Nov 26, 2014 – Disc road bikes, they have their converts and they have their detractors. They have spawned quite a bit of anger from riders frustrated with yet another standard to contend with and plenty of time to comment on the interwebs.

Ben Edwards

What if you aren’t in either camp, what if you actually want to try something new before jumping on the bandwagon or assassinating its credibility? In short, what if you are like most of us, the quiet thousands with better things to do than vent on message boards? Orbea has your answer, it’s called the Avant and it’s the most versatile bike on the road – or gravel – or dirt.

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The Details
Named for Orbea’s fledgling GranFondo the Pax Avant, which takes in 16,300’ of epic climbing over 113miles in the Basque country, the Avant is about long miles and the versatility to tackle them comfortably in any conditions. It begins with a carbon frame influenced heavily by its race winning Orca, featuring a front triangle molded as single piece, with stays bonded on. The bike aims for a feel as lively and durable as the Orca, but in materials and shapes aimed at endurance. Orbea calls the carbon blend OMP, or Orbea Monococque Performance.

Like other endurance platforms it is a bit taller and a bit shorter, putting more weight in the saddle and providing a relaxed position with less stress on the arms, back and neck. What Orbea has done a little differently is base fit around stack and reach, not angles and tube lengths. Each of the seven sizes is taller and longer in a smooth progression, ensuring no big gaps between sizes and no unnaturally short or long reaches regardless of body type.

The Avant’s versatility comes not only from a lively frame with a relaxed demeanor, but features that allow incredible customization. The bike can be run either as disc, as our test bike was, or with calipers, and each appears native since most of the hardware is removable and both run on standard quick release skewers. Small chips in the rear dropouts allow rim brake spacing of 130mm or disc brake spacing of 135mm. Even fender and rack mounts are built in, although they are so discrete the bike has to be thoroughly inspected to find them. The Avant MD10 also features fully internal cabling for both electronic and mechanical, something many other bikes do, but none as well. A swap of cable guides on the head tube and the bike becomes electronic with no unused mechanical ports exposed.

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The Avant MD10 is Orbea’s top of an extensive line. Built with Shimano 6870 Ultegra Di2 and the XT based R785 hydraulic disc brakes the MD10 build benefits from the most calm and collected feel at the levers on the road… or dirt for that matter. An FSA cockpit compliments the build well, but the wheels are another matter. With limited road disc options Orbea has used Shimano’s RX-31 wheels. At over 2000grams they detune much of the hard work Orbea has done and don’t seem right on a bike with a $5700 price tag. The M50D with a 105 build and mechanical disc brakes sets the entry level for carbon and disc Avants.

The Ride
While disc brakes may not be for everyone, they add undeniable versatility to a bike, making wet weather manageable and adding dirt or gravel road capability to exponentially increase your ride options. What makes the Orbea Avant special is features that make the most out of this opportunity. The geometry presents a good position for long miles that is also confident and stable over the nastiest surface, even steep rutted fire road. The front end has the stiffness to keep you online whether it’s white-knuckle road descending or single-track adventures.

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As comfortable as the bike is, it is not quite as plush as a Bianchi Infnito CV or Specialized Roubaix out of the box, but the 27.2 seat post helps enormously with deflection and another trick up the bike’s sleeve does the rest. While it ships with Vittoria 25mm tires, thanks to disc brakes we fitted 32mm Continentals on our test bike. While only 28’s are guaranteed to fit, we ran into no problems with the 32’s and it turned the bike into a magic carpet on even the worst roads and dirt tracks.

In terms of a lively ride, snappy acceleration and the ability to transform into a club ride campaigner the wheels severely limit the Avant’s ability. It’s not light to begin with and the wheels pushed our 60cm above 19lbs. With a swap to road disc wheels in the 1500gram range and a return to 25mm tires the bike comes alive and can more than hold its own in the peloton.

The Rider
The Avant rider is less interested in debating disc brakes than seeing what they are all about. They roll out the door in the morning with a few hours to spare and only a vague idea of which direction they want to ride. If it includes a spirited club ride or a few hours in the dirt, they want to be prepared.

Bottomline
Price: $5700
Weight: 19.2lbs (60cm)
Specifications: Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 with R785 Shifters and Hydraulic Disc. FSA Wing Compact bars, Gossamer Stem and SLK 27.2 seat post. Sella Italia Nekkar Flow saddle with Shimano RX31 road disc wheels and Vittoria Diamante 700×25 tires.
More: orbea.com