Orbea Laufey H-LTD review

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It’s just as well the Orbea Laufey H-LTD handles so well because if we turn our attention to the build kit, it’s something of a harder sell.

  • Brand: Orbea
  • Product: Laufey H-LTD
  • From: Orbea
  • Price: £2,699
  • Tested by: Benji for 4 months

Pros

  • Decent geometry
  • Frame storage
  • Looks/is beautifully made

Cons

  • Proprietary stem/spacers/headset cover
  • 2.6in tyres have a narrow window of operation
  • £2.7k for mediocre build kit

The Orbea Laufey has been around in Orbea’s range for a few years now but it’s never really seemed to get much attention. When you think of Orbea, you think of Occams, Rallons and Rises really. Well, we do anyway.

What exactly is the Laufey H-LTD? I think it’s quite hard to pigeonhole this bike. It’s clearly not an entry level hardtail for beginners. The neatest way I can describe it is: a hardcore hardtail with a great deal of aesthetic élan. It sort of reminds me of the now-discontinued Mondraker Vantage, but put through finishing school.

One of the more striking features of the Laufey is that it has down tube frame storage. Called the LockR, it’s a feature that we only ever really see on full suspension frames. A hardtail with frame storage is a pretty unique proposition.

In terms of frame construction, the Laufey is rather swish looking. The slender seat stays and (Mondraker-ish again) flattened top tube are the most striking tubes. The down tube is not immediately stand-out but I always think it’s impressive when aluminium downtubes have storage compartments built into them.

The LockR is also one of the better designed and implemented storage compartments. The bottle cage sits directly on the lid of the LockR which gives you something to hold while you operate the LockR. This aspect alone makes it easier than some other lids. The latch lever works well and is easy to use with gloves on and/or if you’re in a rush or tired/clumsy.

The storage compartment runs the full length of the down tube. The aperture is also of a decent size for actually passing things through (mini-pump, shock pump etc). You can fit a decent amount of stuff in there but you’d have to be careful it doesn’t end up being unreachable! With this in mind, Orbea provide what is essentially a pencil case (the ‘OC bag’) for holding smaller items all together.

As most brands do, Orbea claim to have designed the bike to be compliant in certain areas (stays, top tube) and stiff in others (head tube, down tube) yadda yadda yadda but, aside from some weight saved in the slimmed tubes, I’d say that the Laufey is in no way a compliant frame. Furthering the stiffness is the one-piece machined bottom bracket shell and chainstay yoke.

The Orbea Laufey has a very stiff frame. Which is fine. Unless you buy one expecting it not to be.

(At the end of the day, if you want a ‘comfy’ hardtail, you should be looking a steel frames that have as long as possible top-, head- and down tubes, because that where any flex is delivered from in my experience. Rear triangles are all… well, triangles.)

In terms of the tube that I like the most on the Laufey, it’s clearly the seat tube. It’s short. And it’s straight. This means: loads of standover, loads of dropper insertion and a steep seat angle that is actually genuine (77°). Hurray for straight , short seat tubes.

Back to that BB-chainstay yoke. It’s a way of affording the genuinely impressive tyre clearance. The 2.6in tyres fit in easily. So easily that I didn’t initially realise the tyres were 2.6in. Until I rode the bike.

2.6in tyres sound great on paper but unfortunately – to paraphrase Brian Clough – mountain biking happens on dirt. Personally, I’ve never encountered a 2.6in tyre that worked. The ones on the Laufey simply lack material in the casing. They’re flimsy. They fold over when ridden remotely aggressively. They surf about on top the earth as opposed to digging in. Maybe in the highest of summers they make sense? That’ll be two weeks out of 52 in the UK then.

Honestly, the first thing to do is broker a deal with your Orbea dealer and get some 2.4in tyres swapped in there before you leave the shop.

In terms of the remaining frame details: UDH hanger, ISCG-01 mount, accessory bolts under the top tube, better-than-nothing down tube protector and a nicely bespoke rubber chainstay protector.

So far, so hardtail. A hardtail, arguably more than a full susser, sinks or swims by its geometry. And it’s in this regard that the Orbea Laufey scores some pretty high marks.

The seat angle makes climbing as pleasant and efficient as possible. The long reach gives the bike a nice roominess that’s also tweakable via a simple saddle rail shunt (and/or a slightly more involved stem swap). The 440mm chainstays strike a nice balance of cornering ability, general stability and front end loft-ability.

And loft-ability is important on a hardtail. Not for rad ‘jibbing’ reasons but for help when avoiding clattering the back wheel into something that you’d best avoid for safety and/or financial reasons!

My one main caveat would be that if you wish to tackle more extreme terrain, I’d strongly recommend erring on the side of sizing up. The short seat tube lengths make it very viable after all. If you size up, you can offset the not-that-slack-once-sagged head angle by sheer dimension of long reach, fairly deep BB drop and big standover.

In a related steep/tekkers note, I’d also recommend swapping to a shorter stem (35mm) at some point. Which is easier said than done. The thing is, Orbea’s use of an interlocking stem/spacer/headset cover design is just downright annoying. You can’t just change the stem; you need new headset spacers (which is fine) and a new headset cover (WTF?!).

