The Orca has been a stalwart for Orbea and the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team for years, undergoing subtle changes over time. With Samuel Sánchez – 2008 Olympic road race champion and King of the Mountains in last year’s Tour – and 82 years of experience to call on, those changes are usually positive.
Available as a complete bike in a variety of builds, we tested the GDR with a Dura-Ace mechanical groupset and compact chainset.
Orbea’s AIZone (Aerodynamic Investigation Zone) project used a wind tunnel to work on the Orca’s aerodynamics. This resulted in a claimed 14 percent reduction in drag, achieved by altering tube profiles and reducing the gaps between frame and wheels. It retains the Orca look, though is more angular when viewed from the front – when the flowing ribbed surfaces and foil shaped tubes are evident.
Using Orbea’s Gold ultra-high-modulus carbon fibre throughout, the ride is very firm, and we made more effort to avoid small holes and cracks in the road, but it’s still no jackhammer – more like a coiled spring, poised and ready to strike.
The massive bottom bracket shell offers instant response, chunky box-section chainstays transferring every watt to the rear wheel. The stays remain close to the wheel, flaring out at the dropouts. The beefy triangular profile seatstays provide a muscular rear end that feels more refined than we had expected.
Mavic’s Ksyrium SLR wheels and Yksion tyres are a great foil for the Orca. They’re light, and the Ksyriums are torsionally stiff with a very effective braking surface, although the Mavic/SwissStop blue pads squeal under heavy braking. They may not be the most aerodynamic wheelset, but make great, punchy all-rounders – which is a fair description of the frame as well.
Handling isn’t that relaxed, but steering response is razor sharp, while unswervingly stable when tapping out a rhythm on the flat. The lateral stiffness of the frame and fork gives great cornering confidence downhill, and it’s a bike that likes to be hustled. Climbing performance is excellent, although the Orbea carbon bar and stem were more flexible than we’d like.
From minimal head tube stops, the gear cables run in contact with the down tube inside sealed Gore Ride-On sleeves, the rear continuing under the chainstay via a small elbow until a stop near the rear derailleur. The benefits are cables that are essentially hidden, as they are hard to spot, with less aero drag than normal external cables, but over rough surfaces they rattle annoyingly against the down tube.
The last word? Orbea offer a lifetime warranty on all frames, with no rider weight limit.