Reviewed by Fred Robinson and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller
When talking trail bikes, we've always focused on the aggressive end of the spectrum here at Vital, which is why up until 2016 you never heard much about the Orbea Occam. Previously very XC in nature, this bike has seen a massive redesign for the new year, and now features much more relaxed angles, a longer front end, shorter rear end, and lower bottom bracket height. Toss in a 27.5 version and a new suspension design with more travel and you've captured our interest with a bike that looks capable of truly rallying through the rough bits. Curious to see how it would perform in the real world, we saddled up aboard the Occam AM M30 during the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions.
- Carbon frame
- 27.5 (650b) wheels
- 140mm (5.5-inches) front and rear wheel travel
- UFO Flexion suspension
- Enduro sealed bearings
- Tapered headtube
- Internal cable routing
- Post mount direct rear brake
- Removable high direct front derailleur mount
- Press fit 92 bottom bracket
- Modified (2-bolt) ISCG 05 mount with frame protector
- 148mm Boost rear spacing with 12mm through axle
- Measured weight (size large, no pedals): 27.9-pounds (12.7kg)
- MSRP $4,199 USD
The Occam comes in both aluminum and carbon versions, as well as AM (27.5 wheels) and TR (29-inch wheels) models with 140mm and 120mm of travel, respectively. Today we're looking at the full carbon Occam AM, which uses what Orbea calls their UFO Flexion suspension design. What's UFO? Orbea has done away with the concentric rear axle pivot on their carbon bikes, and in an effort to make the frames as light as possible with a similar axle path and leverage curve, they've designed a flexible seatstay in its place. Aluminum bikes still use the concentric rear pivot, however. Orbea's UFO Flexion technology has been around for a while, but this marks the first time it has crossed over from XC. The result is two less pivots to worry about, a 150g (0.3-pound) reduction in weight, and improved rear end lateral stiffness. To further stiffen the chassis, Orbea uses the new 12x148mm Boost rear axle spacing.
With the shock removed or deflated you can feel the stays flex as you cycle the rear end, but there's far less binding or tension that you might think. The seatstay flexes upwards 25mm (1-inch) as the shock cycles, and requires less than 5kg of force on the saddle compared to 250kg required to fully compress the shock. While 25mm may sound like an alarming amount of flex, Orbea has done their homework and proven the design on the Oiz XC bike. Precise orientation of the carbon fibers and specially shaped stays ensure it can bend time and time again without reaching the critical point. Sealed ball bearings at each pivot help keep things smooth and active.
Orbea's carbon construction method is described as being very labor intensive with several measures in place to reduce excess materials and improve compaction, ultimately resulting in an impressively low frame weight of just 1,990g (4.4-pounds).
The internal cable routing is very clean, though some cable rattle can be detected on rough portions of trail. A removable high direct front derailleur mount makes the bike compatible with most 1X (32T max), 2X (24-38T max), and 3X drivetrains. Other frame features include a modified two bolt ISCG 05 mount with frame protector, PF92 bottom bracket, rubber chainstay and downtube guards, and a bottle mount inside the front triangle. We measured close to 25mm (1-inch) of mud clearance with the stock 2.25-inch Maxxis tire, which is really good given the short chainstays.
Occam AM bikes come in three carbon builds ranging from $4,199 to $7,999 USD, as well as three aluminum builds at $2,299 to $3,699. We tested the M30 carbon build costing $4,199.
While not the most aggressive geometry with a 67-degree head angle, Orbea isn't trying to make a complete descent crusher with the Occam AM, but rather a bike that can climb efficiently yet still handle some gravity induced fun. The steep 75-degree seat angle also speaks to this. The front end has healthy reach measurements across the three sizes, while the shorter than average 425mm (16.7-inch) chainstays help keep it nimble. The claimed 340mm (13.4-inch) bottom bracket height was very close to our measurement of 338mm.
