Dropped seatstays for comfort and aerodynamics; aero tube shaping throughout; internal cable routing through the stem; Ultegra Di2 drivetrain
A well-executed combination of aerodynamics and lithe climbing characteristics
Paint is blah; wheel and tire combo feels a bit too narrow
The Orca executes well on the new-ish trend of aerodynamic tube shapes and components combining with climbing bike ride characteristics. It's a comfortable ride, especially in the rear, though the front end feels far stiffer and can lead to a bit of an unbalanced compliance feel. Ultimately, the Orca is a solid choice for everyday riders who tackle all types of terrain, from sustained climbs to windswept flats, and even occasional dirt roads.
It’s amazing, when you stop to think about it, how quickly all-around bikes started to look like aero bikes, and vice versa. It wasn’t long ago that the Orbea Orca M20iLTD-D would have been considered an aero bike, in fact. Now we call it an all-around bike because the two categories are so closely aligned that it looks and feels like, well, everything we all need out of our one-bike stable. The Orca, like other bikes of the dropped-seatstay-and-aero-tube-shapes ilk, addresses most of the riding that most of us do. And that’s a win for the consumer.
- The Grind: Belgian Waffle Ride* on a loaded Orbea Orca
- Felt AR Advanced First Ride
- Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc review
I have ridden all of the top of the line drivetrains on the market and for the most part they all work wonderfully, with nuanced differences between them. When compared to Shimano’s top of the line Dura-Ace Di2 group, the Ultegra Di2 group that comes on the Orca works just as well. I have noticed this every time I jump from a Dura-Ace bike to an Ultegra bike; the performance and the finish on the Ultegra group is so good that it’s hard to justify making that leap up to Dura-Ace, given the price difference. That’s a good fundamental start for the build on this particular Orca.
Like my colleague Ben Delaney, I too love the Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow saddle that comes stock on the Orca. It’s one of the comfiest perches I’ve tested within the last year, and that always makes the long miles tick past more easily.
The Vision 40 SC Disc Carbon wheels are wrapped in Hutchinson Fusion 5 All Season TLR tires. I didn’t mind this setup, except after riding other wheels with wide inner rim widths and bigger tires (the Orca wore 700 x 25c tires), the combo felt skinny. Given the ‘wider is better’ trend that has swept through the road market in recent years, the Orca could perhaps stand a new pair of shoes.
The Orca builds up sleekly thanks to internal cable routing and an attractive cockpit. I’m not generally a fan of the process of routing cables and hoses through integrated stems, and the Orca’s stem didn’t change my mind on this. Still, once all was said and done, the bike looks fast, sleek, and well-refined.
Just before testing the Orca, I had been riding Giant’s new TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc, a competitor in the all-around category (though it costs significantly more and has a fair few design differences).
After riding the Giant TCR, which lives on the super-responsive end of the handling spectrum, the Orca’s handling definitely felt more stable and accommodating than I was expecting. A 991mm wheelbase and aggressive 73-degree head tube angle made me think this one would be a quick handler. But the Orca’s trail is a touch on the long side at around 59mm, so perhaps that’s where the more planted handling characteristics come from.
That said, I would hardly call the Orca’s handling lazy here. It feels planted enough to feel like it could handle a busy sprint, but it would certainly feel just as at home rocketing up a long climb or weaving through the peloton. It largely feels like a racer’s race bike: the guy or girl who likes to be in the mix regardless of the terrain.
Comfy, but cozy?
The era of dropped seat stays descended upon us quickly, didn’t it? The Orca sports this recognizable design feature, which largely helps the seat tube and top tube pivot slightly for increased comfort. There’s also a slight aerodynamic advantage to it. And the Orca’s rear end indeed feels compliant enough to feel comfortable over most terrain, even the occasional dirt road.
My only complaint is that the Orca’s rear end was actually compliant enough to make the front end feel too stiff. That led to something of an unbalanced feel, with the front end shuddering under impacts far, far more than the rear.
Still, too much comfort isn’t exactly a dealbreaker for me. It’s just something I noticed, especially at high speeds over repeated small hits — think tarmac that hasn’t been repaved since Alf was on TV.
Like many other bikes in the category — think Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo, Specialized’s Tarmac, and BMC’s Teammachine, among others — the Orca features dropped seatstays and aero tube shapes. That trend swept in about two seasons ago, and largely, most all-around bikes started to look nearly identical, at least in silhouette. The Orca’s aero touches are perhaps a bit more subtle than most, but they’re still there.
Take a look at the fork’s wide stance, for instance. All that space between the wheel and the fork blades is actually an aerodynamic choice that helps reduce drag. The seatpost also features an aerodynamic shape; Orbea gets away with this aero touch without making for a harsh ride by — you guessed it — opting for the dropped seatstay design.
The Orca doesn’t scream aero — that’s what Orbea’s Orca Aero is for, after all — but it certainly doesn’t ignore it either. That’s exactly as an all-around bike should be. Despite its focus on aerodynamics, the Orca doesn’t lose its lithe ride. It can dance up the climbs with the best of them; it just wants to get to the climb a bit faster.
I keep hoping I’ll find a used wind tunnel at a yard sale or something so I can test all the various aerodynamic claims made by bike companies these days. In the absence of that, I’ll have to trust them to an extent and make the assumption that all these aerodynamic touches add up to a faster ride for me.
The Orca certainly feels like a fast bike, and it’s comfortable for the most part too. I didn’t feel hindered by any of these aerodynamic choices on the climbs, and the Orca never feels skittish when I want to get over the front end and sprint. In that sense, the Orca plays to the vast majority of us who don’t specialize in any particular type of riding; rather, it’s all out there and at some point we’re going to hit the climbs, face a headwind, and sprint our friends (those half-wheeling what-have-yous!).
While the stock paint is pretty uninspiring (fortunately, you can use Orbea’s Myo tool to create a custom paint job), the ride itself more than makes up for that. Orbea has done a lovely job of making the Orca a bike I’d happily ride in any conditions. Just don’t expect me to toss clip-on aero bars onto it and race on gravel. (I’m looking at you, Ben Delaney.)