Bike Review: 2011 / 2012 Orbea Terra TLT cyclocross bicycle

Orbea Terra TLT cyclocross bicycle

I’ve been riding the 2012 Orbea Terra TLT cyclocross bike with Shimano Ultegra for about 700 miles now, and have raced four or five cyclocross races with it, so I thought I’d write up a review for anyone considering this bike.

One of the first things I noticed about this bike when I got it was how well the Shimano Ultegra group works on the bike. To give you a little bit of backstory, this is my first cyclocross bike. My previous road bikes for about a decade have come with either SRAM Red (on my newest road bike), Campy Record 10 (on my previous two road bikes), and Dura Ace before that. I discovered that new Ultegra shifts like a champ, and found that the front derailleur is superior to the SRAM Red on my road bike. I am extremely pleased with it.

The next thing I noticed on the bike was that it felt like it had no brakes at all! This is a common cyclocross bike issue when you use full cantilever brakes combined with road levers. It feels like it takes all of your upper arm and hand strength to slow down, and I was not even able to lock up the rear wheel. It felt a little dangerous until I got used to it. I think you probably get enough stopping power in reality, but it feels really terrible, so I decided to change them out. Full cantilever brakes offer very good modulation, and extremely good mud shedding ability. But the trade off is raw stopping power. On a cyclocross course, you don’t really need the kind of stopping ability that you need on a singletrack trail.

But you see a lot of cyclocross bikes sporting V brakes these days, and some of the newer cx bikes even have disc brakes. I didn’t want to go with a disc brake cyclocross bike because it limits your wheel choices. With standard brakes, you can throw a set of regular road wheels on your cyclocross bike.

TRP CX9 cyclocross brakes
I ended up swapping out the cantilever brakes for these TRP CX9 V brakes, which are outstanding.

I ended up swapping the brakes for a pair of TRP CX9 brakes, which are terrific. They were so much more powerful that I ended up skidding the back tire a few times the first 10 minutes I rode with them, because I was so used to the “grab and pray” action of the brakes that came on the bike. I’ve also heard great things about Avid Shorties.

The Vittoria Cross XG Pro 700×32 tires that come on the bike are fast and grip well, but I pinch flatted the front tire going through a ditch in a cyclocross race and blew out a sidewall. So I replaced the front tire with a Challenge Grifo 700×32 tire. I put in a Slime prefilled tube in spite of the extra weight, just to keep it from flatting again. I have been happy with that tire. It doesn’t roll nearly as fast as the Vittoria did, it does grip a little bit better off road.

The wheels are Mavic Ksyrium Equipe, which are both light and strong.

If you haven’t ridden one before, a cyclocross bike is seriously fun to ride. It’s fast, like a road bike. I have been able to keep up on group road rides, although it does take a little bit more effort to push those knobbies on the road. But it also feels tough, like a mountain bike. You can hop over curbs, ride down trails and treat it like a less sure-footed mountain bike. I find myself looking for any excuse to ride it. (Wow, it sure looks cloudy out there! I don’t want to get my road bike dirty, so I’ll just take the Terra.)

The Terra is a carbon frame, and even comes with a carbon seat post. So it’s plenty light and stiff. The BB30 bottom bracket setup only adds to the stiffness, and you can really feel the transmission of power from the pedals to the wheels.

One thing you notice when you look at the frame is that it has a straight top tube, and that the cables are all mounted on the drivetrain side of the top tube. The straight top tube means that you can easily shoulder the bike when you pick it up to run over barriers. And the side mounted cables stay out of your way when you are carrying the bike, and when you mount and dismount. The cables are Gore Ride-On sealed cables, which are terrific.

The bike comes with a Selle Italia SL Flow saddle, which is a terrific saddle, except that it doesn’t fit me personally and causes pain. I knew this when I bought the bike, because I had already gone through a painful process of trying out three or four different saddles before I ended up with a Fizik Aliante on my road bike. So I immediately swapped out the saddle for a Specialized Phenom Expert, which is a mountain bike saddle also described as a good cyclocross saddle. I never really notice or think about this saddle when I ride, which must mean that it’s comfortable.

The bike comes with light and stiff FSA SLK hollow carbon cranks, with a 36 / 46 chainring setup, which is fairly standard for cyclocross. I’ve found the 46 to be big enough to keep up on road rides, as long as you don’t mind a really fast cadence as the speeds get faster than 25.

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Have any questions about this bike? Did I leave something out? Do you ride one and want to add something? Leave a comment!

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.