The not-so-minor details
Orbea Occam 29 S50
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Great lightweight frame platform. Good price point for such a nice frame.
Flexy fork. Narrow bar.
The Orbea Occam 29 is a gorgeously constructed, impressively light cross-country machine. Previous iterations of the Occam were a simple single-pivot affair, but the new Occam 29 is a different beast.
Design and construction:
The striking, angular carbon shapes of the Occam form a seriously light frame set (only the seat stays are alloy), coming it at under 2.4kg. Even with a fairly mid-range parts kit, the complete bike is a only smidgen over 12kg – a few savvy upgrades would bring it down towards 11kg and make it a real racing weapon.
105mm of rear travel is served up by a suspension system that utilises a concentric dropout pivot, very similar to Trek’s ABP system or Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot design. The dropouts can run either a quick release or a 12mm axle – we’re mystified why Orbea chose to spec the S50 with not only a quick release rear, but quick release fork too. A easy-to-operate FOX CTD rear shock keeps it all under control and with cartridge bearings at every pivot point, small bump response is good.
The humpback style top tube is stiff and distinct, but the shifters can contact the frame in the event of a crash; run your shifters/brakes loose enough to spin on the handlebar if they do hit the top tube. Great cable routing is a plus – including internal cabling for the front derailleur – adding to the sleek and clean aesthetic of the bike.
At $4299, the S50 is the most affordable of the carbon Occams – there are alloy framed versions at lower price points, and prices go all the way up to $9499 with the stunning S10. To hit this very reasonable price, some components are a bit ho-hum (such as the SRAM X5 shifters) but this is a platform that is worth of upgrading down the track when your budget allows.
Alternatively, you can take advantage of the My Orbea program, a very cool online process that allows you to customise the component spec of your bike prior to delivery. Don’t like the bars? Swap them. Want a different fork? Fine! Prefer a different colour? Orbea will oblige. I adds around three weeks to the delivery time, but when you’re spending big money anyhow, what’s another couple of weeks to get your perfect bike?
In its off-the-shelf guies, fast tyres and a narrow handlebar give the Occam a very cross-country feel. This may suit the racer types, but it does really pigeon hole the bike. A wider bar, stiffer fork and grippier rubber wouldn’t hamper the bike’s cross-country abilities, but would add massively to rider confidence. Surprise, surprise, these are all options you can tweak with the My Orbea program.
On the trail:
The Occam is happiest at high speed on smooth trails. It settles into long, swooping corners nicely and doesn’t wander on steep climbs either thanks to a roomy top tube and sharp head angle. The bike’s stiffness may be diminished by the use of quick release axles at both ends, but it has a nice predictable drift-ability to it all the same.
Unless you run the rear shock in Trail mode, there’s a bit of pedal bob going on. It’s not like the ride is wallowy or unresponsive, but it’s annoying to know that energy is being wasted. Save the Descend mode for when the nose is pointed down. The shock tune is quite firm, so using Trail mode certainly got rid of any bobbing, but small bump response was reduced too. The Shimano wheelset is UST ready, so perhaps going tubeless would smooth things out a bit.
While the Occam flies in moderate terrain, we never got really comfortable in the rough. We admit that our personal preference for a wider handlebar may have something to do with it, but the front end flex was the main culprit. Off camber rocks or roots tended to snatch the front wheel away, and the close-spaced / hard compound tyres glance off rocks rather than sticking. New rubber and a stiffer fork would give this bike a whole new attitude.
The Occam S50 is a great platform, but not dressed to shine to its full potential. We really like this frameset – it’s a good looker and the geometry is spot on for cross country riding and racing. The S30X, another $900, is equipped with a 15mm fork, wider bar and better rubber, making it a better proposition as an all-rounder, or take advantage of Orbea’s flexibility and make some tweaks before the bike even arrives at the shop.