PressCamp ’14: Part III

PressCamp ’14: Part III

My history with Finish Line products goes back at least as far as 1988, when I was working for a bike shop. It may go back even further, but most of the details I can recall from that era center on set lists, gig locations, band members and which albums I was listening to. I’ve continued to use some of their products, such as the citrus degreaser because it’s wildly effective, though I admit they’ve come out with so many new products over the years I haven’t always known when I should switch to something new.

They showed off a few products at PressCamp that have promise for anyone’s home maintenance needs. The first is that little gizmo a the left, the No Drip lube dispenser. Basically, it flows lube into a small piece of Scotch Brite material that spreads lube over the whole of the chain, rather than just at the pinpoint at which the nozzle is aimed. So thoroughly do they believe in this device that it is agnostic—that is, it comes without lube in it so that you can add your favorite. That impressed me more than a little bit.

Next to the No Drip is the company’s popular (and effective) Super Bike Wash, but now in a concentrate so that you can mix it in a bucket or spray bottle to your desired strength. The E-Shift is a cleaner that was designed specifically to clean Di2 and EPS groups. The working idea here is to clean away gunk and grime while leaving a minimum of residue behind. They say it’s a product they couldn’t have formulated five years ago, but recent advancements in compounds made it possible. Max Suspension Spray is meant to help keep your suspension working in as active a state as possible. The final product is one I have a project for; Chill Zone is a refrigerant and penetrant that can chill metal enough to shrink it and hopefully free any part that has been immobile. They say it’s really effective on items like seatposts. I’ve got a tandem eccentric that could use a can of this.
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Orbea introduced the latest edition of the Orca. This new revision addressed the criticism that the Orca was a bit heavy (a 56cm frame was north of 1kg) and also rather shy on comfort. They’ve flattened the top tube vertically, sloped it to increase seatpost extension and changed the layup all as a means to give the bike a less jarring ride.

There’s some humor in the fact that while many companies have struggled to make their bikes stiffer to perform better, the Orca performed perfectly well, but needed to ride friendlier. Of course, some of that was also weight.

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The last iteration of the Orca weighed in at 1130g for a 53cm frame. You might wonder why their test frame size is a 53 while all the rest of the world uses a 56. Ever notice how so many of the talented Spanish pros don’t resemble Miguel Indurain? Well that would be why. The new Orca (and if you’ve been wondering where the name Orca came from, it’s not the whale; it uses the two letters of the project’s original name: Orbea Carbon) has lost some 230g, now weighing 900g, again for a 53cm frame. It also dispenses the aero seatpost that has been a signature part of the Orca look. IMG_8758

The tube shapes are unusual and give the bike a fresh appearance. The broadest sections of the tubes are at the very top of the top tube and the very bottom of the down tube to help give the frame maximum torsional stiffness. And if those openings for the internally routed cables look a little rough, don’t worry. This frame is early production and there are cable guides that will clean up that look. IMG_8760The frame takes an understated approach to graphics, keeping its flashiest touches in out of the way places.

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The fork blades remain quite narrow and close to the wheel for most of their length and bow toward the bottom in an effort to keep the bike’s aerodynamic profile slim.IMG_8762

The Avant is Orbea’s grand touring model. Introduced last year, many of the touches found in the new Orca emerged in the Avant. The flattened top tube and seat stays help to make this Orbea’s model of choice for the century and gran fondo set.  IMG_8763

The Avant shrinks the seat tube and top tube diameters at the seat cluster to introduce more comfort without sacrificing the rider’s ability to deliver power. IMG_8764

The tubes are massive at the head tube and the top tube sports a sizable port to route both the rear brake cable and the Di2 lead. IMG_8765

The seat and chainstays on the Avant are significantly smaller than those on the Orca, again, to give the rider more comfort. IMG_8766

The efforts to make the rider more comfortable on the Avant aren’t meant to come at the expense of power transfer. The BB area is sizable for drivetrain rigidity. 
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It’s fair to say that GT has been on life support for most of the past ten years. Only recently did the parent company, Dorel, really begin allocating serious development resources to the brand. The first high end offering was the carbon fiber Helion XC mountain bike. Days ahead of PressCamp, GT hosted a few riders for the introduction of this, the GT Grade, which they call an enduroad bike. IMG_8770

When I heard they were introducing a new bike, I was curious if they’d revive the triple triangle and if they’d try to find some sort of way to justify it on an engineering level. I was impressed to see they used it in a design that maximizes the length of the seat stays in order to offer the rider reasonable comfort on rough roads, and the Grade is definitely suited to roads not paved.   IMG_8772

One of the problems of a triangle is that its members cannot move, unlike a four-sided structure, which is why suspension designs that require the rear triangle to articulate, rather than just swing, feature a four-bar linkage. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but it helps explain the bend in the chainstays, and the goal of increased vertical rear-wheel travel.
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By the time the seat tube reaches the bottom bracket it is wider than it is long. This is no ordinary ovalized tube. Similarly, the down tube begins to flatten as it reaches the BB junction.
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The seatstays use a blend of carbon fiber and glass fiber (you might remember it as fiberglass). GT achieves the incredibly thin profile by dispensing with a standard tube shape; these stays are solid.

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The fork sports stout blades for precise tracking over rough terrain.

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In addition to going with a through-axle design, again to increase steering precision, GT included eyelets in the fork to allow for fenders or racks. IMG_8777

By leaving the frame unpainted and using only decals for graphics, GT was able to keep the weight surprisingly low for a frame of this type. We’re told a 56cm frame weighs in at only 965g, which is a good deal lighter than many traditional road frames.

Two carbon fiber models are going to be offered, one with Ultegra for $3299 and one with 105 for $2599. There will be a lower-cost aluminum version of the frame as well.

I was able to take the Grade for a short ride over some rough pavement and concrete. It was equipped with 28mm tires and yielded a smooth ride over the roughest stuff I could find on short notice. It’s got clearance for far wider tires, up to 40mm.  When I think back on some of the roads I enjoyed riding in Massachusetts, this bike would have made some of those stretches even more fun than they were. I plan to do a full review on one soon. 

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4 comments

  1. Carson

    Man, this thing is cool. Can’t wait for your review. I’ll be very curious to hear about the solid stays.

  2. Pingback: PressCamp ’14: Part IV | RKP

  3. nate

    maybe it’s just the photo, but the frame construction at the cable entry points on that Orca look rough.

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