Added a comment about photo 2016 Turner RFX v4.0 GX 2/9/2016 3:26 PM
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Added a product review for 2016 Turner RFX v4.0 GX 2/9/2016 3:18 PM
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2016 Test Sessions: Turner RFX v4.0 GX

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Fred Robinson and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller

Turner fans, rejoice! The often coveted Turner RFX is finally back, this time in a 27.5 carbon-framed package. The bike features DW-link suspension with 160mm of travel, more aggressive geometry, and several little touches that add up to a much improved ride. Given the long wait and the amount of R&D that went into it, we were excited to see how the RFX would stack up at the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5 (650b) wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
  • DW-link suspension
  • EnduroMax bearings
  • Tapered headtube
  • External cable routing with Stealth dropper
  • Removable direct mount front derailleur adapter
  • Post mount rear brake
  • Press fit 30 bottom bracket
  • ISCG 05 mounts
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size XL, no pedals): 29.1-pounds (13.2kg)
  • MSRP $4,951 USD

Following in the footsteps of the Czar, Turner's first carbon model, the 2016 RFX reappears for the fourth time since 1999, but now in a carbon version that helps bring it up to speed with the latest in bike technology. Turner molds the bike using a blend of Toray high-modulus uni-directional carbon sourced from Japan.

Out back you'll find 160mm of travel ready to eat up the rough stuff via Dave Weagle's DW-link suspension. Turner says it's "the only design on the market that is able to control unwanted bob and still remain active in more gear combinations than any other design." When mounted, the 200x57mm (7.875 x 2.25-inch) shock is offset to the non-driveside. Sealed EnduroMax bearings at every pivot point improve small bump compliance over their old bushing system.

The frame features external cable routing for easy maintenance, with exception to the Stealth-style dropper post which exits the frame at the bottom of the seat tube. All cables are held in place by machined alloy cable clamps that screw into the frame. Turner placed the clamps in strategic locations to prevent unwanted cable noise and frame rub while eliminating the need for any zip-ties. Some of the mounts on the top side of the downtube double as water bottle mounts, though the included hardware on our test bike wasn't long enough to mount both the bottle cage and cable guides at the same time. Whether or not this was an oversight by Turner, we're not sure, but removing one cable guide to mount the cage was a non-issue.

Additional details include a post mount rear brake with replaceable threaded inserts, space for a meaty 2.4-inch tire with close to half an inch to spare for mud clearance, a 73mm PF30 bottom bracket, and ISCG 05 mounts. Should you want to run a 2X drivetrain, the frame is front derailleur compatible thanks to a removable direct mount adapter. Integrated frame guards on both the chainstay and the lower portion of the downtube help prevent damage to the frame from chainslap and rock strikes.

The RFX can be had starting at $2,995 for a frame/shock only option, and is also available with five build kits and a myriad of wheelset and shock options. Builds range from the $4,951 SRAM GX/DT Swiss/RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair option to $9,672 for an ultra-baller Shimano XTR/ENVE/Push ElevenSix combo. There are even options for wheel graphics if you'd like to get super fancy. We tested the most affordable GX build. For the Turner faithful out there, know that a trade-in program exists which provides you with $600 off in exchange for your old Turner frame.

Geometry

The RFX sees a number of updates for 2016 in the geometry department, and while it's highlighted by a slacker-than-most 66-degree head angle, the numbers are not as aggressive across the board as some might hope for. These days, riders under 6'1" (1.85 meters) tall typically find themselves best situated on a size large frame, but due to short reach measurements our testers opted for the XL. Those near the cusp of the recommended sizing might want to consider sizing up depending on your personal preferences and riding style.

Other key numbers include slightly longer than average 438mm (17.24-inch) chainstays, a 73.5-degree seat tube angle, and a 345mm (13.6-inch) measured bottom bracket height (slightly higher than the 340mm claimed). Should you want to, the use of a 49/62mm tapered headtube allows the frame to be adjustable between 65-degrees and 67-degrees in half degree increments via FSA headset hardware available from Turner.

