Bike Review: 2011 / 2012 Orbea Orca, Silver series with SRAM Red

Orbea Orca 2012 Silver bicycle

This is the color of my 2012 Orbea Orca Silver bike. Mine came with SRAM Red Black series components though.

I’ve been riding the 2012 Orbea Orca Silver level frame with SRAM Red for almost 2,000 miles now, and I can say with confidence that it’s the best bike I’ve ever ridden and owned so far. It’s my third Orbea Orca. I’ve owned the first generation frame, the second generation frame, and now the newest one. Granted, carbon fiber technology keeps getting better and better in general, so maybe it’s not so surprising that a 2012 model frame would ride better than a 2009, and that a 2009 would also be much better than the 2006 I rode before that. Either way, I am thrilled with this new Orca.

One of the things that I was told about before buying the bike was how the carbon was laid out in a certain way to cancel out vibrations and prevent them from going through the frame, and that it would ride more smoothly. I figured this was just marketing speak, and that I would not be able to tell the difference, or would maybe feel the placebo effect and convince myself that it rode more smoothly, even if it really didn’t. Indeed, when I first started riding the bike, I could feel that it seemed “smoother” than my previous 2009 Orca.

But when I swapped bikes with someone who was riding an older generation S-Works Roubaix Pro on a rural ride over some “chip and seal” pavement, I became convinced that it was actually something real and not just some made up thing. I was astounded and surprised to find that my Orca felt more comfortable and had less vibration on the chip and seal pavement than the S-Works Roubaix Pro. Keep in mind that this was an older generation Roubaix Pro, and not the current generation. The Roubaix Pro owner noticed right away too. (We were both riding the same model Ksyrium SL wheels, with the similarly sized tires and similar tire pressure.)

The 2012 new generation Orca frame was designed to be more aerodynamic than previous versions. You’ve probably read about all of the new aero road frames like the Cervelo S5 and the Specialized Venge, among others and know which size is correct by checking a good bike size chart. These bikes were designed specifically with aerodynamics in mind, although they are clearly general enough to be road raced, as we’ve seen them both raced in the Tour de France.

Instead of designing a specific aero road bike frame, they decided to put their effort into making their top road frame as aerodynamic as possible without creating a separate model. It’s 14 percent more aerodynamic than the previous model Orca. If you look at the head tube, and where the rear wheel is shielded by the seat tube, and the new aerodynamic shape of the seatpost, you can definitely see how they’ve made the bike more aerodynamic. Orbea claims that it reduces drag from the previous generation by 64 grams. The bike design was tested and perfected in the San Diego wind tunnel.

As a rider, I have to say that I can’t really tell the difference when it comes to aerodynamics between this bike and my previous Orca. That’s probably because 80 percent of your aerodynamic resistance comes from the cyclist’s position, and only 20 percent from the bike itself. But I’ll take gains wherever I can get them, so I hope it’s faster!

The Orca comes in Gold, Silver and Bronze levels. The frame shape is identical. The only difference is the quality of the carbon fibers used in the frame. Orbea describes the Gold as “ultra-high modulus,” Silver as “high modulus,” and Bronze as “intermediate modulus.” When it came to choosing, I figured that I probably would not be able to feel the difference between Silver and Gold. That, combined with the fairly large difference in price for a small weight difference drove me to go with Silver.

You have two different seatpost options when you order your bike. You can get an Orbea seatpost that has a standard clamp to put any standard bike seat on, or you can choose the Selle Italia SLR Monolink seatpost and saddle system, which is lighter and has a bigger range of fore and aft settings for your bike saddle. I went with the Obea seatpost, because I didn’t want to be limited to just riding a saddle that was compatible with the SLR system. I ended up putting my existing Fizik Aliante saddle on the bike, because I’ve found that to be a very dependable and comfortable bike seat.

2012 Orbea Orca Silver Series with SRAM Red, Black Edition

Here’s mine, with my Serfas bike light installed, and my Fizik saddle. I usually have my Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL Powertap wheels on it.

The 2012 Orca is my first experience with SRAM. My previous Orca had Campy Record 10 speed on it, which I loved. I didn’t feel that it was worth the money to jump to Campy Record 11 speed though, and have to buy all new wheels that wouldn’t be compatible with anything that my Shimano riding friends typically ride.

I’ve been very happy with the 2011 SRAM Red Black Edition components, except for maybe the front derailleur performance, which is good enough, but not as good as my Campy front derailleur, or even the Shimano Ultegra derailleur that I have on my cyclocross bike. The new 2012 model SRAM Red groupo supposedly fixes that issue, and I’m hoping that the new front derailleur will be compatible with my existing shifters.

Dallas Bike Works used to be the local Orbea dealer in Dallas.

Here’s the Bike Radar review of the 2011 model, which is the same basic bike as the 2012. And here’s what Bike Rumor had to say about it.

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Did I leave anything out? Do you have any questions about the bike? Leave a comment and let me know.

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  1. I too went withthe silver for similar reasons, quick not though, I did a complete custom build and just ordered the frame set and seat post, I went with the monolink set up for weight savings plus the narrower SLR is by far the most comfortable saddle i’ve ever placed between these sweet cheeks lol. Apparently it saves around 4 watts as well, whatever. I should mention that I am not limited to the monolink saddles though. It comes with a bag with different inserts and clamp options so I can in fact use a standard saddle with either alu, TI or carbon rails.

    • @Robert

      I didn’t realize that you could use other saddles with the monolink seat post! That was the only reason I skipped it, because I was afraid that I might get stuck with a saddle that I didn’t like and have no way of changing it.

      I have close to 5,000 miles on mine by now (end of June, 2012), and I still love the bike.

  2. Bought the orca silver a couple of weeks ago but I’m quite concerned about its handling at speed. It seems to weave when peddling hard down hill. I’ve never noticed this on my previous bike (531 steel) or a friends spezalised Tarmac. I’ve been back to the shop with it but they thought it seemed ok (they haven’t road tested it only looked at it on a work stand). Also a lot of movement when climbing on it. I weigh 230lb but have been told that i’m fine to be on it at that weight. Anyone else noticed this or is it just the fact that it’s so much lighter than any bike I’ve rode before and this is how lighter bikes feel?

    • @Dave

      That’s unusual. I’ve found mine to be very stable at speed. Just because a bike is lighter wouldn’t make it less stable. The geometry is usually a big part of how a bike handles at high speeds. They raced the Orca in the Tour de France with that exact same geometry — they only difference was that the gold frame uses higher modulus carbon fiber.

      You might check your bike fit and make sure everything is okay there. I had my bike fitted at a local bike shop using a system like the Fit Kit, and it made everything a lot more comfortable for me.

      • Thanks for the reply, it does seem strange I’m hopeing that the shop I got it from will let me take out one of there team bikes (2011 orca s) that’s in the same size so I can see iff theres any difference. I bought on there advice a size 55 and I’m 5-11 with a 31 inch inside leg. Also going to ask if one of there guys could road test mine. I’ll let you no how I get on.

        • @Dave

          Just to be extra clear, by getting your bike fitted, I’m not talking about just the size of the bike frame. I mean making sure that your stem length and stem height is correct, and that your seat is the right height, angle, and in the right forward / back position, your cleats are correct, and all of those things. It made a gigantic difference for me to get fitted, and I can ride much more comfortably now.