TESTED: Orbea Orca M11iLTD – Bike Magazine Australia

Twice in my life, the Orbea Orca has helped me get my mojo back. In 2008, I had dreams of making it to Junior Worlds when I was struck by a car on a training ride. I had fractures in my spine, a broken arm, ankle, and hand, and severe contusions to my face.

In the ambulance, when I tearfully asked my dad about my bike, he said, “Don’t worry, I already bought you an Orbea.” He had planned to surprise me on Christmas morning. I learned to feel safe on the roads again riding that Orca. Eventually I rode it to a national medal.

Last year, my season ended in a splat when my collarbone made contact with a concrete velodrome. This time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep racing – or even riding. Then this pink dream machine rolled into my life.

The bike had changed a lot since my trusty 2007 model. First, Orbea now offers a customisation program called MyO, which is free on higher-priced Orca models (and the M11iLTD comes in at $11,999). You can pick from 18 colours in five areas on the bike and select stem length and handlebar size. Gearing and saddle options cost extra.

And Orbea will paint any 20-letter phrase, like your name, on the top tube. And in case you need some inspiration, you can check out these custom bikes from the 2017 Tour de France:

My test model came with SRAM eTap and 40mm-deep Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon wheels. The frame was redesigned in 2017 to be lighter, stiffer, and more aero than the previous model. A new carbon layup reduced weight by 60 grams, says Jordan Hukee, creative director at Orbea.

He credits the increase in stiffness to a reshaped BB386 bottom bracket and head tube. A new fork with wider-spaced blades also saves four watts (at 50km/h) over the previous version and increases lateral stiffness by 26 per cent, claims Orbea. Finally, the redesign boosts tyre clearance to 28mm.

Although the new Orca is stiffer, it was comfortable for hours on rough rural pavement and gravel as I worked back to fitness. It felt like it floated over the roads. The handling shined at one rainy race full of 180-degree turns. The Orca responded to every signal without being twitchy, and let me change my line at the last minute without dire consequences.

This nimble handling allowed me to confidently navigate through packs, but when I did falter, the stiff, lightweight frame helped me quickly accelerate back into the field. The smaller handlebar also made it easy for my tiny hands to reach the brake levers from the drops.

A hot bike can be extra motivation to get out. But with the Orca, it’s not just superficial – its smooth and fast ride helped me rediscover what I loved about cycling, perhaps when I needed it most.

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