All photos by Jay Prasuhn unless otherwise noted
Orbea has had a—shall we say—storied history in the triathlon space. For a few years, the Basque, Spain, based company was the talk of the town, carrying Craig Alexander to a Hawaii Ironman title. But slow to develop a new bike to keep up with the fast-paced, data-driven industry, a few years back, the company lost a bit of a foothold, and summarily lost Crowie to Specialized.
Those days are done. Orbea has seen a newfound resurgence, and it began when the company hired longtime tri bike engineer Scott Warren. Joining the company in 2011, his was a simple task: take a bike—the Ordu—from a design-project product, made with angular cues that had Tron looks and little aero bearing—to an aerodynamically-driven one.
Oh—and make it user-friendly.
This year Orbea celebrates its 175th year, which is something, especially when you consider that the company’s long history (which began, interestingly with the manufacture of pistols) is more far-reaching than companies like American Express and Coca Cola. And with American Andrew Starykowicz making its official debut at today’s Challenge Roth Triathlon, Orbea debuts the redesigned Ordu OMP.
THE ORDU OMP
The Ordu, debuted in 2007, is now in its fifth generation with the OMP.
While Warren was given the keys to the car to redesign the Ordu, he also had a task equal to making it fast: making it mechanically manageable. In the tri bike industry, we’re seeing a pull-back from overly-complicated brake placement and setup, opting for more practical setups that are, while still aero (using standard calipers , dual pivot brakes or center-pull options) are also easy to build, break down, work on mechanically and replace damaged or worn parts upon. It’s a trend that makes mechanics and end users happy.
“Of course it’s gotta be fast, fit well, and it’s gotta be user-friendly,â€ Warren says of Orbea’s decision to move away from aero-at-all-costs bikes. “When we talked to folks about what high-end bikes lack, it’s user friendliness. They’re all complex, and I’ll admit, as bike designers, we were intoxicated making complex bike. But we had a hangover with consumer and dealer dissatisfaction, with brakes hard to adjust, or the problem of brakes that were hard to adjust width on for those using a narrower rim for training and wider one for racing. We wanted a fast bike, but we wanted it to work for athletes, too.â€
While it has the same basic design cues (a compact cockpit with a sloping top tube), the Ordu OMP (Orbea Monocoque Performance) is a whole new bike. And while the recently-debuted OME model still exists in the line to serve beginners, the new OMP goes top-shelf. Case in point: American pro Andrew Starykowicz is debuting the bike at Roth today.
AERODYNAMICS—AND THAT FORK
How much faster is it? Happily, with Warren running the show, Orbea has moved on from an angular, art design project bike to a CFD-designed, tunnel-tested, aero construct. After hours of CFD study and design, the new Ordu was then tunnel-tested at Mondragon University in Spain.
The result? Orbea tested against other competitors (Warren said the Cervelo P5, and P3, Trek Speed Concept, Specialized Shiv were among those tested and that “we are happy that we’re in the ballpark,â€ but is keeping that data close to vest. It did, however release info on testing against its own bikes, and has come out light years ahead. Orbea says the OMP is 10 percent faster than OME, and 26 percent faster than the Ordu Gold that Craig Alexander rode to a win at the Hawaii Ironman in 2012. That second metric is telling; Orbea has moved on from making a pretty bike, to making a fast tri bike.
The biggest visual change—and likely a key source of the bike’s speed when thinking about its leading-edge placement—comes with the Free Flow Fork. It’s something we’ve seen first with the debut of the Pinarello Il Bolide road time trial bike recently, and comes for the first time to a tri bike.
Consider that wheels and tires are getting wider, aerodynamic interaction with the blades of the fork is becoming an issue. “I was curious how that interaction was working with conventional Fork spacing,â€ Warren said. So Warren decided to play with the fork blades themselves, bowing them far, far away from the wheels. Move the blades away, and wind will experience reduced air pressure and turbulence as it hits the area between the fork and front wheel/tire, flowing more smoothly through the interior of the fork crown.
“Several 3D printed forks were taken to the tunnel and we finally landed on this design,â€ Warren says. “If you’re riding a deeper section wheel, it’s superior. It performs better with a wide rim and tire than a narrow one.â€ That established, Orbea specs their Vision carbon clinchers on the bike with 25mm tires.
