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Review: Orbea Occam AM M-Ltd mountain bike

Orbea Occam AM Review
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Orbea Occam AM Review

The 2016 Orbea Occam AM is the latest trail bike from the Basque brand which has been building bicycles for 175 years on the Vizkayan Coastline. Orbea have historically been more well-known for their road bikes and fast hardtails, however with the latest Rallon they’ve gained acclaim on the Enduro racing circuit. I have been riding the top of the range Orbea Occam AM M-Ltd bike for the last two months, putting in plenty of miles in a big variety of terrain and weather. This bike has been ridden to lead guided mountain bike holidays with basqueMTB, with big descents in the Pyrenees mountains, and I have put in hundreds of kilometers, with plenty of climbing and descending, to set up this review…

Orbea Occam AM M-LTD
Photo: Basque Coast with basqueMTB Mountain bike holidays.

Bike Details

The bike is built around the Orbea Monocoque Race Carbon frame. Its Advanced Dynamics suspension delivers 140mm of rear wheel travel through a set of thru-axle 27.5″ wheels, with a Boost rear-end. Travel is managed by a Fox Float DPS Factory 3-Position Adjust EVOL LV shock with a Kashima coating and a custom Occam tune. Up front it gets a matching Kashima-coated Fox 34 Float Factory 140 FIT4 3-Position Adjust fork with a QR15 axle. The frame gets complete internal cable routing and a PF92 press fit bottom bracket.  The rest of the spec breaks down as:

  • Cranks: Race Face Next SL Boost with a 28t ring (plus 26 & 36t rings also included)
  • Headset: integrated FSA 1-1/8 – 1-1/2″
  • Bar: 760mm wide Race Face Next SL riser with a 35mm diameter clamp 
  • Stem: Race Face Turbine
  • Shifters: Shimano XTR M9000
  • Brakes: XTR Trail M9020 hydraulic
  • Rear Derailleur: XTR M9000 SGS Shadow Plus, with a Direct Mount
  • Chain: Shimano HG900
  • Casette: XT M8000, 11-42t
  • Wheels: DT Spline XMC-1200 TLR (15/100mm front, not Boost)
  • Tires: Maxxis Ardent 2.25″ TLR
  • Pedals: Not included, but tested with Raceface Atlas flats 
  • Seatpost: Stealth RockShox Reverb 31.6x385mm
  • Saddle: Fizik Gobi M5

Orbea Occam AM M-LTD Orbea Occam AM M-LTD

Frame Design

The first thing about this frame is the fact that the whole thing is made from just two carbon pieces. The entire rear end is one element of carbon and uses flex-stays, which move up to 25mm, to replace the bearings which are usually concentric with the rear axle. (Note, the aluminium versions of the Occam use a standard pivot bearing as opposed to the flex). For Orbea this is proven tech, first developed for their world-championship winning Oiz XC race bike, and they are so confident in it that even this longer travel frame carries a lifetime warranty. Using flex-stays, which Orbea calls UFO technology, gives advantages for stiffness, longevity, and weight. Orbea claims that the large 29″ Occam TR frame weighs 1.99kg, or 4.38lbs without shock. This fully built medium bike, with pedals, weighed in at just a shade over 11kg/24lbs.

The frame is quite heavily shaped, with the shock being recessed into the top tube, which gives space for a water bottle in the front triangle. There is a short seat tube brace that gives the frame big standover, and I’ve found the space if creates perfect for storing an spare tube. There’s also a removable front derailleur mount to give the option of running two rings, however on this 1x bike the mount nearly disappears. Cables are routed internally, very neatly, leaving clean lines and few areas with any chance of cable rub. My eyes see a very pretty frame, with sleek lines and really nice finishing touches. That’s all subjective though as can be seen for yourself in our photos.

Geometry is typically modern with a short rear-center, long front-center, and a low bottom bracket. The seat angle is a steep 75º  for getting up, and the head angle is a slack 67º for going down.

