Mick Tests & Reviews The 2020 Orbea Occam M10
Not long ago, a trail bike was exactly that – a trail bike. A mountain bike that could climb efficiently, descend competently, cross maps, and crack smiles in equal measure. A bike that was less interested in competition, rushing between the race tape and facilitating angry pain faces, and more about riding just purely for the fun of it. But at some point along the way, the broader expectations of what we expect a trail bike to do has changed. Now the market is full of mini-enduro bikes masquerading as trail bikes. Trail bikes with obscenely slack head angles, B-double wheelbases, coil shocks and DH-casing tyres. So-called trail bikes that are shuttled to the top, before being measured by how hard they can be hucked and slapped through turns, which is, of course, crucial content for Instagram shreddits.
The thing is, not everyone rides a trail bike like that. Those big-geometry trail bikes might suit wild riders like Joe Barnes or the 50to01 crew, but for mere mortals who may simply want to *gasp* just go mountain biking in the bush for the fun of it, not so much. For that kind of riding, you don’t want a chopper. You need a trail bike. A trail bike perhaps like the Orbea Occam.
What’s The Occam’s Vibe?
Sitting in between the Oiz (XC) and the Rallon (Enduro), the Occam is Orbea’s do-most-of-the-things trail bike. The name has been around for well over a decade, but the platform has been completely overhauled for 2020, and in the process, Orbea has banished the TR and AM designations of the previous model. Now there is just the one Occam – a purist’s trail bike that’s built around 29in wheels with 140mm of travel.
Drawing on lessons learned from the latest Rallon, the Occam moves to a more obvious asymmetric frame design that adds a reinforcing strut that connects the downtube to the middle of the seat tube. As well as giving the frame a unique profile – a hard thing to do in this day and age – it also adds some extra beef around the rocker link pivot on the seat tube. Further helping with chassis rigidity is a large splined thru-axle that anchors on that same pivot. Orbea stands behind it with a lifetime warranty too.
With both alloy (H) and carbon (M) frames available, the Occam lineup contains eight models starting at $4,499 for the Occam H30 and going up to $11,999 for the carbon Occam M-LTD. The bike we’ve got here is the Occam M10, which sits one step down from the top.
With its matte blue and gloss orange paint job, Shimano XT groupset and Kashima gold suspension, it sure is a classy looking bike that earned plenty of compliments from riders we caught up with in Derby and Falls Creek during our time with it. Here’s a closer look at the full spec list;
2020 Orbea Occam M10 Specs
- Frame | OMR Carbon Fibre, Concentric Boost Suspension Design, 140mm Travel
- Fork | Fox 34 Float, Factory Series, FIT4 Damper, 44mm Offset, 140mm Travel
- Shock | Fox Float DPX2 EVOL, Factory Series, 210x50mm
- Wheels | DT Swiss XM-1650, 30mm Inner Rim Width
- Tyres | Maxxis High Roller II 3C EXO 2.5in Front & Rekon EXO 2.4in Rear
- Drivetrain | Shimano Deore XT M8100 1×12 w/XT 32T Cranks & 10-51T Cassette
- Brakes | Shimano Deore XT M8120 4-piston, 180mm Rotors
- Bar | Race Face Next R Carbon, 20mm Rise, 780mm Width
- Stem | Race Face Aeffect R, 45mm Length
- Seatpost | OC2 Dropper Post, 31.6mm Diameter, 150mm Travel
- Saddle | Fizik Taiga, K:ium rails
- Size Tested | Medium
- RRP | $8,299
The Key Geo Numbers
Compared to the previous Occam, the new model gets the usual updates. The biggest change is the seat angle, which steepens significantly to 77°. Also of note is the reduced-offset fork (trendy!) and the chainstay length, which has grown to 440mm to stretch out the Occam’s footprint.
- Fork offset: 44mm
- Head angle: 66°
- Seat angle: 77°
- Reach: 425mm (S), 450mm (M), 474mm (L), 500mm (XL)
- Seat tube: 381mm (S), 419mm (M), 457mm (L), 508mm (XL)
- Chainstay length: 440mm
- BB drop: 35mm
- BB height: 336mm
Let’s Talk Setup
At 178cm tall, I’ve been riding the Medium size Occam. Saddling up for the first time, the cockpit gives a pretty classic trail bike feel. While the BB is low and the frame reach is roomy, the steep seat angle has the effect of pushing you up higher when the saddle is at full mast, making you feel a little perched on top of the bike, though nicely centred between the wheels.
The 66° head angle is more sensible compared to some other bikes in this realm, so the front wheel isn’t jacked way out ahead of you. While our test bike has a 140mm travel Fox 34 fork, you can change that to a 150mm travel Fox 36, which would change the front-end feel considerably. The bigger fork will also slacken out the head angle to 65.5° and the seat angle to 76.5°.
As for getting the Fox Float DPX2 dialled in, I can’t say I found the Occam’s suspension intrinsically easy to setup. I found myself bottoming out the shock pretty hard on the first few rides, despite running a pretty conventional 30% sag. Turns out the LV air can comes fitted with the smallest 0.2³ volume spacer as stock, so the suspension feel is quite linear and easy to overpower if you do get the wheels off the ground. Increasing air pressure helped, but that also made the Occam feel too harsh and choppy. Luckily Orbea does include a larger 0.4³ volume spacer with the bike, which shrinks the shock’s air volume down a touch to provide more ramp-up. We’d love to see more brands do this.
