A leopard can change its spots. Orbea have done it before: this 175-year old Spanish company started out making handguns, before reapplying their metal working expertise to more peaceful enterprises in the post WW1 era and transforming themselves into a bicycle manufacturer. In recent years the brand has undergone another more subtle transformation, but one that's particularly beneficial for us mountain bikers. Orbea have been making huge strides in the right direction, away from their previously road-inspired designs, and the Occam shows clearly that mountain biking is not just an aside for this prestigious brand.
The not-so-minor details
Orbea Occam TR M30
Exceptional frame quality.
Sound trail bike geometry.
Flex stay suspension is light, stiff and uncomplicated.
Great climbing grip.
Desperately needs a dropper post.
Would benefit from a stiffer fork to match the rear end.
Given the huge global presence of Orbea, it might surprise you to learn that the bikes are still made in Spain. This is a brand with real heritage and which takes pride in its roots in the mountains of the Basque region.
Check out our review of the Orbea Rallon, the Occam’s big brother, right here: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/attainable-all-mountain-orbea-rallon-x30-review/
The Occam now comes in two flavours; the long-travel/little-wheels Occam AM, and the 120mm-travel 29er Occam TR which we’re reviewing. This 29er trail bike category has some real momentum at the moment. It’s an ideal platform for for riders who might’ve traditionally gravitated towards a strictly cross-country machine, but who now want something to broaden their horizons without going all long-travel and #endurbro.
Frame and Construction
This is a great looking bike, and the quality of the frame is the real stand out, giving you a magnificent base from which to build your dream machine. Orbea make it easy to go down this custom route too, using their My Orbea custom bike program, which lets you change certain components from the stock build to create a one-off bike to suit your style. To see what the options are, head to the Orbea website – on the spec listing for each bike, there are certain items you can change which are marked with a little dropdown menu, and the prices to make these modifications are clearly listed.
The frame definitely gives off an air of trail bike toughness, even if some of the components don’t quite match this posturing. Previous generations of Orbeas have tended to twist like a yoga instructor, and they’ve gone out of their way to lose that reputation with the Occam. The chain stays are deep and stiff, with Boost rear hub spacing adding to the rigidity too. The front end is equally imposing, especially across the top tube, which is very broad to accommodate the shock nestled up inside it. All the linkage hardware is fat and solid – frame flex won’t hold this bike back.
Occam’s Razor, from which the bike derives its name, is a philosophy for problem solving. Broadly stated Occam’s theory tells us that the simplest approach is best. The original Orbea Occam had a basic single-pivot suspension, which would have made old man Ockham smile, but somewhere along the line, Orbea have decided it’s ok to add a bit of complexity for the sake of suspension performance!
The latest Occam uses a very clean looking flex-stay suspension arrangement to deliver 120mm of travel. This approach is more commonly seen in pure cross country bikes where weight reduction is paramount, but it’s not unheard of in this mid-travel segment either (the Cannondale Habit SE we tested recently is another 120mm bike with a flex stay). Getting rid of pivot point like this has a number of advantages; fewer bearing means lower weights, less maintenance and potentially stiffer frame construction. The shock is a user-friendly, no-nonsense FOX DPS number, tucked neatly up inside the top tube where it’s easy to access on the fly and allowing for plenty of room in the frame for a full-sized water bottle.
The Occam’s fantastic cable routing demonstrates just how neatly the new Shimano Side-Swing front derailleurs can be incorporated into frame design. Sadly, the bike’s provisions for an internally-routed dropper post are un-utilised, which is at odds with the Occam’s billing as a trail bike.
Geometry-wise, Orbea have followed the trends towards longer front ends, paired with shorter stems. It’s all about confidence and changing the distribution of the wheel base, so that when you’re pointed into nasty terrain, you’ve got more bike up front. There are only three frame sizes for the Occam – they don’t offer this bike in a small – so if you’re a shorty you’ll be on 27.5″ wheels.
There is sensational attention to detail to be found across the frame, with nice touches like a direct mount rear derailleur, effective down tube protection and neat chain slap guards all reinforcing the notion that it’s the frame where the quality counts.
When it comes to the way the Occam has been specced, the components are a super reliable blend of proven FOX, Shimano and Raceface kit. Solid choices, if not flashy. Still, we do have a few quibbles from a value and intended use perspective.
As with other boutique brands, you pay a premium for the frame, and so the Orbea’s components seem a little uninspiring if you’re compare them pound for pound with some of the other large brands. The SLX/XT 10-speed drivetrain is a bit ho-hum – the SLX shifters feel like they belong at lower price point, and being 10-speed your options are limited if you do want to convert this bike to a single ring setup too.
