This summer, what seems like forever ago now, Orbea invited us to their headquarters in Mallabia, Spain, to see the operation and witness the launch of their next generation Occam. During the tour, we spotted what we thought was a new carbon Rallon, but in fact, it was the Occam…we just wouldn’t know that until the next day, and by then we were asked to keep mum. Until now.
The 2012 Occam is a complete overhaul of the model, taking the Advanced Dynamics suspension design introduced with the Rallon (intro, review) and putting it into a more trail/enduro oriented bike. Truth be told, this is an entirely different animal. Where the Rallon is short and punchy, the new Occam is stretched out and, well, we’ll get to the ride in a bit. First things first, let’s look at the bike…
OCCAM DEVELOPMENT OVERVIEW
Orbea’s product manager had quite a presentation for us. Here’s the (lengthy) takeaway:
Orbea’s development of new bikes starts with consumer research, talking to better riders and seeing what they want in a dream bike. They also talk to their leading dealers to learn what their customers are asking for, both from Orbea and their competitors. From there, they build prototypes and test with their riders and consumers.
For the Occam, the new model was designed for riders that want comfort and performance on all-day epics full of tough climbs, technical descents and plenty of singletrack. It was also designed to help fill that elusive goal of having one bike that can do it all. Basically the new Occam was designed for riders who dream of doing the Trans-Alpine, Trans-Pyrenees or other endurance stage races filled with all the elements mentioned above. (Breck Epic anyone?)
Two interesting things that Orbea’s market research showed during the Occam’s development process were that innovation and price were low priorities among their target consumer. The main concerns were reliability, weight and the overall performance quadfecta of geometry, stiffness, suspension and design.
The Occam has been around for years in a simple single pivot design. When they developed the Rallon, they created a new linkage design called Advanced Dynamics. The AD design has proven successful for them with good sales on the Rallon, so it they adapted it for the new Occam.
The AD design is the product of three years of development that included funding from the EU. The funding allowed Orbea to do university tests of the bike as a package to see how tire pressure, tubeless tires and suspension parts impacted performance, traction and efficiency.
Once it was dialed in the lab, they considered it 90% right and moved from the computer to the trail. With the Rallon, that real world testing meant four prototypes before they had it where they wanted.
With the Occam, it only took two prototypes before they had the performance dialed. That was last fall. So, why the delay in getting it built and launched?
Because, as MTB Product Manager Xabier Narbaiza put it, bicycles are not a rational purchase, they’re emotional. After all, for €5,000 you could get a decent motorbike and not have to pedal. So, the bike’s design needed to light a fire.
To do that, they studied architecture, automobiles and modern design and developed two themes: smooth and sleek, and strong and powerful. Based on the original consumer input, the smooth and sleek won out. Personally, the Rallon covers the strong and powerful pretty well, so I’m glad to see the smooth, sleek idea. The end result is a bike that fits in the Orbea family but looks light, fast and smooth.
Once the design and performance are nailed, then it’s time for the details. Fast prototyping let them reduce overall development time from 2-3 years to 18 months, letting them look at current trends and standards and get the bike out quickly to meet current riders’ needs. The entire bike was made in 3D printers and built up to finalize shapes and tooling. This speeds up the process immensely versus ordering a prototype from a manufacturing partner. On the computer, the 3D modeling was good, but seeing an actual 3D mockup helped them tweak the details and artwork in days rather than months. It also let’s them test crankarm, ring and tire clearance in the real world before ordering the very expensive tooling.
Lastly, they take the final design, get production protoypes, build them up and do the final FEA and real world testing in their in-house torture chamber. If you recall from our visit to their factory, they test way beyond CEN standards, which Orbea says means this bike will last for many, many years of hard riding.
SPECS & SUSPENSION OVERVIEW:
Frame weight’s came in under their 2.4kg goal. The carbon frames come in at 2.2kg (4.85lbs) for a size medium with shock. former Occam was 2.7kg. The hydroformed alloy frame is 2.6kg (5.73lbs). Other basic specs are:
- 123mm rear wheel travel
- 2 frames, 9 models
- X12 and 9mm compatible rear end
- Trail & AM packages
- Specific Fox tunes on rear shocks
- MyOrbea custom orders w/ no upcharge
ADVANCED DYNAMICS SUSPENSION
Advanced Dynamics suspension has a fine tuned main pivot with shock tuning and trail specific leverage ratios for pedaling efficiency and traction. Called Diamond Link, it has a two-stage suspension curve that is very soft for the first half of the travel, including the sag. At the halfway point, the curve heads back down and firms up. They used Fox’s lowest compression ratio shock (200×51) so that the bike could get full travel put of the design.