On The Trail
We tested the Orbea Occam AM M30 on the rugged trails of South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. Our rides had long, technical climbs, rowdy and rocky descents, and some fast and flowy sections where you could really let it go. We set the bike to Orbea's specifications, running 25% seated rear sag on the FOX Float DPS Performance rear shock. Rebound was set slightly faster than normal, again based on Orbea's recommendations.
Pointed uphill the Occam AM M30 pedals extremely well, especially in the small chainring. Left in the open shock setting we experienced close to zero bob during hard efforts, but the bike would occasionally hang up on medium sized rocks and rob us of some forward momentum. We felt the medium compression setting to be ideal as the rear wheel would still track the ground and take the sting off square-edges, but not hang up as much. In the firm setting the bike is too harsh off the top for use on anything but smooth fire roads.
Our 6'1" tall tester is at the very top of Orbea's recommended height for the size large frame, and as such the bike left something to be desired when hunched over during long climbs. Orbea's believes riders over 6'1" should be riding their Occam TR 29er line, which is available in an extra large size for riders up to 6'6". Whether you agree with their big wheels for big riders philosophy or not, we think Orbea is missing an easy opportunity by not offering the more aggressive 27.5 AM series in an XL size, as that would likely be the go-to for our other 6'3" tester.
As mentioned, the Occam AM's geo is fairly neutral between an all-out climber and an all-out descender, making this bike a great choice for someone looking for a well rounded ride that climbs very well and can still be opened up a little on technical descents. However, if you're looking for a mini-downhill bike, this isn't the ride for you.
On fast and flowy trails, the bike was an absolute blast to ride. The bike's light and agile feel made picking up and hopping over obstacles a breeze, and it was extremely playful in these situations. With a 67-degree head angle, the bike handles tighter corners and difficult switchbacks very well and we were able to clean a couple mega-tight switchbacks that had forced a foot out on longer travel, slacker bikes.
That said, the bike did lack some stability when things got gnarly. Through steep technical sections we had to be precise with line choice and couldn't fully let go and open it up. Also, in sections with multiple harsh hits, the bike tends to blow through the travel a bit, making for a rough ride that often felt like it wanted to pitch us forward as we'd reach the end of its travel. Perhaps this is why Orbea recommends a slightly faster than normal rebound speed, in an effort to keep the bike higher up in its travel. The bike's leverage curve is nearly linear for the first 40% of the shock stroke, then becomes regressive near the end to counteract the progressive air spring. Given how capable the bike is, we feel it could benefit from a more progressive overall combination, however, and suggest using volume spacers in the shock as needed to make up for this. There are no spacers in there from the factory. Here's the suspension in motion:
Regardless of the few handling issues we mentioned above, the Occam AM actually did surprise us with its descending abilities. Once we adjusted our riding style and paid a bit more attention to line choice, the bike tackled rough and steep sections better than anticipated and we were able to ride hard and aggressively. In fast, chundery sections, the bike hugged the ground quite well offering great traction despite the dry and dusty conditions. As such, in true trail bike territory where trails aren’t super steep and gnarly, the Occam was one of the more lively and fun bikes to ride during this year’s Test Sessions.
While the overall weight of 27.9-pounds (12.7kg) was very light for a mid-level build, the Occam AM M30 is perhaps a bit under-spec'd for its $4,199 US price tag. The M30 features Shimano Deore disc brakes, a mix of Deore/SLX/XT parts for the 2X drivetrain, FOX Float Performance series suspension, DT Swiss Spline M-1900 wheels, and a Race Face Aeffect bar/stem combo. There are very few standouts in this lineup, but then again you do get a super light full carbon frame with some nice features. The lack of a dropper seatpost is also worth noting, as it's something we'd expect to see on a bike at this level and a necessity for many riders these days.
The DT Swiss Spline M-1900 wheelset performed adequately with solid engagement and reasonable stiffness. While the hubs have only 24-points of engagement, we never noticed it as a huge disadvantage. Though slightly dented, the wheels were true and snug at the conclusion of our test, indicating a solid and reliable choice. They're easy to set up tubeless if desired.
