Friday, May 29, 2015

Long Term Test: 2012 Orbea Orca Bronze

Introduction
Current mileage: 117.8

As with any Craigslist purchase, I am  more than a little cautious, especially given how eager the seller is. We trade text messages back and forth at a furious pace -- me fishing for more details about the bike and him fishing for a sale. We each manage to get what we are seeking and he extends the offer to bring the bike to me to see in person. I pick a public location just in case and head to bank to pick up a large stack of bills.

My first look at the bike is that it is rather unassuming, the dark color scheme not particularly standing out and bearing more than a passing resemblance to the colors of my K2. But I lift it off the sellers bike rack and the difference is immediately noticeable. This is my first ever ride of a carbon fiber bike. I have been lusting after them for a long time, but never had the justification to even try one until now and I can now fully appreciate why people rave about them. The lightness is downright astounding. Even without it being properly adjusted for me and on cheap plastic platform pedals, I can already feel the dramatic difference. The ride quality is stiff without being harsh, rather similar to the ride of my vintage steel frame Shogun, but the torsional rigidity is off the charts. I stand up and hammer on the pedals for a bit and the bike immediately shoots across the parking lot without so much as a whiff of hesitation. Each request for a shift is answered with a smooth transition from the Ultegra derailleurs and the brakes bring the bike to a strong and drama free stop.

I am in love...

The big stack of cash is handed over to the seller and the Orca is placed into the back of my car.

I have been researching Orbea bikes since all the way back in 2005 when I first acquired my aluminum K2 road bike. At the time, Orbea was still a relative newcomer to carbon bikes and certainly lacked the brand recognition of the big brands. At the time, carbon was simply too far out of my price range and I instead opted to stick to an aluminum frame. I was also largely a novice still to biking so I felt that getting something that was starter appropriate would be a better fit.

Fast forward a decade and I have a solid 10 years of riding under my belt and am ready to step up to a serious bike for the first time. Orbea still remains a rather obscure brand, but has had tremendous success building its Orca line of carbon frame bikes. As I dig around on Craigslist, the mere presence of the listing for an Orbea Orca catches my attention and garners a bit of serious scrutiny. I have always had penchant for going my own way and seeking out obscure things so the very idea that I could own a rarely seen bike was a big draw in and of itself. The fact that it was brand spanking new (with precisely zero miles on it at the time of my test ride) and that it was fitted with a full Ultegra gruppo were simply icing on the cake.

Having now put a little over 100 miles on it, I can honestly say that this may be the perfect bike for my riding level. Weighing in at right about 18.6 pounds without the pedals, the bike is phenomenal to ride. It may not have all of the very best components, but for a rider like me, who is not racing, but rather just riding for recreation, it has all of the right components for durability. The Mavic Aksium wheels are perfect for training and extremely durable, which is needed given that the road conditions around Long Beach can be pretty varied. Ultegra everything else guarantees not only excellent durability, but also excellent braking and shifting. Rounded out with a Selle Italia saddle that provides decent comfort, the entire package, despite being a bit beyond my original budget, was more than worth every dollar spent.

Already I am learning more about this bike with just a few rides. My first lesson was that the Orca is highly sensitive to tire pressure and that even being just a few psi too low made the bike feel a touch sluggish when changing directions. Adding a bit more air and suddenly the bike was extremely lively and responsive without sacrificing the ride. As the miles pile on, I will continue to share what I learn along the way.

But for now, I am just itching to go and add some serious mileage.