The new Orbea Occam was launched back in May 2019, with an embargo for the media for a bit after that. Orbea trusted basqueMTB with organising the press launch. This was the first time we have been given free rein with choosing location and trails for a product launch, although we have been involved with several for various brands. Orbea assured me that they were 100% confident in the bike prior to the launch so I took a big risk and organised a two day product launch in one of the roughest, most physical areas I know. The Sierra de Guara and if you have done one of our of our Backcountry Pyrenees Mountain Bike Holidays or Ainsa Enduro mountain bike holidays, then you will know what that is like!
Since then we have put a lot of miles on the new Occam and really tested it out so it feels like the right time to put out our test report on the bike. As always if you have any questions I´m always happy to answer what I can or ask Orbea for things I don´t know.
We have a relationship with Orbea, we help them with their press launches and we help them make videos. In exchange we get bikes for guiding. We don´t have any responsibility to sell bikes or promote them on the internet. Having said that I wouldn´t write a bad review, I just wouldn´t review the bike. Just to be upfront about that relationship before you read the review.
I have tried to keep to the key points but there are a lot of words here, if you would rather just jump straight to the key sections you are interested in then you can use the links here.
We chose two days which really pushed the bikes and riders to the limits for the bike launch. Any more would have been too much and it was nice to have the journalists leave feeling that they couldn´t do any more riding by the end of their two days. All too often we hear about these bike launches being all presentations and pampering. Not this time! The first day let us test the bike´s descending capabilities with a series of uplifts around the trails of Guara. These are some of the rockiest, most technical trails around and we had some major spills through the first day. We rode around 3000m downhill and around 600m uphill and, in this area, that is a massive day. By the end of the first day we had a couple of badly bruised bikers and we had discovered a problem with the derailleur hangers of the bikes! We discovered that they were way too weak, (all changed by the time the first bikes were sold!) We were seeing lots of breakages and we only just made it through the four days of the launch with the stock of hangers we had!
The next day we had an early start and a big day ahead of us. The route I had selected took us all the way from Guara to Ainsa, almost 100% on technical, testing singletrack with some really tough climbs along the way. The trails started off with the classic Guara tech, testing bikes and bikers equally but as we neared Zona Zero the trails gradually eased off and we enjoyed some flowy singletrack. During the whole ride we had the Pyrenees mountains, topped with snow, giving a magestic backdrop. We only climbed around 1500m but it was an incredibly physical day that pushed everyone to our limits, even the guides. When we arrived we had a very posh spa hotel and we enjoyed a beer in the car park sitting between a Maclaren 640 and a Porsche GT2 RS! Igor also got caught by the owners taking a nude selfie next to the Ferarri, that was funny! After the spa we enjoyed a lovely gourmet meal and lots of chat about the bike and the trails we showed the journalists.
The new Occam is another asymmetric frame design with 140mm of rear suspension mated to either a 140mm Fox 34 with a Fit4 damper or 150mm Fox 36 fork with Grip2 Damper. The bike is 29″ only and is available in both carbon and aluminium. One nice touch on the aluminimum bike is that the welds are polished, something which increases the fatigue resistance but also makes the bike look really cool. The carbon bikes can be customised via the MyO program which lets you choose your own colours free of charge and change some of the components.
It is worth visiting the Orbea webpage and having a play with the MyO configurator. It was designed by the same guy who did the Porsche one apparently.
Orbea offer the Occam 2020 in 4 sizes which is brilliant. If you remember the Rallon is offered in 3 sizes and it is the only thing I tell people to watch out for when they are asking me for my opinion on the bike. If it is your size the bike is perfect but if you are between sizes it is more difficult. The Occam has a proper Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large. Very tall riders really would need an XXL, I think that if you are much over 6´4″ / 195cm you might find the XL too short in the reach.
Rear suspension is the same as the Rallon, a concentric pivot around the rear axel. The Occam 2020 is more progressive than it´s predecessor, and more progressive than the Rallon R5 I am currently riding. In addition the leverage ration, anti squat and anti rise have been tweaked to suit bigger cassettes, increase sensitivity at the start of the stroke and reduce the effect of braking on the suspension. You can find out a lot more about that on the Orbea website if you are interested, I´m going to focus on how I feel the bike rides rather than the science.
There has been some controversy over the fact that the frame strut means you can only access the water bottle from the left. The idea is that you keep your right hand on the handlebars and get the bottle with the left. Some UK riders wanted it the other way around so they can cover the rear brake and drink. Is it an issue? All I can say is that it isn´t at all for me, I would never be blasting along and having a drink, if I think I´m going to need to grab a handful of brake I´d have both hands on the bars. In use I didn´t find it an issue at all. Access to the shock isn´t restricted at all.
One thing I liked is that the seat post is kept low, meaning I could run a 170mm dropper post on my large frame, something I really like a lot. There are a few more really nice touches on the new Occam, first is the internal routing with guides which keeps it really quiet. There are also external guides where the cables exit the frame to minimise noise and eliminate cable rub. One Orbea only feature is the tool-free derailleur hanger change, it is really hard to try and explain but basically you can easily change the hanger without any tools, you just need to Allen key to remove the derailleur from the hanger.
The top of the range bike weighs in at 28.1lbs / 12.7 kg, with carbon wheels but proper Minion tyres front and rear. This isn´t the build I would personally choose but more on that below. The bike also comes with Orbea´s lifetime warranty as always, something that shows confidence in their bikes.
