Ride Report: the Orbea Occam

A poppy, nimble, lightweight bike that punches above its weight when things get rough…  That’s right- this is the ORBEA OCCAM RIDE REPORT!  I don’t like the word “review” since I’m not exactly your average rider, or even the intended user for most mountain bike products, but I’m happy to share my own experiences with the bikes I’ve been so fortunate to ride.  

Before we get started I want to let you know that this is sponsored by Jenson USA.  Jenson is a leading online retailer of Orbea mountain bikes here in the United States.  If you’re looking to spend more time mountain biking this spring and summer, Jenson has plenty more Orbea bikes in stock.  I have a link here to the Occam listing at Jenson, and anything you purchase from Jenson will directly help support my efforts. Thanks in advance for using these links!  

Orbea at Jenson USA

Now, one quick thing that I want to explain before we jump into the ride report.  I do have some awesome industry affiliations, as I’m sponsored by PNW Components, Industry Nine, Shimano, Kali Protectives, and Kitsbow Cycling Apparel.  Furthermore, as many of you already know, I’ve been supported by Ibis Cycles for the past 12 years, though this year that’s changed a bit (video!) and now I’m riding Ibis bikes in half of my content with the understanding that I’ll ride other brands as well.  Like this one!

Back in March I posted the unboxing and first ride video of the Occam.  Since then, I’ve been riding the bike quite a bit.  Now, I live and ride here in Bellingham, WA, which is a very popular riding destination in the Pacific North West.  I’m a former pro racer, as I retired from enduro racing in 2016, and before enduro became the hot new thing, I was also a pro level downhill racer.  

William of Ockham was an english friar who lived from 1287-1347.  He was once quoted as saying “entities should not be multiplied without necessity”.  Which, for all of you that have crashed one too many times, translates to “the simplest solution is most likely the right one”.  Orbea has taken that concept, wrapped it all up in some carbon fiber, given it a one sided brace from the down tube to the seat tube, used a somewhat simple suspension design, and turned it into a swanky mountain bike.  

This is the first Orbea bike I’ve ever ridden, and it was a lot of fun to learn about Orbea.  The company was founded in 1840 by three brothers to make firearms in the Basque region of Spain.  Last week I posted a full video about the history of Orbea, check it out below:

I’ve posted 9 videos riding the Occam thus far, and ya’ll have been asking a bunch of really good questions!  The two most common questions are how does it compare to the Ibis bikes, namely the Ripmo and the Ripley, and the second question has been “how’s the suspension”?  We’ll definitely cover both of those, so stick with me here!

Now, a quick confession.  I’d been riding this bike for over two months, kind of assuming that it was more of a lightweight, trail bike, and not intended for aggressive stuff.  I can totally picture in my head the higher ups at Orbea saying “this bike isn’t made for jumping or stunts”.  I actually started to feel really bad, like I was pushing the bike beyond its intent.  As someone who has been so closely identified with Ibis for so long, that LAST thing I wanted to do was go ride another brand of bike and then disrespecting it by asking it to do something for which it was never ever designed.  Then while researching for the story of Orbea video, I found some of Orbea’s own videos featuring the Occam.  This made me feel a lot better!  Ok, I’m not taking this bike where it shouldn’t go!

Bike jump
The Occam does great when it’s time to get airborne. The suspension isn’t quite as stuck to the ground feeling as either DW link or VPP equipped bikes, which in turn makes it slightly easier to find some extra pop.  The leverage curve is quite linear, and I found it to ride much better when a .8 volume reducer was installed in the stock DPX2 shock.

The Occam really shines on natural, rough trails.  It’s also a great bike for longer rides.  It has a good, neutral geometry with a steep enough seat angle that the climbing position is comfortable and in line with other modern trail bikes.  The head angle is slack enough that steeper trails are just fine, but not so slack that you’re constantly required to stand and lean the bike.  On slower,  more tech and natural trails, this keeps the bike easy and intuitive to ride.  No, it’s not an enduro race bike- but it’s actually better than an enduro race bike for a lot of more common terrain.

Orbea sacrificed some of the big hit gnar in order to attain some more favorable manners for just regular old mountain biking.  A big part of this is the suspension.  Before we talk spec, the actual kinematics fit within the design intent really well.  The bike uses a single pivot suspension design, with a concentric rear axle pivot to drive the linkage that compresses the shock.  I didn’t notice any pedal kickback while pedaling through rough stuff.  Traction was really good with this design.  And in tighter, slower conditions, as the bike went deeper into the travel, it still maintained that same playful feel. 