Orbea further reduces the bike’s frontal footprint by slimming down the headtube area with a 25.4×28.6mm tapered steerer, with a 1 1/8â€ lower bearing for out-of-saddle stiffness, and a smaller 1â€ upper bearing. The steerer upper will include a step-up shim fitted over the 1â€ steerer to mate with today’s 1 1/8â€ stems. (or, if you’re like me and still have 1â€ stems laying around, time to dig those classics out and go retro!)
Warren says the shape of the frame is its own Mongragon Tube Shape. That says, it’s a proven design we’re familiar with now in the industry; a clean teardrop leading edge with a blunted “Kammâ€ trailing edge, which has shown to provide greater aero advantage at yaw.
The head tube is elongated along its trailing edge, shielding any standard stem. With the design, there’s no funky proprietary bars or interfaces required.
WEIGHT AND STIFFNESS
In a medium frame, the frameset is 1952 grams, versus 2146 grams on its previous iteration, for a 194-gram savings. Orbea says the OMP also measures out with a 16 percent stiffness increase in the rear triangle—a significant feature I’ll discuss later.
Through the frame sizes, carbon layup changes to tune the bike. Orbea manufactures the Ordu with interior bladder molding with a polyurethane headtube and bottom bracket to keep excess resin and flash to a minimum…. Thus keeping the frame’s weight to a minimum.
The Orbea OMP will now come in five sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL) more than 4 in the OME, each with a linear stack and reach profile that Orbea says matches with the trendsetters like Cervelo. While all sizes are with 700c wheels, the front end has been adjusted to make for a bike that handles well even in the small sizes, with longer fork rake in the XS frame to reduce toe overlap. “In years past, there was one fork rake for all sizes. It’s more expensive, but this is needed to make the bike not only fit well, but handle well,â€ Warren said.
Orbea also uses a reversible, symmetrical seatpost. Partnering with FSA, it has two post offsets: 23mm fore/aft or 49mm fore/aft. With that, a consumer can go to an effective 83 degrees of seat angle on the long 49mm set at fore, and as slack as 73 degrees, with an added 10 degrees of rail range. With two separate clamp points, you can set one for tilt or horizontal adjust independent of one another. And, each both are easy access.
When we say practicality, we mean a bike that doesn’t cause headaches. And the Ordu OMP is a peace-of-mind bike; easy brakes, semi-vertical dropouts, normal stem, easy to pack, easy to replace cables, easy to find parts, no brake covers or tiny bolts to lose. It’s a zero-stress bike, especially when you get to a race and the last thing you want is stress.
Orbea’s Multi-Mount System (they call it MMS) is a fancy term for “a bunch of bottle bosses.â€
There exists four sets of bosses (downtube, seattube, top tube and behind seattube) give triathletes a place for everything; a frame-mounted bento box, downtube and seattube water bottles (with three bosses on the downtube providing a low or high bottle setting) and the soon-to be released fuel or tool storage box, a’la Trek’s Speed Concept. Warren said it had no positive or negative effect in the tunnel having it on. There was but one prototype bottle to affix to a bike, as shown here on the matte/gloss black bike.
Cable run is easy as well; there’s no fishing, with a clean EC-DC housing port at the front of the top tube for electronic or mechanical cable porting. It uses a “hatchbackâ€ port behind the rear wheel cutout to stash the Shimano Di2 battery. Orbea uses replaceable semi-vertical dropouts instead of horizontal ones for ease of use as well.
Also of note is that internal cable run includes housing throughout the frame. While it may be a hair heavier, keeping the cable housed throughout the interior of the frame (especially with a good housing like GORE) means a bike that requires less servicing when you’re basically pouring liquid glue into the frame when your sugary energy drink spills all over the frame in training and racing.
At the back of the bike, the rear brake has a stop within the aft of the seat tube, allowing the run bare inner wire to the rear brake. It’s a unique, clean look with a direct cable run for no drag that’s an industry first. There exists a Di2 or standard brake cable port on the non-driveside of the seat tube for those wishing to run any other center-bolt brakeset (SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo) other than the TriRig models.
At the front, the bike specs with a surprisingly adjustable Vision TriMax SI aerobar with j-bend extensions. The extensions were not my favorite; I’d end up swapping for a low ski tip, but the whole deal affixes to a normal stem. That stem, however, will come with a unique carbon fiber spacer; affixed to the top of the steerer, the 1â€ spacer doubles as a trailing edge aero section, carrying wind from the headtube’s leading edge across the stem and onto the trailing edge. Simple, and clever.
