I won’t lie… I didn’t groove with this bike during the first few rides. I read on paper what it was, calculated what I should expect based on decades of perspective gained from riding an endless number of bikes, and then I for some reason inferred that this was going to be similar to other slack-ish ‘trail’ bikes. You know… kind of goofy feeling when climbing up tight switchback climbs, but fast flying down some semi-enduro terrain? Well that’s not at all what I ended up with (okay, well sorta.)
I’m going to try my best not to come across as being in a wishy-washy relationship with the Occam, but what started out a sort of hate/like bond, flip-flopped in an unsuspecting way. Sorta like an 80’s John Cusack movie with a humble, but happy ending. Read on to better understand what I’m talking about, as I’ve likely yet to make too much sense…
In a world full of Boost-this, slack-that, fat, wide, uber soft ramping pivot technology, and other cool bicycle tech, I ‘read’ that the Occam should fall somewhere within that of other current trail bikes. The Orbea Occam comes in two versions: an ‘All-Mountain’ model that comes with 27.5 wheels & 140mm of travel and the ‘Trail’ version which rolls on 29er wheels & has shorter 120mm of travel. Because I still prefer the more nimble
26″ 27.5″ size wheels for everything unless there is a serious need for speed, I initially requested the All-Mountain version (go ahead, troll me). They didn’t have a large demo in stock at the time, so the Occam Trail it was! Sporting their Orbea Monocoque Race Carbon frame, the size large Occam Trail 29er hung in at a very respectable 26.88lb/12.19kg on our scale.
The $5600 Orbea Occam TR M10 had a build that was top-notch for the most part, with a solid front to back Shimano XT, 1×11 drivetrain and brakes, along with a hefty spread of RaceFace items, including the cockpit & dropper post. There were a few things I wasn’t a fan of (mentioned below), but nothing I’d consider a deal breaker.
My first observation was that the Occam has a single pivot rear with asymmetrical chainstays & Boost 148 out back. However, a pretty genius trick up their sleeve is their UFO (U-Flexion by Orbea) seatstays. Rather than have a pivot close to the rear axle, the steatstay flexes up to 7mm (upward) simulating what a pivot would accomplish. Some might assume this would cause more initial ‘bite’ when you roll over something, but the UFO stays are designed to flex at a fraction of what it takes for the shock to compress. This keeps it light as well as eliminating what can sometimes be a bothersome and more flexy pivot all the way at the back of the bike. Running Boost out back allowed the Occam to have short chainstays with clearance for up to 2.4″ tires and there were no issues with my heels smacking the stays (which happens often on a lot of bikes when wearing flat sole shoes).
Keeping the rear in control is the revered Fox Float DPS Factory 3-Position Adjust *breathe* EVOL Kashima custom tuned shock. I am of the ‘set & forget’ perspective when it comes to suspension. Unless on a really long paved or gravel climb, I rarely switch out of the fully open compression setting. The middle position did present a subtle increase in compression, but my fear of forgetting to switch it back on the descents far outweighed any assistance it offered on 90% of the climbing I did. I’ll get into some specifics to the ride review, but after A LOT of tinkering with where I thought it should be and where I ended up with it, the shock did its job almost perfectly.
A matching Fox 34… no wait. *Sigh*, a Fox 32 Float Factory fork with 120mm of travel sat up front. This had me scratching my head for a while. Yeah, it works absolutely great, but I would have expected (appreciated?) to see the stiffer Fox Float 34 on the Occam Trail. After all, it’s what they spec on the smaller-wheeled 27.5 version (albeit for $200 more). Regardless, more thoughts in the ride review below, but upon doing a little research, I discovered Tyler had asked the same thing when first being introduced to the latest version of the Occam a while back. It turns out that at the time of production, Fox didn’t have a 120mm Boost version of the 34mm Float Factory fork for 29ers. The 27.5+ version has a taller stack height and would not have worked either. Honestly, with only 120mm of travel, the 32 is borderline fine, but it was certainly worth mentioning.