The 2.4-inch Maxxis High Roller II 3C EXO tire up front and 2.25-inch Ardent EXO in the rear proved to be a solid combination. While the Ardent may not be our favorite tire, it was fine on Arizona's less-than-moist trails and helped the bike roll quite quickly. We did manage to flat multiple times, so something a bit burlier could be useful if you ride in similar landscapes. In terms of braking, the tire combination worked well.
When it came to the Shimano Deore M506 disc brakes with a 160mm rear rotor and 180mm front, however, we did experience a bit of fade out back on long, steep descents, though power was adequate.
The Occam AM M30 comes with a 2X drivetrain which lead to several dropped chains during rowdy descents, leaving us wishing for a more secure 1X alternative. The bike is designed to be very efficient with a 32-tooth chainring should you decide to make the switch. Shifting was decent otherwise.
If you'd like to improve the overall descending abilities of the Occam AM, we'd recommend swapping to a shorter stem versus the stock 70mm, as we did. Size small and medium builds already feature a shorter 50mm stem. The stock bars measure 760mm (29.9-inches) wide which will be sufficient for most riders.
While the Fox Performance series isn't top of the line, it handled suspension duties well. The Fox Float Performance 34 FIT4 fork is a big improvement over previous models, providing more support while still remaining active in both the open and trail setting. For extended smooth climbs, the firmest setting might be a convenience, but in our experience it was far too harsh for any actual trail time.
Given the choice, we'd strongly consider stepping up to the M10 build, which gets you FOX Factory level suspension with the EVOL can for improved small bump performance, a dropper post, and several other upgrades for $5,799. Oddly it still doesn't feature a 1X drivetrain, but does come with a large Shimano XT 11-42 tooth cassette which would make for an easy conversion.
Long Term Durability
With the exception of a few dropped chains, we experienced no failures or major areas of durability concern in the build-kit department. We did knock something loose inside the frame's top tube, though, which resulted in a loud rattle every time the bike hit a rough section. We removed the fork, seat post, and crankset in a futile attempt to shaket the frame and remove the item. Further investigation revealed a forgotten piece of EPS that was meant to be removed after the carbon molding process. Orbea says this is the first Occam frame to experience the issue, and was able to remove the EPS while fishing with a derailleur cable.
Long term maintenance looks very straightforward, and this detailed tech document lays out procedures with nice visuals and torque specs. Frames are backed with a lifetime warranty against breakage and three years against paint and varnish issues. Components have a two year guarantee.
What's The Bottom Line?
Orbea did an excellent job making a bike that enjoys climbing as much as it does descending. While the Occam AM stands out in neither direction as outstanding, it strikes a nice balance between the two, making it an excellent choice for someone looking for that "one bike to rule them all" type of ride. Don't let the 140mm of travel fool you, the bike punches well above its class. While the price may be a tad high for the spec on the M30 model, it's a solid performer with some unique tech and a full carbon frame worthy of upgrades.
Vital MTB Rating
- Climbing: 4 stars - Excellent
- Descending: 3 stars - Good
- Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
- Value: 3 stars - Good
- Overall Impression: 3.5 stars - Very Good
About The Reviewers
Fred Robinson - Age: 31 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Height: 6'1" (1.85m) // Weight: 240-pounds (108.9kg)
"Drop my heels and go." Fred has been on two wheels since he was two years old, is deceptively quick for a bigger guy, and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. Several years of shop experience means he's not afraid to tinker. He's very particular when it comes to a bike's suspension performance and stiffness traits.
AJ Barlas - Age: 35 // Years Riding MTB: 15+ // Height: 6'3" (1.91m) // Weight: 156-pounds (70.8kg)
"Smooth and fluid." Hailing from Squamish, BC, AJ's preferred terrain is chunky, twisty trail with natural features. He's picky with equipment and has built a strong understanding of what works well and why by riding a large number of different parts and bikes. Observant, mechanically inclined, and always looking to learn more through new experiences and products.
About Test Sessions
Four years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2016's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in Phoenix, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Rage Cycles. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Royal Racing, Smith, Fox Racing, Race Face, Easton, and Source.