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BIANCHI ORBEA KONA MOOTS DeBERNARDI GUERCIOTTI SUN REID
Variability Through Materials and Processes : Orbea's OME, OMP, and OMR Build Methodologies
Daniel Hayes, 3/2016
Orbea is a fastidious company. All of the bicycle manufacturers you can find are jealously eyeing each others' manufacturing processes and geometric specifications: all of them watch closely how everyone is making, marketing and distributing their stuff. There are mild variations of course, but largely the industry frontrunners conform to a series of rigorous standards set by governing bodies whose primary concerns are product safety and quality, specifications set down by the organizations concerned with cycling as a competitive sport, and the very limitations of the technology and materials available, in competition for the finest and lightest frames around.
Orbea is no different in this. They have to put their shoes on one at a time just like all the other companies. However in the competitive world of putting shoes on, Orbea would personally narrate exactly how each foot was meticulously washed and scrubbed, how each nail was carefully clipped and filed, baby powder in only the slightest of quantities would be applied to maintain dryness and pleasant aroma throughout the day, and how the foot was sheathed in the finest merino wool sock prior to the actual insertion into a shoe. Then, there would be the diatribe on what made Orbea pick the shoe it did: brown or black; sneaker or loafer; slip-ons, lace-ups or velcro. There'd be a short lesson on the history of the particular type of shoe chosen and why it was optimal for the conditions that Orbea would be coming up against that day, and a diagram of the chosen shoe's construction with materials and specs filling the liners. There would be an hour worth of video shot from forty different angles as each foot descended into their respective shoes as teams of scientists dubiously crouched to witness the merging of the two. Data would come pouring in and for hours there would be endless analyzation of telemetry, thermal imagery, impact and stress regions, overall comfort and aesthetic critique.
It should be known that every reputable company does this too, every bike frame manufactured gets weighed, measured, poked, prodded, sawed in half, dissected, smashed, burned, drowned, flexed, compressed, ridden, windblown, ad-nauseum to ensure that the industry's rigorous standards have been met. Millions gets spent a year by all of these companies to obtain the findings of this research. To strain another metaphor, it's how the sausage gets made. Luckily carbon fiber isn't molded out of pig slurry, so this is where we thankfully drop the sausage cliché.
Orbea is extremely forthcoming with their information - gleefully forthcoming - nerdily forthcoming. Their website includes a section called 'Orbea University,' which is popping with hundreds of videos, spec sheets, and information galore on all of the engineering and technology that goes into their myriad frames. As a verbose bike geek, I love it. There is no such thing as too much information, I say. In what could be considered an even nerdier move on their part, Orbea's line is systematized. There aren't individual bikes with their own varying designs, there are regimentalized series, each with specific designs which are then made available in their myriad build styles. In road bikes for example, they offer two geometries: the Avant, comprising their endurance geometry line, and the Orca, Orbea's extreme race geometry line. Each of these two classes offer multiple material and process options, utilizing one of the four build options they provide: Hydro, Orbea's hydroformed aluminum technology, OME, Orbea's entry level carbon frame, OMP, the mid-range, and OMR, their highest performance carbon build. The Avant Series is available in the Hydro, OME and OMP builds, and the Orca is available in the OME, OMP, and OMR builds. On top of this, each of the frame options are available in multiple component group offerings. This is true of all of Orbea's high-end lines, road or mountain. The MX series of mountain bikes and their city trekking/commuting line all use hydroformed and/or butted aluminum tubing for their builds.
I hate it when I'm trying to research a product online and every site I visit parrots the same information and picture, then when I go directly to the manufacturer's site I find that the same text and images are all that's provided, so I'll limit my repetitive spec nonsense as much as possible outside of the basic information that I hope to share. Orbea's system of production and branding is indicative of a company of consummate engineers. As opposed to the tendency in this industry to build a brand through developing mystique or vaguely anthropomorphic personalities for each model of bicycle, Orbea comes at you with a spreadsheet of options and a pile of hard data as its branding mechanism. There isn't any need for the fantastical personification of their line, because they know that they've built a killer range of products and they have the science – right here, in hand – to back it up. It's clear that they're data hounds, made certain of their efforts by proof: evidence that they're working to develop the most competitive bikes around.
