Orbea Oiz 2021 Review | A race bike with an ace up its sleeve

The not-so-minor details


2021 Orbea Oiz M Team


$11,799 AUD




- Precise and responsive handling
- The beautifully clean lines
- On-the-fly adaptable suspension
- Dual bottle compatibility
- Fantastic wheel & tyre combo


- Foam grips are light, but uncomfortable
- Weatherproofing could be improved
- We'd like to see a steering limiter

Wil reviews the 2021 Orbea Oiz

In what was originally meant to be an Olympic year, I’ve had the pleasure of swinging my leg over a number of seriously light, and seriously fast new generation XC bikes of late. Over the past six months alone, we’ve reviewed the new Canyon Lux, the Cannondale Scalpel and Specialized Epic – all exciting bikes in their own right, and all with their own unique take on the modern XC racing experience.

Amongst the feedback from our readers and viewers in those reviews, we noticed a common theme emerging. A lot of you were asking how those bikes compared to the new Trek Supercaliber and the Orbea Oiz – two relatively fresh-faced racers designed for the pointiest of the pointy end of World Cup-level competition. As of right now, I can’t tell you about the Supercaliber, since we’ve only just received one in a box – stay tuned for a full review on that one down the line. However, I can tell you all about the Orbea Oiz that I’ve been riding the heck out of for the past six weeks.

Watch our video review of the 2021 Orbea Oiz here!

The Orbea Oiz – what’s the allure?

Hailing from the Basque region of Spain, Orbea is one of the more storied names in the cycling world. Still, it’s not exactly one of the heavyweights of the industry – it’s much smaller than the Giants, Specializeds and Treks of the world. That’s especially the case in Australia, where an Orbea mountain bike remains a relatively exotic sight out on the trails. Still, the latest Oiz appears to have caught many riders attention, no doubt due to its significant presence on the start lines of various World Championships and World Cup XC races (remember those?).

And on paper, the Oiz certainly has a lot of appeal. It’s a great looking bike with clean lines, remote-adjustable suspension, and a solid gimmick-free parts package. The geometry looks to strike a pleasant balance between racy and contemporary, and it’s also one of the few full suspension bikes on the market that’ll accommodate two water bottles. The fact that not every Dom, Rick & Sally is riding one only adds to the intrigue.

2021 orbea oiz m team
The Oiz relies on a one-piece carbon swingarm for its UFO suspension platform.

The latest generation Oiz was rolled out two years ago, but it was recently revamped for 2021 with a brand new chassis that makes use of Orbea’s fancy new OMX carbon fibre. The result? A significant drop in weight, along with a brand new one-piece swingarm that is lighter and shorter than before, and now features a flat-mount rear brake calliper.

There’s a tonne more detail about the new Oiz in our first look story here, so click that link if you want an overview of the range. With 100mm and 120mm platforms, three frame options, and ten spec levels ranging from $4,299 AUD to $12,999 AUD, there is a lot on offer for a small brand. Here I’ll be diving straight in to our review of this premium race bike – the 2021 Orbea Oiz M Team.

2021 orbea oiz m team
For the past six weeks, we’ve been testing the new 2021 Orbea Oiz M Team, which sits one step down from the top of the line.

Orbea Oiz M Team Price & Specs

Claimed weight for this new high-zoot OMX frame? A staggering 1,740g – and that’s with the rear shock.

Orbea Oiz weight

It’s an XC bike, so of course we’re going to talk about weight. And you’ll be pleased to know that the Oiz isn’t exactly carrying any extra flab around its midriff. The top-spec Oiz models are built around the new OMX frame that, according to Orbea, is 340g lighter than the OMR frame used on the mid-spec models.

Claimed weight for this new high-zoot OMX frame? A staggering 1,740g – and that’s with the rear shock. If we’re talking claimed weights, it isn’t quite the lightest though. Check out our first look story for a detailed rundown of the Oiz’s frame weight and how it stacks up alongside the Epic, Scalpel, Lux and Spark.

2021 orbea oiz m team
The top-end Oiz models get the new OMX frame, which drops 250g over its predecessor, and is 340g lighter than the OMR frame found on the mid-spec models.