As it happens I had a headset cover lying around that fit properly, so I could run a Burgtec 35mm stem and some normal spacers. TTFT.

The spare parts bin saves the day (old Pivot headset cover enables stem change, to a 35mm Burgtec)

But yeah, it could be even worse – at least the cable routing doesn’t go through the flipping headset.

Whilst swapping out stems, I took the opportunity to install a higher rise (35mm) handlebar. This is something that not many riders will feel the need to do, but I do think that XL size bikes should have higher front ends specced.

Back to the important stuff: how the bike handles. As mentioned earlier, the uphill progress on the Laufey is as good as it gets on a hardtail. Too many hardtails seem to get climbing geometry wrong (short back ends, slack seat angles etc that wander/wheelie and don’t place you in an efficient pedal power position). Which is odd, seeing as they’re hardtails and you’d think they’d be very focussed on nailing climbs.

At 13.25 kg (29.2 lb) but with good climbing geometry, the Laufey is much nicer to ascend on than a lighter bike with inefficient, cramped, unbalanced geometry.

That annoying stem system isn’t even very nice looking is it?

On descents as well as twisty traverses, the Orbea Laufey was a lot of fun. It’s not a bombing plough of a hardcore hardtail. But it’s not a febrile mess either. When re-shod with suitable tyres (I particularly enjoyed Schwalbe Tacky Chans front and rear in Super Trail casing) and a lanky-lad-friendly higher front end, the Laufey was a highly engaging and entertaining ride that could be shown any trail and be pretty much fine with it.

It’s just as well the bike handles so well because if we turn out attention to the build kit of this £2,699 H-LTD Laufey, it’s something of a hard sell.

The most significant item is the fork. Like a lot of this bike’s bits, the Fox 34 Performance with a basic 3-position (open, firm, lock) GRIP damper isn’t exactly bad, it’s just not that rad either. The fork dominates a whole lot of the ride experience and handling of a bike like this and it wasn’t really possible to set it up quite to my tastes. I’d happily drop down a grade in some of the other finishing kit in exchange for a more versatile fork.

Having said that, I’m not sure where it’d be possible to significantly come down a grade in finishing kit. There’s a whole load of Orbea own-brand on the bike as it is. And a predominantly Shimano SLX drivetrain with Deore tier brakes is not exactly ‘bling’ no matter how perfectly good it is.

Ergon (saddle, grips) is not a rare sight these days either so is hardly upscale. Which leaves us with the RaceFace wheelset. Again, fine. But extremely… shrug. They didn’t go wrong but neither did they set my heart on fire.

Overall

VFM is not a reason to get the Orbea Laufey H-LTD. Especially as, in my opinion, you’re going to have to potentially spend your hard-earned on two new tyres and a different stem/headset. At the end of the day, this H-LTD model is not the Orbea Laufey I would choose. I would totally opt for the £1,599 Orbea Laufey H30. That way I’d still enjoy the excellent general geometry, frame storage, decent dropper, wide gear range, capable brakes and all the important stuff for a whole lot less cash.

Orbea Laufey H-LTD specification

  • Frame // Orbea Laufey Hydro Aluminium
  • Fork // Fox 34 Float Performance 140mm
  • Wheels // RaceFace AR 30c
  • Front Tyre // Maxxis Dissector 29×2.6in EXO
  • Rear Tyre // Maxxis Dissector 29×2.6in EXO
  • Chainset // RaceFace Aeffect, 32T
  • Brakes // Shimano M6120
  • Drivetrain // Shimano SLX M7100 w/ XT M8100 Rear Mech, 10-51T
  • Stem // OC Mountain Control MC20
  • Handlebars // OC Mountain Control MC20 Alu SL 35mm, 800x20mm
  • Grips // Ergon GE10
  • Seat Post // OC Mountain Control MC21 dropper, 175mm, 31.6mm
  • Saddle // Ergon SM Enduro
  • Weight // 13.25kg

Geometry of our size XL

  • Head angle // 64.5°
  • Effective seat angle // 77°
  • Seat tube length // 460mm
  • Head tube length // 130mm
  • Chainstay // 440mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,270mm
  • Effective top tube // 652mm
  • BB height // 310mm
  • Reach // 500mm

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Review Info

Brand: Orbea
Product: Laufey H-LTD
From: Orbea
Price: £2699
Tested: by Benji for 4 months

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

More posts from Ben

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Orbea Laufey H-LTD review
  • nickfrog
    Free Member

    Nice frame. The geometry is very similar to my Big Al when fitted with a 140mm fork.

    Kramer
    Free Member

    Interesting what you say about 2.6in tyres folding over. I wonder if inserts would help?

    thegeneralist
    Free Member

    Gave up reading after 5 paragraphs going on about the ghastly Action Man secret compartment.

    Is that really the most impressive thing about the bike?

    vlad_the_invader
    Full Member

    Is that really the most impressive thing about the bike?

    Read the rest of the article and find out 😉

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)

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