The Orbea Loki benefits from a massive benefit in traction but the tyre choice ultimately lets it down in UK conditions, the sizing is off too.
- Swoopy tubing profiles provide stacks of standover clearance on all four frame sizes
- Massive 3.0in Maxxis Chronicle tyres and extra wide rims equate to lower pressures and increased comfort
- Keeping it clean: Orbea uses a flush-fitting Boost rear axle rather than a quick-release
- Smooth shifting care of Shimano’s 2×10 drivetrain with the new direct-pull front mech
There are two versions of the new Loki H10 and both models share the same, sleek, triple-butted aluminium frame. What sets them apart is wheel size or, to be more specific, tyre width.
The Loki 27+ H10 tested here runs extra wide 27.5in rims and Plus size 3.0in Maxxis Chronicle tyres. The 29er version, which costs £80 less, rolls on regular 29in hoops and standard 2.4in tyres. So, in terms of wheel size, the end result is roughly the same — the diameter of the Plus size wheel measuring a hair smaller than the 29ers. The difference in ride quality is massive, though.
More on this later, but let’s take a closer look at the frame first. As you can imagine, squeezing 3.0in tyres between the rear stays presents a unique set of problems, the main one being tyre clearance. To help overcome this, the Loki frame gets the latest 148 Boost rear dropouts, 6mm wider than the popular 142x12mm spacing.
As such, tyre clearance with the frame is ample, but the same can’t be said of the chain. In the small ring, the chain runs very close to the rear tyre. We never had any issues with it catching, but a tread with proper side knobs, or even a slightly wider tyre, could prove problematic.
It’s not just the frame that gets the Boost hub spacing for extra tyre clearance; the 120mm travel Fox 32 fork is also wider than standard — its 15mm axle spanning 110mm rather than the regular 100mm hub spacing.
With 32mm upper tubes, the Fox unit looks spindly next to the RockShox Pike and Yari. Still, excessive flex didn’t seem to be an issue as the fatter tyres wrap around roots and rocks, increasing deflection in the tyre while reducing it in the fork.
With 16.5psi in the front tyre, it provides better small bump sensitivity than even the smoothest fork. As such we ran more air and compression damping in the fork for increased chassis stability, which was a massive bonus on the Orbea as the frame is actually quite short.
So it’s not just tyre pressure that you need to rethink with Plus size tyres; the suspension set-up changes too.
The standout component on the Loki has got to be the Digit seatpost. With a slot in the back of the post, to prevent it rotating, and upper and lower limit screws, you can raise or drop the saddle in a heartbeat.
The quick release collar is spring-loaded, and works like a charm, and the only thing that would make it even better is if the slot faced forwards to stop it filling with mud so quickly.
I don’t think we’ve ever had a bike that was simultaneously the best and the worst on test. First ride out on the Loki 27+ in wet, muddy conditions, and we could hardly keep it pointing in a straight line. Frustrating as that was, we never felt the urge to chuck it in the hedge… the Orbea seemed perfectly content to go there of its own accord.
Swapping the 3.0in Maxxis Chronicle tyres for Nobby Nic’s solved that though. With a more conventional block tread and proper side knobs the Loki no longer had a mind of its own. The pit stop to swap the rubber also saved 200g per tyre. Even bigger gains could be had however by taking advantage of Orbea’s tubeless ready rims and ditching the 381g inner tubes that come fitted as standard.
It was a cold snap however, that instantly projected the Loki from worst to best bike on test. With frozen, uneven terrain beneath its massive contact patches, the Loki left other bikes for dead.
Even with its overly long stem, that makes the steering feel all floppy and limp, and the distinct
lack of length in the frame compared to the limousine-like Whyte and Orange, we could charge harder, with way more confidence and control on the Loki. Two days later the tables were turned once again, but not without Plus revealing its underlying potential.
For a technology that’s still in its infancy, Plus size tyres are already showing promise. There’s no denying the extra comfort that 3.0in tyres bring to a hardtail, but it’s actually the massive increase in traction that really gets the adrenalin flowing. Tyre choice is critical though, and while the Maxxis Chronicles excel on hardpack, with no edge knobs to speak of they are all but useless in wet, muddy UK conditions. Orbea also misses the mark on sizing; the large Loki frame is simply too short. Still, on the right trail in the right conditions, it's an incredibly fast bike