It’s worth noting that the Oiz differs from some of its competitors in the fact that it has no rider weight limit. And it still comes with a lifetime warranty. That shows, quite frankly, an insane level of confidence in the strength of something that weighs less than your average Pomeranian.

It isn’t just the frame that’s light though. The Oiz M Team is equipped with the brand new DT Swiss XRC 1501 wheelset, which tipped my scales at just 1,581g for the pair. They’re wrapped high-volume Maxxis Rekon Race tyres, which feature a lightweight 120tpi casing that helps them come in at 729g and 740g each. And instead of a heavy dropper post, Orbea has chosen a 203g rigid carbon seatpost, which is topped off with a 178g titanium-railed Selle Italia saddle.

Confirmed weight for our Medium-sized test bike is just 9.86kg, weighed without pedals and setup tubeless. It isn’t the lightest full suspension bike I’ve tested, but anything that pushes below the 10kg barrier earns serious respect.

2021 orbea oiz m team
Out of the box and without mud, the Orbea Oiz M Team weighs less than 10kg.

Setting up the Orbea Oiz

The Orbea Oiz M Team comes decked out with Fox Factory Series suspension, including the excellent 32 Step-Cast fork up front. It’s a fork I know well having reviewed it separately, so setup was a breeze. For my 68kg riding weight, I put 80psi into the EVOL air spring as usual, set the rebound one click slower than halfway (10/18 clicks), and altered the low-speed compression dial between fully-open and halfway (0-10/20 clicks) depending on trail conditions.

Shock setup took a little longer though. Orbea recommends setting up the Oiz with 15-20% sag, which is on the firm side. That works out to just 6-8mm of displacement at the O-ring, so make sure you get the ruler out during setup – your eyes ain’t good enough for this one cowboy.

2021 orbea oiz m team
Orbea recommends just 15-20% sag for the shock. That’s not what we ended up with though.

Furthermore, since the leverage ratio increases for the first 75% of the travel, small changes in sag and shock pressure are quite noticeable on the trail. I could feel a difference of just 5psi, so it’s worth taking your time to try a few different settings to see what suits your riding style and terrain.

Based on Orbea’s recommendations, I initially setup the rear shock with 20% sag and 165psi inside the air spring, with rebound damping set quite fast (11/14 clicks). However, thanks to the remote-adjustable suspension, that wasn’t quite where I finished up.

The Squidlock is bloody brilliant

The remote-adjustable suspension is easily one of the standout performance features on the Orbea Oiz. Called the Squidlock, the remote is designed and engineered by Orbea, and it’s there to offer you fingertip control of both the fork and rear shock. The dual-lever configuration is very similar to Scott’s TwinLoc system, though the Squidlock is a little more elegant and ergonomic in its shape, with smoother edges and larger paddles.

2021 orbea oiz m team squidlock
Orbea’s own Squidlock design is one of the most ergonomic and functional remote systems out there.

Squidlock gives you three distinct suspension modes – Open, Medium & Firm. Those modes are pretty self explanatory, but where they differ from the Scott system is that the Medium position only affects the rear shock. Here’s how it works;

Incidentally, this mapping is exactly what we’ve been wanting from the TwinLoc system on the Scott Spark. TwinLoc also gives you three suspension settings, but in the middle position (called ‘Traction Mode’) the compression damping is increased on both the shock and fork. The downside of firming up both ends is that the fork ends up feeling harsh on technical climbs, and it also rides higher too, slackening out the geometry in situations where you don’t want it to slacken out.

Linked up to both the fork and rear shock, the Squidlock remote allows you to toggle between Open, Medium & Firm suspension modes.

However, because the Oiz only firms up the rear shock in the Medium mode, the fork remains active and is free to sag into its travel naturally. The effect on the trail is essentially an on-the-fly geometry adjustment. The back end lifts up to give you more pedal clearance, while the seat and head angles become steeper in the process – exactly what you want when climbing.

Using the remote itself took a bit of getting used to, mostly because I’m often bouncing between up to six test bikes at the one time, but also because of the push-to-unlock format. This means that the resting position is Firm. Push the large paddle once until it clicks, and you’re in Medium. Push it once more until it clicks again and you’re in Open. Press the little paddle, and you’ll go back down one mode at a time. The downside of the push-to-unlock system is that if the cable comes loose for whatever reason, the suspension reverts back to a locked-out position. The upside is that it results in a much lighter lever feel, requiring less effort at the thumb.

