Orbea’s Orca has for decades been the brand’s top-line race bike, from its orange-clad glory days of the Euskaltel Euskadi team right up to 2017’s sponsorship of Cofidis.
The sea of orange-clad fans look set to return for 2018 with the revival of the Euskadi team in a co-sponsorship deal with Spanish clothing brand Exteondo.
- The Orbea Orca Aero M20 Team is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
Orbea has taken the template of the lightweight Orca and evolved it into a thoroughly modern aero race bike. The new chassis has been developed to combine light weight and cutting-edge aerodynamics for an all-up weight of 7.8kg for my 57cm test bike.
The frame’s shape follows current aero bike trends, with a sloping top tube and oversized down tube meeting an aero-profiled seat tube, which closely follows the rear wheel’s radius. The seatstays are minimal and dropped low down. Tubes are based around the Kamm tail profile.
At the front, Orbea has its own ‘freeflow’ fork design, featuring slim (from the front) fork legs that are deep in profile with an extremely bow-legged shape. According to Orbea, this is to reduce turbulent interference between the fork legs and the spinning wheel.
The front and rear of the bike are designed around Shimano’s direct-mount rim brake standard, which means a lower profile brake with improved tyre clearance, and in my experience a far superior feel at the brake lever too.
The geometry combines parallel, steep 73.2-degree head and seat angles, a short wheelbase of just a metre and short 408mm chainstays that look even shorter thanks to that cutaway aero seat tube. That adds up to an aggressive and racy ride position, but not one that feels as stretched as some aero-shaped road bikes.
Orbea Orca Aero M20 Team customised
The standard Orca Aero M20 Team retails at £2,799 / $3,999 / AU$4,999, but as with pretty much all of Orbea’s range you can take advantage of the MyO — My Orbea — options list. So, I upgraded to DT Swiss’s new 32mm-deep aero-profiled alloy PR1600 Spline wheelset.
These tubeless-ready, 1,725g-a-pair hoops are paired with DT’s excellent straight-pull hubs, the rim has a wide 18mm internal dimension which helps to shape the tyres beautifully. I also opted for Vittoria’s brilliant Corsa G+ 25mm tyres.
I splashed out on a carbon-railed Selle Italia SLR (only £19 more) and Vision’s brilliant one-piece aero bar, the Metron 5D, as found on Orbea’s pro-level Orca Aero. It’s a £51 upgrade, and retails for £550.
You can also choose your gear ratios with 11-25, 11-28 and 11-30 for cassettes and 50/34, 52/36 and 53/39 for the cranks. I stuck with the standard 50/34, 11-28 option, but in hindsight reckon the Orca Aero would benefit from a 52/36 up front paired with either the 11-28 or an 11-30, because new Ultegra can handle the increased capacity.
Orbea Orca Aero M20 Team ride impressions
On flat ground the Orca holds onto speed willingly, and its responsive handling makes putting it into sharp corners a thrill, with the agility of the bike allowing you to make subtle corrections confidently.
I love Shimano’s latest direct-mount brakes, which offer better levels of feel than any other rim brake I’ve tried. Combined with the machined DT Swiss brake track, they offer oodles of power and impressive performance in the wet or dry.
When the gradient rises, the Orca feels like it was built for climbing more so than an aero bike has any right to. It descends very well too, it may not have the stability of a longer wheelbase, but the handling is fast and never drifts into being twitchy. Those Vittoria tyres inspire confidence with their high grips levels too.
The Orca Aero is definitely on the firm side compared to race bikes such as Cannondale’s Evo or Specialized's Tarmac, and is leagues behind more endurance-biased bikes like the Roubaix, Cervélo R3D or Cannondale Synapse.
That firmness doesn’t mean the Aero is harsh, by keeping the spine of the bike — from the head tube down to the bottom bracket and rear dropouts — it feels so good when you’re pushing it hard or sprinting. It’s solid, flex free, without a hint of brake rub, with impressive responses.
Orbea Orca Aero M20 Team overall
The new Orca Aero is an accomplished bike, it takes the advantages of aero and combines them with an agile race machine, with little of the downsides from aero road bikes of old; neutral handling, extra weight and either an uncomfortably stiff ride or too much flex in crucial areas.
I also love Orbea’s MyO website options where you can eke out your money, choose the gear ratios you want, even customise the frame colours and add your name to the top tube.
Interested in what else is available at this price point? Have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed bikes.
- Trek Emonda SL6 Pro
- Cannondale SuperSix Evo Dura-Ace
- Cervelo R3D Ultegra
- Specialized Roubaix Comp
- Giant Propel Advanced Disc
- Argon 18 Krypton CS
- Specialized Tarmac Expert
- Willier Cento 1 Air Ultegra
- BMC Team Machine SLR02 Disc Two
- Simplon Kiaro
- Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0 Di2
- Lapierre Pulsium 500 Disc
- Bergamont Grandurance Elite
- Genesis Zero Disc 3
- Sensa Guilia Evo Ultegra
- Ridley Helium X 105