There is a strong tradition of cooperative ownership in the Basque country and Orbea, on the brink of collapse in 1969, was bought out by its workers and has remained as a cooperative ever since.
It is perhaps because every employee gets something back for their efforts that everyone we spoke to at Orbea exudes a genuine enthusiasm for the brand and truly believes in what they produce.
And whilst me and a gaggle of other journalists shuffled about between veiled bikes before our presentation, there was a palpable sense of excitement from the Orbea team as they prepared to show off their updated Orca, the flagship model of the brand.
While I may have left the presentation impressed, it was time to see if the bike would perform as promised...
Orbea Orca highlights
We covered the features of the updated Orca in our first look, but just to keep things fresh, here are the highlights;
- Stiff frameset with an aggressive, racing stance
- Claimed weight of 795g for the frame and 315g for the fork
- Clearance for 28mm tyres
- Adoption of 'Freeflow', aero technology from Ordu triathlon bike
- Integrated seatpost binder
Orbea Orca spec overview — as tested
- Frame: Orbea Orca OMR
- Fork: Orbea Orca OMR
- Seatpost: FSA K-Force Light SB25
- Handlebar: FSA Energy Compact
- Stem: FSA OS-99 CSI
- Levers: SRAM Red eTap
- Rear derailleur: SRAM Red eTap
- Brakes: SRAM Red
- Cranks: Power2Max FSA K-Force Light BB386EVO
- Cassette: SRAM Red eTap 11-28
- Chain: SRAM Red
- Wheels: FULCRUM Racing Quattro Carbon
- Tyres: Vittoria Corsa 25c
- Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio
Orbea Orca frame and equipment
If you’re looking for an aggressive, racy fitting bike, the Orca’s geometry numbers should tickle your fancy. The bike comes in odd-numbered sizes however and looking at the stack and reach alone, my 57cm test bike came out both longer and lower than a 58cm Trek Emonda, a similarly spirited race bike. So pay attention before you take the usual ‘take a size down, slam the stem’ route if you’re after a bum up, head down position.
It’s also worth noting that the Orca now comes in two different flavours of fit: the top-end OMR and the mid-range OMP. These use the updated, more aggressive geometry, while the entry-level OME is based off of last years Orca, with a more upright and regal stance.
Orbea Orca ride impression
The first few kilometres of our ride took in a winding road along a cool wooded valley, warming up the legs nicely before an improbably steep set of ramps spat us out on a col, high above the coast.
Even with the bike’s relatively compact 28x34 gearing, this climb demanded a proper out of the saddle effort as you rounded each hairpin bend and the bike responded well.
The big boxy chainstays, which are wrapped around the chunky BB836 bottom bracket shell, resisted any discernible flex at the rear end, allowing me to attack the climbs like the bike’s namesake would a helpless seal.
Similarly, the front end never felt noodly despite my best efforts to pull the bars off the bike as I heaved up the hill.
Weighing in at a competitive 1,550g (claimed), the Fulcrum Quattro wheels also spun up easily and were plenty stiff for my relatively light 66kg when I was out of the saddle.
After the climb, we had a spicy 4km descent back to the coast with lots of long, sweeping corners along a beautiful road which clung onto the edge of a wooded gorge.
No bike will actively resist going in the direction you point it in, but after only a few corners to get used to how the Orca behaved, I felt able to take tight lines at the reckless speed you would expect from a rowdy youth like myself.
In part, I think this is down to the fork which felt reassuringly stiff even whilst doing my best fighter pilot impression, pulling what felt like impressive Gs in the tightest of corners.
Our ride took us through an area still dominated primarily by agricultural activities, with tractors leaving behind a familiar trail of mud on many of the roads. The difference was that compared to the wetter climes of my native UK, this mud had dried rock-hard under the unforgiving sun, becoming something best described as a poor man’s pavé.
So potentially sacrificing life and limb in the glorious name of cycling journalism, I intentionally sought out this broken ground to check out how the Orca performed when things got choppy.
As you would expect of such a stiff bike, riding over rough stuff is not exactly a pleasant experience as the bike bucks about beneath you, but with a little bit of funky body geometry it can be brought back under control fairly easily.
Just like the new Avant, Orbea has dropped the top tube of the Orca to keep as much of the 27.2mm seatpost exposed as possible.
With my long legs requiring a relatively high saddle, the effect was quite pronounced on my 57cm frame and my tush never suffered despite the bike being specced with the somewhat unforgiving Selle Italia SLR Carbonio saddle.
The seat stays have also been reduced to twig-like proportions in an aim to dampen the effects of general road buzz and whilst certainly not compliant on bigger bumps, the ride was very smooth on rolling roads.
Although the bike will never handle as well as an endurance road bike during the bigger hits, the bike has been updated to improve the level of comfort over the course of a long day in the saddle.
Orbea Orca early verdict
Although I won’t draw conclusions after only 50km, I left very impressed with the Orca and Orbea as a brand. Whilst the bike is undoubtedly stiff, it’s not jarring. Whilst it’s responsive, it’s not twitchy. Confident is probably the best word to describe the overall feel of the bike.
Orbea also clearly takes pride in what it produces, assembling and painting all of its bikes between Spain and Portugal and backing them up with a lifetime warranty.
For £6,400, US$8,499 you’d certainly hope for no less, but if you’re after an aggressively poised, race ready machine, the Orca is well worth your consideration.
Orbea Orca pricing and availability
The Orca is available to order now from your local Orbea dealer with the range starting at £1,399 / €1,799 / US$1,899 for the M30, which carries over last year's frame all the way up to the lavish M10iLtd disc at £6,799 / €8,499 / US$8,999, which features the brand new Dura-Ace 9100 groupset (Australian pricing unavailable at time of writing).