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Orbea Occam 29er S10 Mountain Bike Review

Orbea Occam 29er S10 Mountain Bike Review
Orbea Occam 29er S10 Mountain Bike Review.
Orbea Occam 29er S10 Mountain Bike Review
Orbea´s first 29er mountain bike, the Occam 29, was recently launched in the Basque Country. Orbea asked me to help organise the Occam 29er launch and I helped them find some trails, a location for the Orbea truck and places to eat. In many ways the Occam 29er launch was like a mini version of one of my mountain bike holidays. We had journalists from Bike Radar, MTBR, Bicyling.com and many other magazines and websites (click on their names to view their reviews). The feedback on the trails and Basque country in general was fantastic with some journalists telling Orbea it was the best press launch they had ever been to. So fortunately BasqueMTB passed that test! I was testing the Occam 29er for BikeRumor, (read the report) and in that respect I was very much objective, with no obligations to Orbea to write anything positive. With that review I couldn’t really write everything I felt, it wouldn’t do to be too effusive and the language has to be a bit more professional too. Read on to hear what I thought in my own words and my own style! Click Here to Jump Straight to the Occam Ride Report, or read on for the bike details!
The Orbea Occam 29er climbing on the coastal trails we use on our mountain bike holidays
Orbea Occam 29 Test: Pre Ride Nerves
I was quite nervous about the Occam 29er launch. It sounds stupid but on my mountain bike holidays I try to leave my ego behind. I’m not riding for myself. Nobody is interested in me showing off or trying to ride fast. People are there to enjoy their own mountain biking holiday, not to watch their guide enjoying it. That is one of the first and most important lessons I learnt when I started guiding. Now though I was standing with one leg on either side of an unfamiliar bike, and more importantly an unfamiliar type of bike, with 19 journalists looking at me. I felt the pressure. I’ve found that a press launch is much like a mountain bike holiday though, you have to stop thinking about your own riding, for holidays it’s so you can focus on the guests and for a bike test it’s so you can focus on the bike. You don’t want to arrive at the end of the ride and only have formed the opinion that you liked it or didn’t. You need to know why. You need to think about how a different type of rider would get on with the bike. It’s hard and I have a lot of respect for the people who do it week in week out.
Some close ups of the Occam 29er S10 and riding on the edge
Orbea Occam Suspension Design
The first thing that strikes me when I see the new Orbea bikes is that the suspension design looks very like a split pivot or Trek´s ABP with the rear axle pivots. I spoke to Orbea about this and they were very keen to point out that there was no patent issues and that they have the upmost respect for other people´s patent rights. The Orbea gains some specific advantages from their suspension design, not least a very narrow width at the rear of the bike which should help with rear derailleur strikes. How does the Orbea Occam´s rear suspension work then? Well it works really, really well. It feels very firm and controlled but does a great job of finding grip in the rough ground. It doesn’t skip and chatter in the way that some short travel bikes can, especially ones of this weight. I think that the biggest praise I can give the suspension is that it never really gave me anything to make me think about it. Towards the end of the day I was really throwing the bike into rocky sections very quickly and it was just dealing with it.
Orbea Occam 29er’s finishing touches
Orbea´s Beautiful Touches on the Occam 29er
There are a few beautiful little touches on the Occam which I think should give other bike manufacturers something to think about. Orbea show such attention to detail and that gives me confidence in how they have thought through the rest of the bike. Occam´s Cable Routing: To me the Cable Downtube Highway sounded a bit like marketing guff. It is only when you see the bike in the flesh that you realise what a great idea it is. No matter how much time you spend adding protective tape to your bike the cables always seem to rub. I see it all the time on other people´s bikes during our mountain bike holidays. On the Occam the cables hardly touch the frame. They are clamped on the downtube or run inside and those running to the rear triangle pass through the pivit point, where the front and rear triangles move least relative to each other. Rear Pivot / Drop Out: You only have to buy a very small part to change the drop outs. This means you can easily change from the 9mm axle to the more expensive 12mm that only comes on the top of the range bikes. Main Pivot: Orbea use an aluminium insert, offering a better alignment between the faces to improve the bearing life and alignment of the rear triangle. It is beautifully thought out and machined and should offer better bearing life than some well known 29ers! The other neat little touch here is that the bearing bolt tightens up on an expandable cone, this means that as you tighten the bolt, the cone expands and makes a very tight fit, further enhancing the stiffness of the back-end Rear Shock Mounting: Unlike most bikes, the rear shock bushing on the Orbea Occam 29er is replaced with a sealed bearing. This should offer increased durability, something I´d like to test to see if it works as promised! Lifetime Warranty: Orbea offers the Occam 29er, like all its frames, with a lifetime, (original owner), warranty. To me this speaks volumes about their confidence in the frame and as someone who would like to own the Occam for a long time and ride it hard it is a small but very important consideration.