That aside, the only change I made to the Occam before packing it into a box to fly down to Derby was to ditch the tubes and change the rear tyre. The 2.4in Rekon is a very fast-rolling option that suits my home riding around Newcastle well, but is a less great choice for tackling unchartered trails. In its place, I fitted a burlier Maxxis Dissector tyre.
What Does It Do Well?
The Occam is a fantastic pedalling bike with excellent efficiency. Even with the rear shock set to the Open position, the back end doesn’t bob around a whole lot. Pedalling up the long twisty climbs towards Kumma Gutza in Derby, the Occam feels light and fast for a 140mm travel 29er.
It also has a really comfortable climbing position. The 77° seat angle comes into its own as soon as you’re pointing uphill, with the effect of placing your hips more directly over the frame’s BB. And since the rear shock doesn’t bog down under pedalling inputs, it never feels like you’re piloting a laid-back lounge chair. The result was arriving at the top of the climb feeling fresher, certainly compared to slacker and heavier-duty trail rigs.
The sprightly climbing performance leads to a sporty ride quality on the descents. The Occam feels light, and that makes it easy to pick up and get airborne. It also darts through the turns, and you can really flick it through quite hard and fast. The geometry chart might suggest that the Occam is relatively long and low, but its chipper handling says otherwise – it’s much more trail than a shrunken-down enduro bike.
What Does It Struggle With?
On rockier trails and higher speed descents, the Occam starts to feel somewhat out of its depth. I had the original 0.2³ volume spacer while I was riding at Derby, so I was bottoming out the rear shock regularly. I ended up lifting air pressure until I was at a very-high 260psi, which did keep bottoming at bay, but left the back end quite choppy. Bottom-out on the DPX2 shock was both hard and audible, and not the cosseting safety blanket that more progressive suspension designs offer. Fitting the bigger 0.4³ spacer makes all the difference to being able to run lower pressures and more sag, so it’s something I’d recommend Occam owners play with.
At the front end, Fox’s 34 performed beautifully, and it is indeed a terrific trail fork. a 150mm travel 36 would be a worthy choice (an extra $261 will upgrade you to a 36 Float GRIP2 fork at the point of purchase) for those looking for more high-speed prowess. Still, the Occam chassis isn’t the most solid when being pummelled into high-speed bikepark style trails though. It feels a bit light and twangy if you’re really ragging it over washboard bumps, where the back end has a tendency to chatter about.
That’s the tradeoff for the Occam’s low overall weight and speedy feel. And it comes back to my point earlier about the recent evolution of the trail bike. If more aggressive big-mountain riding and high-speed thrashing is on the agenda, you will be much better served by Orbea’s longer-travel Rallon.
Component Highs & Lows
The Occam M10 is fitted out with a largely flawless build kit, though durability with our test bike wasn’t without flaws.
The Shimano XT groupset performed as expected early on, with great shift quality and accuracy from the Hyperglide+ 10-51T cassette. However, the clutch on the rear mech failed on me, leaving the chain bouncing around like a balloon in a hurricane. We’ve heard of this happening with some other Shimano 12-speed mechs where there was insufficient grease applied to the clutch at the factory, which is technically a warranty issue.
The XT 4-piston brakes performed well, but were, unfortunately, were plagued by rattly brake pads. Though easily rectified by pulling the metal spring between the pads apart to give it more spring force, we look forward to the day that Shimano gets this sorted out, since it’s a real annoyance on a $8K+ mountain bike.
Speaking of noise frustrations, on any remotely bouncy trail, the water bottle would slap against the carbon strut on the frame like a snare drum. Other reviewers have complained about the asymmetric frame requiring you to use your left hand to grab the bottle. I was able to get used to that without issue, but it was more the bottle-on-frame contact and resulting noise that bothered me much more. I ended up riding with the bottle in my backpack.
Though high quality, the 35mm diameter Race Face carbon handlebars are hella stiff, and the grips aren’t the spongiest. My wrists and palms got an absolute beatdown on the long alpine descents at Falls Creek, where I was wishing for a more compliant front end. Again, a Fox 36 would help here, as would an alloy bar or a 31.8mm cockpit.
While I didn’t know what to expect, Orbea’s own OC dropper post performed fine throughout the test. It is possible to upgrade to a Crank Brothers Highline dropper post for an extra $278 at the point of purchase, but I think I’d just keep the cash. The Shimano dropper lever is also a nice touch, and it integrates neatly with the left-hand brake lever.
You can also upgrade the stock DT Swiss XM-1650 wheels to carbon XMC-1200 hoops (+$1,746), but unless you’re really chasing grams, I see no reason to. They’re built well, have nicely wide rims, smooth hubs, and they come with quality rim tape and tubeless valves. And if you do write-off a rim, it’s vastly cheaper to replace than a carbon one.
Though it wasn’t without issues, I had a load of fun riding Orbea’s new Occam. While there are more radical options out there that will suit the more aggressive riders, I do like that the Occam isn’t pretending to be an enduro bike. With its low weight, efficient suspension, sensible geometry and easy-handling, it’s a trail riders trail bike through-and-through.
I’d like to see more clearance around the water bottle mount, and Orbea could do well to spec a more compliant cockpit. There are options for upgrading the stock bike though, and if you don’t mind waiting a few more weeks, you can get a fully customised setup through the MyO program, which offers a staggering amount of choice when it comes to both spec and paint. Few brands offer that kind of service, and it’s a compelling reason to add the Occam to the list, particularly if you’re after a trail bike that doesn’t sacrifice its climbing abilities for the sake of trendy DH-specific geometry.
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