Orbea's line of hydroformed aluminum frames, usually designated by an H at the heading of their numerical designations, or the term, 'hydro,' utilize cutting edge manufacturing processes to shape each piece of tubing and thin them in places where strain is lower, so that each aluminum frame is as light and supple as possible without giving up any lateral stability. Hydroforming is common in the industry, but coupled with Orbea's signature design and engineering, they boast some of the lightest and most responsive aluminum frames on the market.
OME Stands for Orbea Monocoque Evolution, and it represents technology present in Orbea's first foray into monocoque frame construction. The carbon layup used is primarily mid-modulous, but a blend that includes both higher and lower modulus carbon as well. The mold is layered with ___ individual strips of hand cut carbon, each laid in by hand and pressed into place using an inflatable bladder. Each segment overlap is 10 mm to ensure that the carbon achieves decent rigidity. The prepreg is ___. Preliminary prep time for one of these frames is roughly 2 hours. This process is tried and true. The industry follows similar standards to build many fine frames this way, but little about it stands out as unique to Orbea these days. That being said, Orbea's standards of quality and care still make this an exceedingly high quality frame, and for the budget-conscious enthusiast or racer OME framesets make aggressive and responsive solutions without emptying one's wallet.
OMP stands for Orbea Monocoque Performance, and uses similar techniques to that of the OME frames, but uses a greater amount of high modulus carbon in its build. There are ___ carbon strips in this build, and it averages ___ % lighter per the same size frame to the OME. There is also an improvement of ___% in the frame's general stiffness. These represent Orbea's next iteration of carbon manufacture. Lighter and stiffer, it serves to bring the rider closer to the ideals that Orbea is shooting for.
OMR is Orbea Monocoque Race. This is the highest level of build for Orbea, and the tenacious effort put into building these masterpieces show in the end product, as each OMR frame touts an average ___% reduction in weight and a ___% increase in general rigidity over the OMP framesets. Each of the ___ strands of primarily high modulus carbon are CAD laser cut, and hand laid at an overlap of 5 mm for each segment. The mold uses polyurethane joint blocks to force the tightest infusion of each layer of the build instead of the bladder system, which leads to clean interiors and stiff-as-nails builds. These frames represent the best Orbea has to offer, and do not disappoint. Every millimeter is meticulously constructed to be among the leaders in the industry, whether your passion is on road or off.
OMR is Orbea Monocoque Race. This is the highest level of build for Orbea, and the tenacious effort put into building these masterpieces show in the end product, as each OMR frame touts an average ___% reduction in weight and a ___% increase in general rigidity over the OMP framesets. Each of the ___ strands of primarily high modulus carbon are CAD laser cut, and hand laid at an overlap of 5 mm for each segment. The mold uses polyurethane joint blocks to force the tightest infusion of each layer of the build instead of the bladder system, which leads to clean interiors and stiff-as-nails builds. These frames represent the best Orbea has to offer, and do not disappoint. Every millimeter is meticulously constructed to be among the leaders in the industry, whether your passion is on road or off.
Beyond frame material and construction, Orbea pushes the envelope design-wise on all of the bikes that they make. Their 4x4 design, used primarily on the Alma series, but translated into a variation on their Avant and Orca series helps stiffen side to side motion while allowing the frame a modicum of flex in a forward/back capacity, increasing comfort for endurance on longer rides. Years of research and engineering has gone into individual pivot and suspension systems on the Oiz, Occam and Rallon, and the wisdom of years of hard experience have led to prudent decision making across the board for design issues as simple as relying on a rounded 27.2 seat tube after attempting a couple of years struggling with proprietary bladed seatposts on their OMP and OMR Orcas.
Like I said, there are piles of data, videos, charts, tons of information about the decisions made in Orbea's methodology, as well as the consequence of those decisions in physical numbers and results. The real results are always best found on the bike though. Where I relish the stacks of data, the testing, the engineering acumen, all of the discussion of how, Nothing answers the why like feeling all that data culminate in a stellar ride on an utterly astounding piece of equipment. No amount of data shared ever truly communicates that.