On The Trail

We tested the RFX on South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona, which features rough, rocky, loose, and generally wild trails. With extended technical climbs paired with rugged downhills like Geronimo and Holbert trails, the area served as an ideal testing ground for the RFX which claims to be a downhill crusher capable of efficiently making its way to the top.

We began our test with the RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir shock set within Turner’s recommended 30-35% sag range, opting for 33% while seated. Before shipping each bike, Turner opens every shock and pre-installs volume spacers based on the size of the bike and your riding style. Our XL came equipped with three bands.

One side effect of having to size up is how tall the front end is, which is something we noticed right away. It's way up there with a 632mm (24.9-inch) stack measurement for our XL frame. When we checked the numbers, even the size large frame's stack height is higher by a half-inch or more when compared to your average 160mm travel bike. The bike just feels tall, even with the low-rise bars set as low as possible. Coupled with the somewhat short reach, this can make for an awkward ride at first and we had to adjust our riding style a bit to get comfortable.

When pointed up, the DW-link equipped RFX climbs well for a 160mm bike. With the shock fully open and a 32-tooth chainring, both seated and out-of-saddle climbing resulted in very little bob, though hard-mashing pedalers will find the shock's middle compression setting useful. In our experience the bike pedals exceptionally well. Should you decide to use the firm compression setting, the rear wheel still reacts to trail inconsistencies, never feeling overly harsh or locked-out. Turner chose not to spec the RFX with a travel adjust fork, and in our experience the tall front end tended to wander quite a bit on the steeper climbs, forcing us to ride as far forward on the saddle and with as much weight on the bars as possible. This made rear-end traction sometimes hard to come by, due to having to be so far over the front end, and the longer than average stays contributed to this loss of traction as well. In regards to pedal-strikes, the large amount of sag drops the bottom bracket quite a bit and makes line choice and pedal timing important. The geometry works well when it comes to overall stability while descending and cornering, however.

While the geometry and suspension makes for a decent climber, we all know this bike was built for getting the most out of your descents (while still earning them), and that's where the bike really came alive. At 33% sag it provides an incredibly supple ride well into the mid-stroke. While one of our testers found Turner’s choice of running three volume reducers in the shock ample to resist bottoming out, our other tester wanted more progression out of the system and chose to add two more, for a total of five. While he preferred five reducers over three during deep consecutive hits, it was a bit much. For more aggressive riders we think running four reducers is the ticket. When we checked the numbers we found the suspension design starts progressive, but becomes linear as the rear wheel approaches the end of its travel. Overall it's a more progressive and supportive feeling ride than the Pivot Mach 6 and Ibis Mojo HD3, two other bikes with similar DW-link suspension designs. Those wanting a more nimble ride will want to set the bike up with slightly less sag and possibly fewer spacers, while those preferring a stable ride will want to drop it close to 35% with more spacers.

In both volume spacer configurations the mid-stroke offered plenty of support, keeping our focus on the trail and not worried about what the bike was doing. While the RFX did take the sting off medium to large square edge hits, we felt it hang up a bit on a few occasions during large successive square edges. Even so, overall the bike descended exceptionally well with a balanced feel, stable chassis, centered stance, and the confidence to carry us through whatever line we picked.

The RFX's DW-link design in motion.

In corners, the bike tracked the ground well giving us plenty of traction, even over the choppy and dry Arizona terrain. Pushing into turns, the bike kept up in its travel and never wallowed or felt unbalanced. Due to the RFX's excellent pedaling characteristics, it was incredibly responsive while sprinting out of corners or in the flats, rewarding us with extra speed for our efforts. Thanks to the DW-link design, outright pedaling performance is barely affected by the amount of travel being used or sag height.

Build Kit

We chose to test Turner's least expensive GX build, which features SRAM's more affordable 1x11 GX drivetrain, a RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork, SRAM Guide R brakes, DT Swiss E-1900 wheels, and a Race Face Evolve stem and bar. With literally hundreds of build kit/wheelset/shock/head angle combos available, this ride has the potential to suit many riders' needs.

