare outwards a few inches above the dropouts, and if you look on the insides of the fork and the stays, you’ll notice a cool geometric pattern. Just to be different (or more likely because it’s torsionally stiffer), the down-tube sports a cross-section that’s approximately diamond-shaped.

All this trigonometric tomfoolery would look silly if it didn’t translate into a good ride, but mercifully it does. The experience on the road is difficult to describe because it’s very well balanced and doesn’t lean to any extremes, but the total effect is compelling.

Although there’s a hard edge to the Orca that you’ll notice if you skim through a row of potholes, vibrations are well damped; as long as you haven’t gone too large on the sizing you should have a good length of seatpost to flex over bumps.

Shimano Ultegra brakes
The Orbea is fitted with Shimano Ultegra brakes
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Orbea’s done itself a bit of a disservice by fitting not-very-special 23mm Vittoria tyres. They do nothing to flatter an otherwise excellent machine, and slightly fatter rubber should be a no-brainer even if your riding is confined to relatively lovely Euro tarmac. Ours isn’t, but still the Orca’s composure shines through.

In out-of-the-saddle sprints, the bike stays arrow straight, and it’s stiff enough that none of your power feels wasted, even with the fairly modest Mavic Aksium wheels. It also feels springy and alive on the climbs, and precise on the descents.

The Mavic Aksium wheels are a modest, yet still dependable, choice
The Mavic Aksium wheels are a modest, yet still dependable, choice
David Caudery / Immediate Media

There’s little to fault on the spec front too — the short-drop FSA ergo bar is better suited to smaller hands and we didn’t love the part-shiny finish on the cockpit, but those are personal things.

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The paint job doesn’t thrill, but that’s mainly because we know how amazing this frame looks in Team Cofidis colours. Orbea gives you a full Ultegra groupset, hanging off a race-geometry frame that’s funky and different in addition to being very smartly engineered. The Orca is a wheel upgrade from being genuinely lightweight, but either way it’s a lovely machine.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Orca M20
Brand Orbea

Available Sizes 47cm 49cm 51cm 53cm 55cm 57cm 60cm
Rear Wheel Weight 1660
Wheelbase (cm) 97.5
Top Tube (cm) 54
Standover Height (cm) 77
Seat Tube (cm) 45.5
Chainstays (cm) 40.5
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 27.5
Wheelset Mavic Aksium Elite
Weight (kg) 7.62
Trail 6.5
Stem FSA Energy 110mm
Shifters Shimano Ultegra
Seatpost FSA SLK Carbon 27.2mm
Seat Angle 73.5
Saddle Prologo Scratch 2 Tirox
Rear Tyre Vittoria Rubino Pro 700x23mm
Bottom Bracket PF86
Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Headset Type FSA
Head Angle 72
Handlebar FSA Energy Compact 40cm
Front Wheel Weight 1240
Front Tyre Vittoria Rubino Pro 700x23mm
Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Frame Material Orca OMP carbon
Fork Offset 4.25
Fork Orca OMP carbon
Cranks Shimano Ultegra 172.5mm, 50/34
Chain Shimano
Cassette Shimano CS-6800 11-28
Brakes Shimano Ultegra
Frame size tested 53cm