Orbea Occam Geometry

Orbea Occam Geometry

Orbea Occam AM M-LTD

Suspension Action/Design

The suspension is effectively the same as the aluminium Occam or Rallon, just without the concentric dropout pivot. On this bike the rear pivot is replaced with flexible seatstays which move vertically 25mm during suspension action. In my riding I never could feel the stays flexing. Rebound was very normal feeling, with no sudden ramps in the suspension throughout its travel. This probably results from the seatstays flexing vertically with very little force, indeed only 5kg is needed to move the seatstays through their travel.

The rear suspension is regressive to a 25% sag point and then progressive from there onwards. This gives it a great supple feeling at the start of its travel but a lot of mid stroke support. The shock ramps up heavily towards the end of the travel as well, and I have only bottomed it out a few times during my testing. At no point could I feel any negative effect from the flexing stays through the suspension, it just invisibly does its job.

The 140mm of suspension travel front and back is provided by Fox. The 34 float fork with the FIT 4 damper really impressed. I know that past versions of the 34 weren’t so well loved, but this fork is as good as anything I have ridden. It is stiff, has great small bump sensitivity, but ramps up nicely to deal with bigger hits quite well. I have been also riding the BOS Deville 160mm fork on my personal bike before this test, and the 34 feels like it offers similar levels of performance; high praise indeed!

The Float DPS shock with the EVOL air can offers similarly impressive performance. It comes with extra volume spacers to tune the performance, but I haven’t felt the need to go there at all. Again, it’s great to see the offering at the very top level of suspension performance. It appears that the time they spent with Orbea tuning the suspension custom for these bikes has paid off.

Based on the performance of this Fox suspension I’ve just bought a Fox Float X2 shock and a modified Fox Float 36 fork direct from Mojo Suspension in the UK to test on my other bike. I’ll give a full report of how I get along with that for a future write-up.

Orbea Occam AM M-LTD
Photo: Pyrenees Backcountry with basqueMTB Mountain bike holidays.

The Ride

On the trail the Occam AM climbs exceptionally well. Leave the suspension wherever you want and it shoots up the climbs. That’s partly to be expected given its 11kg weight, however the long front center and steep seat angle really put you into a great position for climbing. The bike finds traction where I really didn’t think there was any, and technical climbs are certainly one of its strengths. For longer fireroad climbs I find that the shock fully opened was a bit too supple for me, so I used one of the firmer positions. With the shock and fork in the firmest modes there is no noticeable movement, even when standing on the pedals, the bike rockets up non-techy climbs.

Then pointing the bike downhill is a pleasure. The suspension is up there with the best I’ve ever ridden, with great small bump sensitivity, but really good support in the the main part of the stroke. Combined with the great geometry it adds up to a bike that is stable but also playful. It’s really easy to pop the bike off features on the trail, and it drops into corners and generates lot of grip even on difficult trail surfaces. The bike is really easy to manual, with lifting the front over larger trail obstacles no problem at all. Finally, when things get a bit more serious the progressive, well damped suspension deals with the bigger hits and kept me rolling onwards.

The bike feels light on the trail, however the very stiff frame gives it a feeling of solidity that lends confidence. The only time I ever felt nervous riding this bike in big terrain was when there were large, sharp-edged rocks, and I was more worried just about smashing the bottom bracket into a rock and breaking some carbon. Realistically this is something that is more in my mind after a life of riding metal bikes, but a real concern even though the bike does have a decent looking built in downtube protector.

The Orbea Occam can really be many things to different people. It could easily be a long-legged trail bike, munching up the miles and dishing out grins on the downs. Or it could be an enduro-lite bike, ripping up all but the very roughest tracks and getting you back to the top efficiently. It could even be a great big mountain companion, easy to get to the top of the biggest mountains but surefooted and capable on the way back down. For me it has been the bike I’ve reached for most over the last couple of months, and it’s going to leave a big hole in my garage when it goes home.

