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Orbea Occam AM Review
Orbea Occam AM M-LTD Mountain Bike review.

Orbea Occam AM M-Ltd Mountain Bike Review

Intro

I have been riding the new Orbea Occam AM for the last two months, putting in plenty of miles in a big variety of terrain, and weather. I used this bike for guiding our “Winter Enduro” mountain bike holidays, with big descents in the Pyrenees, and also for riding around the Basque Country with changeable winter conditions and challenging trails. I have put in hundreds of kilometres, with plenty of climbing and descending before writing this review.

Normally I would write the whole review and then tell you about the bike but here i´m going to cut right to the chase, this bike really is exceptional and I think it´s the most exceptional bike Orbea has produced to date. My Rallon will always be my first bike, it´s just perfect for 99% of the riding I want to do. When things get a bit gnarly the Rallon will always rock on and leave the Occam in it´s wake, but where the Rallon is a fantastic tool for a job the Occam is a miniature work of art and an undeniable technological achievement. Read on for more details!

Orbea Occam AM Review | Bike Design

The Orbea Occam AM uses only two continuous pieces of carbon in it´s construction. Stop and read that again. Only two pieces of carbon! One is the front triangle, and the whole rear triangle is made from one piece of carbon. The rear pivot, usually concentric with the rear dropout on these bikes, has been replaced by a vertically flexible seat-stay. This is a technology that Orbea developed for their Oiz, a super fast XC bike that has a world championship winning pedigree. Out on the trail you would never know anything strange was going on, in fact it was only after I had been riding the bike for a few days that I noticed the lack of pivot. All very cool but what does it mean for us as riders? Well I think that it offers 3 advantages:

  • Increased lateral stiffness. Bearings are always a source of flex, especially as the wear, and with this design the frame can be built to flex vertically but not laterally. The Orbea Occam is an undeniably stiff bike, I´ll talk more about that in the ride impressions.
  • Lightness. The Orbea Occam is crazy light. My M weighs 11kg / 24lbs with pedals.
  • Low Maintenance. The lack of bearings means one less thing to wear out. I asked Orbea about how long the stays should last and if they were a potential source of weakness and they told me that they were confident enough to cover this bike with a lifetime warranty, (like all their other bikes).

Note that the Alloy versions have the concentric rear pivot, as found in the Orbea Rallon.

The Orbea Occam AM is available with 27.5″ wheels and in frame sizes S, M and L. If you want an XL size you need to get the TR version of this bike which comes with 29″ wheels and is only available in M, L and XL. Orbea explained that there were so few people wanting small 29″ bikes and XL 27.5″ bikes that they couldn´t financially justify making these frame sizes.

As with most bikes this year the frame uses a Boost 148 rear hub. I have become a convert to this new standard, mainly due to the increased tyre clearance on this years Orbea Rallon which I reviewed here.

Orbea Occam AM Review | Suspension

The Orbea Occam AM has 140mm of travel front and back, provided by Fox dampers on all but the most basic Occam models. This top of the range Occam AM M-LTD comes with a custom tuned FOX DPS shock with EVOL air can which feels great and very, very capable. You can tune the shock can be further tuned using volume spacers but I haven´t felt the need for this at all. The rear suspension is progressive from the sag point (around 25% travel) onwards. This gives a really nice feel in the mid-stroke with lots of support and then the suspension ramps up strongly towards the end of the travel. The first 25% of the shock travel is regressive, giving it a really supple feel and great small bump sensitivity. I find this suspension design perfect for this type of bike, it is very easy to get it set-up right and you have great small bump sensitivity but the ramp up towards the end gives the shock a feeling of having more travel than 140mm. It does mean that you will be reaching for the lockout lever when you are faced with long climbs, although in shorter technical climbs the bike is fantastic with the shock wide open.

Fox´s 34 forks have come in for a lot of criticism in past years and while I haven´t spent much time on previous versions of this fork I was really, really impressed with the new Fox 34´s. In my opinion the new Fox 34´s are on a par with anything else I have tried. They compare in performance to my BOS Devilles and that´s high praise indeed. The forks have great small bump sensitivity and don’t get overwhelmed by bigger hits. They are plenty stiff enough to go toe to toe with the very stiff Orbea Occam frame and I think that they´re the perfect partners for this bike. Hats off to Fox for turning their game around with these forks and getting back on the very top!

Orbea Occam AM review Head AngleOrbea Occam AM review Chainstay Length
Orbea Occam AM review BB HeightOrbea Occam AM review Reach

Orbea Occam AM Review | Geometry

The Occam sizes up quite small, I normally ride a Medium bike but with the Occam I am between a Medium and a Large so it´s definitely worth checking the sizing charts carefully before you order. Sizing aside, with a head angle of 67º, a long reach of 431mm (all sizes are given for a Medium frame), short chain stays of 425mm and a low bottom bracket with a 15mm drop, the Orbea Occam AM has decidedly modern geometry.

