The Orient is J.Guillem's do-a-bit-of-everything road bike. With the geometry of an endurance bike and the ride qualities of a race machine, this titanium beauty has left me with a real quandary. I couldn't live with its comfort levels longterm even though it is such a great bike to ride, which got me thinking – is the Orient at fault or is it the UK's roads?
- Pros: Very quick bike, comfortable geometry, impressive stiffness
- Cons: Harsh ride, overly firm saddle, no mudguard mounts on fork
When describing the Orient on its website, one of the first things J.Guillem mentions is, 'J.Guillem's trademark stiff, lightweight and durable tubing.' So it's no surprise that this bike behaves like it does. For a bike of its kind it is brutally stiff. At times it's just downright uncomfortable, and that's coming from me – someone who'll take performance over comfort every time and actually prefers being battered around a bit for that feeling of a fast ride.
You feel everything, every single little ripple and stone in the road, unless you are on the smoothest of recently resurfaced A roads or a race track, and it can become tiring to each and every contact point. You don't get the characteristic titanium softness; it lacks that vibration damping smoothness.
I didn't complete a single ride without pins and needles in my hands at some point. I even had to drop my saddle height a touch to remove some of the weight from my wrists. This obviously caused discomfort elsewhere, not helped by the firmness of the saddle.
All of this is such a shame, because boy is this bike stunningly quick. For anything under three hours I was knocking out average speeds of 19-20mph consistently and getting home feeling like I hadn't had to bury myself to achieve it.
Acceleration is impressive. Mixing things with rush hour traffic on one of Wiltshire's main arterial roads, where you really need to keep the pace up to match the flow, entering and exiting roundabouts and the likes to hold your position, the Orient is awesome. Out of the saddle and stamping hard on the pedals, you can bridge gaps with ease and really hold your own in amongst the cars and lorries.
That stiffness lends itself well to climbing, whether seated or standing, and those short, sharp power hills are an absolute blast. If you're heading into the local peaks, the 180mm head tube on this 56cm frame takes the strain off your back as you can sit up and tap it out.
If descending quickly is your thing, the Orient is pretty confident here too. It's well balanced and with the tight frame and stiff fork it tracks well and is easy to guide through the bends. The more upright position because of that tall front end does raise your centre of gravity, so when the speed really picks up or you have to make a tight turn the handling becomes a little vague and loses its sharpness.
This isn't really a criticism, because the Orient isn't a race bike, it's more of a public service announcement to remind you that, should you ride one you'll feel like you're on a race bike, and it's easy to come unstuck on the way back down.
Comfort issues aside, if long rides are your thing – or commuting, or touring – the Orient is a great bike for getting the miles in. The handling is nicely balanced and it is a very easy bike to ride at a sedate pace. If it's windy, though, that tall head tube stops you getting yourself out of it by crouching down: you're still a little too upright.
Frame and fork
The man behind J.Guillem, Jan-Willem Sintnicolaas, started the Van Nicholas brand from scratch in his garage 15 years ago, so he certainly knows a thing or two about designing and building titanium frames.
The Orient is well made – you can tell that both by the feel of the ride and how it looks. The welding joints of the 3Al/2.5V (aluminium/vanadium) titanium alloy tubing looks neat and tidy with a pretty smooth finish.
The tubes themselves are all seamless for strength, as in they've been extruded rather than rolled with a welded seam, and they all come in some pretty large diameters for a metal bike, which in turn creates all of that stiffness.
Up front you get a tapered head tube – no surprise there as that's pretty much standard these days – but J.Guillem hasn't gone for a consistent taper from top to bottom. It maintains a diameter to suit the 1 1/8in headset bearings for the majority of its length before flaring out to accomodate a 1 1/2in setup around the down tube.
This increase of diameter incorporates the guide for the internal gear cable routing. It's a neat design which avoids cable rub (not that it really matters too much on an unpainted frame) and you choose from various adaptors to suit whether you are running mechanical or electronic shifting, i.e. cables or wiring.
The down tube is a chunky beast with an overall diameter of 45mm throughout. There is no change of profile or ovalisation from front to rear that we often see on performance frames.
The rear brake hose runs internally through the tube, exiting out of the non-drive side chainstay.
One tube that does change in profile is the top tube, which has a larger 38mm diameter at the head tube end to keep the stiffness there for handling, before slimming down to just over 30mm at the seat tube.
That seat tube has an external diameter of 34.9mm and takes a 30.9mm seatpost rather than 27.2mm or 31.6mm more commonly found on road bikes, though it is quite prevalent in the mountain bike world.
The bottom bracket shell uses press-fit bearings, which aren't going to be everybody's cup of tea because of the potential for creaking after use in the wet, when water and grit can get in between the mating faces of the bearing cups and that of the frame. This bike has seen a lot of rain and bad weather without any noise so far, so that's a good sign of some tight tolerances.