C9-12 CONCENTRIC REAR AXLE
Orbea developed a new rear axle mount that combines both a 12mm thru axle and 9mm QR into the rear pivot (above, left). You simply use the “chip” that’s appropriate for the axle/hub you have. Orbea says the design is unique from other concentric designs, and that it is about 100g lighter than competing designs. Versus the Rallon’s swappable dropouts with a higher pivot, Narbaiza says it’s quieter and offers better braking performance.
Another improvement over competing designs is that it’s narrower (199.5mm versus 220mm for Trek’s ABP Race), meaning it’s less likely to hit rocks or trees in tight sections. It also uses large 17mm ID sealed ball bearings wrapped in a stiff, ribbed frame design.
Regarding patents, which Orbea’s is pending, there are actually concentric pivot patents for bicycles from 1890 (H.A. Becker), 1902 and 1922, and from what they say, Trek’s ABP patent pertains to their entire floating suspension design. Of course, anyone can sue anybody for anything, but Orbea says they will protect their patent application around how the design is narrower and that it uses the concentric design as a structural element rather than just a braking performance.
The main pivot uses double 6902 2RS bearings on a 15mm thru axle that sit inside an alloy sleeve built into the frame on both the carbon and alloy models. Lastly, the system has an expanding double cone that tightens the system into place as the axle is bolted in, making sure there is no slop.
From 2008 to 2012, the Occam’s geometry has changed:
– shorter chainstays (423 to 420)
– designed for 120-140 forks
– slacker headtubes (68.5-67.5)
– vertical seat tube (74.5-73.5)
– longer top tube and shorter stems (612mm effective TT on Med)
– lower BB height for better COG (327mm)
The cable routing on the original Occam wasn’t loved, so they spent a lot of time fixing this with the Cable Routing Highway. Aesthetically, it keeps the cables lined up nicely on the top of the downtube, which won’t be very visible while riding. The front derailleur cable runs internally, and Orbea says they learned from their road bikes to make it super easy to change out. Functionally, the new routing also keeps the cable housing off the headtube, which means it won’t rub the paint or carbon.
The Occam gets full ball bearings at the shock linkage, too. Orbea says this is not only more durable than the bushings, but they have less stiction. In fact, they even worked with Fox to get shocks without bushings in the rear shock mount, letting it roll on bearings, too. Both the top and bottom linkage pivots rotate on 15mm thru axles, which should keep it very stiff laterally and allow the suspension to do it’s job without side load stresses that can impair shock performance.
CARBON vs. ALLOY FRAMES
Orbea classifies their carbon fiber frames as Gold, Silver and Bronze. For the Occam, they chose Silver fibers because they offer better elongation properties. Translation: it’ll have better impact resistance than their stiffer Gold fibers that are used in their top road bikes.
It has a monocoque construction so that there are no joints in the front triangle, which can be weak spots. Orbea says this is particularly important for frames meant for hard riding and, again, lets them offer such a strong warranty.
The chainstays are carbon, but the seat stays are alloy. Orbea says the heat dissipation of alloy is better for the piece that brakes mount to, and it was simpler and stronger to make the entire piece from alloy rather than bond a carbon tube to an alloy brake mount. Carbon yoke (linkage) is also monocoque and is 25g versus the 58g forged alloy linkage (shown earlier in the post, alongside a rapid prototype piece).
On the alloy frames, Orbea forged both the alloy linkage and post mount rear brake mount for better strength versus CNC’d bits.
Carbon frames get a tapered headtube, alloy are straight.
In 2008, Orbea and Hutchinson co-developed the Cobra for the Occam. For 2012, they developed a new Cobra 2.25 TL Race Ripost Compound that will come on their top models with tubeless tires. Orbea will have the first year exclusive on this new tire.