2021 orbea oiz m team wil
The Medium suspension setting is a huge performance booster on the climbs.

Getting used to Squidlock for the climbs

Once I was used to the functionality, I started using the Squidlock all the time. In fact, unless the trail was relentlessly rocky or rooty, I flicked it into Medium every time time the singletrack moved upwards. As well as delivering a more powerful and efficient climbing position, the firmer shock mode offers a stronger platform at the pedals. The shock becomes noticeably more resistant to weight shifts, making it ideal for punchy, technical climbs where you’re attempting to thrust the bike up and over logs and rocky ledges.

Of course the fork is still free to bob in these scenarios, which is absolutely fine for seated climbing. But once I’d fully mastered the Squidlock, I found anytime I was about to leap out of the saddle and mash on the pedals, I could quickly flick it into the Firm position, locking out the fork to brace my weight before heaving on the bars.

Certainly for the hardcore XC racers, the Firm mode will be a welcome aid for sprinting efforts. There’s also enough give in the plump 2.35in tyres that you can get away with this setting on smooth dirt roads and buffed-out singletrack climbs. As soon as things get choppy though, flick that lever straight into the Medium setting.

2021 orbea oiz m team wil
In the Medium suspension mode, the fork remains active, allowing it to sag into its travel to help steepen the bike’s geometry – perfect for climbing.

Because the air spring is unaffected and you’re simply adding compression damping, the shock still works in this mode (good if you *ahem* forget to flick it into Open for the descent…). So while it is firmer and sits higher in its travel, the rear suspension takes the edges off of bumps and help with maintaining traction. And since the fork is open, you get plenty of comfort at the grips, making this the perfect setting for motoring along poorly-graded fireroads.

Dialling in the shock

Though the real beauty about the Squidlock remote is that it’s possible to optimise the rear suspension for descending, without necessarily giving up the efficiency on the climbs. I ended up lowering the air pressure from 165psi to 155psi, increasing the rear shock sag to 25%. I also slowed down the rebound damping further until it was halfway in its range (7/14 clicks). The carbon swingarm naturally has a bit of spring to it, so slowing down the shock’s rebound is necessary to calm things down.

This setup delivered a softer and more active suspension feel, allowing the rear wheel to track the ground smoothly, boosting confidence and control on the descents. It also made for a more comfortable ride on my local rocky trails, while providing a greater distinction between the Open and Medium modes.

Get to know your optimum pressure range on the Oiz, and you’ll arm yourself with a useful tool for approaching racing on different trails and in different formats. For shorter, sharper and smoother race courses, add 10psi to firm up suspension, so you don’t need to rely on toggling the remote so much. For longer marathon races and rougher terrain where you want access to more comfort and traction, drop out 10psi and get your trigger-thumb ready.

2021 orbea oiz m team
For sprinting up smoother singletrack climbs, flick the remote into the Firm setting for a rock-solid lockout front and rear.

It’s got the efficiency that racers crave

I will point out that regardless of your chosen suspension setup, the Oiz exhibits well-disciplined pedalling manners. With the UFO single-pivot suspension design optimised around the 1x drivetrain, anti-squat levels are quite high.

There’s around 115% anti-squat at sag, and it remains over 100% nearly all the way through the travel. That means there’s plenty of snap at the pedals, regardless of what mode you’re in or how deep into the travel you are. When it’s time to lay down the power, there’s noticeably more surge than the Cannondale Scalpel, with overall pedal efficiency closer to that of the Canyon Lux.

The new Oiz features a SRAM UDH derailleur hanger, a 34T chainring and a lightweight upper guide for added peace of mind for competitive types.

Speaking of pedalling, it’s nice to see that Orbea has spec’d a 34T chainring for the Oiz, and there’s clearance to run up to a 36T ring if your quads are up for it. Racers will also appreciate the added peace of mind from the integrated chainguide, which ran quiet and rub-free throughout testing. And it’s worth adding that the new swingarm on the Oiz OMX frame now features the SRAM UDH derailleur hanger, which means you’re more likely to find a spare when you’re racing away from home.

