Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Product Review: 2011 Orbea Alma

Times have changed and the world of mountain biking has jumped on that bandwagon as well. The introduction of 29 inch wheels by Gary Fischer a few years ago has spawned a new beginning to the development of mountain bike frames and geometry. Although skeptical about making the switch to the “29er’’, I gave it a whirl and have learned a lot about my riding style and how a lot of people can benefit from it. Below is a fun review of the 2011 Orbea Alma which is now my new race machine!

The first words that come to mind when looking at this bike is SEXY! The definition and construction of the carbon frame is clean and sleek and the paint and color scheme are simple yet very rad at the same time. Let’s just say that this ride is definitely an eye turner.

Also new to the world of mountain biking is the 2×10 speed drivetrain. I am running the new Shimano XTR Trail 2×10 crankset with 170mm arms, 36T/26T chainrings and an 11T/36T cassette. I have to admit that I was terrified not to have a 22T/34T combo as my easiest gear but I have found that for certain terrain it is okay. I’m still trying to get back in shape and don’t have the legs of steel I used to so grinding up some of the tougher Colorado trail has definitely been a challenge, however, when not climbing super steep sections, this gear ratio is absolutely perfect. The shifting is so smooth and crisp that it makes riding that much more enjoyable. As with all my other bikes, I’m using the Shimano XTR pedal which is extremely light and durable. Its adjustability function allows every rider to easily customize how tight or loose you prefer your clipless set up to be.

Reiterating the coolness factor of the bike, I’d like to go into the detail that Orbea has gone through to make this flashy ride top of the line. The new GORE housing is popping up left and right in the MTB world because of its sleek design and protective qualities. Orbea integrated a perfect routing system for an easy build and a very clean look. The blingy red cable guides, seat post collar, and drailleur hanger are just other reasons this bike totally pops!

To compliment the Shimano Trail XTR drivetrain, I’m running the XTR Trail brakes that are also new for 2011. With more braking power and cooling fins to eliminate overheating, these are by far the best brakes you can find. The precision and feel you have when using them allows for such a smoother ride and the adjustability for personalization of lever placement is awesome. Since the front end geometry of the 29er for smaller frames is much different than a smaller wheel bike, it took a few tries to get the fit just right. I needed to get the handlebars lower but was having a tough time due to the bigger fork to accommodate the larger diameter wheels. I ended up using a 680mm flat bar with a big sweep in combination with a 70mm/8 degree stem flipped upside down. I was worried the turning would be a little funky but alas it is awesome!

And then there was suspension! I’ve never raced a hardtail bike before and not only is the bike much lighter, but by eliminating the rear suspension mechanisms, the bike becomes much more simple from a tuning and maintenance aspect. The Fox F29-32 fork with 100mm of travel and a thru-axel wheel lock is the bomb. The new and innovative tapered headset is incredible stiff and delivers an ultimate race feel. The setup was easy and so far, no complaints.

If your bum isn’t happy, you’re not going to be happy and your riding will definitely reflect it. I’m a specialized BG girl and the 130cm Phenom is my preferred saddle of choice for the cross country MTB. Not only does it look good, it feels fantastic!

For the rolling component, the Alma is equipped with the Mavic C29 Crossmax wheels. Since larger wheels have the tendency to flex, I was willing to sacrifice a bit of weight for a stiff and durable wheel that is perfect for a tubeless setup. As for the finishing touches on the new getup, I am running the new Maxxis Ikon 29 tires. At only 525g each, this is a super light but very versatile tire for lots of different terrain. I have been riding and racing them around 25psi and unless there are millions of sharp shale rocks around to rip through any tire’s sidewall, this pressure has been adequate for both technical sections and cornering.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with my 2011 setup. It weighs in at 21lbs and has been a total blast to ride and race. Everything about it is new and exciting and every time I take it out, I come home with one more reason I love it more. There are a lot of different options out there for a 29 inch hardtail but if you’re in the market for bike that has a lot of thought behind the geometry, design and overall feel, the Orbea Alma is the way to go!

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