Accomplished enduro e-bike with a razor-sharp focus on racing.
In 2020, the organisers of the Enduro World Series (as it was then, now called EDR – as in EnDuRo) introduced an e-bike category. At first it was dismissed as a retirement home for washed-up racers, but it has grown in stature over the last few years and now attracts a stacked field of top riders, including several former World Champions, ex-World Cup stars and a growing pool of young blood. Bike brands have also been getting in on the act, designing and building dedicated enduro race bikes to give their riders the best chance of winning. One of those brands is Orbea, and its Wild e-bike has just been ridden to overall victory in the 2023 women’s E-EDR series by Flo Espiñeira. A proven winner between the tapes, we got hold of the M-Team model to see how it stacks up against the best e-bikes on the market, and more specifically the equally race-focussed Canyon Strive:ON CFR.
- Read our review of the Canyon Strive:ON CFR
- Read our comparison test between the Orbea Wild M-Team and the Canyon Strive:ON CFR
Orbea Wild M-Team need to know
- 29er enduro e-bike with 160mm travel
- Bosch Performance CX motor and choice of 625Wh or 750Wh battery
- Carbon and alloy frame opinions
- Four frame sizes
- 8 models with prices starting from £5,299
- Customisation options through the MYO program
Frame and geometry
The Wild is available in both carbon and aluminium frame options, both of which share a similar profile that’s immediately identifiable by its distinctive shock struts. These reinforcing beams connect the down tube to the base of the seat tube/top of the motor housing, and double up as lower mounts for the trunnion shock. By mounting the shock vertically, driven by a rocker link, Orbea has maximised space in the front triangle to make room for a water bottle and frame strap loaded with tube and tools. And at the rear is a Concentric dropout pivot that functions in the same way as Trek’s ABP and Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot, by aiming to reduce the effect of braking on the suspension.
Providing the assistance is Bosch’s acclaimed Performance CX motor packing 600W peak power and 85Nm of torque. With a dynamic response that’s highly tunable, and performance-orientated features such as extended overrun to help on technical climbs, it’s a firm favourite with both racers and weekend warriors alike. Only the rattle when coasting on descents spoils Bosch’s perfect report card. Riders can tune the weight, range, and handling, by choosing between two battery sizes: 625Wh or 750Wh, with a circa 900g penalty for the latter – choosing the smaller battery will also save you £210.
Orbea has kept the top tube wafer-thin, and made a concerted effort to match the lines of the top tube with angle of the seatstays and the shock bracing. In our view the end result is an exceptionally attractive frame design with a classic side profile and impressive attention to detail.
One of the key changes to the new Wild compared to the previous version is the move to a fully enclosed down tube. The Bosch PowerTube battery now slides in through the base rather than slotting through a large window cut into the underside of the frame. Called Secure Battery System (SBS), Orbea claims this approach reduces mass by 32%, increases stiffness by 51%, and eliminates a significant number of parts compared to the old design. While we can’t independently verify its claims, it’s no surprise that engineering an enclosed tube brings significant benefits to the structural integrity of the frame. After all, many other brands – including Specialized, Canyon, and Whyte – exploit this approach on their latest e–bikes.
Where Orbea differs from these specific examples is that there is no easy way to remove the battery. Yes, it’s possible, but you have to remove the skid plate, unbolt and disconnect the Bosch Performance CX motor, then unbolt the battery. Orbea makes a big fuss about its team mechanics being able to change a battery at an E-EDR race in less than fifteen minutes. So we had a go. In a fully kitted workshop, with a brand new bike, it took us thirty minutes to get the motor out and back in. With practice we might be able to reduce that time, but the key takeaway from the experience is that we never want to do it again. It is fiddly, it’s time-consuming, there are spacers that are easy to drop/lose, and bolts that are easy to round out – particularly after a few months of wet, muddy rides. The bottom line is, we’d treat the Orbea Wild as an e-bike where the battery is not removable.
As we’d expect from a high-end modern e-bike, all the cable routing is internal, with the cables and hoses entering the frame through the headset and exiting behind the motor. There’s a rubber flap covering the gap here, helping to prevent mud and stones falling between the back of the seat tube and the chainstay yoke. Orbea’s Sealed Internal Cables (SIC) system does give the potential for a very clean look at the head tube, but we’d prefer to see regular cable entry ports to make life easier when it comes to playing with stem height and performing home maintenance. And on our test bike, the excess dropper post housing and optional Bosch Kiox display wiring defeated the purpose of the system and made the front end look very messy.
