First Look: Orbea Occam 29’er
Orbea are a bike company from the Basque Country in Northern Spain. Better known for road bikes and high end cross country race bikes, Orbea have slowly been expanding their range to include enduro / all mountain bikes like the Rallon and trail bikes like the Occam. Orbea launched the new model Occam 26″ bike last year (read our report here), but it has taken them almost a further year to release the Occam 29’er.
Recently we visited the Basque Country to test Orbea’s Occam 29’er on the trails that helped to shape it – read on for the specifications and first impressions.
The Occam 29’er will come with two frame options, a carbon version weighing 2.3kg and an aluminium version weighing 2.7kg. The carbon version sticks with aluminium seatstays which Orbea feel offer a better stiffness-to-weight ratio. The bike has 100mm rear suspension and uses the same concentric rear axle pivot point as the Occam 26’er and Rallon. This system is similar to Trek’s ABP design, however when I asked Orbea about this they said that there are no patent issues. They asked that I print the following statement as well, just to clarify their position.
“In the recent past, some media have published articles that could have mislead the reader into thinking that Orbea does not respect other companies’ patent rights. This is far from true. Orbea deeply respects the valid patent rights of its competitors and encourages others to do the same. In parallel, Orbea works on patenting their own inventions and enforcing its own patent rights. With regards to Occam, its rear concentric suspension system design does not infringe any valid patent rights of our competitors.”
The attention to detail in the frame is impressive and there are lots of innovative ideas. For example, the Fox rear shock has bearings instead of bushings where it attaches to the rear linkage. This offers better small bump sensitivity (an opinion shared by others) and should help with longevity. Also, the main pivot link uses an aluminium insert which tightens on an expanding cone, offering perfect alignment and increasing the stiffness. Our bike came with the 12x142mm rear axle offering a very stiff rear end however lower spec’d bikes will come with a standard 9×142 rear which can be upgraded to the 12x142mm system simply by swapping two small parts.
The Cable Downtube Highway is something it is easy to raise an eyebrow about. It sounds like so much marketing… until you see how neat the routing is on this Occam. The cables are all routed through the main pivot point, meaning that there is less movement as the suspension compresses and hence less cable rub. Everything is kept really tidy around the headtube too, with no rubbing cables to worry about.
The Occam is long, relatively slack for a 29’er and low with a BB drop of 44mm and 70 degree head angle, (or 69 with a 120mm fork). The top tube is relatively long, with a medium having an effective top tube of 612mm (24.09″), meaning a short stem is specified on the bikes with my medium test bike coming with a 70mm stem. The chainstays are 445mm (17.5″) which is relatively short and is aimed at keeping the bike agile. The relatively steep 74 degree seat tube puts the rider in the optimum place for pedaling.
There are several different builds available, including an X model with a 120mm fork. We were testing the top of the range S10 which came equipped with Fox Float CTD 32’s and a Fox Float CTD shock, both custom tuned and kashima coated. SRAM provided the wheelset with the fantastically stiff Rise 60 carbon’s. The drivetrain was Shimano, with XTR derailleurs and shifters. Shimano provided the stopping too with their fantastic XT brakes. It was also nice to see that the Raceface stem was sensibly short at 70mm and the bars were nicely wide at 710mm.
Orbea build their bikes to order in the Basque Country and this allows them to offer what they call “MyO”, meaning that on any bike over €500 the customer can custom specify the bike at no extra charge.
The test ride was very interesting for me on two levels. Firstly I had helped Orbea set the test circuit on my local trails in the Basque Country. These are trails that I guide on several times a week whilst running my mountain bike holidays with BasqueMTB, and I know them very well and have ridden many different types of bikes there. Secondly I couldn’t make the presentation so I was getting to ride the bike blind, i.e. without someone telling me what their bike will feel like before I get a chance to ride it.
Getting on the Occam S10 a few things struck me immediately. First off the bike looks great. The sharply angled top tube and multi faceted tubing looks great on the 29’er and in my opinion it’s the best looking bike in Orbea’s lineup. The looks are no doubt helped by the cable routing which must be about the tidiest on any bike, thanks to the “Cable Downtube Highway”. Secondly, the bike is light, weighing in at around 11.5kg (25.35lb) with it’s carbon wheels. The riding position is on the stretched out side of neutral, and I had to flip the inverted stem and put a couple of spacers underneath it to get into a riding position I liked. Riding around the carpark it’s immediately obvious that the bike is stable and stiff and although I was skeptical about the long top tube, once I was sitting on the bike with the short, 70mm, stem, it all felt pretty natural.
Our test ride started with a climb, first on technical singletrack and then on the road. On the steep singletrack I wished I had another gear, a common problem with 29’ers and I would have liked to fit a smaller chainring than the 26-tooth the Occam comes with. Speaking to Orbea this was just due to the choice of ring sizes offered on the top end shimano crankset and customers can order the bikes with different options through the MyO scheme. Once we hit the road I was very quickly shifting up the gears. The weight and stiffness of the bike combined with the relatively steep seat angle, longish top tube and great pedaling efficiency make it an incredible climber and we flew up the road, overtaking a bunch of roadies on the way, much to their surprise! The Fox CTD (climb/trail/descend) suspension locks out and adjusts both the fork and the shock to suit. I found that I only used the Climb mode for the road and for everything else I left it in Descend and let the bike get on with it.
The first descent was very loose and dusty with fast corners and technical rock sections and the Geax AKA tyres struggled to find grip. It was here that the Occam really surprised me. The bike is incredibly stiff and this combined with its low bottom bracket gives lots of control and precision, both in holding lines and in how close to the edge of its traction I was confident to push it. It’s rare to jump on a bike like this and almost instantly be happy throwing it around but that is what I, along with the rest of the journalists in the fast pack, were doing. Fox’s Kasima coated suspension works well to keep everything in control. The small bump performance is fantastic, finding grip on the marbley corners, but it’s on the bigger and faster hits that I was really impressed with how composed the suspension seemed. As the day wore on I was throwing the bike into rocky sections harder and harder without finding any problems. The Occam definitely isn’t the sort of bike you just point and hold on to, if you want to go fast you need to work with the bike. Once you start doing that it is an incredibly fun bike to descend on. Climbing is exceptional, as you would expect from a 100mm, 29″, Carbon wheeled sub 12kg bike! As an all round trail bike for skilled riders, or a marathon bike, the Orbea Occam will take some beating.
- Occam 29 Silver Frameset + Fox Float CTD Boost Valve Remote w/Kashima = $2,899
- Occam 29 Silver Frameset + Fox Float CTD = $2,599
- Occam 29 S10 = $6,999
- Occam 29 S30 = $5,999
- Occam 29 S40 = $4,999
- Occam 29 S50 = $3,899
- Occam 29 Hydro Frameset + Fox Float CTD Boost Valve Remote w/Kashima = $1,999
- Occam 29 Hydro Frameset + Fox Float CTD = $1,699
- Occam 29 H10 = $4,499
- Occam 29 H20 = $3,399
- Occam 29 H30 = $2,599