While Orbea's latest hardtail gets a 140mm fork and a down tube storage compartment, we think the Laufey could be even better with mullet wheels.
On paper the new Orbea Laufey ticks all the boxes you’d look for in the best hardtails on the market. It comes with modern geometry, a mid-travel 140mm fork that gives enough isolation from bumps without huge swings in geometry, and there’s a hidden down tube compartment for storing essentials – something rarely seen on a hardtail. So what’s missing? Well, while 29in wheels front and rear make sense on a full-suspension bike, we think a hardtail would benefit from a mixed-wheel mullet set-up. Read on to find out why.
Orbea Laufey need to know
- Versatile trail hardtail with triple-butted, hydroformed, alloy frame
- 29in wheels and 140mm travel fork
- Down tube cargo bay
- Internal cable routing
- Low-slung top tube for improved handling
- Three models with prices starting at £1,599
Orbea’s Laufey originally started life as a Plus bike with 3in wide tyres. For those of you new to mountain biking, Plus bikes used oversize tyres, with widths of anything between 2.6in and 3in, to give better comfort, traction, and control. The extra air volume allowed lower pressures, which helped the tyres conform to the ground and isolate the rider from high-frequency trail buzz.
The main drawback was that the sidewalls had to be made relatively thin to keep the weight of the tyres acceptable, and this meant that they would squirm unpredictably when ridden aggressively. In the end the bike industry gravitated towards mid-size 2.5in to 2.6in tyres as the best compromise between tyre stability and traction/comfort and Plus bikes died out.
But on hardtails, where you don’t have the luxury of any rear suspension, our annual Hardtail of the Year test regularly reminds us that fatter tyres bring huge benefits in terms of comfort and confidence. It’s our view that hardtails could be improved significantly by running a 29in wheel up front for accurate, predictable steering, and a 27.5in rear wheel with a 2.6in or 2.8in tyre for a smooth-rolling ride. Although the Laufey does come with 2.6in tyres front and rear, sadly Orbea hasn’t tried the 29 x 2.6in front and 27.5in x 2.8in option with the new model, despite the model’s Plus bike roots.
What we do like is the 140mm travel fork up front. Because hardtails essentially pivot around the rear axle, as the fork compresses the head angle only ever gets steeper. So, to keep the dynamic geometry relatively stable and predictable, it’s important not to go crazy with fork travel, and we’re happy to see Orbea has taken this approach.
The geometry on the Laufey also looks dialled, with short seat tubes across the four frame sizes, and a straight seat tube, to give riders the choice of a small frame for ultimate agility, or a larger frame for more room and stability, without having to compromise on standover clearance. The reach is fairly average across the frame sizes, going from 427mm on the small to 500mm on the XL in roughly 25mm increments. Orbea has kept the head angle reasonably relaxed at 64.5º and the seat angle steep at 77º. All four frame sizes get the same length chainstays, but at 440mm they’re neither ultra compact nor overlong.
We’re impressed to see Orbea incorporate its LOCKR internal frame storage in the new Laufey. While it won’t be as capacious or useful as the larger down tubes on the new Occam trail bike or revised Rallon enduro bike, it’s still a nice option for stashing tools and tyre plug kit, or some emergency jelly babies. For peace of mind, Orbea is also offering a lifetime warranty on the frame.
Orbea Laufey range
There are three models in the new Laufey range. At the top of the tree is the H-LTD at £2,699 ($2,999, €2,499). It gets a Fox Float Performance fork and Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain. Wheels are Race Face AR 30c with Maxxis Dissector 2.6in tyres.
The Laufey H10 is £2,099 ($2,499, €1,899) and comes with Marzocchi’s Z2 Bomber fork and Shimano Deore/SLX drivetrain.
Last, but definitely not least, there’s the Laufey H30. This costs £1,599 ($1,899, €1,499) and comes with a RockShox Recon fork and Shimano Deore drivetrain with 11-51T SunRace cassette. It still gets the Orbea Mountain Control dropper post as standard.