I’m also a big fan of the dual bottle capability – both for racing and for long trail rides. Unfortunately the Small frame will only take a single bottle, but I was able to fit two 600ml bottles on our Medium test bike, which was an absolute boon on the many 3+ hour test rides I embarked on.

2021 orbea oiz m team
With the exception of the Small, all Oiz frames will take two bottles inside the front triangle.

Geometry & handling

The riding position on the Oiz is purposeful, with an aggressive 75° seat angle pushing more of your weight over the front wheel. The 435mm reach and 591mm stack on our Medium frame are common figures in the XC race world, though a flipped 75mm stem and 760mm wide flat bars give it an aggressive attitude, and a short headset cap means it’s possible to get the front end down properly low.

Ancillary to the snappy pedalling performance, the Oiz’s handling is highly responsive. Its front-end steering is quite similar to my own bike, a Santa Cruz Blur, which has the same 69° head angle. The result of not going too slack is that the Oiz is really well balanced for fast, whippy singletrack. It’s sharp and responsive, and it flicks through turns rapidly, performing last-minute steering corrections without need for panic braking.

2021 orbea oiz m team wil
760mm wide bars give excellent leverage over the front wheel.
2021 orbea oiz m team
The short and springy back end encourages rapid changes of direction on the trail.

Where it differs to the Blur though is the shorter back end. With tight 430mm chainstays, the Oiz carves corners just that little bit harder, often eeking a controllable drift out of the Rekon Race tyre. There’s also a little more twang from the back end, which delivers the most delightful slingshot out of hard and fast turns. It’s a thoroughly energetic bike that’s admirably light on its feet.

The downside of the shorter chainstays is that the Oiz does require a bit more management when you’re hitting the crux of a really steep and techy pinch climb. Front-end lift is mitigated thanks to the steeper riding position afforded by the Medium suspension mode, but it’s still quite a lively ride that rewards a more skilled pilot when negotiating tricky features.

Despite the svelte facade, the foundations are sturdy

To balance out the tight head angle, Orbea has spec’d a new-school 44mm fork offset, which is no doubt one of the best things that’s ever happened to the modern XC bike.

2021 orbea oiz m team fox 32 step-cast
More XC bikes are moving to a 44mm fork offset, which is a very good thing.

Unlike steeper-angled bikes (the Lux) or those with longer offsets (the Scalpel), the Oiz’s handlebar doesn’t need taming quite so much on the descents. In general, it’s less likely to develop a mind of its own. There’s less oversteer, less wiggle, and it does well to keep a head level at speed. The bendy Fox fork doesn’t exactly give it point-and-shoot confidence when things get really blown out, but that’s standard for a lightweight XC fork, and the bike manages to work alongside you rather than trying to find its own way down.

Helping out here is the fact that Orbea has also kept the Oiz quite low to the ground, with the BB sitting 47mm below the hub axles. That’s similar to the new Epic, but it’s a lot lower than the Scalpel and Lux. Only the Trek Supercaliber is lower, but then that bike can be since it only has 60mm of rear wheel travel. In general, a low-hanging BB keeps your centre of gravity closer to earth, placing you down between the wheels, improving overall stability.

Surprisingly, I haven’t been clipping my pedals all that much though, likely due to the Oiz’ anti-squat that helps to extend the rear shock under forceful chain torque. I’m almost always in the firmer Medium suspension mode on technical climbs too, which keeps the whole bike riding higher to begin with.

2021 orbea oiz m team wil
The BB is quite low on this bike, helping to put your weight further down.

Superb suspension

As with most 100mm travel single-pivot bikes like the Spark, Epic and Lux, the rear tyre on the Oiz can skip and scratch around on looser and more busted-up descents. Anti-rise sits above 100% for the first half of the travel, so when you hit the brakes, the shock will compress slightly. This is largely a good thing, as it counters forward weight shifts, helping to preserve the bike’s head angle on the descents. The downside is that it does reduce rear wheel grip slightly. Furthermore, because the anti-squat is quite high, there is noticeable feedback through the chain on quick-fire stutter bumps.

