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Spain’s number one bike brand is less well known in the UK but has a wide and interesting range, including models for commuters

Orbea is Spain’s largest bike manufacturer. Some of the company’s bikes are made in China and Portugal, while the rest roll off the production line at its factory in Mallabia in the Basque Country. This region of northern Spain is where Orbea began way back in 1840. 

Like Britain’s BSA (Birmingham Small Arms), Orbea originally made guns and rifles. That changed in 1930 with a switch from weapons to two-wheelers. Orbea’s first range of bikes was launched in 1931. There were three, all of them steel singlespeeds with mudguards: a drop-bar racer; a ‘tourist’ model with a back-swept handlebar; and a ladies’ model with a step-through frame and skirt guard.

Competition bikes were what Orbea soon became best known for. Spanish national champion Mariano Cañardo rode for Orbea in 1934 and 1935, in the Tour de France and the inaugural Vuelta a España respectively. Orbea used this in their advertising: customers could buy an Orbea Super Professional “just like the one ridden by Mariano Cañardo”. This bike had part-aluminium components and a technological innovation: two-speed derailleur gearing!

Further progress was limited by the Spanish Civil War and World War Two. But by the late 1940s, Orbea was producing 50,000 bikes a year. As the 1960s drew to a close another problem arose: Spain’s economy was tanking. Orbea came close to collapse. It was bought out by its employees and became a worker cooperative.

Leisure bikes were the new cooperative’s bread and butter. The 1980s brought a return to the racing limelight, with stage victories in the Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and Giro d’Italia, and, thanks to Pedro Delgado, overall victory in the Vuelta in 1985. That same year, an Orbea women’s racing team was launched. And at the end of the decade, Orbea began building a new kind of bike altogether: the mountain bike boom had begun.

In recent years, Orbea has remained well known for its race bikes. The 2008 Beijing Olympics saw two gold medals for riders of Orbea bikes: Samuel Sanchéz in the men’s road race and Julian Absalon in the men’s cross-country mountain biking. Then in 2016 and 2017, the Cofidis pro road team used Orbea bikes. 

Yet race bikes are only the tip of the iceberg. On Orbea’s website, you’ll find urban bikes, leisure bikes, and more. Here are five good options for getting to work.

Orbea Comfort 42 Pack 19

Orbea Comfort 42 Pack 19 

A practical hybrid at an entry-level price, the Comfort 42 Pack comes with the equipment you need for commuting: mudguards, a rear pannier rack, battery lights, and even a kickstand. The bike’s upright riding position works well for trips around town in normal clothes, while the wheels have a utilitarian toughness: 36 spokes apiece for strength and 42mm-wide tyres for shock absorbency and comfort. Gearing is simple and intuitive, with a single chainring and seven sprockets at the back. V-brakes are effective budget stoppers. The Comfort 40 Pack is the same except for a top tube.

 

Lower rate taxpayer

Higher rate taxpayer

RRP

£359

£359

Cyclescheme price

(inc. ‘Own it later’ fee)


 

£254.89

 

£218.99

  

 

Orbea Katu 30 19

Orbea Katu 30 19

The Katu isn’t a folder but a quirky urban runaround with small wheels. The range starts at £359 with the Katu 50 and peaks at £2,599 with the electric-assist Katu-E 10. All models have 20-inch wheels and fat tyres, and come with a kickstand and a capacious front basket; it’s possible to fit a rear one too. Baskets are great for urban loads: chuck it in and go! Small wheels don’t roll quite as well as big ones but are stronger and provide nippier steering and quicker acceleration away from the traffic lights. The Katu 30 has 5-speed Sturmey Archer hub gearing, stop-on-a-dime Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes, mudguards, and hub dynamo lighting.

 

Lower rate taxpayer

Higher rate taxpayer

RRP

£539

£539

Cyclescheme price

(inc. ‘Own it later’ fee)


 

£404.25

 

£350.35  

 

Orbea Optima A20 19

Orbea Optima A20 19

There are electric-assist versions of the Optima roadster with a battery hidden in that big down tube and a motor in the rear wheel; the A20 is the more expensive of the two unassisted models. It’s a stylish step-through that you can hop on and ride in whatever you’re wearing. There are mudguards and a chain guard to keep you clean, always-ready dynamo lighting, a park-anywhere kickstand, and a rear rack for luggage. The gearing is wide range for a roadster, thanks to an 8-speed derailleur, and the hydraulic disc brakes are, for a roadster, uncommonly powerful. Fat (50mm) tyres will float over bad roads.

 

Lower rate taxpayer

Higher rate taxpayer

RRP

£629

£629

Cyclescheme price

(inc. ‘Own it later’ fee)


 

£471.75

 

£408.85

  
 


Orbea Carpe 10 19

Orbea Carpe 10 19

The bold blue rims and red fork catch the eye but don’t be distracted: the Carpe 10 is very cable commuter. Like lots of sporty hybrids, it has an aluminium frame and a carbon fork. Unlike most of them, it’s practical too. It’s fitted with mudguards, the rear is integrated into a pannier rack. A hub dynamo, its cables neatly hidden, provides ever-ready lighting. The comfortably wide (38mm) tyres have reasonable puncture resistance and reflective sidewalls. Hydraulic disc brakes will help you cope with erratic drivers. Gearing is a straightforward 1x10 setup, with quality components and chainring guard.

 

Lower rate taxpayer

Higher rate taxpayer

RRP

£899

£899

Cyclescheme price

(inc. ‘Own it later’ fee)


 

£674.25

 

£584.35

 


Orbea Gain D50 19

Orbea Gain D50 19

Long or hilly ride to work? This will do it, no sweat. It doesn’t look it but the Gain D50 is an electric-assist road bike. There’s a battery in the slightly oversized aluminium down tube, a motor in the rear hub, and a discreet ‘mode’ button on the top tube. Like other e-bikes the motor will provide assistance up to 25km/h, but unlike many of them it isn’t draggy when pedalled without assistance. The Gain D50 is very lightweight, in part because it’s a carbon-forked road bike. It’s practical too, being ready for mudguards and a rear rack. While it comes with 28mm tyres, tyres up to 40mm will fit. The 2x8 Shimano Claris gearing is a standard entry-level road bike groupset. The brakes are mechanical discs.

 

Lower rate taxpayer

Higher rate taxpayer

RRP

£1,799

£1,799

Cyclescheme price

(inc. ‘Own it later’ fee)


 

£1,350

 

£1,224

 

 


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