To prevent frame damage in a crash on the smaller sizes there’s a built-in steering limiter. Orbea calls this Spin Block Protection, and while the top of the Fox 38 compression dial only just touches the down tube, the limiter itself doesn’t actually impede the bike’s ability to tackle tight switchbacks.
Four frame sizes are offered across the block, from Small to XL. At 178cm, we opted for the size large, which comes with an advertised 480mm reach and compact 435mm seat tube. Once in the workshop we took all our own measurements and found a few discrepancies. The head angle on our bike was almost a degree slacker than claimed at 63.1º, and the reach almost 10mm shorter at 471mm. Which makes sense as the fork on our test bike was upgraded to the 170mm model. However, the BB height is actually 5mm lower than advertised at 348mm, so something else is at play to cause the variances. We’re not complaining though, and we experienced fewer pedal strikes than on the Canyon Strive:ON, so clearance wasn’t an issue. And eating into the actual reach – rather than the on-paper measurement – is the deep headset top cap, which means you can’t slam the stem as much as you can on some bikes.
Owing to Orbea’s straight seat tube design, there’s ample room for a long dropper post. Standard on the large is a 170mm, but it should be possible to run a 200mm without too much trouble.
A final feature worth touching on is the charging port, as it’s one of the best ones we’ve used. Mounted midway up the seat tube, there’s a sprung cap that pulls out and swings out of the way to reveal the connection. It’s easy to use, well-sealed and has (so far) proven durable.
On the Wild M-Team is a Fox Float X2 shock with four-way damping adjustment. Using a trunnion design to accomodate a longer stroke in a smaller space, it runs on sealed cartridge bearings at both ends to minimise friction and ensure a supple response. We only measured 158mm of travel from the 65mm stroke shock, 2mm shy of Orbea’s claim, but it would be petty to turn this into a criticism as there’s still ample travel and the Wild never feels like it’s undergunned. In terms of shock set-up, we ran 186psi to get 22mm sag (33%). Attaching a shock pump is a bit tricky thanks to those twin reinforcing struts, but it’s by no means impossible, and being mounted upside down makes it hard to reach the climb switch.
Orbea claims a 26% progression rate for the Wild, down from the previous generation, but still enough to be suitable for a coil shock. Indeed, this is what team rider Flo Espiñeira chooses to run on their race bike. With no volume spacers in the Fox Float X2 shock, the door has been left wide open for you to add progression if you want to.
Up front we ran 91psi in the 170mm travel Fox 38 Factory fork. We left the damping fairly open as we found there was plenty of support through the Grip2 damper.
With a base price tag of £8,999, the M-Team is towards the top end of the Wild range, and gets a spec to match. But the beauty of Orbea is that there is a degree of customisation available on the website, so you can tweak the spec to suit your tastes and your wallet. For example, the M-Team can be ordered with a 170mm fork at no extra cost, there are two riser bars to choose from, along with four different dropper post lengths. Carbon wheels are available for a £705 up-charge, and DH casing tyres are just £25 extra. Want Bosch’s smaller, lighter battery? Then you can save £210. And, if we were ordering the bike from scratch, we’d also ditch the Bosch Kiox 300 display, reduce the cockpit clutter, and save £135.
Hanging off the Wild M-Team is Shimano’s workmanlike XT 12-speed drivetrain, combined with E*Thirteen’s Plus Alloy crank and 34t chainring. There’s a useful E*Thirteen Plus chainguide to improve security, and the shifters allow you to change multiple gears with one push, even if that’s frowned upon if you want to maximise the life of your drivetrain.
Shimano also handles the braking, with XT four-piston levers and calipers matched to Galfer rotors. This mix-and-match approach seems to be a trend at the moment, and while we can’t say that the combination felt any more powerful, they did give reliable performance, even after being sat idle for a couple of weeks – something that is not always the case with Shimano rotors.
A quality upgrade made to our test bike was the DH casing Maxxis Assegai/Minion DHR II tyre combo. As a no-compromise race bike it’s good to see the option to upgrade to a sturdier casing at a minimal price, and it probably helped us avoid any hassles with punctures or burped tyres during the test period.
With the 750Wh battery, Maxxis DH-casing tyres, and the Kiox display unit, our Wild M-Team test bike weighed in at 23.72kg. For comparison, Canyon’s Strive:ON with 625Wh battery and lighter EXO+/DoubleDown tyres tipped the scales at 23.6kg. Fitting the smaller battery would bring the Orbea down to 22.8kg, and burlier tyres would take the Canyon up to around 23.8kg, which indicates that the Orbea enjoys a decent weight advantage over its rival, despite running a bigger and heavier 29in rear wheel.
