My review of the Orbea Ordu SSJ-SE for 3GO Magazine, July/August issue.
When I started in triathlon nearly ten years ago I remember making a trip to my local bike shop to check out the new stock. It was then that I ogled the black stealth-like appearance of my first Orbea frame suspended in all its angular glory from the shop ceiling.
The shop owner – Dave, (because you learn that it is in your best interests to be on first name terms with your local bike shop owner – you never know when their future generosity may stretch to a 4mm bolt ‘on the house’), took the frame from its shrine and allowed me to cradle it. The moment was brief, before Dave snatched it back, but not before I had been wooed by its stand-out aerodynamic sleekishness and vowed that we would meet again one day.
Several years have past and I have never held an Orbea since, let alone ride one.
So, when the offer to test one came along…I jumped at the chance.
The Orbea Ordu SSJ-SE comprises the Ordu Silver frame, made of high modulus carbon fibre and comes with an increasingly predictable entry-level selection of Shimano Dura-Ace (bar-end shifters and rear derailleur), Ultegra (front derailleur), and 105 (cassette) 10-speed drive-train components.
Perched on a Selle Italia SL T1 time trial-specific saddle, you will steer from an alloy Profile Ozero base bar/ZBS extension handlebar assembly, whilst spinning an FSA Gossamer alloy crank to drive Shimano R500 wheels with Vittoria Rubino Pro tires.
After years racing triathlon and now coaching, I have my position pretty much dialled in for different distances, terrains, etc. tweaking the setup in favour of aerodynamics for short course and tweaking towards comfort for long course.
I’m 5? 9? and 145lbs so, when it comes to bike fit, for once, I am happy to say that I’m Mr Average and with just a few tweaks in the 76 degree effective seat angle (there is an alternative 74 degree seat angle as well) I wasn’t surprised that it took a short time before I was comfortable and ready to ride.
Again predictably, the frame design features an interrupted seat angle. This means that if you’re a vertically challenged rider you will need to trim the seat post. If you take the bike for a professional fit – as you should do – your fitter may be able to do this for you. In a “plug and play” world, be prepared not to ride it away from the store when you first buy it.
But, once I started riding
As I rolled out, this is where all the above predictability ended…
The first thing to surprise me about the Orbea was that it was unbelievably comfortable. Any initial disappointment about low-end specification on such a great looking frameset began to disappear with every mile I rode.
As it was a nice windy day for testing, I took it out on a favourite local training route, which is a mostly flat to rolling course with variable wind direction. On the flat sections it felt smooth and very stable. Out in the open the flattened down tube was unaffected by crosswinds and passing trucks, which is always re-assuring.
On this particular route there are a couple of fast downhill sections with some patchy uneven road surface where, when cornering, you need to hold your nerve if you’re going to stay in the aero bars. I was really surprised how well the bike handled and never deviated from the line I chose. This made the bike a big hit for me, to descend at speed is about trusting your machine and the SSJ-SE filled me with growing confidence the more I pushed it.
Another confidence booster is that the brake levers feel re-assuringly solid and offer great stopping power working well with the Shimano R500 wheels. The wheelset itself is best suited for your training miles, which it will handle comfortably. For racing, investing in a pair of race wheels will definitely take you to the next level and help you to climb a few places in the results table.
The Selle Italia seat was more comfortable than I thought it would be, but again you may want to swap this out if you don’t get on with it – matching butts and bike seats is a pretty personal matter.
Continuing with the test ride, another pleasant surprise for me was how easy it was to hold speed over small to medium-sized rollers without having to break the aero-position by sitting-up or standing. The comfortable position made it much easier to maintain power.
But, it was on larger climbs, when I was forced to stand, that this bike truly excelled. Granted, it’s not the lightest in the Ordu range, but it handled with ease and I didn’t have to wrestle to keep the front-end under control – as I’ve experienced before with other triathlon/TT bikes.
If you train in the hills or like your racecourses lumpy I would recommend that you check out the Ordu range as a triathlon/TT bike with an ability to handle well, whilst climbing.
For all bike manufacturers’ hype, I think Orbea’s claim that they have designed an aerodynamic bike without compromising stiffness is spot on.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the little things that disappoint you the most and in the Orbea’s case it was the cabling.
The internal routing through the top tube, down tube and chain stay is as you come to expect of modern day aerodynamic offerings. Aside from the odd rattle here and there, it was the cable exit points that were the issue for me.
These days, I want the cables around my bars hidden away neatly not twisting all over the place like the back of your Grandmother’s television cabinet.
The rear derailleur cable exiting out of the chain stay was more a hindrance than unsightly. My right heal kept catching the cable with every rotation- no matter how many times I bent it inwards. As Mr Average, I have size 10.5 feet, no toeing out and with my cleats set all the way back it was quite a surprise to be reminded of a rear derailleur cable an average of 95 times per minute during the ride.
For entry-level bikes, I’m a big fan of Profile Design and the alloy aero bars are solid and do the job. The downside with this configuration is that the armrests are fixed. This for me is an issue, as I like to be able to move my pads (forward and back). This will effect the front end of your bike fit and ultimately may effect your riding comfort for 70.3, Ironman and long time trials.
Also if you’re considering this bike for going long, S-bend bar extensions, whilst they look good, may cause wrist discomfort especially for first-timers. So, for long course you might be better off with a more comfortable set of bar extensions.
The Orbea Ordu SSJ-SE is great looking frameset that rides much better than the specification suggests.
As an entry-level bike it was extremely impressive to ride. The bike feels very sturdy, which would impress much larger athletes than myself. Not the lightest in its class, but once you get it up to speed it holds momentum over hilly terrain extremely well.
As it should be for a TT bike, the ride was solid and smooth in the aero-bars – a good first-timers’ race bike or for those who are perhaps a little bit nervous riding and descending in the aero bars.
Maintaining position and speed over rollers coupled with exceptional handling when standing means that this bike will shine when it is time to climb!
If you buy this bike as an entry-level triathlon or TT race bike, when you develop and progress as an athlete you can add upgrades so it will accompany you to the next level, matching your physical performance as you advance in the sport.
Should I part with my hard earned cash…
The price point is about $200 higher than most of its competition which come in at between $2500-2800. But, if you’re price sensitive over a few hundred dollars then triathlon is probably going to be the wrong sport for you!
Budget considerations to one side, the most important thing in cycling is bike fit and for this reason alone you should test ride one of the Orbea Ordu range.
However, as Cervelo add a fifth P to their marketing mix, it means you can now pick up a full Ultegra version of triathlon’s most popular P2 for $2400 whilst the Ultegra version of the Orbea Ordu is $3400!