In my experience, only the Scalpel produces a more seamless feel to its rear suspension under pedalling and braking inputs, which provides greater connectivity with the trail, and therefore, more grip. In that regard, I do feel that Orbea could take a leaf out of Cannondale’s book. Because the Squidlock is so good, and the Medium suspension setting is so usable, I’d love to see Orbea go for a more neutral pedalling approach to help decouple the rear shock from the drivetrain in that Open mode.

2021 orbea oiz m team
With the active suspension and steady geometry, you can rip the Oiz like a bigger trail bike.

On those really wild and wooly trails, I soon adapted by descending in a higher gear and staying off the brakes, in order to let the suspension do its thing. And my-oh-my can it do its thing! With the shock setup at 25% sag, the Oiz delivers impressively active suspension performance that’s nicely progressive too. It’s effective, comfortable and smooth, and it feels like it has more than 100mm of travel. In fact it does – I measured the vertical rear wheel travel at 102mm.

It’s also what gives this bike an edge on the descents over the new Epic, even though the Oiz’s head angle is quite a bit steeper (69° vs 67.5°). That doesn’t quite translate onto the trail though, particularly when things get rough. Thanks to the more supple and active suspension performance, the Oiz delivers better traction while being less likely to get bucked around.

The small air can also means the shock ramps up naturally towards the end of that travel. While I could occasionally get the rear shock to bottom out on flat landings, it never happened regularly or violently enough to warrant concern. The Float DPS comes fitted with a 0.2³ volume spacer inside, though you can remove it for a more linear feel, or fit a 0.4³ volume spacer if you want more progression. Personally, I found the shock tune dialled out of the box, but it’s good to have options for those who fall on either side of the bell curve.

Where it differs to the Blur though is the shorter back end. With tight 430mm chainstays, the Oiz carves corners just that little bit harder, often eeking a controllable drift out of the Rekon Race tyre. There's also a little more twang from the back end, which delivers the most delightful slingshot out of hard and fast turns. It's a thoroughly energetic bike that's admirably light on its feet.
Keep off the brakes, and the active suspension works beautifully on the descents.

The rolling stock is on point

Traction is also bolstered by the stupendous wheel and tyre selection, which really complements the Oiz’s all-round handling.

Orbea has gone for the new DT Swiss XRC 1501 wheelset, which features the new 240s hubs, Ratchet EXP freehub mechanism, and carbon fibre rims with a broad 30mm inner width. I have to say that these are extremely nice wheels. They’re lightweight, with a stable and direct feel underfoot, but they don’t ping through the rocks. Given I’m on the lighter side, that’s not always a given with a racy carbon wheelset. The lack of harshness gives them a luxurious ride quality that matches the rest of the bike beautifully.

The wide rims provide excellent support for the 2.35in wide Rekon Race tyres, which are vastly grippier and better damped than their skinnier counterparts. There’s more rubber on the ground of course, but it’s the fact that you can achieve lower pressures (I went as low as 20psi on the front, and 23psi on the rear) that really improves grip. And even in slick conditions, there’s not a lot of wobble from the low-profile tyres. They were surprisingly versatile and stable.

The new DT Swiss XRC 1501 wheelset is lightweight, and the carbon rims provide a stable base for the 2.35in wide tyres.

Component highs & lows

If you can tell I’m impressed with the Oiz’ ride quality, you’re not wrong. But what about the smaller details? Those nuances a privateer racer has to live with day-in, day-out?

I’ll start with the frame, which is finished to an exceptionally high level. The lines are crisp and clean, particularly with the new OC stem and headset, partially-hidden upper shock hardware and sleek, injection-moulded FibreLink. The cables and brake lines could do with a trim to neaten things up in front of the bars, but the internal routing for the rear shock is super neat, with the cable tucked entirely out of view. Both the gear cable and rear brake line are also routed internally, but Orbea thankfully popped them out for a short external journey over the main pivot, which makes things significantly easier in the workshop.

2021 orbea oiz m team
Orbea’s new OC stem and headset system is really clean.

There’s a bit of a nest of cables out in front of the bars, but from there they’re well managed through the frame itself.

