Back To Blog

Orbea Bikes: 7 Things to Know About Orbea

By Bruce Lin


You may have noticed more and more Orbea bikes on your local roads or trails. They're getting lots of attention from magazines and YouTubers. When I visit The Pro's Closet, I notice more and more Orbea bikes hanging on our staff bike racks. One thing's for sure, Orbea is so hot right now. 

The thing is, Orbea isn't new at all; not even close. 

Hailing from Mallabia, Spain, Orbea has been producing road bikes and supporting bike racing for nearly 100 years. It has made race-winning mountain bikes since 1989. Orbea is already a big brand in Europe, and it is growing its presence here in North America. 

used orbea bikes

I first discovered Orbea in 2003. In an infamous Tour de France incident, Lance Armstrong hooked his bars on a musette bag and crashed, taking Euskaltel Euskadi rider, Iban Mayo, down with him. Mayo was riding a stunning orange and yellow bike, an Orbea Starship, that immediately caught my teenaged eye.

Later in the Tour, Mayo rode that bike to an emphatic victory up Alpe d'Huez. I wasn't a cyclist just yet, but seven years later, the memory of that bike was still with me. In 2010, I bought a 2005 Starship in the orange and yellow Euskaltel colors and I still own that frame today. I hang it in my garage as an art piece. 

Some U.S. riders, however, might not be as familiar with Orbea (yet). So to learn more about this historic brand, I decided to sit down with Parker Degray, Orbea's U.S. marketing coordinator. He told me the story of how one of cycling's oldest brands came to be, and what sets it apart from nearly every other bike maker in the world. For those discovering Orbea now, this is seven things you should know. 

1. Orbea has been around a very long time

Historical Orbea photo

Bianchi is the oldest bike brand (making bikes since 1885), but Orbea has the distinction of being the second oldest bike manufacturer still in existence. In fact, the company itself has existed longer than any other in the bike industry. 

Orbea began in 1840, 45 years before Bianchi, producing handguns. It was named for the three Orbea brothers who started it and in the tumultuous Spanish political climate at the time, making handguns was seen as a necessity. The Basque Country of Spain has spawned numerous renowned gunmakers and there remains a strong tradition of gun making there.

"Orbea didn't make a bicycle until 1920," says Parker Degray. "Gun restrictions were increasing and people were in need of transportation so Orbea morphed the business to fit the times. We started making bikes and baby carriages."

Orbea historical gun, bike, baby carriage poster

After decades of producing guns, Orbea was already an expert in shaping and joining round tubing. Bikes (and baby carriages) were the next logical step since they were also made out of round steel tubing. It allowed Orbea to quickly react to demand and keep all production in house.

"Then there was a family feud," explains Degray. "They split the company into guns and bikes, and then guns kind of slowly went out of the picture and the bicycles stayed around. It became a co-op in 1969 and it's been full-gas on bikes ever since."

2. Orbea has strong Basque heritage

Orbea bike in the Basque Country

The Basque Country is a region in northern Spain. It has strong cultural traditions, a unique cuisine, and though they speak Spanish, there's also a distinct language that pre-dates the Romance languages. Orbea is from the Basque Country, where you can ride from the mountains to the sea, and that's a central part of its identity.

"They're proud, motivated, and very dedicated to anything they produce," says Degray. "Cycling is huge there. You've never been given as much space from a car as you get when riding a bike on a single-lane mountain road. It’s the kind of place where everybody gets cyclists. They all just love it when you're out riding." 

Orbea Euskaltel Euskadi basque riders

“One of the major focal points of the brand and of the co-op is supporting the community that supports them,” says Degray.

As a proud Basque company, Orbea has a long history of sponsoring Basque riders. For years, the iconic orange and yellow livery of the Basque-based Euskaltel Euskadi team was one of the most vibrant in the pro peloton. 

3. Orbea benefits from being employee-owned 

Orbea is employee owned

Due to financial hardships and the economic climate in Spain during the 1960s, it became difficult for Orbea to stay in business. In 1969, a group of employees banded together to buy it. Thus it became an employee-owned co-op.

"It’s really cool because everyone down to the person who glues the box closed before it ships has the ability to become part of the co-op and have a stake in what's going on in the company," says Degrary. "Everybody there is motivated to see the company do well and you see that trickle down the line.

"There aren’t really any other big bike brands that are run as a co-op. And then because the co-op is part of a larger umbrella corporation of co-ops (Mondragon Cooperative Corporation), it means Orbea has access to different assets that a lot of bike companies don't have."

Orbea wind tunnel testing

"For most bicycle companies, if you need to go use a wind tunnel, you have to rent time in an aerospace wind tunnel," says Degray. "Orbea, on the other hand, we just go down to our own building at Mondragon University and use the wind tunnel.

"That’s just one example, but there’s a lot of different assets and access to things that other companies don't have. The engineering backing from co-op partners is a huge advantage and then global distribution and shipping and production channels too."