Orbea Occam AM review Sizing

The bottom bracket height doesn´t seem so low when you compare it to the graph above but you need to look at the suspension travel in conjunction with the BB figures and when you do that the Occam´s BB is on the lower end of the range. Reach is long, not quite as long as an Orange 5 or the Intense but it´s on the longer side of the spread of 2016 bikes, especially when you consider that the Orbea sizes up shorter than some of the bikes above. Head angle is a right-on-the-money 67º which seems to be what a lot of trails bikes are settling on at the moment and it feels great.

With their recent bikes Orbea have shown that they really understand what hard riders are looking for in their frame angles. The Rallon really pushed boundaries and lead the charge for the modern “enduro” geometry. The Occam doesn´t push boundaries in the same way but what it does have is a really sorted modern trail geometry backed up by a fantastic suspension performance. If you´re struggling to go fast on this bike you need to get a bit Zen and realise that the answer lies within, not with the bike!

Orbea Occam AM Review | Components

The first thing to talk about are the DT Spline XMC-1200 TLR carbon wheels. I have these set up tubeless with the stock Maxis Ardent rear and Highroller II front tyre and so far they have proven to be bombproof. I have had a few “rim dinger” hits on these and so far they haven´t lost any air, burped or shown any signs of anything other than cosmetic damage. The wheels are stiff and the free hub is quick to engage, something which is really important for me.

Most of the 1×11 drivetrain and brakes are Shimano XTR and have been perfect as you would expect. The new Shimano XTR trail brakes, the M9020´s are really nice to use and have been faultless. The crankset is a Raceface Next SL, something that I have had several problems with in the past as I´ve broken the joint between the crank arm and the axel but so far I have had no problems to report. The front chainring is a 28t, something you will want to change I think because with the light weight of the Orbea Occam AM you can really push a bigger gear. I will change this to a 32t shortly.

The raceface finishing kit is really nice and I really like the wide-ish 760mm Next handlebars. The high end package is finished off perfectly with a Reverb Stealth post.

Orbea Occam AM Review | Intended Use / On the Trail

What is the intended use of the Orbea Occam AM? Orbea bill both the Occam´s as “TRAIL” bikes, with the 29´er bike leaning more towards the XC side of trail and this 27.5″ Occam AM leaning a bit more towards the all-mountain/enduro side. I have found this bike to be extremely versatile. Its light weight and long reach means that you can easily use this bike to crank out long miles and race up big climbs but when you point it downwards though the bike is extremely capable.

It´s worth stating that when I say “extremely capable”, I don´t mean “extremely capable for a 11kg bike”! I mean “really capable” full stop. This really is a bike that you can ride most things on. It is very stable at speed and the suspension copes really well when things get a bit gnarly. To put that into perspective, I have ridden the whole of the Zona Zero Enduro World Series course on this bike and it never felt out of it´s depth.

I really enjoy the way the Occam AM rides. It is an extremely manoeuvrable and accurate bike, partly due to it´s light weight and short chain stays and partly due to how stiff it is. You can really put the bike exactly where you want it and lifting the front wheel is easy which makes it a fun bike to work through rougher terrain. The way the rear suspension ramps up towards the end of its stroke gives it a feel of having more travel than it does and encourages you to push the bike when things get rough. The only time the bike feels challenged is when the trail is very fast and choppy, here the shorter travel and wheelbase (compared to the Rallon) makes it feel a bit more nervous. This would probably be improved by sizing up to the large but for 95% of my riding the medium size is perfect for me.

Climbing is definitely a strength for the Occam AM. With the shock in the middle setting it is an efficient climber and seems to grab traction when you are sure it has run out. The climbing position is efficient and with the long reach, short rear-centre and low BB it is a really stable climber. For longer fireroads or tarmac locking out the Fox suspension gives the bike the feel of a hardtail and the lightweight means you can really power up these climbs.

Orbea Occam AM Review | Standout Points

Here are some of the points that stand out for me with the Occam AM.

  • Really light weight but feels bombproof and backed up by lifetime warranty.
  • Geometry makes it a very manoeuvrable and FUN bike.
  • Suspension performance is amazing. Hats off to Fox for that!
  • Paint. The paint really resists chips and even when chips occur they are very limited in area.

Orbea Occam AM Review | Full Conclusions

The Occam really covers a few bases, its light weight means it can be used for a XC mile-muncher and the strong performance downhill means it´s really suitable for what you could call “Enduro-light”! Really it´s a long legged trail bike, ready for whatever you´re going to throw at it. It´s definitely a fun bike, very manoeuvrable and playful on the trail, but it´s also stable and ready for the rough stuff.

If you like to climb and want long epic days in the saddle but want to have fun on the way back down then this could be the perfect bike. You really have to be going hard to find any limitations in this bike on the descents and few people will ever approach this. The bike is light but very stiff and certainly feels strong, something which is backed up by Orbea offering a lifetime warranty on the frame. Climbing is exceptional, not just due to the light weight but due to the stable geometry and great suspension performance.

You could race an Enduro on this bike, however for rougher courses or if you are at the top of the field you would want the Rallon. I think the Orbea Occam AM would be perfect for most riding and most riders in the UK for example. If you live somewhere with very rough trails and if you´re into heavy descents or racing Enduro then you should try the Rallon. The ideal world would be to have one of each!

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