Pretty, pretty, shiney, shiney on the Orbea Occam
Orbea Occam S10 Components
I don´t want to talk about the components too much. Orbea lets you choose your own components and, unless you have very deep pockets, you are going to be choosing different ones to these. The gearing and braking was all Shimano XTR which worked perfectly. The XTR clutch rear derailleur was a particular highlight, it works amazingly and I didn´t drop a chain once… after I´d switched it on. The SRAM carbon wheels were fantastic, they roll so quickly and are super stiff. I really want some! The Kashima coated Fox fork and shock were fantastic, plush and stiff. I´d love to put some miles on them and see if they last as well as they perform but, as with the Fox 34´s I´m testing on another bike, it seems to me like Fox is back on the top of their game.
So how did the Orbea Occam 29er S10 Ride?
Orbea Occam 29er Compared to Other 29er Mountain Bikes. Long, low, slack with short chainstays… relatively speaking!
Orbea Occam S10 29er: Climbing Performance
The first climb was incredible. The last bike I rode that climbed like this was a S-Works Carbon Epic. The same feeling of each pedal stroke accelerating the bike. The same lack of movement from the suspension. This is partly because the Occam 29er is light, at only 11.5kg, (25.5lbs) but it hasn´t been designed for all out lightness and instead Orbea have focussed on stiffnes. Whilst climbing I felt that there were three areas where the Occam 29er was in a class of its own:
  • The lack of lateral flexing. This was really noticable when cranking hard on the pedals.
  • The geometry. The longish top tube and steep seat tube really puts you in a place where you can apply all the power you have got.
  • The grip at the rear wheel. Even in the climb setting the rear shock isn’t locked out and, between that and the bigger tyres, the bike finds grip in places where it just shouldn’t exist. One loose climb that’s a one in tenner, (that means I clear it one time in ten tries), went easily.
On the first road climb we formed a mini peloton, with the faster guys rotating at the front and the rest of us trying desperately to hang on. As we powered our way up the road we quickly passed a strung out bunch of French roadies, one of whom did a double take so pronounced he almost fell off his bike and took the rest of his bunch with him!
Orbea Occam S10 29er: Gearing Choices
There was one area where the bike didn’t stand out in the climbing. The gearing was too high even for the mighty thighs which BasqueMTB has given me… hmmmm OK, maybe I just need to train a bit more! The 29er wheels make it feel like your chainring is about 11% bigger than it is, due to the increased circumference of the tyre. The smallest chainring was 26t, meaning somewhere around 30t in old money. With a 22t or 24t I could have cleaned all of my ‘project’ climbs, i.e. the ones I can’t clear yet but am working towards. The 26t was forced onto Orbea because they wanted to equip the Occam 29 with an XTR chainset which comes with a 26t as the smallest chainring. Personally I would reccomend a cheaper chainset with a smaller granny ring.
Having fun on the downs with the Orbea Occam 29er S10
Orbea Occam S10 29er: On The Descents
So, you’ve read that far to hear me tell you that a 11kg, carbon fiber, 29er, with 100m travel which is built by a company that makes some of the most successful XC race bikes on the planet climbs really well. I’m sorry, do you want those 2 minutes of your life back? (I can offer you a credit on a Basque MTB mountain bike holiday instead?!) Orbea had kept the biggest surprise about the Occam 29er for the descent. The top tube, which I had worried would feel a bit stretched out, felt great with the short-ish, 70mm stem and wide-ish 710mm bars. I felt like I was in a really nice, stable position on the bike. Despite the fact it was hard to manual the bike in the car park, once I was up to riding speed it was very easy to lift the front wheel; something that is important for me and the way I like to ride. At first I was a little bit tentative into the corners, the Geax tyres not really offering much lateral grip in some of the looser, dustier turns. As I started to get into the swing of things though I noticed how much control I had when the tyres started to break loose. I put this down to two things, firstly the incredible stiffness of the Occam and secondly the low bottom bracket. The long and low geometry really makes it a stable machine when things start getting a bit fast and loose and the stiffness just means that the feedback of sensations is so clear and precise. You’re not distracted by the frame, or wheels flexing. Or by undue suspension feedback. I was very quickly finding I was comfortable pushing the Occam to my limits and that riding the bike at those limits was putting an obscenely big grin on my face. Of course we cannie break the laws of physics. The bike is short travel and I was riding it very fast on rough ground. The suspension works very well but it isn’t, and can never be, a bottomless magic carpet ride. I was working hard and the bike was working me hard. When we reached the end of the trail my feet were bumped and my arms were pumped. It was great!
Close up of the Orbea Occam´s Suspension Details
My Summary of the Orbea Occam 29er S10
I don’t know if Orbea named their Occam 29er after the famous razor, however that description would suit the bike very well. Precise. Fast. Agile. It is a bike that could really eat up trail miles but it is also a bike that could be a fast and fun trail bike. Orbea say that this bike can be used for light Enduro (all mountain) and that is something I would echo. If you are prepared to work the bike it could be a very effective Enduro bike however if you like to just hold on and let the bike do the work then you’re going to need a bigger bike. I want an Occam 29er, although I would choose different components. I want to take it up and down big mountains and rag the living hell out of it. I want to ride it fast until my arms are burning and my hands cramp into claws. I want to destroy my friends on the climbs and then surprise them on the descents. I want to drift it around corners and skip it over rocks. I want one! Sadly we will all have to wait until mid-September for the Occam 29er to hit the shops!

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