It´s become a bit of a custom of mine to do geometry graphs in these reviews. I started doing it because nobody else was. Now there is this fantastic website called Geometry Geeks which lets you compare bikes of your choice. It´s worth spending some time on there but remember they are just numbers and if it was a simple “X is better than Y” we wouldn´t need bike designers!
Rather than go into all the details, let me point out some key numbers for me.
Orbea as always allows you to choose components within a range of specified options. Rather than go into the details of each component, there are two things which stand out for me.
First is the OC Components, this is Orbea´s in house line and the peices I have tried are really good. The dropper post works brilliantly; we are a year into our test of the dropper and it has been faultless. The grips are really nice, I have still to put proper miles into them, they weren´t on the original bikes we bought but came on the most recent ones. The handlebars and stem also only arrived on the most recent bikes but I´ve found them to be nicely shaped. The anodising on the bars is a little bit soft and I marked them when I built the bikes, this is something I´ll be feeding back to Orbea but it was easily covered up with a black permanent pen.
The other stand out components are the XT (or XTR) drivetrain. The new 12 speed Shimano drivetrain is amazing. It is a real step forward from the older range and I really recommend this. I will be writing a post on this alone because there would be too much information for this review alone. Look out for that next month.
The rest of the component options are well thought out and you have plenty of choice. Have a play on the Orbea website!
When the bikes arrive they have an extra shock spacer included but not fitted. They also come with tubes but with tubeless valves tied to the spokes, so changing to tubeless is just a matter of adding some sealant and pumping up.
Lets divide this up into two sections. Uphill and Downhill.
Riding the Occam 2020 uphill for me is an absolute pleasure, its a game changer for the technical sections! The steep seat angle, efficient suspension and long wheelbase mean I´ve cleared things which I´ve never climbed before and I´ve seen some people climbing things I would have said were impossible. The rear wheel tries to extend on the pedal stroke and this works to increase the traction the harder you pedal. The traction really is amazing. The bike isn´t super lightweight and I always opt for beefy tyres but it climbs really well. A note of honour here for the new Shimano 1×12 drivetrain, it is so, so much better than the SRAM. Sorry SRAM but it is. The spacing between the top gears is reduced meaning that you have options when climbing, whereas with the SRAM cassette you are basically just in the biggest cog when climbing anything remotely steep. The touch on the shifters is brilliant too, little rubber grips, double shifting on the downs and finger or thumb downshifts. It all adds up to a much improved experience for me. Choose the bike with Shimano!
Downhill. After watching the presentation on the Orbea Occam 2020 launch I was expecting a very Rallon-like feel. Check out our review on the Orbea Rallon R5. It isn´t like that at all. The bike is less sure-footed than the Rallon but a lot more playful. You can ride fast, enjoying flicking the bike about through tight trails, but you can´t just plow through things like the Rallon does. It is fast though. Our guide Igor and one of the journalists set a KOM on one of the very well used Zona Zero descents riding the bike for the first time. It is a very fun bike to ride on technical trails, the suspension works well, smooth without being harsh and the extra progresiity really suits the Occam. When things get really steep and rowdy I would honestly prefer my Rallon but for 90% of my riding, (and I get to ride brilliant, technical trails every day), I would be equally happy with the Occam.
I think it works well if I choose some quotes from other journalists which I feel reflects my experience most.
Pinkbike: “capable enough for almost all of us” “Ideal all-rounder for many riders”
EnduroMag: “fun and lively trail bike” / ” makes quick work of steep and techy inclines”
Singletracks: “nimble, enduro-ready machine”
VitalMTB: We never really felt like we had to hold back
Orbea offer MyO, it lets you change components and also to choose your colours from lots of different options. What did the basqueMBT guides go for and how do they like the bikes. Read on for some options we have chosen.
We have all ordered the same version of the Orbea Occam 2020, there was a general consensus that this was the one we all wanted. Partly the reasons were based on the cost of running through the season. For example, we wanted to have XTR components but we didn´t want to have to replace them if we damaged them so we went for a XT drivetrain! We all went with the XTR brakes, although the XT would have been fine too. We all know and trust the DT Swiss Spline 30c wheels after a few seasons guiding on various versions so that was the natural choice for us and I honestly don´t like carbon wheels. We also have similar confidence in the OC Dropper posts which have given zero problems on any bike during 2019. We have all gone for the Minion EXO tyres front and rear but we will upgrade them to Minion DD or Shorty DD right away. The forks we all wanted were the upgraded 36´s with the Grip2 damper which gives the bike a lot more confidence on the rough descents. Igor is running an extra spacer in his shock as he is by far the most aggressive rider however nobody else in the team feels the need. The bikes are all delivered with an extra spacer included but not fitted.
Have a look at the colours.
We are replacing our hire bike fleet bit by bit. Currently we have new Orbea Occam 2020 bikes in the Small and Large sizes. The Medium and XL sizes will be next. We have chosen the aluminium frames as the best option for hiring, and the cheaper frame option allows us to get the best components. This ultimately gives the best performance on the trails in my experience. The new alumimium Occam is amazing, it looks fantsatic with the welds polished smooth, and with the full XT drivetrain and brakes plus the Fox 36´s the bike performs amazingly. I think if you are on a budget it´s far better to get the best components on the aluminium frame over a more budget carbon build. The hire bikes come with the full range of OC components and they are really nice and give great value.