The gravel and adventure trend is ripping through the cycling industry at a rapid rate, and even the most race-focused bike brands aren't immune to its appeal. Orbea has stepped into the ring with its Terra and produced a blisteringly fast and highly capable multi-terrain bike that is as fit for an adventure as it is for commuting and winter training with the addition of mudguards.
Pros: Fast, good handling, mudguard eyelets, custom paint option
Cons: Ride is on the firm side, limited gear range, not the biggest tyre clearance
Ride and handling
First and last impressions are: it's bloomin' fast! With a stiff and responsive carbon frameset, the Terra is one of the flightiest gravel and adventure bikes I've tested. The low weight and high stiffness help, giving it almost road race bike-like responses on the road, yet it's stable and controlled on rough and loose surfaces.
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Some of my gravel and adventure bike testing takes me around the Ridgeway, which means lots of fast and open gravel roads. On this sort of terrain, the Terra shows its performance DNA well, and it blips along the track very swiftly.
Funnily enough, at the bottom of a fast descent on one particular ride, my companion commented on how reckless I had just been. But from my perspective it felt quite the opposite: the accomplished handling made it possible to stay away from the brake levers.
Get into the nip-and-tuck singletrack and woodland trails and it's maybe not as nimble as some, with a bit more body language required to shape it around tighter corners.
Away from the rough and tumble of the woods and gravel tracks and onto the road, and the geometry shows great composure. It's as easy and comfortable to ride as any endurance bike, it climbs well, with enough stiffness for sprinting antics, and is comfortable enough to deal with cracked roads.
The All Road Geometry that Orbea has developed for the Terra follows similar lines to other bikes in this category. It's a longer, slacker and lower stance than a cyclo-cross bike, with a long wheelbase ensuring that when you get up to speed on gravel tracks it is as calm and surefooted as a rigid road bike on relatively narrow tyres is ever going to be.
It's a clean and sleek looking frame, with smooth transitions between all the main junctions. It's made from the company's second-tier OMP high-modulus carbon fibre, which is one step down from the highest grade OMR carbon reserved for its road race bikes, and produces a claimed frame weight of just 1,190g for a medium. Thoroughly respectable that, and it's up there (or should that be down there?) with the lightest bikes in this category.
The frame is adorned with modern details we expect to see, including 12mm thru-axles at both ends and flat mount disc callipers with full internal cable and brake hose routing.
Orbea has chosen FSA’s BB386 EVO press-fit bottom bracket with an 86.5mm wide shell to allow it to oversize the frame in this area, with a 30mm diameter axle for a higher stiffness-to-weight ratio. Press-fit has as many detractors as fans; it can be prone to creaking and I know it’ll be a sticking point for some who would prefer to see a threaded bottom bracket on this sort of bike for ease of maintenance.
The big bottom bracket forms the basis of a lower half of the frame designed to provide maximum stiffness for power transfer. The chainstays and down tube are similarly oversized and there's a standard tapered head tube. To provide a bit of comfort-inducing compliance the top tube and seatstays are much skinnier, but in reality, most of the comfort is coming from the big tyres.
There's clearance for up to 40mm tyres on 700C rims, but it hasn't been designed to accommodate 650B wheels which are proving popular at the moment. It's not the most generous tyre clearance but it's more than adequate for what this bike is designed for. My personal preference is for a 40mm tyre for mixed terrain riding, as it suits my locality well, so the clearance was more than adequate.
It's a good looking bike, with smooth tube shapes flowing into each junction gracefully. There are some nice details, too: I particularly like the thick layer of clear plastic over the down tube and rear stays to protect the carbon frame from rock strikes. And although this bike came with a 1x groupset, the frame will accommodate a front mech if you prefer two chainrings.
The nearly horizontal top tube doesn't offer as much extended seatpost as other more dropped top tube designs, so seatpost deflection isn't as generous as it could be. On the flip-side, there's more space in the front triangle for a bag. There are only two bottle cage mounts, though, so it's not quite as well suited to proper epic distances between water stops.
That said, I could easily see the Terra adorned with some bikepacking bags and put into service as a multi-day adventure ride, especially suiting the type of person who likes to get a shifty on and is more concerned with getting to B as fast as possible rather than taking in the views and churches. That's not to say it can't handle a leisurely pace, just that it doesn't really feel that is what's in its DNA.
Build and equipment
The Terra M21-D bike on test costs £3,199 and is one of six models available. It's specced with a SRAM Force 1 groupset, Fulcrum Racing 500 DB wheels with 40mm Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres, FSA SL-K stem and seatpost, Energy Compact handlebar and a Prologo Nago Evo Space Tirox saddle. On the scales, this size medium is 8.4kg.
You can go custom with Orbea's MyO offering a plethora of paint job options for no extra cost, which is an appealing option. We stuck with an off-the-shelf bike for this review, but the quality of the paint finish and the design is first class.
SRAM is cleaning up in the gravel and adventure bike market and its Force 1x groupset is solid, dependable and performs well. The gear shifts are reassuringly clunky, I never missed a gear, and the brakes are strong and powerful. I'd still prefer smaller hoods but on the upside, they are good for anchoring your hands against on rough and bumpy terrain.
