Testing the Orbea Occam 29er On Our Spanish Pyrenees Mountain Bike Holiday
Following on from the Orbea Occam 29 press launch, I was lucky enough to receive my very own Orbea Occam 29 for a longer term test. The model I am testing is the Occam S10, the top of the range carbon fiber bike. Over the last few weeks I have put in the miles on this bike including a recent holiday we ran in the Spanish Pyrenees where, with the help of plenty of uplift, I racked up more than 10,000m descending on the Occam over the week. Read on for how I have got on with Orbea’s new 29er.
Orbea Occam 29: Testers Bio
Some of you who are reading this will have had a mountain bike holiday in the Basque Country but for those who don´t know me, or the trails in this part of Spain, it is worth giving some information on the trails I ride and how I ride before starting this review. I don’t think I am the typical Occam rider that Orbea had in mind while designing this bike. I ride Enduro as the Europeans call it, or All Mountain, and I love to ride as fast as I can on tough technical trails. A typical day’s riding for me would involve using a vehicle to get around half my climbing and then tough singletrack descents, taking in some natural trails and maybe some built trails with berms and small jumps. Trails in this part of Spain are generally rough and rocky, with plenty of technical challenge and long descents, and are tough on both bike and biker.
I weigh in at around 90kg with all my riding gear, am 5’10″ and as the main guide at BasqueMTB I ride around 5 or 6 full days a week so have good fitness and tend to ride reasonably quick.
I am testing the medium frame size which comes in around 18.5″.
Orbea Occam 29: Early Impressions
The S10 version of the Occam really is an undeniably beautiful bike, with clean lines helped by stylish graphics and clever cable routing. It is hard not to fall in love with this bike from the second you pick it up, however looking at the mantlepeice whilst poking the fire is never a good idea so let us ignore the good looks at the moment and see how it rides!
As soon as I got on the Occam I struggled to recreate the good feelings I had during the press launch. The bike’s long 612mm top tube left me feeling too stretched out and unable to move over the bike properly so, before I could start to test the bike in earnest, I made some set-up changes.
Orbea Occam 29: Set Up Changes
The bike came with a 90mm stem as standard and I believe Orbea are mistaken in specing such a long stem on an already long 29″ bike; it makes the steering too slow and puts too much weight over the front tyre. I changed the stem to a 60mm I had and instantly felt more comfortable, with the bike’s long top-tube ensuring I was still in a fast position and the shorter stem moved my weight back from the fork, let me move about more and really quickened up the steering. Suddenly the bike felt agile and more alive. The next thing to go was the fixed seatpost, which was too long and was in the way for steep, technical sections making the bike feel ponderous in tight twisty stuff. I replaced this with a Rockshox reverb which let me drop it fully out of the way and seemed to complement the nature of the bike perfectly; a fast bike like this shouldn’t need to stop at the top of descents to lower the saddle! Riding the bike like this felt fantastic on the dry, Basque trails but when we got our first autumnal rain the Geax AKA tyres were suddenly woefully inadequate and, after eating dirt a few times, I replaced the front with a Kenda Nevegal 2.2. With front end grip restored I felt I was now comfortable on the bike and ready to test out its capabilities.
Orbea Occam 29: Short Term Impressions
Orbea rates this bike for marathon-type riding, classic XC and light enduro (all mountain) and SRAM specifically state that the SRAM rise 60 carbon wheelset is for XC riding and Marathon riding. With this in mind I initially only used the Occam for our easier rides and on these rides the Occam felt really fast and capable, however I didn’t feel like I was pushing it’s limits ,which as a reviewer, I wanted to do. Carefully at first, I started using it for more technical rides and this is where the Occam really impressed me..
Fistly, the bike climbs amazingly well, even with the extra weight of the Reverb and fatter rubber combined with the shorter stem, and I can easily be first to the top of the climbs, if I want to. A word that continually comes to my lips to describe the climbing is efficient; a product of the low-ish weight, very stiff frame, light wheels and lack of bob, meaning that every pedal stroke shoots the bike forward.
On the descents the Orbea really shouldn’t be so much fun but the Occam is a little rocket. The 29″ wheels really smooth out the rocks and, despite it’s low weight, the Occam maintains momentum through rough sections. The suspension is really efficient, definitely letting you feel what is happening on the trail but finding grip in rougher corners and giving enough control to pick accurate lines. There is no getting away from the fact that there is only 100mm of travel between you and the rocks and ineveitably there are times when you just simply run out of travel, however this doesn’t happen often due to the progressive shock rate. One huge factor in how fun this bike is to ride is the low bottom bracket, giving the bike great stabillity and an almost invincible feeling in the corners, albeit at the expense of a few pedal strikes at first. The other big factor in the ride of the bike is it’s stiffness, something complimented by the carbon SRAM wheels. This makes the Occam track in rough terrain, sometimes getting knocked off line as you would expect from a light, short travel bike, but not being deviated due to flex. The stiffness of the Occam 29er undoubtably contributes to that slightly unscientific feeling that with the Occam, Orbea have made a strong bike.
It is worth quickly mentioning the SRAM RISE 60 wheelset. The wheels are stiff and light but I was really worried about riding them fast on rocky terrain. So far though they have shrugged off anything I throw at them, and to be honest I haven´t been taking it easy on them. The rims have a few marks from rock strikes but as far as I can tell they are still perfect. I really like the quick engaging but nearly silent freehub which feels of a quality commensurate with the steep price tag!
Orbea Occam 29: What’s Next
Over the next few weeks I will continue to test the Occam on some of my bigger days out. I have the bike set up exactly as I want it so I won’t make any more changes but I want to see how reliable the bike and wheelset are. Towards the end of the test period I will also try to get some time on the 120mm forked, aluminium Occam 29 H30X to compare how this longer travel, more affordable Occam rides.
Orbea Occam 29: Conclusion
I like the concept behind the Occam 29er a lot; Orbea haven’t aimed for a super lightweight 29er, instead they have built a tough, stiff, short travel bike that is really fun to ride out on the trails. I haven´t had very much time on the Orbea yet but already I am finding it difficult to imagine my life without the Occam, or as my friends are calling it “El Cohete” which is Spanish for “The Rocket”. Orbea are going to have to catch me before they get their bike back and given how fast the Occam 29er is that isn´t going to be easy!
(In case you are reading Orbea this is a joke, I will of course return the bike to you!)
Orbea Occam 29: Component Overview and Points of Interest
Weight as tested: 12.35kg, (27lbs)
(Nukeproof Electron Pedals, RockShox Reverb (125mm drop, 30.9 and 390mm), Kenda Nevegal 2.2 tyres, FSA FR230 stem and the thickest inner tubes I can find.)
Weight before my specification changes: 11.35kg, (25lbs).
Fork: FOX 29 QR15 100
Shock: FOX CTD BV SV REMOTE KASHIMA
Wheelset: SRAM 29 RISE 60
Other Parts: XTR everything with Race Face Turbineflat bars.
Head Angle: 70 degrees
Top tube effective length: 612mm
BB Drop: 44mm
BB Height: 326mm