Orbea Gain M20i Review + Video: A Look Into the Future
First impressions are everything. They inform how you look at someone or something now and into the future. As much as we might discuss their value in the context of interpersonal relationships, they matter with bikes too. The original Orbea Gain was our first experience with the now-burgeoning e-road bike market, showing us exactly how capable an e-bike could be. Now, does this new 2021 Orbea Gain surprise us in much the same way as the original did?
The Orbea Gain spans a wide range of models, with road bike and gravel bike versions, flat bar and drop bar iterations, and a choice of alloy or carbon frames.
The bike we have in our video review is the latest iteration of the Gain, the 2021 Orbea Gain M20i. This model is streamlined with features from Orbea's high-performance road bikes as well as an updated Ebikemotion drive unit, all with the goal of a distraction-free ride.
Smoothness is Critical
The distraction-free ride is as important visually as it is while riding the bike. It starts with how the user interfaces with the bike, which features the latest in integration and features. Most obvious are the integrated cables for mechanical and electronic shifting, which they call ICR Plus. Pulled from the likes of the Orbea Orca, this is a relatively simple way to hide cables while still offering the ability to use whatever handlebar you want.
Complementing the hidden cable routing is a pair of integrated lights front and rear. The front light is integrated into the computer mount, perfect for a Garmin, Wahoo, or a Pulsar ONE computer (more on that later). The rear light sits right atop a newly-hidden seatpost wedge.
Tube shaping, in general, is contemporary Orbea, with a flowing top tube to seatstay and a bladed aero fork that again flows into the headtube. The thin seatstays and super slim top tube are equally contemporary. Paired to the U-shaped downtube, the Gain looks every bit like an Orbea road bike, even with a 250Wh battery in the downtube.
Much of this shaping is unique to the OMR carbon frame, but even the alloy frame sees some serious changes. Orbea claims the alloy model is lighter than before and close to the carbon model in weight and ride characteristics. Geometry is about the same too, and importantly both bikes offer clearance for a 700c x 40mm gravel bike tire.
The battery is similar to the previous Gain, alongside a similar 208Wh range extender that can be mounted to the downtube. We don't have range estimates but paired with the main battery we've seen riders get anything from 40 to 120 miles of range.
Orbea has a close-knit relationship with Ebikemotion, giving them an early opportunity at the latest iteration of the X35 drive unit. Dubbed the X35 Plus, this new drive unit shell is slightly redesigned to make it stronger. The other benefit of a close relationship is a custom “torque simulation Algorithm” which they say delivers a more natural response when pedaling with smoother power delivery at low speeds. Besides that, you'll find 40Nm torque, 20 mph assist, and minimal drag, many of the things that make the Gain such a worthwhile choice.
We would be remiss we didn't mention the new Pulsar ONE computer that comes with most Gain models. This computer gives a second representation - outside of the IWoc ONE controller on the toptube - to show battery life, assist level, and estimate range. It is a big upgrade; the larger screen places visual focus on numbers we want to see without being distracting. It is also easier to navigate than the old computer. That said, riders using most newer Garmin computers can replicate all of what the Pulsar ONE computer does, including increasing and lowering assist levels from the computer.
Smoothness is About Handling, Too
The Gain has always been about endurance bike focus, and this bike is no exception. Its geometry this time around is completely different compared to the previous bike, however.
As before, there are five sizes (XS-XL), but reach and stack numbers are much more progressive in nature than before. All sizes gain stack height - from 10mm or as much as 45mm in larger sizes. Paired to Orbea's optional 15mm riser handlebar, riders can expect much more accommodating sizing, great for longer-distance jaunts. This was perhaps our only complaint about the prior-model Gain, which makes these changes seriously welcome.
Other changes to note in geometry include slightly more bottom bracket drop, shorter 420mm chainstays, and consistent trail figure measurements across all sizes. We find that maintaining trail figures is critical in ensuring predictable, consistent handling regardless of what size Gain you ride, so we are happy to see that here.
And On That Note, How Does It Ride?
The bike found in our video is the Gain M20i. It features a Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic drivetrain, carbon wheels, and a carbon seatpost. This is built as the road version, featuring road gearing, 700c x 30mm Schwalbe ONE tires, and 24.6 lbs in a size small. While this is just short of the very best build available, Gain alloy builds start at a much more reasonable price point and offer many of the same features.
The new 2021 Orbea Gain not only looks considerably different from the prior model, but it feels pretty different too. Maybe the biggest difference is how the bike feels with the motor off. There is a bit more snappiness in how the bike moves forward, even with the motor turned off; simply step on the pedals and the bike moves forward with just a hint more alacrity than before. Granted, our expectations are muted considering the sheer weight that comes even with lightweight electric hub motors.
One could likely point to this bike using carbon wheels versus the alloy Mavic wheels of the previous bike, but chainstays that are 10mm shorter is nothing to sneeze at. Even with the drive unit on, the extra bit of snappiness adds responsiveness where we didn't expect it.
Despite the extra responsiveness, the Gain has only added on to its secure-feeling ride. The slightly shorter wheelbase is countered by a nearly 10mm lower bottom bracket, which at 72-76mm feels much more in line with the stable endurance tendencies of the Orbea Gain. And at speed, the bike feels great too; more willing to hold a line in high-speed corners and a bit more secure feeling at lower speeds too. We never had too many issues with the prior Gain's handling chops, but the new model really ups the ante in that regard.
Ride smoothness is something lots of people ask about, and here the Gain does fairly well. Though it lacks the complexity of elastomers or suspension, the wide 30mm tires that come on the Gain do a lot of the heavy lifting here in absorbing small bumps and vibrations. It should be noted that riders looking for additional comfort can look to add up to a 40mm tire, either as a road tire or a gravel tire.
The inherent goodness that made the Orbea Gain special is here with this latest bike. The low weight, solid value for money, and versatility as a road bike or gravel bike are all here, just with an extra helping of polish. The smoother drive unit algorithm is noticeable at very slow speeds, but the full cable integration, and upgraded head unit place this bike decidedly ahead of the original Gain e-bike.
What we really dig, however, is the updated geometry. The ability to have someone ride with their bars even a bit higher means more riders can have fun on the Gain without compromising so much on the fit they need. But the added stability - both in straight lines and mid-corner - really changes the bike's character into something that is rewarding to ride as a road bike or as a gravel bike.
Is it worth it for previous-generation Gain riders to switch to the new model? If you value the leap ahead in good looks, or the smoother drive unit torque algorithm, then yes. It looks great, offers great parts spec regardless of which build you choose, and, with Orbea's MyO program, can be customized just about any way you want.
Not sure where to start in your e-bike or e-road bike search? Come find us in store, by phone, online, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to help.
Words by Alvin Holbrook, Photos by Berin Klawiter.