For some reason our GX build didn't come with the listed Evolve cockpit, but a wide 800mm (31.5-inch) Race Face Respond bar and 50mm stem were in their place. Whether or not Turner didn't have their OEM shipment of bars/stems in yet, or there's an unpublished variation for the XL RFX we're not sure, but it was a welcomed surprise over the stock 750mm (29.5-inch) setup. Spec'ing a 780-800mm bar would be ideal as those who find it too wide can cut it down, as opposed to wide bar lovers having to purchase a new bar right off the bat.

Turner missed a few easy opportunities in the tire and rotor department in our opinion, spec'ing the burly RFX with a small 160mm rear rotor which we quickly roached, and some thin 2.35-inch Schwalbe Knobby Nic tires. We would have liked to see a more robust tire setup and larger diameter rotors to better match the bike's intended purpose and capabilities. The tires limited us when things started picking up speed, and despite being tubeless we suffered a few flats in the rocky terrain. Replacing those two components has the potential to improve the overall feel of the bike in a pretty big way. Oh, and you'll likely want some lock-on grips while you're at it.

Turner spec'd the bike with a 125mm (4.9-inch) travel KS Integra dropper post, which we've found to have reliability issues in the past due to very precise cable tension requirements. Of three KS Integra posts in our 17 bike lineup not one remained problem free. After a single day of riding the dropper would sink an inch into its travel when weighted without activating the lever.

The RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork gave us no issues and was a solid performer through and through, handling the rough and rocky terrain well and keeping its composure even in the chunkiest of sections. The RFX is a burly bike, however, and as such some riders may wish for the Lyrik alternative considering the bike's downhill capabilities. Based on preference, we added two Bottomless Tokens to the Pike to provide a more progressive spring curve.

The DT-Swiss E-1900 wheels held up very well and were reasonably stiff, which kept us pointed in the right direction with no sudden deflections to throw us off line.

SRAM's GX drivetrain impressed us once again with reliable performance at a fraction of the cost. Consider adding a top guide for extra chain security.

Long Term Durability

The RFX looks to be an overbuilt and sturdy frame with plenty of integrated frame protection. Rubber molded chainstay and downtube guards protect against chain slap and rock strikes, while thin metal plates add additional coverage from chainslap and rotor damage. There are some gaps on the chainstay and inner seatstay which could become problematic in the long term, so some key applications of mastic tape is advised for complete coverage. Unfortunately the rear derailleur cable routes along the top of the chainstay, which makes for a slightly noisier ride.

We appreciate that they’ve equipped the RFX with replaceable post mount threaded inserts should you ever cross-thread your brake bolts. Large torx bolts are used throughout the linkage for improved durability during maintenance, so make sure you have the appropriate sizes in your toolbox (and possibly in your pack). Torque specs are available here, and all pivot bearings are easily replaceable when the time comes. Turner backs the bike with a seven day 100% satisfaction purchase guarantee allowing you to swap sizes or return the bike should things be awry early on, followed by a two year frame warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're an aggressive rider who only climbs to earn your descents, Turner's RFX v4.0 might be the beast you're looking for. While not the most agile bike with the GX build kit, excellent pedaling characteristics still make it capable of extended climbs. Once pointed down, it opens up like a mini-downhill bike, offering a supple, balanced ride with geometry that rewards an off-the-back riding style. Despite a couple of hang ups when things got really rowdy, the overall impression we got is a bike that likes it rough. Out of the box the GX kit is close to being a great "budget" build, and with the few parts swaps would be an all out trail slayer.

Visit www.turnerbikes.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 3 stars - Good
  • Descending: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Value: 3 stars - Good
  • Overall Impression: 4 stars - Excellent

Bonus Gallery: 26 photos of the 2016 Turner RFX v4.0 GX up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Fred Robinson - Age: 31 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Height: 6'1" (1.85m) // Weight: 240-pounds (108.9kg)

"Drop my heels and go." Fred has been on two wheels since he was two years old, is deceptively quick for a bigger guy, and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. Several years of shop experience means he's not afraid to tinker. He's very particular when it comes to a bike's suspension performance and stiffness traits.