To compare the suspension to the Ibis bikes, yes, it has a different feel.  It’s not really that big of a difference, though. The geometry and parts spec differences were much more noticeable to me than the suspension.  I’d say the DW link is ever so slightly more efficient for pedaling, but not a big deal at all.  I never added any extra low speed compression on the Occam and ran the stock DPX2 shock wide open the entire time.  The DW link also offers slightly more traction, but it’s so close that I would not let this be a determining factor of which bike you end up buying.  On the flip side, the Occam was easier to get off the ground.  Both of these designs are really good, and myself, i’d be happy with either.  

The geometry of the Occam was a nice refresh.  The slightly steeper head angle and poppier suspension coupled to give the bike a very poppy feel.  Notice how much the guys in Orbea’s videos are getting airborne?  Notice how much I get airborne on the Occam? The bike really likes to jump over small trail chunder.  In my opinion, this is the proper way to rally a bike with a slightly steeper head angle.  When it comes to actual jumps, you know, things built with a shovel, I found the Occam really good at boosting some extra height.  On the landings, though, I’d often bottom out HARD.  Luckily that is easily fixed by tuning the stock DPX2 shock.

That’s the most reliable Fox shock to date and stays much cooler and more consistent on longer descents than the little DPS.  While the Occam came with a .2 volume spacer installed, and actually included a spare .4 spacer in the box, I ended up going to a .8 and was a lot happier. And yes, I’ve been running 25% sag.  

I also added a third volume spacer to the 36 150 Grip 2 fork.

The parts spec of this bike was very lightweight.  I had a lot of fun on the first few rides with all the stock bits, but ultimately was worried I’d break something.  The carbon DT Swiss XMC-1200 wheels rode nicely, but coupled with the lightweight EXO tires, I was worried I’d break them.  This wheelset retails for $2783 dollars, and weighs 1529 grams.  With my smash and jump riding style, I noticed a little more lateral flex than I’d like, and also really, really didn’t want to deal with a broken rim.  DT Swiss is one of the absolute best wheel manufacturers in the world.  If you are looking for mega lightweight and still quite stout, with cost being no object, the DT options are just fine.

Personally, i wanted a little more peace of mind for all my hucking, and threw on a set of aluminum Industry Nine 305 wheels.  As a side bonus, the DT Swiss hubs only had 36 points on engagement, while the I9 have 692.  I didn’t mind the slower engagement of the DT system that much, but the extra fast Hydra system is nice.  They are slightly heavier, at 300 grams more for the complete set, and they retail for less than half of the DT units at $1370 per pair.  Yes- you read that right- my wheels are $1413 cheaper, weigh only 300 grams more, and are MUCH stiffer.  Go figure.

The two main reasons I made this swap was the extra reliability of the alloy rim and the additional lateral stiffness of the big I9 aluminum spokes.

Now, I know some of you will say I only ran I9 stuff because I’m sponsored. Yes, I9 sponsors me.  I9 also makes some carbon wheels, but personally, I wanted to go as burly as possible, so I went alloy.  DT Swiss also makes fantastic alloy wheels, and you can adapt their hub up to 54 points of engagement, too.  Both brands make great stuff, so use whichever company you personally feel better about.  But I don’t plan to ditch my I9 stuff anytime soon!

I also beefed up the tires.  WTB was nice enough to supply me with some fresh tires for this build, so I used a Vigilante 2.6 Tough High Grip up front and a Trailboss 2.6 tough high grip in the rear.  These WTB tires are about 400 grams per wheel heavier than the Maxxis. This means the wheelset I installed is somewhere around 1100 grams heavier than the stock Occam parts.  And it made me much happier!  With the 140-150mm of travel, I feel like the wheels on this bike take more punishment than they would on a longer travel bike, at least, when ridden on the same trails.  I’m a fan of not getting flat tires, and my racing days are done, so I’m fine with exchanging light weight for reliability and confidence.  

The bike came with a 150mm drop Crank Brothers post.  The post worked great and the remote was very comfortable.  That said, I use 200mm drop posts on most of my other bikes.  I swapped the Crank Brothers 150 drop post for a PNW Bachelor 170 dropper post, and I don’t think I have room on the Occam to fit the full 200.  I also swapped the RaceFace cockpit over to PNW KW Bar, as I’m more familiar with these parts and I run them on all my other bikes.  I really liked the Race Face stuff though. The grips were great and the bars were softer than my PNW units.  That said, yes, I was chasing more stiffness, so eliminating bar flex was a goal on this bike.  