I’m going to step up on my little preaching mechanic’s
soapbox stool and mention one of my biggest pet peeves with the majority of assembled bikes on the market… but first mention Orbea is one of the few I feel did it correctly, right out of the box. Cable routing. Orbea even gives you numerous routing options like including additional external cable guides to the outside of the frame (that’s what that oddly placed bolt above is for), should you use an external dropper, or have to quickly replace a rear brake. There is even a port so you can run an internal routed cable to an external dropper with the cable exiting at the bottom of the seat tube!
My Peeve: You can see it better in the 3rd pic (above), but Orbea did a great job with the cable routing. All companies out there partially assemble their bikes at an assembly factory and to this day, most run the cables/hoses coming from the right shifter & brake to the cable stops on the same side. Doing that rather than routing them in a more natural direction to the opposite side causes two issues. First, the cable housing has to bend back in the direction it came from in order to fit into the stop on the same side. Doing that causes a tighter bend in the cable thus increasing friction. Secondly, it forces the cable housing to rub the head tube when you’re riding in a straight line causing scratches and eventually wearing the paint off. I’ve even witnessed someone’s ride ending because the side of their cable housing exploded due to the plastic sheath wearing through and failing to contain the cable. *OK, rant over*
Keeping things simple and light, Orbea chose to go with a thru bolt rather than the standard thru-axle QR lever. The XT caliper is tucked up nice and tight and impossible to get to without a long ball hex wrench… proving my point that you can never have too many versions of a hex wrench.
The bike came with Shimano’s flawless XT 1×11 drivetrain with a 32t ring up front and an 11-46 cassette out back to provide a proper range of gearing for even the steepest of climbs and shifted almost too smooth. Ironically I had my first ever experience of throwing a chain while climbing a smooth gradual climb. Turns out, the chainring got clogged with so many leaves, it tossed the chain. Shimano’s ramped trim piece on the side of the single chainring seemed to have assisted in allowing damp leaves to ‘stack up’ enough to the point I had to clean them out, (instead of how the chain would usually press them onto the ring and they would get cut and spit out either side of the ring). At first assuming it was a fluke, the chainring later got clogged again on another ride on a different trail with similar heavy leafy conditions.
Regardless, props to Orbea for a well done and replaceable (though I doubt you’ll ever need to), chainstay protector that sort of snaps on to protect the top, bottom & sides of the stay.
So my second of three real nit-pick items has to do with the water bottle mount. It’s waaay down low. I’m 6’1″ of average proportion, and couldn’t reach a tall water bottle safely while in motion (even with the dropper down), much less do it without a lot of careful feeling around down there. Sure, the lower mounting position keeps the center of gravity lower, but it was almost non-functional unless I came to a stop.
Lastly, DT Swiss makes some great stuff, but I have to pick on this wheel choice. I’m a self-proclaimed wheel snob and pretty picky, so I don’t consider these quirks deal breakers. With the undeniable trend of wider rims on everything from XC to DH and all that is mid to super fat, I was a little disappointed with the narrow (22.5mm inner width) Spline X1700 wheel choice. Adding to that, the DT Swiss’ Star Ratchet system is pretty good stuff, but this bike came with the lowest spec 18 toothed version rather than the twice as quick engaging 36t driver. I am currently riding a set of Industry Nine wheels, as well as testing another set that has the DT 36t ratchet driver, and it’s a big difference. I noticed a lot more slop than usual every time I was climbing tight switchbacks, and it was kind of annoying. Surely, the Spline X1700 wheels keep the $5600 price in check, but I would have gladly taken some SLX parts for a slightly better set of wheels at this price point.
Despite nit-picking the wheels, the Maxxis Ardent up front (everyone should know what that looks like, right?), and the Forekaster (pictured above) did a great job with most situations. I typically don’t like something too grabby out back so to better allow the back to drift a bit, while letting the front determine where we’re going. The Forekaster’s side knobs are staggered to which I feel made for a nice predictable feel, while the aggressive knobs provided plenty of traction in the leaves and gobs of stopping power. They obviously shed mud well, and I felt that they helped push the Occam into the ‘Trail” bike category a little more.