AJ Barlas - Age: 35 // Years Riding MTB: 15+ // Height: 6'3" (1.91m) // Weight: 156-pounds (70.8kg)

"Smooth and fluid." Hailing from Squamish, BC, AJ's preferred terrain is chunky, twisty trail with natural features. He's picky with equipment and has built a strong understanding of what works well and why by riding a large number of different parts and bikes. Observant, mechanically inclined, and always looking to learn more through new experiences and products.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Four years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2016's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in Phoenix, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Rage Cycles. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Royal Racing, Smith, Fox Racing, Race Face, Easton, and Source.

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Added reply in a thread The Patent Thread - New and Wild MTB Inventions 2/9/2016 1:19 PM

According to a BRAIN article, "a federal appeals court has upheld a tubeless rim patent held by Stan's NoTubes, which has been the subject of a long legal dispute with Specialized. The Federal Circuit decision upholds a previous ruling by the Patent

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Liked a bike check Transition Scout - "High Vis" Edition 2/9/2016 12:12 PM
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Added reply in a thread 2016 Racing Rumours 2/9/2016 10:05 AM

Morewood is back in action thanks to Richard Carter and Victor Momsen. It'll be interesting to see if they bring anyone to the World Cup scene. New suspension platform promised for later this year.

Updated photo album Turner RFX v4.0 GX - 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions 2/8/2016 10:37 PM
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Added reply in a thread The Patent Thread - New and Wild MTB Inventions 2/8/2016 12:43 PM

SRAM is pushing lawsuits against Race Face, Praxis Works, and Wolf Tooth regarding their narrow/wide rings: https://search.rpxcorp.com/lit/ilndce-319499-sram-v-race-face-performance-products https://search.rpxcorp.com/lit/ilndce-319507-sram-v-praxis-works ... more »

Added reply in a thread [DIY] FREE Suspension Data Acquisition (Video) 2/8/2016 12:13 PM

Another excellent episode, Andrextr!

Added reply in a thread USA roadtrip - rental cars and mountain bikes 2/8/2016 11:43 AM

Out of sight, out of mind. Be sure to cover your bike with a blanket or sheet if possible, and bring a lock for inside the car just in case. When I road tripped through NZ last year, we stopped at a local thrift store to pick up a cheap used blanket ... more »

Added reply in a thread [Video] How to CORRECTLY setup rebound damping 2/8/2016 11:35 AM

Andrextr, excellent overview of the curb method and a great contribution to the Vital forum! We appreciate your efforts to educate other riders. For those tinkering with their rides, here's an additional resource from FOX that might be helpful. They ... more »

Added reply in a thread [Video] How to CORRECTLY setup rebound damping 2/8/2016 11:28 AM

Hey Jakers, No, we didn't use ShockWiz during Test Sessions. It's something we're curious about, however, and hope to investigate in the future.

Added a new video Pre-Season Training with Marc Beaumont on the Madison Saracen Factory Team 2/6/2016 9:27 AM
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After a brief hiatus, Marc Beaumont is getting ready to race at the top level again. Based on this video from training on the Corta Fuegos track in Malaga with his new Saracen, it looks like he'll be up to speed in no time. He'll be lined up alongside Matt Simmonds, Matt Walker and Manon Carpenter on the Madison Saracen Factory Team when the World Cup season kicks off in April.

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Added reply in a thread Trail Closures San Diego County 2/5/2016 11:58 PM

Pedaled up Anderson for a night ride. Bummer.

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Added reply in a thread Newbie 2/5/2016 1:32 PM

Welcome, goos3! Be sure to check out Vital's collection of 2015 race coverage from the World Cup DH Series and the Enduro World Series. The 2016 season kicks off in March/April.

Added reply in a thread Which Component Do You Drop First? 2/5/2016 1:29 PM

Singlespeed as well. Man legs!

