The Spanish marque evolves the endurance bike
The birth of Orbea came long ago in the heart of Spain’s Basque Country when the Orbea brothers first started manufacturing firearms. By 1930, los hermanos Orbea made the transition from the gun business and began building bicycles. Over the years the bike brand grew strong enough to gain recognition by 1937 Tour de France Stage 14 winner Mariano Cañardo. By the 1990s, Orbea partnered with the Basque cycling team Euskadi, which turned into a 20-year partnership where success was found at the very top of the professional road cycling world.
Of course, the road bike market has evolved greatly since the ’90s, and Orbea has been keen to evolve with it. From world championship-winning mountain bikes and a custom paint program where consumers can design their own paint scheme to a line of endurance and gravel bikes, Orbea, one of the sport’s oldest bike brands, has kept pace.
For 2017, Orbea offers a completely new design for their Avant endurance category. The new Avant frame has shaved 200 grams off of their previous frame. Integrated cable routing gives the bike a very clean and finished look. The white-on-white paint scheme was a welcome change from so many black-on-black bikes that have flooded the market. Thanks to the sloping top tube, there’s plenty of exposed (small-diameter) seatpost to help provide some flex for added comfort over the stutter bumps.
The carbon fork uses a shallower, more rounded blade profile with longer fork legs to increase frontal compliance by 10 percent. Owing to the use of disc brakes, Orbea wisely lost the seatstay bridge, which not only helps provide a clean look, but also helps bring some additional rear-end compliance.
The Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain was a nice addition to the overall comfort of the Avant. Having a smooth-riding bike with the addition of a smooth-shifting electric drivetrain is a good combo. With the growing popularity of disc brakes, the Avant runs with hydraulic Shimano disc brakes, which are to braking what the Di2 shifters are to shifting.
The rest of the Avant’s components are courtesy of FSA, with the carbon crankset using a compact 34×50 chainring combo mated to an 11-28 cogset. The wheels are the proven Fulcrum Racing 5 DB with 12mm thru-axles, which give you a good all-around feel for going up climbs or putting in the miles down by the coast.
The first thing we noticed when we jumped on the Avant was the 7.1-inch-tall head tube that, by design, allows for a more upright riding position, which remains popular especially by recreational riders. The sloping top tube gave the bike a somewhat squatty feel, but the overall ride (with a 100.5cm wheelbase) was very smooth once you got rolling.
The Avant felt at home on rough asphalt, as the new frame geometry really soaked up the little bumps. Having the integrated chain catcher gave you peace of mind, as you didn’t have the fear in the back of your mind of possibly losing your chain and having to fiddle with putting it back on.
As helpful as compact gearing is, when the going gets steep, most test riders would’ve preferred the happy medium afforded by a mid-compact set of rings. Owing to the compact gears, there were many occasions when we were riding over rollers with a tailwind where we found ourselves spinning out quickly. We do have to admit, though, that after long hours out on the road, the compact gearing became our friend and was helpful to have on tough climbs at the end of a ride. One part of the Avant we’d like to see change would be the position of the seat-tube bottle mount. Located just above the bottom bracket, some riders balked at having to reach so far down to grab the bottle.
As another entry into the increasingly popular endurance bike category, we’d have to say that Orbea nailed it with the Avant. The bike was very comfortable to ride and could be enjoyed for many hours in the saddle. The upright riding position was a nice change from the more aggressive race/aero machines that we have been testing lately.
The disc brakes and electronic shifting work well together, and for riders looking for a comfortable, long-day ride, the added benefits of these two items really pay off. Be sure to bring your Allen key along for your ride, though, as the thru-axles don’t come with a handle, and you will have to call a friend if you flat and you aren’t able to remove your wheels. The bottom line? For a price of $4199, the Orbea Avant delivers a lot of bang for your buck.
- A comfortable bike for long rides
- Integrated chain catcher
- Don’t forget your Allen key
- Price: $4199
- Weight: 18.25 pounds
- Sizes: 47, 49, 51, 53, 55 (tested), 57, 60cm