“The Orca isn’t for everyone”. These are not the words of a jaded journalist who has seen it all, but of Orbea who invited us to the Basque brand's homeland to try out its redesigned race machine, the Orca.
Orbea Orca design
The approach Orbea has taken to designing the new Orca is quite unique. In a world where every bike claims to be a percentage-point more cushy and easier handling, the Orca is an unapologetically aggressive race bike that Orbea has tried to keep as light as possible whilst maintaining a high level of stiffness.
Starting with the frame, Orbea has moved to laser cut carbon sheets for 2017 (just like the new Avant, which we covered earlier) and has begun to use a full EPS foam mould, which makes for better compaction and thus a stiffer frame.
Orbea was also keen to point out the layup is altered for larger sized frames to keep the ride quality consistent as rider weight increases.
Orbea claims that it could have made the Orca even lighter, but found that the stiffness of the bike was compromised when things became too feathery. And as Joseba Arizaga, the brand’s product manager, quite rightly points out, “what is an extra 20g anyway?”
Having said that, there’s no excess blubber on this Basque cetacean, with the frame coming in at a claimed 795g and fork at 315g, a drop of around 120g over last year's model.
Gone is the seat-binder of old and an integrated, wedge system is now used to keep the top tube as clean as possible. A similar system is used on Cannondale's Synapse, but this version is slightly more user friendly with a simple, 5mm bolt accessible from the drive-side of the bike, rather than in-front of the seatpost. This makes for much easier adjustments if you don’t have a ball ended Allen key or skinny multitool to hand.
You guessed it, discs
Unless you’re chronically tech-deaf, you will have heard that discs are here and they’re going to stay. Orbea is behind discs in a big way for 2017 and the Orca is touting stronger stoppers on many of its models.
12mm bolt thru-axles and flat mounts are used throughout the whole range from Orbea, in line with most manufacturers.
It’s almost heart-warming to see that ‘the industry’ is beginning to adopt something looking like a standard for disc brake implementation on road bikes, though we’ll just have to wait and see how long it is until we have some new standard to moan about.
Orbea took a taste of the aero Kool-Aid and although temptingly delicious, they declined the full punch bowl with this year’s Orca, instead focussing more fully on stiffness and weight.
The only aero tweak of note is the adoption of Freeflow, first seen on the brand’s TT bike, the Ordu. Freeflow bows the legs of the Orca’s forks outwards, keeping them away from rotating spokes in an aim to reduce turbulence in this area with a claimed saving of four watts at 40kmph.
At the request of Orbea’s pro-riders, the fork has also been shortened by 5mm and stiffened up considerably (a claimed 20 percent increase) in a bid to improve the handling characteristics up front.
Orbea Orca finishing kit
Our test bike, the M11iLtd (£6,399, €7,999, US$8,999) comes with a full eTap groupset, Fulcrum Racing Quattro wheels and carbon FSA finishing kit. A very tasty package.
Our test bike came with 25mm Vittoria Corsa tyres, but has the ability to run 28mm wide rubber should you want more cush. This is very welcome on such a race oriented bike.
Whilst we noted that the (recommended) maximum tyre width of 28mm for the Avant was a little disappointing, this number is more appropriate for the Orca.
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).
But with over 18 different models to choose from, there should be an Orca to cater to every budget.