Added a comment about photo 2016 Orbea Occam AM M30 2/4/2016 2:52 PM
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Added a product review for 2016 Orbea Occam AM M30 2/4/2016 2:50 PM
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2016 Test Sessions: Orbea Occam AM M30

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Fred Robinson and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller

When talking trail bikes, we've always focused on the aggressive end of the spectrum here at Vital, which is why up until 2016 you never heard much about the Orbea Occam. Previously very XC in nature, this bike has seen a massive redesign for the new year, and now features much more relaxed angles, a longer front end, shorter rear end, and lower bottom bracket height. Toss in a 27.5 version and a new suspension design with more travel and you've captured our interest with a bike that looks capable of truly rallying through the rough bits. Curious to see how it would perform in the real world, we saddled up aboard the Occam AM M30 during the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5 (650b) wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) front and rear wheel travel
  • UFO Flexion suspension
  • Enduro sealed bearings
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Post mount direct rear brake
  • Removable high direct front derailleur mount
  • Press fit 92 bottom bracket
  • Modified (2-bolt) ISCG 05 mount with frame protector
  • 148mm Boost rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size large, no pedals): 27.9-pounds (12.7kg)
  • MSRP $4,199 USD

The Occam comes in both aluminum and carbon versions, as well as AM (27.5 wheels) and TR (29-inch wheels) models with 140mm and 120mm of travel, respectively. Today we're looking at the full carbon Occam AM, which uses what Orbea calls their UFO Flexion suspension design. What's UFO? Orbea has done away with the concentric rear axle pivot on their carbon bikes, and in an effort to make the frames as light as possible with a similar axle path and leverage curve, they've designed a flexible seatstay in its place. Aluminum bikes still use the concentric rear pivot, however. Orbea's UFO Flexion technology has been around for a while, but this marks the first time it has crossed over from XC. The result is two less pivots to worry about, a 150g (0.3-pound) reduction in weight, and improved rear end lateral stiffness. To further stiffen the chassis, Orbea uses the new 12x148mm Boost rear axle spacing.

With the shock removed or deflated you can feel the stays flex as you cycle the rear end, but there's far less binding or tension that you might think. The seatstay flexes upwards 25mm (1-inch) as the shock cycles, and requires less than 5kg of force on the saddle compared to 250kg required to fully compress the shock. While 25mm may sound like an alarming amount of flex, Orbea has done their homework and proven the design on the Oiz XC bike. Precise orientation of the carbon fibers and specially shaped stays ensure it can bend time and time again without reaching the critical point. Sealed ball bearings at each pivot help keep things smooth and active.

Orbea's carbon construction method is described as being very labor intensive with several measures in place to reduce excess materials and improve compaction, ultimately resulting in an impressively low frame weight of just 1,990g (4.4-pounds).

The internal cable routing is very clean, though some cable rattle can be detected on rough portions of trail. A removable high direct front derailleur mount makes the bike compatible with most 1X (32T max), 2X (24-38T max), and 3X drivetrains. Other frame features include a modified two bolt ISCG 05 mount with frame protector, PF92 bottom bracket, rubber chainstay and downtube guards, and a bottle mount inside the front triangle. We measured close to 25mm (1-inch) of mud clearance with the stock 2.25-inch Maxxis tire, which is really good given the short chainstays.

Occam AM bikes come in three carbon builds ranging from $4,199 to $7,999 USD, as well as three aluminum builds at $2,299 to $3,699. We tested the M30 carbon build costing $4,199.

Geometry

While not the most aggressive geometry with a 67-degree head angle, Orbea isn't trying to make a complete descent crusher with the Occam AM, but rather a bike that can climb efficiently yet still handle some gravity induced fun. The steep 75-degree seat angle also speaks to this. The front end has healthy reach measurements across the three sizes, while the shorter than average 425mm (16.7-inch) chainstays help keep it nimble. The claimed 340mm (13.4-inch) bottom bracket height was very close to our measurement of 338mm.

On The Trail

We tested the Orbea Occam AM M30 on the rugged trails of South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. Our rides had long, technical climbs, rowdy and rocky descents, and some fast and flowy sections where you could really let it go. We set the bike to Orbea's specifications, running 25% seated rear sag on the FOX Float DPS Performance rear shock. Rebound was set slightly faster than normal, again based on Orbea's recommendations.

Pointed uphill the Occam AM M30 pedals extremely well, especially in the small chainring. Left in the open shock setting we experienced close to zero bob during hard efforts, but the bike would occasionally hang up on medium sized rocks and rob us of some forward momentum. We felt the medium compression setting to be ideal as the rear wheel would still track the ground and take the sting off square-edges, but not hang up as much. In the firm setting the bike is too harsh off the top for use on anything but smooth fire roads.

