Orbea’s flagship road bike has gone through many iterations over the years, always improving, and thankfully, the current design is the best yet. Even better, the Orca M32 brings all that trickle-down tech to a very affordable level.
- The Orbea Orca M32 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.
The semi-compact monocoque carbon frame has a wide bottom-bracket shell and huge asymmetric chainstays with girder-like proportions.
In profile, the down tube and chainstays are about the same depth where they join the shell, but the rectangular shape of those stays makes them very prominent.
The seatstays are larger than average, but slim towards the seat tube, where their junction is slightly dropped below the top tube for added seatpost compliance. Up front, the hourglass head tube blends into the straight and slim-legged fork’s very narrow crown.
I found the 55cm Orca to be the equivalent of most 56cm frames, with plenty of length if you like room to manoeuvre while riding, and the 175mm head tube let me get low enough. The geometry keeps normal 73 and 73.5 angles, but has 408mm chainstays for a tight rear triangle, and a relatively short 991mm wheelbase.
At this price point, I’d expect to see a slew of own-brand finishing kit, but Orbea only indulges with the well-finished alloy stem and carbon 27.2mm seatpost.
FSA supplies the handlebar, and Prologo the fine Kappa RS saddle. The compact bend of the Omega bar is good, and very stiff, but it didn’t feel able to dampen road vibrations sufficiently to match the rest of the bike.
Ergonomic and light
This Orca’s tale of forward motion involves the precision of Italian engineering combined with Spanish brawn.
Campagnolo’s Shimano 105 rival, Centaur, is a viable alternative with beautifully ergonomic hoods and levers, light but positive shift feel and its own style that allows you to have something a little different from the norm.
Centaur’s dual-pivot brakes have good feel from the moment you pull the lever, and consequently, great braking modulation with plenty of force.
From a standing start, the Orca’s beefy back-end delivers a firm shove forwards as soon as you turn a pedal. It’s not superbike-quick, but this is far from superbike money, and its acceleration is keen enough to be a lot of fun.
Campagnolo’s Calima wheelset keeps the M32 on brand, and does a reasonable job of delivering the performance that the frameset and drivetrain crave.
The average width, 24mm-tall rims benefit from 2:1 ratio spoking at the rear, helping transmit energy, but the wheelset’s 1,850g mass, plus skewers, does limit their immediacy. Shod with Vittoria’s 25mm Rubino tyres, progress is efficient, with predictable, if mildly noisy, corner grip, and no shortage of pace.
Climbing feels efficient, and sustaining speed over rolling roads isn’t overly strenuous. Driving along on the flat is made better by the classy-feeling saddle and super-comfy hoods, but when going downhill or with a tailwind, the Orca really flies, feeling totally planted and race-bike quick.
No matter what sort of roads I pointed the Orca at, it handled everything with nonchalant ease, and displayed neutral but satisfying handling even through the most technical sections.
Great steering precision, that short wheelbase and a fairly low bottom bracket aid cornering stability, and the frameset, with lots of exposed carbon seatpost, does a good job of absorbing road vibrations and mellowing bigger hits. Only the handlebar doesn’t quite match the same standard.
What the Orca M32 does offer is great quality and an understated build that looks like a far more expensive bike, but really is quite a bargain.