The huge 92mm wide bottom bracket shell provides a big junction point for the downtube, seat tube and main pivot, and I had zero creaks or groans from Shimano’s press-fit BB throughout testing. And whereas some other brands like Scott use bushings, Orbea has employed Enduro sealed cartridge bearings for all of its suspension pivots – a nice touch.

I did have to rebuild the lower headset bearing though, which I initially suspected was due to poor sealing from the big cap underneath the top cap. The bigger problem was revealed when I washed the bike upside down on my lawn though, as water was able to make its way into the top tube via the open cavity around the upper shock mount. It pooled here for several days, resulting in said gritty headset. The takeaway? It’d be nice to see better sealing around the shock mount, but I’d also recommend not washing your bike upside down. And even when you do wash it or put it through a wet ride, be sure to check any excess water has been able to drain out.

2021 orbea oiz m team headset bearing
The lower headset bearing needed rebuilding following a particularly wet and muddy ride, and some upside-down bike washing.

We’d like to see better sealing around the upper shock mount and for the headset, and a rubber mudguard around the chainstay bridge would be nice too.

On those muddy rides, I did find a bit of buildup around the chainstay bridge just behind the seat tube – something that those in wetter climates will want to keep an eye on. It’d be nice to see a rubber guard here to help prevent debris getting stuck between the bridge and the frame. My only other suggestion for Orbea would be to add a steering limiter. The Oiz doesn’t have one, and that presents a weakness in the event of a crash, where the shifter can potentially smash into the top tube. That luckily never happened to me, but some extra insurance would be nice.

I had a bit of slipping from the carbon seatpost initially, but a bit of carbon grip paste sorted that out. Speaking of, would I have liked a dropper? You bet, those things are great! Unfortunately Orbea only specs a dropper on the 120mm travel Oiz TR models, but I’d love to see a lightweight, short-travel dropper spec’d on the racy models too. Not everyone wants or needs such a device though, and I also didn’t die while testing this bike, so it’s possible to ride without one. I’ll also admit that there’s something exhilarating about high-posting. Weird fetishes aside, at least the 30.9mm seat tube and internal cable routing options make this frame ready for a party post upgrade when you are.

The Oiz is ready for a dropper, but we’d love to see one come stock. Also be prepared to change out the foam grips.

As for touch points, the Selle Italia saddle wasn’t my favourite, but I could live with it. However, I really didn’t like the stock foam grips, which although light, are not comfortable. I replaced those with a set of ODI’s silicone foam F-1 Vapour grips, which are more tactile and better damped too.

And the XTR groupset? There is very little I can add to our existing comments on Shimano’s premium component range. Shifting is fast, crisp, and thoroughly reliable, and the double up-shift function is so useful for a race bike that’s capable of rapid acceleration.

2021 orbea oiz m team xtr m9100 1x12
The Shimano XTR 1×12 groupset was bulletproof throughout testing, and in particular, we loved the smooth modulation of the twin-piston Race brakes.

I also have to give a shout out to the lighter twin-piston XTR Race brakes, which are superb. These are smooth, and they offer gobs of modulation that helps you to accurately toe the line between controlled deceleration and a locked-up wheel. There’s enough bite up front with the 180mm rotor, but you are limited to a 160mm rotor on the rear – something that heavier riders will want to consider.

The Oiz vs the competition

I’ve made a number of comparisons with other XC bikes throughout this review, but I’ll sum up those thoughts as best as I can here.

2020 canyon lux cf sl 8.0 wil lysterfield
The Canyon Lux is another well-rounded and practical XC race bike, and it’s spec’d well for the money, but the Oiz offers better performance and versatility on the trail.

Canyon Lux

The Oiz shares a similar shape and style to its fellow Euro, the Canyon Lux, but the Oiz is a better performing bike in almost every way. It’s lighter, more streamlined, and the Squidlock is vastly more functional and refined than the cable-activated suspension on the Lux. While the Lux is the sharper of the two, geometry is more progressive on the Oiz, and it offers more sure-footed handling on the descents thanks to its active suspension performance and a contemporary parts selection that offers greater stability and versatility. There are some really neat features on the Lux though, like the tool-free axle and IPU headset, and Canyon is now spec’ing a dropper on every model too, which is sweet. Of course the online sales method does deliver a lot of bang for buck if you’d prefer to buy direct.