Our 6'1" tall tester is at the very top of Orbea's recommended height for the size large frame, and as such the bike left something to be desired when hunched over during long climbs. Orbea's believes riders over 6'1" should be riding their Occam TR 29er line, which is available in an extra large size for riders up to 6'6". Whether you agree with their big wheels for big riders philosophy or not, we think Orbea is missing an easy opportunity by not offering the more aggressive 27.5 AM series in an XL size, as that would likely be the go-to for our other 6'3" tester.

As mentioned, the Occam AM's geo is fairly neutral between an all-out climber and an all-out descender, making this bike a great choice for someone looking for a well rounded ride that climbs very well and can still be opened up a little on technical descents. However, if you're looking for a mini-downhill bike, this isn't the ride for you.

On fast and flowy trails, the bike was an absolute blast to ride. The bike's light and agile feel made picking up and hopping over obstacles a breeze, and it was extremely playful in these situations. With a 67-degree head angle, the bike handles tighter corners and difficult switchbacks very well and we were able to clean a couple mega-tight switchbacks that had forced a foot out on longer travel, slacker bikes.

That said, the bike did lack some stability when things got gnarly. Through steep technical sections we had to be precise with line choice and couldn't fully let go and open it up. Also, in sections with multiple harsh hits, the bike tends to blow through the travel a bit, making for a rough ride that often felt like it wanted to pitch us forward as we'd reach the end of its travel. Perhaps this is why Orbea recommends a slightly faster than normal rebound speed, in an effort to keep the bike higher up in its travel. The bike's leverage curve is nearly linear for the first 40% of the shock stroke, then becomes regressive near the end to counteract the progressive air spring. Given how capable the bike is, we feel it could benefit from a more progressive overall combination, however, and suggest using volume spacers in the shock as needed to make up for this. There are no spacers in there from the factory. Here's the suspension in motion:

Regardless of the few handling issues we mentioned above, the Occam AM actually did surprise us with its descending abilities. Once we adjusted our riding style and paid a bit more attention to line choice, the bike tackled rough and steep sections better than anticipated and we were able to ride hard and aggressively. In fast, chundery sections, the bike hugged the ground quite well offering great traction despite the dry and dusty conditions. As such, in true trail bike territory where trails aren’t super steep and gnarly, the Occam was one of the more lively and fun bikes to ride during this year’s Test Sessions.

Build Kit

While the overall weight of 27.9-pounds (12.7kg) was very light for a mid-level build, the Occam AM M30 is perhaps a bit under-spec'd for its $4,199 US price tag. The M30 features Shimano Deore disc brakes, a mix of Deore/SLX/XT parts for the 2X drivetrain, FOX Float Performance series suspension, DT Swiss Spline M-1900 wheels, and a Race Face Aeffect bar/stem combo. There are very few standouts in this lineup, but then again you do get a super light full carbon frame with some nice features. The lack of a dropper seatpost is also worth noting, as it's something we'd expect to see on a bike at this level and a necessity for many riders these days.

The DT Swiss Spline M-1900 wheelset performed adequately with solid engagement and reasonable stiffness. While the hubs have only 24-points of engagement, we never noticed it as a huge disadvantage. Though slightly dented, the wheels were true and snug at the conclusion of our test, indicating a solid and reliable choice. They're easy to set up tubeless if desired.

The 2.4-inch Maxxis High Roller II 3C EXO tire up front and 2.25-inch Ardent EXO in the rear proved to be a solid combination. While the Ardent may not be our favorite tire, it was fine on Arizona's less-than-moist trails and helped the bike roll quite quickly. We did manage to flat multiple times, so something a bit burlier could be useful if you ride in similar landscapes. In terms of braking, the tire combination worked well.

When it came to the Shimano Deore M506 disc brakes with a 160mm rear rotor and 180mm front, however, we did experience a bit of fade out back on long, steep descents, though power was adequate.