4. Orbea is changing bike painting

Orbea MyO custom bike paint

Just like how the orange and yellow Orbea bike caught my eye in 2003, you probably noticed an Orbea out in the wild with a beautiful paint job. All finish work, including paint and assembly, is done in Spain. Orbea has invested a huge amount of thought and resources into how it approaches painting bikes.

"The MyO program allows customers ordering a new bike to mix and match colors to customize their frame’s paint," explains Degray. "No other bike company can currently do this to this scale. Bikes are painted in-house and there are a million-plus options for different paint schemes. You can put your name on it if you want.

"Each MyO bike we produce is made to order. It gets taped out and sprayed individually. We also do “MyO light” which is a part spec change. If you want a bigger fork, different tires, different length cranks, or bars width, or a power meter added, that can all be adjusted to order so we can make sure you have the exact bike you want. As a consumer that's really cool to me."

As a picky rider, I was impressed seeing how far Orbea goes in allowing you to customize new bike orders. In the pre-owned bike space, this has made Orbea bikes exciting and desirable with their unique paint and high-end specs.

Orbea Orca road bike

Why aren’t other big bike brands doing this?

“Well if you're too big, it doesn't work because you can't scale it," explains Degray. "It's actually almost scale-limiting. If our competitors wanted to do personalized paint all the way down to $2500 bikes as we have, they would have to buy an entire facility and completely change the way that they do warehousing, ordering, and shipping. We’ve really come to own this niche in the market. We moved our facility back to Spain to have more control over the end product. All of our ordering systems and forecasting is all done around offering personalized paint in-house."

And Orbea's in house painting isn't just about personalized colors. Along with other aspects of bike production, its greater goal is to make painting bikes more environmentally responsible. 

"Our painting philosophy is focused on sustainability," says Degray. "We all want less waste during production, so all of our paint facilities are currently zero-waste facilities. So we recycle every bit of overspray and everything is run back in. Orbea actually engineers its own paint bases and it’s all mixed in-house in a state of the art facility to support our goals. Getting closer to 100% recycled materials and zero waste is something we’re constantly striving toward."

5. Orbea bikes are gold medal winners

Orbea race winning technology

Orbea's racing history is deep. Road racing became a focal point for Orbea in 1930 and it began participating in the Tour de France as early as 1934. Orbea bikes have won some of the world's biggest races, including the Olympics. In 2008, Samuel Sanchez won gold in the Olympic road race aboard an Orbea Orca while Julien Absalon won gold in the Olympic mountain bike race aboard an Orbea Alma. 

The Euskaltel Euskadi team made its mark in the WorldTour. And in World Cup mountain bike racing, Catharine Pendrel has won both an XC World Championship and the World Cup overall on the Orbea Oiz. 

“Orbea has been racing for nearly as long as it's been making bikes," says Degray. "It’s part of our culture. If you look at the Tour of the Basque Country, it’s just a small little glimpse into how big bike racing is where Orbea is from. They treat it like a Grand Tour! Racing is their lifeblood.

"For Orbea, racing is how you prove you've got the bike. It’s what motivates our R&D to keep making better and better bikes. We're seeing a bit of a shift in the industry away from racing as a focal point but to us, there's no better way to learn and show that your bike is up to snuff than winning races.”

6. You’re probably pronouncing Oiz wrong

Orbea Oiz mountain bikeThe Orbea Oiz — pronounced like “Oy-eth.”

That’s right. The Oiz is pronounced with a “th” sound. The name of Orbea's cross-country full-suspension mountain bike may seem strange to us Americans, but it’s Basque in origin.

“The Basque language is very old. And Oiz is actually one of the Basque mountains behind the factory," explains Degray. "You can see it when you're standing at the front door.”

Orbea Occam mountain bikeThe Rallon enduro mountain bike is named for another proud Spanish peak located in Navarre. Orbea also has a bit of an affinity for history and mythology. The Occam (pictured above) was named for Occam’s Razor, the problem-solving principle, and the Laufey was named for a Norse god, the mother of Loki. 

And what about race-winning Orca road bike?

“It stands for Orbea Carbon," says Degray. 

That makes sense. But I have a personal theory. The Basque people were among the first to catch whales commercially. They dominated the Atlantic whale trade for nearly five centuries. Fortunately for the whales, the practice of whaling has died out. But the ocean and its creatures have been a large part of Basque culture for a very long time. If you ask me, it's named the Orca because it's an apex predator of a bike, the killer whale. But that's just my opinion. 

7. Orbea is ready for the future

Orbea Gain e-bike road bike

Like it or not, e-bikes are important to the future of cycling. As a European based company, Orbea already has plenty of experience.

"We had a kind of a categorical defining program with the Gain platform for road e-bikes," says Degray. "We worked with [MALHE] ebikemotion to develop a motor around the Gain bike. We helped develop that motor initially and were the first to market that type of bike. It’s come to define the “enough power” segment. Now Bianchi and Pinarello use that motor too. 