My only gripe with the groupset is the gearing range which is too tall for really exploiting the Terra's off-road capabilities. I'd prefer a wider range cassette than the 11-36t fitted which, mated with the 40t chainring, produces a low gear that isn't sufficient for scaling my steeper off-road climbs. Throw on an 11-42t and I'd be much happier.
As I said earlier, the Terra is designed for up to 40mm tyres, and the 40mm Schwalbe G-Ones are a solid choice. They are a popular tyre, and for good reason: they perform well in all situations. They roll fast on the road and offer up plenty of grip in the loose. Durability was no issue during my time with the bike, either. They also go tubeless very easily, though you'll have to buy your own tubeless valves, rim tape and sealant.
The Fulcrum Racing 500 DB wheels on which the tyres are mounted proved a reliable choice. It's a tough wheelset but the 17mm internal width is a little on the narrow side compared with the modern trend for wider rims. The 1,610g claimed weight is respectable for the price, too. (You can read a guide to Fulcrum wheels here.)
I didn't get on with the shape of the Prologo Nago Evo Space Tirox saddle so that came off, but you might have different feelings about it.
The FSA SL-K stem and seatpost caused no complaints, and the Energy Compact handlebar is a nice shape with a compact reach and short drops.
Let's talk about price and value for money. Value is subjective, but price is clear cut. At £3,199 with a carbon frameset and SRAM Force groupset, the Orbea is £200 more than the Bombtrack Hook EXT-C I tested and £200 cheaper than the Trek Checkpoint SL 6, also with a carbon frameset but donned with a Shimano Ultegra groupset.
> Buyer's Guide: 22 of the best 2018 gravel & adventure bikes
Adding in the no-cost MyO customiser and the performance and ride quality of the Orbea, I'd say it's better value than both of those rivals. But if you want 650B tyres and an extra £200 in your pocket the Bombtrack is a good choice; if you prefer 2x and want even more versatility, the Trek might be worth an extra £200 to you.
It's a flighty and responsive carbon fibre adventure bike that has one eye on bikepacking adventures and gravel races and another on the daily grind, with mudguard eyelets for commuting and winter training. You could easily invest in another set of wheels shod with 28mm slick tyres for a really compelling two-bike garage that will tackle everything from the Sunday club run to the mid-week evening woods blast.
The ride is undoubtedly fast with the geometry providing good stability at high speed and on bumpy tracks, but the ride is at the firm end of the scale. It's clear the Terra has been designed to be a high-performance adventure bike and would suit anyone interested in racing gravel events, or at the very least going as quickly as possible.
A good choice for covering gravel and road quickly
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Make and model: Orbea Terra M21-D 19
List the components used to build up the bike.
OMP carbon frame is lightweight and robust
OMP carbon for helps absorb vibrations to smoothen the ride
SRAM Force1 1x11 speed drivetrain gives wide gearing and slick shifting
SRAM Force disc brakes are powerful in the wet and dry
Fulcrum Racing 500 DB wheels are robust and quick rolling
Schwalbe G-One Allround 40 tyres give great grip and fast rolling
FSA finishing components give custom feel
Sizes: X Small, Small, Medium, Large, X Large
Colours: Green/Black, Black, Blue/Red, Grey/Blue, Anthracite/Yellow
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Orbea says, "The Orbea Terra M21-D is an all terrain road bike to ride into the unknown. The OMP carbon frame is lightweight and comfortable and features a more upright geometry than a standard road bike, allowing a more relaxed riding position for tackling both roads and off-road tracks. SRAM's Force 11 speed groupset has a single ring chainset for simplified and reliable shifting, and the disc brakes put greater control at your fingertips when it's wet out. The Schwalbe G-One tyres offer grip both quick rolling and grip in a variety of conditions."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The range starts with the TERRA H40-D 19 priced at £1,399 and rises to £4,499 for the TERRA M10-D 19.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Impressively made carbon frame with nice details and smooth finish.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The company's own OMP high-modulus carbon fibre is used.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
More relaxed than a road bike for stability off-road.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It's a little more upright than a road bike, which makes it comfortable to ride and the size worked well for me.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The big tyres give a lot of comfort but the ride is on the firm side; it feels very much like a high-performance race bike.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Really stiff when you sprint out of the saddle.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well, and great for sprinting and putting the power down.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Relaxed.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Its nicely relaxed and calm handling makes dealing with tricky off-road trails easier, and it is good on the road at high speed.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I had to change the saddle, as I just didn't get on with its shape at all.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
There's nothing I'd change immediately.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The 40mm G-One tyres are highly impressive both on and off the road.
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I'd prefer a wider range cassette than the 11-36t fitted; mated with the 40t chainring, its low gear is too high for scaling my steeper off-road climbs. I'd be much happier with an 11-42t cassette.
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Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Probably
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Terra sits in between the Bombtrack Hook at £3,000 and the Trek Checkpoint at £3,400, but I'd say the Terra is more fun and fast to ride. There's also the striking Canyon Grail at £3,249, which Stu gave a very favourable review to consider, but I haven't ridden that bike myself.
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Use this box to explain your overall score
If you value speed and performance in your multi-terrain adventure bike, then the Orbea Terra is easy to recommend.
Age: 31 Height: 180cm Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: 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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
I appreciate you including the substantial evidence to backup your claims. Oh wait
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