Our bigger gripe is the absence of a dropper post. We understand that this bike does still sit on the cusp of the cross-country category, but it’s mandatory in our mind to have a dropper post at this travel and this price.
You can add a dropper to the bike (a Rockshox Reverb) using the My Orbea custom options, which adds another $428 to the price. Admittedly, we were surprised at how well this bike handled without a dropper, but it’s a pity to have to fork out a few hundred dollars extra to bring this bike up to speed with other trail bikes.
The FOX 32 Float is typically smooth, easy to setup and maintain, but overall we’d have preferred to see a FOX 34, which would have been more in keeping with the stiffness of the bike. In the world of 29ers, larger diameter stanchions make a big difference, especially for bigger riders.
More positively, the wheelset is excellent. The DT rims shod in proper tubeless Maxxis rubber feel alive and responsive. The Ardent / Ardent Race tyre combo is fun, the rear wheel breaks traction first and predictably, setting up some awesome drifts in tighter turns. However, if your trails are loose, it’s worth considering upgrading the rear tyre too – you can do so for just another $13 using the My Orbea custom options.
The new 35mm diameter Raceface bar and stem feel great. You might think a 50mm stem is an odd choice on a trail bike, but it balances out the long reach perfectly.
The Occam kind of straddles the divide between cross country and trail bike performance; you could dress it up to serve either role, or maybe the blend it offers will suit you perfectly from the get-go.
Descending: We hate stopping to adjust the height of our seat post (too many years of droppers have spoiled us!) so we rode the Orbea with the seat at full height and we came away pleasantly surprised. Even with the seat up, it’s a pretty good descender – the short stem places your weight in a stable centred position that makes for confident handling on the downhills.
The suspension is geared around moderately rough terrain, with a suspension rate that uses all its travel quite frequently. This is ideal from a comfort and fatigue perspective, keeping the wheels on the ground and isolating you nicely from the terrain. However, if you’re looking to push a little harder, you’ll want to add some volume spacers to both the fork and shock in order to gain a little more progression. Again, this is an option with the My Orbea custom spec program, and you can add volume spacers to the shock for less than $50.
The laterally stiff rear end, light wheels and fast rear tyre all help ensure it gets up and going quickly out of a turn.
Singletrack manners: With the rear suspension set in the middle compression position, the Occam is a pleasure in the singletrack, efficient and composed. The laterally stiff rear end, light wheels and fast rear tyre all help ensure it gets up and going quickly out of a turn. Popping the shock into the open compression setting yielded a noticeably smoother ride, but at the expense of some pedalling efficiency, so we spent most of our time in the middle setting.
On flat, twisty trails, it threaded through the corners really nicely. There’s good bite from the Ardent in its large 2.4″ size up front and in the dry test conditions we rode in we really like the way this bike cornered, with the rear wheel breaking traction first. When a bike has a tendency to let go at the rear wheel first, you’ve got more confidence to weight the front end and attack flat turns.
Climbing: On the whole, the Orbea is a good climber. The suspension strikes a nice balance between firmness and grip, helping keep the relatively low-profile knobs of the Ardent Race rear tyre hooking in. The climbing position is comfortable, and quite upright thanks to the stubby stem, encouraging you to look ahead and pick your line. We made up plenty of climbs on the Orbea that have seen us walking on other bikes – it does a great job of delivering power to the ground when it’s loose.
We found the gearing a little awkward on terrain that included a lot of steep pinches. Our inclination is to stay in the big ring where possible, but on the instances when we had to drop to the small ring the big jump in ring size (22 vs 36) this tended to leave us spinning wildly, so it became important to look ahead and downshift early.
The frameset is amongst the nicest we’ve seen, we love its simplicity, its clean looks and the stiffness it possesses.
The Occam TR M30 is a bit of a fence sitter, and this might make it perfect for you. If you’re a cross country rider looking for a glamorous steed to push a little harder, then this bike will really nail it for you; it’s efficient, very comfortable for big days in the saddle and packs some really confident geometry. If you’re looking for an aggressive trail bike, then we think there’s an absolute beast of a bike lurking here. The frameset is amongst the nicest we’ve seen, we love its simplicity, its clean looks and the stiffness it possesses. The Occam certainly has the bones, but you’ll need to flesh them out with a dropper post, possibly a stiffer fork and maybe a more aggressive rear tyre too, to take it to the next level.
If you’re a cross country rider looking for a glamorous steed to push a little harder, then this bike will really nail it for you
If you’re in the market for an Occam, we’d encourage you to either seriously look at the model up (the M10) which comes with a dropper and 11-speed XT drivetrain, or check out the options on the My Orbea custom program to tweak this bike to get the most out of its brilliant frameset.