"One of the major things we're working on is filling different transportation needs, especially for people in cities. That’s one of the driving forces behind our Urban lightness program. We make some freakishly light, urban e-bikes for people who have to lift them up 10 flights of stairs to their home or office or load it on a train or car to get somewhere. 

"I think e-bikes are going to widen the market a bit. And that's the one thing it needs. The cycling market is the most one of the most stagnant markets in the world. We constantly need to figure out ways to get more people included. E-bikes drop the barrier of entry for a lot of individuals. And then they also help people who may have fallen out of riding, find enjoyment again. If you can get 10% more people riding that’s going to make getting more lifetime cyclists in the sport a little bit easier."


Are you an Orbea rider? If you’re looking for an Orbea of your own, check out the selection of used road, mountain, and gravel bikes in our Orbea Collection or shop all Certified Pre-Owned bikes.

All photos courtesy of Orbea.


  • i never had the opportunity to research my family history but i know this about the “Orbea” name, it means “foot of the mountain” where my ancestors tended sheep.

    Don Orbea on

  • Et ce t article est très intéressant

    Pierre Ouellet on

  • J’ai acheté mon Orbea Gain D30 en septembre. Je L’ai essayé dans quelques sorties et oh surprise, même sans assistance électrique, il est facile à utiliser et a pédaler. Je demeure dans une région où il y a beaucoup de côtes et de montagnes et c’est un charme. à 74 ans, je retrouve le plaisir de rouler comme il y a 10 ans. Merveilleuse machine. A chaque fois que j’ai eu des questions, j’ai envoyé un courriel à Orbes, Espagne et j’Ai toujours reçu une réponse. Très bon service.

    Pierre Ouellet on

  • The MYO pgm is a joke. Ive been trying to order the 2022 rallon frame and none of the local dealera can do it.

    Jack on

  • After waiting 7 months for a traditional US brand MTN bike, I gave up and hit the internet. I stumbled upon Orbea because, miraculously, they were available and looked to be a good value. I purchased an ALMA M50 – my first carbon bike after riding aluminum for 20 years. I am amazed at the comfort and agility of the bike. I’ve recently had time to get it on some single track and at 49 I find myself as excited about a bike as I was in my 20’s. As I look to upgrade in the future another Orbea will be at the top of my search.

    Scott on

  • Just bought my first Orbea road bike, Orca M40, love it and eager to start riding it. Hope for a long relationship together.

    Patricio on

  • I bought a used Orbea in Florida. I love the bike but there is no branding that tells me the model, nor visible serial numbers either. I have spent many hours on line looking for information on this gem but have only discovered possible answers, no definative answers. Is there someone at Orbea who could look at a foto and tell me what I own?

    Alejandro Salazar on

  • I just purchased my first Orbea bike, an Occam M10. The finish on this bike is gorgeous. It rides so nice, it handles slow technical terrain and high speed chunk & chunder like no other bike I’ve ridden.

    Steve on

  • Unfortunately I bought a Gain M20i and on one of the first rides the battery faulted. Brought it to the only dealer in the state, which doesn’t sell the ebikes, and after weeks told me they would replace the battery but I had to pay labor (not cheap as the BB has to be disassembled). I felt this isnt right for a brand new bike and contacted Orbea who said, no worries, tell us who the dealer is and we will work it out. I responded to thier email the same day with the shop and owner I spoke with. After not hearing from them for over 2 1/2 months and several attempted contacts, today Orbea said sorry, look at the warranty. Even thought we told you we would pay the labor 2 1/2 months ago we wont. Ill never buy there product again and I’m currently looking at MTB’s (the Occam used to be top of the list).

    Paul on

  • Have a 2006 Orca in Orange and Black. It’s a bike that rides as good as it looks. Wouldn’t trade it for anything

    Scott Fowler on

  • I own an Orbea Orca Aero 2020 best road bike ever and Orbea Occam very light snd great for our trails.

    Carlos Maqueda on

  • I am on my second Orbea Avant. They make a wonderful product. Compliant yet stiff and racy! And they stand behind their products. Great article! So nice to learn more of the heritage of my favorite bicycle.

    Tracy Krznar on

  • Great article and I’ve purchased the Avant H60 my 1st road bike

    KozM on

  • Very interested in the Gain e-bike. As I understand it the battery life is somewhere in the 3-5 year range depending on riding and recharging variables. And, the battery is not replaceable. So, is the gain a bike that is only good for 3-5 years? Will Orbea be developing a Gain with a replaceable battery? Thanks!

    Harry on

  • Bruce did an excellent job sharing his interview and now I am interested in the biking enterprise of Orbea…thanks for sharing!

    Jerry House on

  • Very interesting article, thanks for exposing us to the history of Orbea.

    Hans de Vries on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Newsletter Sign Up