Orbea Occam AM Review

It is a fantastic trail bike from Orbea. The Occam is fast and fun. And it pulls this off with some great frame tech. As a very capable trail bike it’s going to be hard to beat.

Orbea.com

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11 Comments
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sad
sad
7 years ago

looks nice and modern geo, but 8000USD i’d expect front boost at least and full M9000 or XX1 build. I mean cmon.

sad
sad
7 years ago
Reply to  sad

Oh and the missing link from the review 🙂 http://www.orbea.com/us-en/bicycles/occam-am-mltd/

palo
palo
7 years ago

would love to see threaded BB on this and boosted front should be there as well. otherwise top.
I think I will add this on my list of bike to try before I decide about my next one…
nice review.

Zane
Zane
7 years ago
Reply to  palo

Fox Doesn’t Make a Boost 27.5 34 Fork.

palo
palo
7 years ago
Reply to  Zane

thanks mate, did not know…

Wuffles
Wuffles
7 years ago

“Finally, when things get a bit more serious the progressive, well damped suspension deals with the bigger hits and kept me rolling onwards.”

Like all Orbea bikes, this one has a linear-regressive leverage ratio. I get that progressive has suddenly become hot marketing speak, but it happens to mean a very specific thing in suspension design, and not all bikes (in fact, not that many at all) have progressive leverage curves. If we could cut the marketing buzz when speaking of specific things that’d be great.

Colin M
Colin M
7 years ago

Well said Wuffles. Add flexible seatstays to the marketing term. Brands go that route to save money and decrease weight but none can prove it does anything worthwhile.

frank
frank
7 years ago
Reply to  Colin M

@ Colin M. – Isn’t saving weight and lower costs a pretty good benefit? Plus, any full-suspension rider can appreciate fewer bearings to eventually wear out. I think this design is a winner.

Paul S.
Paul S.
7 years ago

Just got my Occam AM M10 last week, and got it out on Sunday. I am not a great rider, but I think this is a bike I will love and grow into. That said, the Reverb was a very unfortunate choice on this bike! Only the M10 and M-LTD come with a dropper, and the M-LTD is 1x. The Reverb remote, which seems to be a general PITA, is very difficult to set up with the 2x cockpit on the M10. I may end up swapping it with a Command Post IRcc to get the lever positioned appropriately.

Things I like:
*The 10-tooth spread on the front is a nice spacing. Easy to do a quick change from descending to climbing with a single front shift.
*The frame has plenty of room for a large water bottle (My 1st gen Occam is pretty tight in there)
*The whole XT drivetrain shifts really well! There was a little bit of weirdness with the front out of the box, but a few turns of the barrel adjuster got it perfect.
*Having the tubeless valve stems and 1x ring in the box is awesome! I am very happy with having 2x, but I am excited to try 1x without a big commitment.
*The XT brakes have a lot of power and good modulation
*The orange frame is sweet!

The jury is still out:
*My LBS recommended putting the High Roller on the back, and putting a Minion on the front. I did wish I had a little bit more traction in the front yesterday, but as I said, I’m not a particularly good rider. In Europe, you can order High ROllers front and rear, which would probably be a better spec.
*I’m new to the through-axle in the rear, but it requires a 5mm allen wrench to remove, and has a torque spec. I wish it were a quick-release-type through-axle instead.

Bad:
*Reverb remote and 2x shifters do not get along. 🙁

I’ll post more if I think of it.

Manuel Sánchez Ortiz
7 years ago
Reply to  Paul S.

Hello the 2017 model in Spain (see the spanish web: https://www.orbea.com/es-es/bicicletas/occam-tr-m30) cames optionally with a “DT Swiss RWS Alloy Thru Axle 12x148mm” so, i think you can replace your through-axle.

Also, i was told the torque stuff is only related with the screw that holds the rear derailleur hanger not the axle.

Hope that helps.

Jason Bowen
7 years ago

I have the TR M30 model and loving it. Wish it came with a dropper.

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