Orbea Bicycle Review
While officiating a USCF race in May, I noticed a bicycle I've never seen before. It was an Orbea being ridden by a Pro women's team. I asked about the bike and was told it was made in Spain. I asked them to tell me what they "really" thought about the bike. I received all positive comments from the racers. Little did I know that several months later, I would be a happy owner of a new Orbea!
After 6 years of riding my 8 speed, down tube shifters road bike, I decided it was time to get something with STI. I contacted Thomas at Roadcycling.com and said I was going to buy a new bike and would do a test report. We discussed what I was looking for and various brands. I wanted something beyond just a physical item. I wanted something that belonged to cycling. I shopped around for a month before everything fell into place. That's when I had a conversation with Orbea USA managing director, Tony Karklins. I remembered the positive comments from the Pro women's team. After hearing about the history of Orbea from Tony, I made my decision to but the bike.
Sizing is always an issue and even more when you buy over the phone. Tony asked several questions before determining the proper size. Then I had to answer another critical question. "Do you want to invest in the frame or components?" asked Tony. I knew I wanted to get the best possible frame as components can always be upgraded. With Tony's guidance, we decided on the Orbea Starship in Euskaltel-Euskadi team colors, Reynolds full carbon fork, and Shimano 105 group. I was pumped! Three days later, the boxes were at my door.
Everything was carefully packaged and protected. The frame was beautiful. The orange seemed to have a pearlescent glow to it. My riding buddy (and expert bike assembler), Ron volunteered to help build the bike. The threads for the bottom bracket were cut precisely with no slag or burs. All the welds were flowing and uniform. With the bottom bracket in, the seat tube was next. There was a problem. How can a 27.2 seat tube go fit tight in a 28mm hole? Then I remembered the plastic protection plug that I removed from the seat tube. It had a silver band wrapped around it. Can you say "shim"?!?! Yes, it was the shim for the seat tube. All was fine after that.
My comment during my first ride was ?I feel like I'm floating" followed by "STI is great!" Everything felt smooth, especially for an aluminum frame. I headed for a rough road and again was impressed with only a minimum amount of harshness. I'm sure the carbon fork complimented the Orbea frame which lended itself to a smooth ride.
The next test was climbing. Hills are a four-letter word for me! I can say the Orbea was an improvement. My sensation was that of more consistency while on the saddle when encountering different grades while climbing. When I stood up, there was a welcome, but slight, acceleration. Again, I seemed to be able to establish an immediate rhythm without a delay.
The best part of a hill is coming down the other side. I was concerned about the stability of the Orbea. I was not disappointed. I didn't feel as though the rear wheel was getting "light" while I was in a weight forward tuck. It easily held a straight line and steering adjustments didn't radically affect my balance even at a 40 mph decent.
As I mentioned earlier, my first sensation was like I was floating. This was on flat terrain. With the Velomax Circuit Comp Pro wheels, riding on the flats required minimal effort. This was a good time for some sprint action. Popping off the saddle in high gear generated an immediate response on the Orbea. It snapped hard and I thought my rear wheel wasn't going to settle down. I attribute the instant action to the light frame. With a little practice, I was able to better control my rear wheel hop and still maintain the crisp responsiveness from the frame.
After only a couple hundred miles on the Orbea, I fully understood the comments I heard from the women's pro team. They were right! To say I am happy with the Orbea is an understatement. It performs like my Ducati and rides like a Cadillac. I also appreciate Orbea as a company with deep roots in cycling. Who else offers a lifetime warranty on the frame? In addition, it was a pleasure to deal with Tony and others at Orbea USA who are genuine and knowledgeable people. Now if I could only ride like Mayo or Etxebarria!