Some weeks ago the owner of Triathlon Lab contacted me via Facebook and not only apologized for the way I had been treated in the past, but wanted to know specifics so she could address the issue with her employees. As a result I was inclined to give them one more try, this time letting her know when I would be coming with my intention to shop for a new tri bike. She gave me two names, and at least one of these employees would be in the shop on Friday, the day I was able to devote the most time to biking down and test riding my options. I am happy, delighted even, to report that Triathlon Lab took very good care of me, was attentive to all of my questions and concerns, and my sales person was exceedingly knowledgeable, helpful, and gregarious. I was treated like a serious triathlete and shopper, and I feel like they went the extra mile to make sure my experience was a good one. I also got to pet the exceedingly sweet Labrador with which Triathlon Lab shares a name. Way to go, Triathlon Lab! Which means for several days I’ve been ecstatic to test ride the Orbea Ordu, the sexiest bike I’ve ever seen.
There was a lot of anticipation about this ride. Not only was I cautious about returning to Triathlon Lab, but my expectations for the Ordu were set very high. Having ridden the Jamis Xenith T1 and the Kuota Kalibur I was learning what different geometries meant on different bikes, how positioning could mean “aggressive” as pertains to riding. Mostly, I’ve been learning that every bike feels different, and the rider’s ability to access the latent power of the bike has a lot to do with how well they work with the frame. This is affected by top tube length (some makers go short, others long), down tube shape (how it deflects wind), the junction point at the front of the top tube and down tube (the most windward facing element of the frame), and the seat mast’s angle and entry into the frame. Now add the quality of components on each bike, which varies greatly, and you have countless combinations of variables that affect the overall ride. Countless variations on a machine with every person’s unique geometry is why no two frames will ride the same, no two setups will either. I’ve now ridden three – the Jamis Xenith T1, the Kuota Kalibur, and now the Orbea Ordu and I’ve discovered something new on each ride. My expectations were elevated because I loved the shape and design – but this superficial quality could be sunk if the ride was crap. I have to want to ride the bike all the time. But more importantly, I have to have a bike that will grant me speed, power, and room to grow as an athlete. I really wanted to like the Ordu and tried to keep an open mind as I headed south to talk bike.
After discussing my price range, race goals, and research to date, the Tri Lab salesman (also an Ironman, coach, and avid triathlete) confirmed that the Ordu and the Kalibur were my best choices. I could do the Cervelo, but it was just over my price range. A great bike, to be sure, but add tax, pedals, and accessories and my budget would be blown. As it was clear I was interested in the Ordu he checked my measurements and luckily the one in the shop was my size. The first thing he did was put the bike on a stationary trainer to check my reach, comfort, and pedal stroke. This made me much more comfortable and I could tell I wanted the aero bars slightly higher before going out on the ride. The Ordu is a very aggressive position – my body weight much more forward than the Jamis or Kalibur. My legs were directly over the pedal cranks and the seat was slightly tilted nose-down, but still considerably further forward than I had ever ridden. With the aero bar adjustment I felt more comfortable but still felt good about trying new bikes and learning something new in position. My pedals were moved over to the Ordu, I handed over my driver’s license and credit card and took it out for a ride.
The Ordu was redesigned for 2008, taking its cues from the Stealth Bomber, its lines aren’t hidden in a curving tube array, rather they are sculpted deep into the frame. The whole frame’s lateral geometry is a series of triangles. My wife’s face is an arrangement of triangles – from her chin to the apex of her cheekbokes, the profile of her nose, and her swimmer’s shoulders – she is beautiful. She’s not a Stealth Bomber, she is the feminine expression of geometric beauty. It is no surprise that I find the Italian engineered version of this geometry in bike form to be dead sexy. From straight ahead the bike almost disappears, its nose funnels the wind away from the frame. The front brake is ahead of the forks, but it doesn’t seem slapped on. It’s integrated into the design elegantly. The rear brake is also mounted high rather than hidden behind the bottom bracket. While I’d like it if it was hidden away, this increases the likelihood of an OEM brake set that can’t be adjusted or upgraded. The Ordu comes with an Ultegra brake set that’s easy to access and maintain. More importantly, the quick-stop brakes worked perfectly. No lag, no hesitation, just immediate stopping power. One final note on braking. Scott from TZ was right, how often are you going to hit your brakes on a time trial? But Coach Brian made an equally good point – we don’t train time trials, we train on the roads. I want good brakes. The Ordu has them.
I biked out of TL east on Catalina, then turned right to follow the water along Esplanade. This route took me along the water towards a residential area and a steep, brief climb. A solid riding experience on flats and climbs. So how did it perform?
Fast. Really fast. 19 mph came easily. 22 mph came comfortably. 25 mph came on demand. 27 mph came with work. Once I hit the climbing I slowed down considerably, down to 8 mph on the steep ascent. But this isn’t a surprise, my hill work needs work. I also stayed aero the whole time, forcing myself to climb in an aero position to see how it felt. Shifting was smooth, but I could tell that the derailleurs needed a little adjustment. No surprise – the bike has been in the showroom for some time (thus the discounted price) and the whole thing will be tuned up before it’s sold. I wasn’t concerned with what I knew were minor details that would go away with some bike TLC.
I got up out the saddle to see how it balanced and it had solid stiffness. Road vibration was minimal with almost no transferred wobble. My body position was definitely far forward – even to the point of some nervous balance – but this was something I could tell was a good thing. The only complaints I have about this bike are things that go away once the bike is fit to me, tuned up for sale, and I spend a few dozen hours breaking myself in to the bike.
I love this bike.
I came back to Triathlon Lab grinning and talked about my options. I offered a down payment, even though they had a complimentary customer hold. I did this because if they got another offer I’d have to rush down and make my decision. By putting money on the table the bike is mine if I want it and now I can take a few weeks to test a few more bikes to make absolutely sure this is the right bike for me. I have a curiosity about Specialized and Cervelo, and I have an appointment with Predator tomorrow for a frame fit to talk about a complete custom job. My feeling right now is that I will buy the Ordu. I have an emotional debt to Triathlete Zombies and must talk to them about their Ordu options. I doubt they’ll be able to match the Triathlon Lab price since it would be a custom order but they have been amazing to me from the beginning and I really value that relationship. Predator’s process really intrigues me and I’m excited to geek out tomorrow on fit data. Besides, this is not the last bike I’m going to buy. I can see riding a Predator fixie track bike pretty easily. Because these things pay for themselves, right?