Praise The Light And Welcome The New Orca!

Written by Contender Bicycles, on July 20, 2023

Happy Anniversary!
20th anniversaries are always remarkable. In the ever-changing, market driven world of the bicycle industry, anything that endures the double decades is noteworthy. Now in its 7th generation, the Orbea Orca is a fine example of that, and it’s poised to hit the ground running.... Or rolling, uphill, very quickly. 

The Orca has always been a top-tier performer and has seen success at the highest levels. Introduced before the era of more category-specific (aero, light weight, endurance, etc) bikes in which we now find ourselves, the Orca has always been an all-around performer. For this latest rendition however, Orbea has elected to “Praise the Light” and provide us a far loftier, climbing oriented Orca, intended to elevate its riders to a new level. Far more than simply a really light road bike however, the new Orca embodies everything Orbea has learned and developed over the company’s long history and delivers a bike that aims to change how you reach the top. As Orbea puts it, “Never has so little felt so good!”

The Lay Of The Land…
As mentioned, the new Orca is purpose driven as a climber’s bike. But in addition to its super svelte weight, the Orca also focuses on delivering responsive acceleration, agile handling, vibration dampening and outstanding power transfer. In short, all the elements of rapid ascension. Going fast uphill is about far more than just a low gram count. What the new Orca is not, is an aero bike. The overarching philosophy of the latest Orca is “light over slippery”, but that doesn't mean it’s not smooth and attractive however. We’ll get into that later though. 

The Road Bike World Is Polarized, But That’s Ok.
It’s easy to see the segmentation that has happened over the past several years in the world of road bikes: Carbon fiber design and layup technology has delivered bikes hitting low weights we couldn’t have dreamt of not too long ago, as well as aerodynamic shapes that can cut out an amazing amount of drag, increasing speeds and cutting down times in their respective specialities. But like most things in life, you can’t really have it both ways. Orbea has embraced this notion and rather than try and skirt the line between an aero-enhanced climbing bike and a slimmed down aero bike, Orbea went full-tilt in the low-weight camp. So while the Orca may not be the ultimate low-drag speed machine on flat or rolling terrain, when the road kicks up (and especially when it stays that way), you’ll be treated to an enlightening climbing experience. 

A Safe Weight Loss Plan
So how did they do it? As mentioned, aerodynamic details are secondary in the new Orca’s design and the aero-focused details in many frames are where weight is added. More shaping often requires more material and “sharp” edges and details that reduce drag tend to allow the epoxy required in the layup process to “gather” or accumulate, thus adding weight to the overall layup. By carefully designing the frame to prevent excess epoxy gathering Orbea removed unnecessary material, saving some grams. 

Another important element in the Orca’s design is the removal of as many overlaps in the layup as possible. Carbon bike frames are made up of individual pieces of carbon fiber cloth, precisely cut and laid out in a pattern before being sealed in epoxy. Each piece has to overlap slightly, to avoid any gaps in the layup. Orbea designed the new Orca using fewer, larger pieces in the pattern. While more time-consuming and requiring more precision, the design and process requires fewer overlaps, saving even more grams. Along with the painstaking reduction in overlaps, Orbea also adjusts the layup and materials for each size frame in the range. This avoids excess material on the smaller sizes down the range, and keeps the size/weight ratio even across the sizes.  

In addition to the frame design and materials, paint and frame hardware are also key to the net weight result. Orbea frames are painted in their Basque Country HQ, which allows Orbea to tightly control the process, and reduce weight even further. The brand claims that paint weighs around 15g and the frame hardware around 20g. 

“But Is It Stiff Enough??”
This has always been the canned question when it comes to super-light bikes, and it’s often times well deserved. History is littered with insanely light frames that are absolute noodles when you stomp on the pedals, or dive hard into a fast corner. Orbea is well aware of this and has you covered. Sacrificing pedaling and handling efficiency due to a lack of rigidity was not an option for Orbea, so they started the design process of the new Orca with a target rigidity to ensure that even the strongest climbers could be sure of efficient, reliable power transmission. That target rigidity number was first and foremost in mind, and the Orca was made as light as possible without sacrificing that figure. 

To accomplish this, Orbea employed a key feature into the frame design known as the “Powerspine”. The idea is that the lower spine of the frame handles the large majority of torsional and lateral loads. The headtube, downtube and chainstays resist twisting forces and transmit power to the rear wheel and add steering accuracy. The Powerspine design allows for weight savings elsewhere on the frame without compromising stiffness.

So How Does It Ride?
Just about any rider can appreciate the feeling of a lightweight bike. Just to statically lift one up and then know that what’s under you on the ride is “that light” can have an almost measurable placebo effect. But the realities also speak for themselves in the mix of instant response and agility that often only a well designed, lightweight bike can deliver. When the rigidity is there and able to transfer the power and steering input accordingly, the whole lightweight picture comes together. Part of the responsiveness of the new Orca is due to a slight change in geometry from the outgoing model, in the slightly shortened chainstays. This effectively shortens the wheelbase just a bit, making the bike more agile and lively than its predecessor. Clearance for up to 32mm tires also expands the options and possibilities to maximize traction, reduce rolling resistance and tune the ride to your liking. 

Ok, We Promised You Some Aero
Orbea has been turning out World Pro level bikes for almost a century, so they’re smart enough not to leave free speed on the table. Marginal gains have won world tours. So even though the aero features are not key to the new Orca, Orbea hasn’t forgotten about the marginal gains that aerodynamics can provide. Whenever aerodynamics didn’t compromise weight or feel in the Orca’s design, they choose the most aero solution. The ICR cable routing reduces drag at the front of the bike and provides a clean, contemporary look. The new seat clamp mechanism was carefully designed to reduce surface area and improve aerodynamics and is also simple and efficient. And even though the fork is primarily designed to minimize weight, the shape also helps to reduce drag at the same time. Riders also have options to enhance The Orca’s aerodynamics via Orbea’s MyO program, which allows you to choose more aerodynamic bars and wheels, but most likely at a bit of a weight penalty. The Rest Of The Story
Part of Orbea’s goal to make such a remarkably light, well-riding machine was to control as much of the overall process as possible. In addition to the design process, we mentioned the in-house paint and hardware, but there’s the rest of the build to consider. Orbea has assumed as much influence over this as possible by rounding out factory build with their own OC Components and new Oquo line of wheels. 

The Oquo wheel lineup includes both carbon and aluminum variants, three depth profiles (35mm, 45mm and 57mm) and three trim levels (LTD, Team and Pro, in descending price order). The OC cockpit components cover the handlebars and stem, as well as a seatpost which uses a universal, user-friendly clamp system which works with carbon, alloy, round or oval rails. Orbea will also be one of the first brands to offer flared road handlebars across the full range of models and sizes.

Speaking of models and sizes, here’s how that will be presented:
The new Orca is available in the top of the range OMX carbon for those looking for the lightest weight. The OMR level carbon is targeted at riders who are prepared to accept a few extra grams, for a bit less money.

7 different sizes will be available in the lineup: 47, 49, 51, 53, 55, 57, and 60cm.

Three different color schemes will be available for the OMR level frame, and two in the OMX frame.

Orbea’s MyO customization program will allow riders to personalize their bikes even further in both the paint, as well as equipment selection.

See It Here!
Come check out the 2024 Orca that we’ve received at the shop, and watch for more information and availability over the next few weeks! As always, please feel free to reach out or visit us in Salt Lake or Park City with any questions and for all of your riding needs.

 


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