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…
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
Pedals: Not included, but tested with Raceface Atlas flats
Seatpost: Stealth RockShox Reverb 31.6x385mm
Saddle: Fizik Gobi M5
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.
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.
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.
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.