The Occam AM M30 comes with a 2X drivetrain which lead to several dropped chains during rowdy descents, leaving us wishing for a more secure 1X alternative. The bike is designed to be very efficient with a 32-tooth chainring should you decide to make the switch. Shifting was decent otherwise.

If you'd like to improve the overall descending abilities of the Occam AM, we'd recommend swapping to a shorter stem versus the stock 70mm, as we did. Size small and medium builds already feature a shorter 50mm stem. The stock bars measure 760mm (29.9-inches) wide which will be sufficient for most riders.

While the Fox Performance series isn't top of the line, it handled suspension duties well. The Fox Float Performance 34 FIT4 fork is a big improvement over previous models, providing more support while still remaining active in both the open and trail setting. For extended smooth climbs, the firmest setting might be a convenience, but in our experience it was far too harsh for any actual trail time.

Given the choice, we'd strongly consider stepping up to the M10 build, which gets you FOX Factory level suspension with the EVOL can for improved small bump performance, a dropper post, and several other upgrades for $5,799. Oddly it still doesn't feature a 1X drivetrain, but does come with a large Shimano XT 11-42 tooth cassette which would make for an easy conversion.

Long Term Durability

With the exception of a few dropped chains, we experienced no failures or major areas of durability concern in the build-kit department. We did knock something loose inside the frame's top tube, though, which resulted in a loud rattle every time the bike hit a rough section. We removed the fork, seat post, and crankset in a futile attempt to shaket the frame and remove the item. Further investigation revealed a forgotten piece of EPS that was meant to be removed after the carbon molding process. Orbea says this is the first Occam frame to experience the issue, and was able to remove the EPS while fishing with a derailleur cable.

Long term maintenance looks very straightforward, and this detailed tech document lays out procedures with nice visuals and torque specs. Frames are backed with a lifetime warranty against breakage and three years against paint and varnish issues. Components have a two year guarantee.

What's The Bottom Line?

Orbea did an excellent job making a bike that enjoys climbing as much as it does descending. While the Occam AM stands out in neither direction as outstanding, it strikes a nice balance between the two, making it an excellent choice for someone looking for that "one bike to rule them all" type of ride. Don't let the 140mm of travel fool you, the bike punches well above its class. While the price may be a tad high for the spec on the M30 model, it's a solid performer with some unique tech and a full carbon frame worthy of upgrades.

Visit www.orbea.com or look back at our First Look feature for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Descending: 3 stars - Good
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Value: 3 stars - Good
  • Overall Impression: 3.5 stars - Very Good

Bonus Gallery: 16 photos of the 2016 Orbea Occam AM M30 up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Fred Robinson - Age: 31 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Height: 6'1" (1.85m) // Weight: 240-pounds (108.9kg)

"Drop my heels and go." Fred has been on two wheels since he was two years old, is deceptively quick for a bigger guy, and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. Several years of shop experience means he's not afraid to tinker. He's very particular when it comes to a bike's suspension performance and stiffness traits.

AJ Barlas - Age: 35 // Years Riding MTB: 15+ // Height: 6'3" (1.91m) // Weight: 156-pounds (70.8kg)

"Smooth and fluid." Hailing from Squamish, BC, AJ's preferred terrain is chunky, twisty trail with natural features. He's picky with equipment and has built a strong understanding of what works well and why by riding a large number of different parts and bikes. Observant, mechanically inclined, and always looking to learn more through new experiences and products.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Four years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2016's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in Phoenix, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Rage Cycles. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Royal Racing, Smith, Fox Racing, Race Face, Easton, and Source.

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Added a comment about feature 2016 Vital MTB Trail Bike Test Sessions Introduction 2/4/2016 9:27 AM
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Hey Kevin, I'll comment here when it goes live, which should send you a notification. Expect it in the next two weeks.

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This feature has 27 comments.

Added reply in a thread The Patent Thread - New and Wild MTB Inventions 2/3/2016 3:17 PM

Two rather funny ones in this week... so hot.

USPTO Application #20160025164 by Shimano Inc. - Rotor cover, rotor cooling apparatus, and temperature-level indicator "A rotor cover comprises a cover portion and a mounting portion. The cover ... more »