The chainstays aren't massively oversized but there is still plenty of material there and their swooping curve out towards the dropouts gives plenty of heel clearance while still allowing for some pretty big tyre clearances.
Our test bike came fitted with 30mm Schwalbe tyres and I did try some 40mm gravel tyres which just caught the chainstays, but 35s would fit no problem.
The dropouts are cast titanium and look very nice indeed, incorporating a 12mm thru-axle fitment, flat mount brake calliper fitting, and those rather snazzy looking mudguard mounts with adjustment.
You get a replaceable gear hanger, which is always good to see, so if you were to drop the frame on its drive side you wouldn't write off the frame.
J.Guillem offers a 100-year limited lifetime warranty on the frames so it's obviously confident in its craftmanship and material choice.
The fork is full carbon fibre and also accepts a 12mm thru-axle to resist twisting forces from heavy braking from the discs.
The whole setup, as you'd expect, is hugely stiff and really benefits steering at high speed. You get plenty of tyre clearance too and the internal hose routing keeps things neat and tidy.
Oddly though, considering the frame is set up for mudguards, the fork isn't; there are no mounting points other than those for the flat mount calliper.
The Orient comes in one build when it comes to the drivetrain and braking: Shimano's latest Ultegra groupset and hydraulic braking system.
We started seeing Ultegra R8000 being fitted to bikes from the tail end of last year and thanks to its performance versus quality it is specced on a lot of machines. We are in the process of writing a full review on the groupset, so for now I'll just take you through some of the highlights.
To be in keeping with its all-round road riding capabilities, the Orient has a 50/34-tooth compact chainset and an 11-30t cassette which should cover most eventualities for climbing and high-speed descending, or on those rare occasions when you have a tailwind.
Shifting is even crisper and lighter than it felt on the previous 6800 model range thanks to new mech designs, and feels even better when shifting under load.
The R8020 STI shifters with their hydraulic reservoirs feel barely any bulkier than their mechanical equivalents and they are very comfortable to use while still giving you plenty of surface area to grip on when climbing or braking hard.
The stopping power from the R805 flat mount callipers and RT81 140mm diameter rotors is very impressive and they offer massive amounts of modulation to get you out of some tricky situations. I've been riding a couple of test bikes alongside the Orient that are using cable disc braking and the difference is like night and day.
The stem, handlebar, seatpost and saddle are all J.Guillem branded, offering a subtle finish to the overall bike in understated black with minimal logos. The finishing kit, unlike the gears, are upgradable if you fancy a bit of customisation.
We've got an alloy stem here but if you want to keep the titanium theme going you can upgrade it for a whopping €190 to match the frame. The same with the seatpost: alloy is the default option but for €110 you can upgrade to titanium or, like here, you can go for a titanium model with a 3T Difflock system and cast titanium head for €254!
I actually tried using a smaller 27.2mm diameter carbon post with a shim to fit the 30.9mm seat tube, but it made next to no difference to the stiffness of the ride.
There are various other things you can change too, like headset spacers, bar width, seat collar and wheels.
Our test bike has the default DT Swiss R23 Spline wheelset, which like every other set of DT wheels I've used, from the top end carbon models to the entry-level R24s, are very good.
They are solid performers across a range of riding and feel quick rolling on the flats. Acceleration is decent enough and there doesn't feel to be any flex when pushing hard out of the saddle.
We've got a tubeless setup here, which doesn't seem to be an option on the website, with Vredestein Fortezza 28mm being the only tyre choice on offer, rather than the 30mm Schwalbe 1 G-Ones fitted.
I rarely puncture through the year, covering around 10,000 miles in all conditions, so I don't know if I've just been unlucky of late or Schwalbe's latest tyre offerings have become a little fragile. Three models from the Pro-One and G-One stable have all picked up punctures, with the front tyre here collecting a small gash no bigger than 3mm across and using virtually all of its sealant to fix. It was okay for a few hundred miles more but has now started letting air out if the pressure goes above 30psi.
That aside, the tyres have a supple feel to them out on the road, and certainly don't feel as though their rolling resistance is holding the bike back. Cornering grip is okay, but they tend to break grip when leaning the bike over for a fast bend or tight roundabout at speed.
In its standard Ultegra spec, the Orient will set you back €3,999 (£3,451) but you can also buy just the frame for €1,799 (£1,552) or a frameset which includes frame, fork, headset, alloy seat collar and thru-axles for €2,233 (£1,927).
This bike with the upgrades (excluding the tyres) comes in at €4,303 (£3,713) and weighs 9.05kg. Comparing that against some of our favourite titanium bikes that we've tested over the years suggests that isn't over the top for a bike of the Orient's quality.