3 Trail (S10 S30 S50)
1 AM (S30X)
HYDRO (ALLOY) MODELS
3 Trail (H10 H30 H50)
1 AM (H30X)
1 Dama version with different component selection for women, but same frame.
Prices range from $1,500 to $6,000. Any version can be configured with the AM setup through their MyO customization program on their website. Some of the options are shown above…you can basically build it up however you want if you don’t like the stock offerings on the showroom floor.
Why not Kashima? Narbaiza says they did testing with the Kashima shocks and couldn’t feel a difference. Part of that is because they used full bearing construction. On the fork, he said the new seals make the forks so smooth that the added cost of the Kashima coating wasn’t necessary. Lastly, it was also partly a cosmetic decision. The gold on black just wasn’t the look they wanted.
The bike is designed and built to last a long time and comes with their lifetime warranty.
MORE PHOTOS AND TIDBITS – CARBON
The rear shift cable and brake hose split around the seat tube. The rear shift cable housing had a tendency to run on the small ring, making a va-va-va-va-va-va-va-va noise until I figured out what it was and zip tied it to the chainstay. Not an elegant fix, bit it worked, and it’s visible on one or more of the other photos in this post.
There’s a mount for a cable guide under the top tube intended for dropper seatposts.
The dropouts/concentric pivot design is a real treat, allowing use of standard or 12mm thru axles without any tooled adjustments. Just swap in different spacers (the red bit in this photo).
The front shift cable pops out of a small port just in front of the BB shell, runs through a channel and straight up to the FD. Note the zip tie holding the rear shift cable housing to keep it from rubbing the granny. We’re hoping this gets a prettier solution but it works.
The attention to detail even in spots you don’t even see all that often is impressive. Other than that RD cable run near the chainrings, the bike appears really well designed and put together.
MORE PHOTOS AND TIDBITS – HYDRO
The steerer tube looks like it could be tapered. Alas, it’s straight. From a distance, it’s hard to tell the alloy frame apart from the carbon ones. The hydroforming mirrors the tube shaping extremely well.
The Hydro models also get the swappable rear pivot/axle design.
PRELIMINARY RIDE REVIEW
Here’s the tough part. Only the carbon frames were available for us to test ride, and they were still preproduction. We U.S. journos came in on the end of their press weeks, but it looked like we were the only ones that touched the XL sizes…all three of us were over six feet tall and 180lbs+. From what we can gather, all of the prior groups were tiny, thin European cyclists that had very different thoughts about the bike.
Here’s what I think was good: Like the Rallon, the suspension works flawlessly on the downhills. It’s dialed, to be sure, and the addition of the concentric rear pivot is really, really nice. It simply soaked up every bump, rock, root and drop easily and smoothly. I think they’re right about it not really needing the Kashima coat.
Here’s what needs improvement: The front end was nowhere near stiff enough. I had to work really hard to hold a line, and doing the old shimmy-the-handlebar test showed a lot of front end frame flex. The result is that I simply didn’t feel confident bombing down trails that shouldn’t have been a problem. Part of the issue was the long-ish top tube combined with a long stem. That improved somewhat on the second run after I installed a shorter stem, going from 120mm down to 90mm. I could have used a 70mm. I did feel better the second run, but the bike still required a bit of guiding around the corners that a shorter bike wouldn’t need.
Also, from a spec standpoint, I’d recommend against the high end Mavic CrossMax if you’re building it up. There were a lot of them getting completely knocked out of skew and I think one pair was pretty much destroyed on the type of riding we did. For a 120mm bike, go with a burlier set of wheels.
Important Caveat: Orbea says they’ve stiffened up the front triangle 20% versus the bikes we rode. We also only had a few short rides on them, and they were all lift-served descents with virtually no climbing. My own playing around gives me the impression it should climb well, but that remains to be seen. We’ve got dibs on some of the first models to arrive in the U.S. and will be testing both the carbon and alloy bikes in several sizes to see how they perform on familiar trails in final production form. The new Occam has a lot going for it, so we’re hopeful. Stay tuned…
Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that, from what I can tell, virtually all of the testing, R&D and consumer research was done with European customers, dealers and athletes. They’re working on a 29er version, and that one’s using a lot of input from Orbea USA (we might even get to test a prototype here!).
It’s also worth mentioning that Orbea’s product manager and designers were pretty receptive to our comments on the bike’s performance, so we’re anxious to see how the carbon model turned out…and to throw a leg over the alloy one, too.