2021 cannondale scalpel carbon 2 wil buxton
The Cannondale Scalpel is one of the smoothest and most progressive XC bikes going, but it has some quirks that not everyone will be into.

Cannondale Scalpel

Cannondale’s Scalpel is one of the more progressive XC bikes currently on the market, certainly when it comes to suspension. The Lefty Ocho is as outrageous in its looks as it is impressive on the trail, with laser-like accuracy and excellent reactivity under hard bending loads. The long offset means it isn’t as planted on the descents as the Oiz though, despite having a slacker head angle. The Scalpel’s rear wheel hugs the terrain incredibly well, offering the smoothest feel and greatest traction of any of the current super-light XC race bikes. Both bikes are smooth, but the Scalpel’s suspension is just a little bit more composed when it’s really rough. It isn’t as naturally efficient though, and you’re limited to open or locked settings with the suspension remote. And while Cannondale’s A.I drivetrain offset is clever, it does lock you in to the Hollowgram crankset and a specific rear wheel dish, which along with the proprietary Lefty and front hub, will be a put-off for some riders.

2021 specialized s-works epic
Specialized’s latest Epic is a true marvel of engineering. The proprietary Brain suspension continues to be a love/hate feature though.

Specialized Epic

The Specialized Epic makes for an easy comparison, since its Brain-controlled suspension gives it such a distinctive ride quality. The way you interact with the Oiz is completely different on the trail. Whereas you have fingertip control of those three suspension modes, Specialized automates it, instead relying on the Brain’s inertia valve to determine when to open the fork and shock. It works well when you’re on your A-game, but it can be a harsh and unrelenting ride when you’re not. The fork is less compliant on the climbs – something the Oiz has no trouble with. The Brain also clunks every time the valve opens, which is a noise and sensation you can’t really get around. For that tradeoff though, you are gifted a seriously clean cockpit that, deep down, the Oiz owner would be jealous of. You will pay for that suspension technology though – those Epics ain’t cheap.

Spark, Anthem & Supercaliber

It’s been a while since I tested a Scott Spark, but that remains as one of the best XC full suspension bikes on the market, even if it is four years old now. While the Oiz and Spark do have a lot in common, the adjustable suspension is more usable on the Oiz, and it can also take two bottles – an important consideration for long distance XC riders and marathon racers. The same goes for the Giant Anthem, which is also getting a bit long in the tooth. While the Maestro suspension is active and well balanced, the Anthem is more skittish on the descents due to its 51mm fork offset, and your dropper selection is severely limited by the 27.2mm seat tube.

We expect to see Scott and Giant hitting back at their competitors at some point in the future, so we look forward to seeing what changes both brands will unveil with their flagship race bikes. Oh and as for the Trek Supercaliber? We’ll have that bike on the trails soon. Stay tuned for the upcoming review to see how it fits into the picture.

2021 orbea oiz m team
Orbea has managed to strike a terrific balance with its latest Oiz.

Flow’s Verdict

With the latest Oiz, Orbea has produced one of the most well-rounded full suspension XC race bikes currently on the market. Yes it’s very lightweight, and yes it also looks fabulous. But it’s the handling, suspension quality and smart spec that makes this such a versatile performer on the trail.

By developing a refined and highly functional suspension remote in the Squidlock, Orbea has opened up the option to tune the rear shock for smooth descending performance, while still providing an efficient and effective climbing position at the flick of a lever. Whereas other bikes force you to make a compromise with suspension setup, there is no such compromise here.

Along with the well-balanced geometry, wide bars, stable wheelset and generous rubber, the Oiz offers a level of technical trail control not usually expected from a 100mm travel XC bike. That versatility makes it a helluva lot of fun for riding hard and fast, whether you’re racing or riding. Indeed if I was on the lookout for a new race bike, the Oiz would be right at the top of my list – this one is an absolute ripper.

2021 orbea oiz m team
Not only is this bike fast and effective, it’s also just a tonne of fun on the trail. And there aren’t a lot of XC bikes that you can say that about.

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