The Kinesis GF_TI has always impressed us and that has a frameset price of £2,050. We last tested it back in 2015 and since then it has been upgraded to a thru-axle fork.
Then there is the J.Laverack J.ACK which is another four-season titanium road machine capable of a little bit of everything. It'll cost you £1,950 for the frame only and £2,380 for a similar frameset setup.
So to answer the initial question – yes, I think it's mostly the UK roads that are the problems with the Orient's ride rather than the bike itself.
It is actually a very good to bike to ride, fast or slow, long or short, and when you finally get a stretch of freshly laid tarmac it all makes sense. The performance for a non-race bike is stunning and it'll just cruise for mile after mile with you in complete comfort.
According to the J.Guillem website the designer lives in Mallorca, an island famed for its smooth roads and excellent climate. This would seem to be what the Orient has been designed for, and you just can't appreciate its ability on the UK's terrible roads where even the best ones have vibration-inducing ripples and minor cracks, none of which are tamed by the Orient.
Right bike, wrong roads possibly.
Fast and fun ride but its overly stiff titanium frame is tiring on rough roads
road.cc test report
Make and model: J.Guillem Orient
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
J.Guillem 3AL/2.5V Titanium Road Frame, Orient
Shimano FC-R8000 Ultegra Crankset, 50-34T
J.Guillem Pressfit 24 Bottom Bracket
KMC X11-93 Chain with Missing Link
Shimano RD-R8000 Ultegra SS Rear Derailleur
Shimano FD-R8000 Ultegra Front Derailleur
Shimano R8020 STI Shift Levers for Hydraulic Brakes
Shimano R805 Hydraulic Disc Brake Caliper Set
J.Guillem Brake/Derailleur Cables and Housing
Shimano CS-R8000 Cassette, 11-30T
DT Swiss R23 SPLINE Disc Wheel Set,
Vredestein Fortezza Senso Xtrm Weather Tire, 700x28c
Vredestein Fortezza Senso Xtrm Weather Tire, 700x28c
Vredestein Butyl Tube, Presta Valve
J.Guillem Integrated Headset, for 11/8 - 11/2"
J.Guillem Alloy Headset Spacer Black
J.Guillem Alloy Sand blasted Anodized Stem, 83gr
J.Guillem Alloy Sand blasted Anodized Butted Handlebar
J.Guillem Alloy Seat Post, 320mm x 15mm Setback
J.Guillem Alloy Seat Collar, 34.9mm Black
J.Guillem Saddle, Titanium Rails
J.Guillem 11/8-11/2" Tapered 12x100mm Thru Axle Carbon Road Disc Fork
J.Guillem Rear Thru Axle 12 x 142mm
Tell us what the bike is for
J.Guillem says, "The Orient has been designed for the sheer pleasure of riding the open road, certain in the knowledge you have a machine that can cope with whatever demands you make of it. Featuring J. Guillem-trademark stiff, light and durable tubing in more relaxed angles, it's the basis for a be-anything-you-want-it-to-be-bike."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The overall build quality of the frame and fork is high; nicely finished around the welding areas.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame uses 3Al/2.5V titanium alloy with the fork being manufactured from carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Very endurance based with a tall head tube and relatively short top tube giving an upright riding position. Full details can be found here - https://jguillem.com/bike/orient
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The above geometry for a 56cm creates a stack of 589mm, which is quite tall, and a reach of 380mm, which is quite short.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The frame is too stiff to provide enough comfort on the average UK road.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The bike is amazingly stiff in terms of performance.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well indeed, it's very efficient when it comes to acceleration and rolling on the flat.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Neutral to lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
For the type of bike it is the handling is good, but you need to remember it isn't a race bike as the steering isn't as sharp.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle is very firm indeed, which did nothing to offset the stiff frame.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The alloy stem and bar are pretty firm as well, so your hands and wrists take a bit of a battering.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Orient has a good gear range for climbing and descending.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The quality and performance of the Ultegra groupset suits the Orient perfectly, there isn't a single component I'd change.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so
DT Swiss makes some great wheels and these R23s are no different. Solid, quick and a reasonable weight, they're good all-rounders.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so
If you are sticking to the tarmac I'd say go for something with a slick tread to get more rubber on the road, as the grip at speed on the G-Ones isn't the best in the bends.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The J.Guillem branded kit all looks and feels to be good quality. The compact handlebar has quite a small drop which makes the lower half of the bar accessible to all.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes and no, it depended on the conditions.
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Depends on their pain threshold...
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Orient is very good, with an exciting ride matched by great cruising ability, but it really beat me up on the roads I ride on, and on which I test all the bikes I review, and that's really why it loses points. On consistently smooth roads it'd be a blast. It's a shame, because value for money is competitive, although the omission of a front mudguard fitment is an odd one.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.