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Tour de France tech: The new Orbea Orca

2010 Tour de France stage 9, Samuel Sanchez came close to catching Schleck and Contador on the descent.
Samuel Sanchez puts the Orbea to the test on stage 9

Olympic road champion Sammy Sanchez of Eukaltel-Euskadi is a motorcycle fanatic. Any chance he gets, he’s ripping around curving mountain roads on a crotch rocket rather than a bicycle. But his real job requires him to pedal hard to ride fast, and although he doesn’t have a throttle on his new Orbea Orca, it’s faster than previous versions, giving his legs even more of an edge. It almost brought him a mountaintop stage win at Avoriaz, but for the extra kick of Andy Schleck.

Major improvements in the already fast and elegant Orca came in the form of aerodynamic improvements. The 2011 Orca has, according to Orbea’s wind tunnel tests, 14 percent less aerodynamic drag than the 2010 version. This was accomplished by bringing the seatstays and fork blades closer in to toward the spokes of the wheels, by narrowing the upper part of the tapered head tube, by making the seat tube more aerodynamic with a wheel cutout, and by using an aero seatpost. The new aero Selle Italia seatpost has two options of heads: a standard one for standard saddle rails, and one that grabs Selle Italia’s long, single carbon beam available on some saddle models, providing a longer fore-aft adjustment range and easier tilt adjustments as well.

The Size Specific Nerve (SSN), a continuous carbon rib going around the entire frame that distinguished the Orca (and its sister, the Diva) since its inception, has been changed. It now is a more angular rib that provides more rigidity and allows optimizing of the carbon layup. It is noticeably much different in size and shape depending on frame size.

Dubbed “attraction,” a turn and twist of the seatstays above the dropouts (and a more subtle one of the fork blades), disrupts vibration coming up the stays without adding weight or reducing lateral stiffness.

Orbea has worked with Gore to make cable guides specific to Gore low-friction RideOn cables. Colored anodizing is back, and the Gore cable guides available on the Orca, as well as on the Alma mountain bike on which Julien Absalon won Olympic and world championship gold, have little colored-anodized guides for the cables, which run with bare sheath only from the front cable stop to the rear derailleur (without a housing piece at the seat tube for a clean, direct line). And of course, the elegant seat binder that formed part of the elegant lines of the original Orca and set it aside from all other carbon frames of the time, has been tweaked, slotted, anodized to match the frame color, and lightened up.

New Orbea Orca
New Orbea Orca

The Diva women’s road bike is gone, having been renamed the Orca Donna to maintain name consistency. The Orca family now has 10 sizes — six men’s sizes and four women’s sizes.

Gold-level Orca frames with high-modulus (HM) carbon fabric retail for $3500, while Silver-level Orcas, containing a mix of HM and mid-modulus fibers run $2500. Aggressive component pricing now makes it possible to get a complete (Silver-level) Orca for $4K. Orbea’s custom program still allows the customer to paint the bike any way they want.

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Click here for Complete Video Coverage of 2010 Tour

Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (www.zinncycles.com), a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.

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