The rear offered ample clearance for up to 2.4s, though on narrow rims as mentioned earlier, which would cause such a wider tire to squirm all over the place at proper low trail-riding pressures.
The frames’ finishing touches include large protective bash guard on the downtube and an included ISCG chain drop protector (useful when riding through deep, wet leaves… eh hem).
So I may have been a little hard on the wheel choice, and the bottle mount is easy to solve with a cool little adapter from Problem Solvers (of course, who else?) that lets you adjust where your bottle cage sits. Still, putting those things aside, my first few rides were full of ‘meh’… but keep reading.
My expectations were thwarted by my own biased preferences and preferred riding style… and by not expecting what felt a lot like a XC bike. I always try to take everything in with an open mind, but I was thinking that a 120mm trail bike was going to do close to what a 140mm-ish 27.5″ bike would do (which I’ve deemed my favorite combo for local riding), just with the bigger wheels for those that think 29ers are awesome or something (more trolling opportunities). Unexpectedly, I had one of those moments like when Lloyd started to get over Beth in Better Off Dead and realized there was way more to like and respect about Monique despite the initial language barrier… (getting beck on track now).
The Occam was actually turning out to be an entertaining bike that resembled more of a fun XC bike than it did a trail or short-travel enduro bike, so to speak. In the end, I’d give it high marks as an endurance racer as well as a good all-rounder… you know like as a mountain bike. I like many, admittedly got caught up in the whole ‘slack is so rad’ viewpoint and kind of forgot about how fun it is to have a bike that can pinpoint climb the most technical sections with ease.
The Occam’s single pivot rear with the bow-tastic UFO seatstays gave the Occam a bottomless feel which I really like on a trail bike that has what would otherwise feel limited at only 120mm of rear travel. Like most bikes I ride, I ran the Occam’s suspension a little on the plush side while upping the compression a tick. While this setting rocked, there was a small price to pay. I wished the rear was a tad more progressive towards the end of the travel when bombing down some more of the technical sections. I felt it went too deep in the travel causing it to pack down (rebound was set pretty fast). Up front, as I suspected being a bigger guy, I would have preferred a 34mm fork for the added stiffness, but overall, I really like the new Fox stuff and got over it pretty quick.
When you add in the ‘steeper than I would prefer’ 68° headangle, this bike really does feel like a plush race bike. Is that a good or bad thing? Look at it this way. I don’t race XC anymore and even sold my beloved Epic World Cup last year after a bad crash (because someone thought they could ride it with the same margin of error as their 160mm bike. Hmm.. who could that have been?) After putting in some time on the Occam Trail and deciding what kind of bike it actually was, I was reminded what it was like being able to aggressively sprint up a technical climb like I was still going down hill. Once at the top, while it wasn’t the world’s funnest bike (swoon), it descended way better than a pure XC bike would and was even a bit playful.
Who do I feel this bike is really for? If I lived somewhere that didn’t have so many fun technical descents, or I just wanted to motor all day, this would be a fantastic choice… assuming I was limited to having only one bike (the horror). Otherwise, I would love to have this between my Banshee and gravel bike for those days I wanted to put in some serious miles on actual trails or when I feel the need to go faster (read: keep up with my faster friends) and even enter the occasional race.
*editor’s note: I recently received another test bike (review coming soon) with similar DT Swiss wheels narrow width-wise (ugh), but I had a couple of super thick test wheels to review in my possession that I swapped onto the other bike…. one with the 36t ratchet. While not as quick to engage as boutique hubs like Industry Nine’s, it was more than enough to keep my mind at ease compared to the sloppy 18t version. Talking with DT, it’s actually pretty easy to swap out the ring with more teeth if you end up with one of the lesser versions (there’s a 36t and a 54t star ratchet ring kit, each for around $100.) Also, without going into details, the wider profile wheels (32mm inner width) transformed that bike’s handling by allowing me to lower the pressure enough to eat & grab everything in sight without squirming when leaning hard into turns. That said, the Occam would surely benefit from a wheel upgrade making it a little more ‘Trail’.