There’s no geometry adjustment on the Wild, which either makes life simpler, or more limiting, depending on your perspective. In our view the stock geometry on the size large is spot on and doesn’t need tinkering with, but smaller riders might find the weight balance with the fixed 448mm chainstay length gives too much of a forward weight bias on the small and medium frame sizes.
That straight seat tube on the Wild gives a great seated climbing position. Although we measured an effective seat angle of 76.9º at our saddle height (2º slacker than the Canyon Strive:ON) we didn’t feel too far over the rear axle on steep ascents. It was easy to scoot forward on the well-padded Fizik Aidon saddle to keep the front end down if the climb ramped up. At the same time, those 448mm chainstays have ample length to maintain decent traction and help you feel centred on the bike.
While we’re used to talking about soft rubber tyres helping with grip while descending, the MaxxGrip compound Minion DHR II was equally beneficial on technical climbs, where wet roots or greasy rocks permeate the trail. Of course, there’s a penalty when it comes to range, but we still achieved 1,500m of climbing and descending from the 750Wh battery exclusively in Turbo mode.
Orbea’s suspension kinematics also help the climbing cause, with excellent sensitivity that tracks the ground and increases traction, alongside good mid-stroke support that helps prop the suspension up as your weight balance tips back.
It’s hard to fault the Orbea Wild’s climbing performance then. Some riders might prefer if the climb switch on the X2 shock was easier to reach for fireroad climbs, but to be honest it was not a feature we missed.
An enduro race bike that lacks descending skills is a waste of time, but we’re happy to report that it’s on the downs that the Orbea Wild really shines. The overriding trait that comes through is one of confidence and stability, with predictable poise and unflinching composure, however rough and rowdy the track. Both the geometry and the suspension have an equal hand in this, where the central stance and tall front end put us in an effective position to push hard. It’s rare that we felt anything other than neutral between the axles, although shifting our weight back for bigger drops did cause a few tyre buzzing incidents with the 29in wheel.
The Orbea was one of those bikes where we felt very much ‘in’ the bike, rather than on top of it. As such, it was an extension of our limbs, rather than one that required wrestling with every time we wanted it to do something.
With that dropped top tube and short seat tube we could get really low to the frame and open up more range of motion; a real advantage on rougher enduro tracks.
Keeping that dynamic geometry nice and stable is the front and rear suspension. Excellent, supportive damping from the Fox Factory dampers deserves credit, as does Orbea’s blend of leverage, anti-rise, and anti-squat curves, where the supple top end and supportive mid-stroke generate grip through terrain tracking, and speed through pumping. The chassis also remains nice and neutral under braking, with no obvious lack of sensitivity when trying to slow down over chopped up dirt and chunky roots. While not specifically within its remit, it was great to see that on big, high-speed jumps, such as Enter the Dragon at BikePark Wales, the Orbea felt rock-solid with plenty of pop and excellent stability.
Where the Orbea Wild can’t match Canyon’s Strive:ON is pure agility. There’s more front end bias on the Wild, so it takes more effort and better timing to lift the front wheel or change direction. Even fitted with the big 750Wh battery, Canyon’s Strive:ON feels light and playful, making it more engaging on a wider variety of tracks. While the Orbea would probably pull away on a fast, rocky straight, the Canyon would nibble away at that advantage through every corner.
On the one hand, the brief for the Orbea Wild was simple: build a race-winning enduro e-bike. And in that respect Orbea has succeeded. You only need to look at this bike’s results for the proof. But the other KPI for the Wild is how it performs outside the tape. With a stack of awards from other media, it’s safe to say that Orbea has ticked that box too. And for the most part we would concur with everything that has been written about the Wild. It’s a superb e-bike to ride, with a top quality frame, class-leading motor, excellent suspension and well-balanced geometry. The ability to customise things like tyres, dropper posts and batteries is also a significant benefit, even if it adds a few weeks to the lead time. Which leaves only the non-removable battery and – depending on your riding style – its tendency to plough rather than pirouette as the only chinks in its armour compared to the Canyon Strive:ON. If you don’t require the ability to slot in a new battery quickly, or remove it to charge in your house, then point one is a moot one. And if you’re happy to trade-in a little manoeuvrability for extra straight line stability then you’ll love the Wild. Either way, it’s still a highly accomplished enduro e-bike and well deserving of a 9/10 rating.