The Fizik saddle was very light, but it didn’t fit me that well.  Also, I kept sliding off the back of ht saddle!  It’s a completely smooth cover, but on steeper climbs, I literally would slide backwards on it.  This year alone Ive ridden saddles from Fabric, Chromag, WTB, and Fizik.  I used to work at WTB, and they still hook me up with product, which is awesome as I prefer the feel of the  WTB and the Fabric models the most.  I swapped over a WTB Pure Pro saddle and am much happier there.  

Now how does the Occam compare?  For me, it sits between the main Ibis models, though it is closer to the feel of the Ripley than the Ripmo.  I LOVE the fact that the Occam comes with a 36 fork.  This past winter I’d been spending a lot of time in the gym and actually hit 173 pounds.  The little 34 forks were flexy for me 10 pounds ago, and I’m still on the lighter end of the spectrum!  FYI, the average american male weight is 198lbs.  If you ride with a similar style to me, then I cant’ recommend a 34 fork.  

I titled the first look video as “poppy and playful”, and man, that’s so true for this bike.  So much so that it was my preferred choice for filming my how to manual, hope to cutty, adn how to manual through a berm videos.  The way this bike wheelies and manuals is super intuitive.  The chainstays are 8mm longer than the Ripley, which actually felt good.  It made the balance zone for wheelies a bit bigger than the shorter chainstay bikes, so it felt like i could manual through more on the trail.  With that rear suspension design, and my very progressive rear shock set up, the bike pops right up onto the back wheel.  

I’m very impressed with this bike.  It’s not designed just for racers or anything like that.  It’s a fantastic option for the “average rider” or whatever, that just wants to ride natural trails on an intuitive bike that can handle rough stuff, but doesn’t feel like a cumbersome boat on the easier trails.  

My single biggest complaint about the Occam is the frame’s torsional stiffness.  Even after I put all my personal parts on the bike in an attempt to chase more stiffness, it still isn’t quite as torsionally stiff as even a Ripley.  Will this matter for most people?  Not at one bit.  

The Ripmo is a lot happier at race pace on the descents.  Being so much slacker, it loves to be ridden hard and leaned over on the turns.  It has more traction on hand.  The Ripmo sacrifices some fun on the mellower trails in order to find more speed on the gnarly stuff.  The Ripmo is longer travel and has a 27mm longer wheelbase than the Occam.  The Ripmo is a fantastic bike, and has its place.  I prefer the Ripmo for the bike park and the man made, aggressive stuff, and I prefer the Occam for the more natural trails.  Both are good, just different.  

Something that ya’ll might find interesting- check out how different the cornering technique is on the Occam than the Ripmo.  On the Occam, I’m actually turning the handlebars a bit, and I’m not leaning as much as I do on the Ripmo.  Most riders do keep their bike a lot more upright and steer with the bars, so this is a benefit to most folks.  

Also- listen to how quickly this bike picks up speed.  When I start pumping down the trail with my arms and legs, the Occam accelerates very quickly.  I think this comes from the slightly higher BB, more profgessive suspension, and steeper head angle. It could also be from the axle path of the suspension as well.   

And finally, the seated riding position of the Occam feels fairly high.  For rough, natural trails, this is good.  I ride with flat pedals, primarily Shimano Saint and XT units.  These are all pretty big, yet I did not have many issues with pedal strikes.  

The Occam is going to be a great bike for the majority of common trails around the USA.  I do feel that it’s short comings are in big g-force moments, like landing from bike park style jumps or carving man made berms.  But for most Americans, that’s not what their daily riding is.  If you’re going to a bike park here and there, yes, the Occam could totally handle that, and it’ll then be that much more fun on a daily basis than would a bigger bike.  

If you’re in the market for a new trail bike, and want something that really excels at all around riding especially on the rougher, natural stuff, then the Occam is a great choice. Take a quick minute and hit that link below over to Jenson USA and check out that various spec options.  I’d say the best value is the M10 model, as that’s only $1500 more than the M30, but includes a 36 fork, a DPX2 rear shock, and the carbon fiber frame.  The H20 model starts at $2999, using an aluminum frame, a 34 fork, and a DPS shock.  That’s also a really solid bike for the price, and competes closely with the Ripmo AF I’ve been riding.  

Finally- a HUGE Shout out to Jenson USA for supporting this series in 2020.  It’s been a lot of fun expanding my own horizons with the Orbea Occam, the Intense Tazer, and the Chromag Stylus thus far.  We’ve got plans to check out several more bikes this year, but PLEASE, let us know in the comments what bikes would interest you the most!  Jenson carries bikes from a bunch of brands, including of course Ibis, Orbea, Intense, Chromag, as well as Evil, Yeti, Niner, Marin, Norco, GT, Santa Cruz, and the occasional Kona.  

I’ll see you on the trails!

Orbea at Jenson USA

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