WE, FOR ONE, WELCOME OUR NEW HYDRAULIC OVERLORDS
And so it is that the world's foremost titanium builder wades into the fray - that same fray that has been at the contentious forefront of road cycling over the past two years: The Great Brake Schism. Baum Cycles hath arrived after a long and worthy wait, introducing their first designed-from-the-ground-up road disc bike: The Orbis.
While the Orbis will never be subject to the UCI's arcane rule book, it is subject to the judgement of the people: Us. And, like the Corretto before it, the Orbis is a marvel of Baum's unmatched abilities when it comes to titanium. Like the Corretto, every tube is custom-butted for the individual rider, down to the seat and chain stays. It's a remarkable achievement, considering the increased braking stresses placed on the rear-end of the bike - and Baum had to once more reinvent the wheel to make it happen, creating new tooling to produce the massive rectangular chain stays that started life as a standard round 6/4 Ti tube. Minute bends in the stay provide space for the rotor and tire, while the oversized 12x142mm rear dropout they're connected to is an all-new design from Baum, designed to provide the sprightly, stable feel we've always associated with their race bikes. And, for the first time ever, Baum is using internal brake routing with a 3D-printed hose port, as well as a massive T47 threaded bottom bracket to keep the rear brake line tucked up underneath the bottom bracket. The custom tapered headtube has been CNC'd in-house from a solid block of titanium, and it's paired to ENVE's new road disc fork with clean, linear internal hose routing. All told, the Orbis frame only weighs a scant 200g or so more than its Corretto sibling, a remarkable achievement considering the huge changes to the disc-braked bike.
Baum has also responded to the growing popularity of big tires on road bikes as well with clearance for 34mm tires (measured), pushing the Orbis into almost-"gravel" territory for those with a penchant for chubby rubbers, and the 28mm Vittoria Corsa G+ tires on our test steed can attest to this with plenty of space at the periphery of the tire. This has been accomplished without pushing geometry aside, either, with a respectable 420mm chain stay length keeping the bike lithe and nimble. The Orbis retain's Baum's legendary paintwork, attention to detail, and finish quality. Like their other offerings, each Orbis gets 20-30 hours in the PPG-built Baum paint booth, resulting in a rich patina nearly unrivaled in cycling. There are absolutely no decals on a Baum - everything is painted by hand.
We built our first Orbis with a handpicked build, mostly centered on versatility and capability. SRAM's brand-spanking-new eTap HRD WiFli made its way to the bike (with a deeper review forthcoming), along with Baum's trademark painted cockpit bits: An ENVE seatpost, 3T stem, and fi'zi:k 00 carbon bar. The white Antares saddle and fi'zi:k tape match beautifully with the deep Poison Ivy Green / Brilliant white GTR Solid paintscheme we opted for, and then we proceeded to go a bit overboard with the wheels. Polished Chris King R45 disc hubs are custom-laced to Zipp's 303 tubeless hoops in a 28H/24H configuration, and then wrapped in Vittoria's 28mm Corsa G+ tires. Finally, power measurement is dependably handled by Quarq's D-Zero crankset with a 53/39 configuration, and in a nod to the versatility of the Orbis, we opted for Speedplay's Pave pedals, renowned for their ability to clear mud in poor conditions. Without chasing grams, we built the bike to a shade north of 17lbs/7.7kg. Not terrible, considering we usually imply that a changeover to disc braking is about a 2lb penalty on most bikes. With a swap to tubular race wheels and a few other tweaks, it's likely we could get the build into the 15-16lb range. Given the construction methodology and what this bike is built for, it's fairly remarkable.
After our first ten-hour weekend on the Orbis, we have a few takeaways. The first visceral feeling on the Orbis was one of smooth, powerful speed. The bike hums along, the same kind of feeling as driving a big German sedan with a monstrous engine - the composed, linear ride belying the massive amount of velocity the unit is traveling at. Were it not for the Quarq we'd installed, we'd have no idea we were pushing that hard - it was simply effortless. When it comes to gobbling up k's, the Orbis is a machine. Stiffness? The answer is yes. The huge bottom bracket, headtube, and chainstays give the Orbis a ridiculously stable platform, and at sprints north of four-digit watts the frame responded with nothing but obedience. But, unlike its stiff carbon brethren, the Orbis doesn't bounce around, instead resonating with the rider and road together as one, delivering as much forward momentum as possible. That said, the deeper bottom bracket drop Baum has blessed the Orbis with, as well as longer chainstays make for a bike that isn't quite as whip-crack to accelerate as the Corretto, but they do make for a bike that paired with discs and big tires descends like a demon. This bike is absolutely possessed on downhills, and the predictable stopping of hydraulic discs makes for precision cornering at high speed second nature. Going uphill, the Orbis seems to best respond to a diesel-style of riding, seated and grinding out the ascent like Kaiser Jan, instead of jumping like Il Pirata.
All that said, will the Orbis replace the Corretto in our quivers? In short, no. If the Corretto is Audi's R8, the Orbis is their RS6. The Corretto is the lithe bike with knife-edge sharpness bred for racing, yet enjoyable on a daily basis. The Orbis is the multi-faceted sport sedan, capable of doing track days while still having room for the dog, kids, and groceries. Or, in cycling parlance, clearance for huge tires, poor condition performance, and versatility over a vast variety of surfaces. Will we happily add it to the collection alongside our other Baums? We can answer with an emphatic "yes", and if we had to pick one of the two, we'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, as it would likely depend on what the weather is doing, what time of year it is, or who we're riding with. In short, we'll take it.