Orbea partnered with TriRig to employ the new Omega X center-pull brake caliper. New this year is a new leverage and a front cover held fast to the brake with strong magnets.
“We started working with them a year ago; we took the shape of the brake and designed around it,â€ Warren said. Braking power is claimed to have improved (we found that to be true in our test), and adjustment is now easier; a 2.5mm hex key into a perpendicular screw within either side of the caliper independently adjusts that arm’s width. No longer is it as problem switching between wide race wheels and narrow training ones; just adjust the calipers as you need on your own.
Option of bike color, spec, wheels, all adjustable through MYO customization. All bikes will ship with Vittoria Corsa CX 700×25 tires (yay 25mms as a spec!) the TriRig Omega X brakeset, a Vision TriMax SI j-bend aerobar (with plenty of adjustable extension length/canting and pad rise adjustability) and the new Prologo Tgale split-nose saddle. Basic breakdown is as follows:
- Ordu OMP M10i LTD (with Shimano 9070 Dura-Ace Di2 11-speed, Vision Metron 55/81 carbon clincher wheelset, the new Vision Metron Carbon crankset): $8,999
- Ordu OMP M10 LTD (with Shimano 9000 Dura-Ace mechanical 11-speed, Vision Metron 55 front and rear carbon clincher wheelset, Vision TriMax Carbon crankset: $7,999
- Ordu OMP M20i LTD with Ultegra Di2 11-speed, Vision TriMax Carbon crankset: $8,399
- Ordu OMP M20 LTD (with Ultegra mechanical 11-speed, Vision Metron 55 carbon clinchers, Vision TriMax Pro crankset) $4,299
Bikes will be available in murdered-out matte black/gloss black, and a powder blue/black option.
LAVA was the first media to see the Ordu OMP (at PressCamp in Park City, Utah two weeks ago), and the only North American media out to take part in testing of the Ordu the last few days, so let’s break it down bit by bit.
Ours was a size medium (56cm) frame in matte black with gloss black lettering, set up with Vision 55/80 carbon clinchers and Shimano Ultegra Di2—the M20i LTD edition.
First, the use of the new TriRig Omega brake is a win. For one, it’s a simple solution that user can have the confidence of adjusting and changing cables on at any time without needing any proprietary parts, keeping cables out of the wind while being mechanically operable. And the rear brake cable port is brilliant. And oh yes: they work, fantastically. Descending Solarer Berg heading back to Roth, I had to stomp on the brakes for a car that decided to stop for some sightseeing in the middle of the road. No dramas at all.
The 23mm and 49mm post is a thing of beauty. With two separate adjustments, you don’t lose one element of adjustment trying to change the other. And all recessed bolt heads are easy to access. Hallelujah.
It’s really, really stiff for as narrow and slippery as it is through the stays and top tube, and therein was our biggest surprise. And there’s a lot to point to; the beefy BB386 bottom bracket shell to fight flex at that location, the employ of Kamm-style tubesets and the elongated head tube that provides more surface area to resist torsional torque. I whipped the front end back and forth, stomped the pedals going up the Solarer Berg—and the Ordu didn’t yield. I asked Starykowicz he thoughts on the bike, which he began testing a month ago in advance of today’s race in Roth.
“Anyone who’s engineered a bike knows it’s the head tube and bottom bracket that makes a bike stiff, and you can see both areas are really beefy,â€ Starykowicz tells LAVA. “It’s as stiff or slightly stiffer than the OMR, but it’s lighter, and a lot—LOT—more aero. I’ll take the free speed.â€
Steering balance is one of our favorites; it rode well soft pedaling through town on the bar tops, was a straight-line tracker with no floppiness in the aerobars, and tracked well around corners. Add the stiffness out of saddle or while climbing and it’s the best handling tri bikes we’ve been on in a long time.
For a lot of bikes tested, we can find a category for it; a climber, a flatland straight-line tracker, a technical attacker. This is not only the first Orbea I’d been pleased with (I was admittedly not a fan during the Crowie years, and for good reason; the bike had no true aero pedigree), it’s one of the best all-around tri bikes I’ve ever been on. It climbs, descends, motors exceptionally, and is quietly one of the stiffest bikes we’ve ridden. And it travels, with no funky parts. What’s the closest comparison? The Cervelo P3. Not surprisingly, the two share the same traits: excellent performance with real-world utility. Not bad company at all.
You’ll find more on the new Ordu OMP at orbea.com.