The reputation of Spanish brand Orbea is, in many ways, worlds apart from Charge’s bread-and-butter bikes with their down to earth, though distinctive, styling.
Nevertheless, Orbea has catered to the hybrid market with the Carpe range – a selection of slick, ‘roadie’-styled urban bikes with flat bars. With that curvaceous top tube and refined paintjob, there’s plenty to remind you that this bike is by a brand that is regularly seen underneath the superstars of the Tour de France.
Nevertheless, £850 is quite a generous budget for a hybrid so we’d expect a frame which is designed accordingly, in the way that the Charge Grater has an eccentric bottom bracket shell just for the hub-geared model. The Carpe, however, has one frame across the entire range, which means you have rather unsightly posts for rim brakes on the frame and forks, though they have at least been partially concealed under blanking plates.
This detail aside, there are some pleasing aesthetics in the bike’s spec that have a practical element too. The saddle is lovely – a leather-style riveted number that’s extremely firm if you like that sort of thing, and we at Cycling Active certainly do. The ergo grips are far comfier than the textured ones on the Charge Grater, but not everyone is a fan of these palm-supporting handles (we’re not), finding they reduce control, particularly for the small-handed rider.
The deep-section rims are tough enough to cope with kerbs and potholes and should last well without brake pads wearing them as, like with the Charge, hydraulic disc brakes are de rigueur at this price. The Formula RX brakes have unusual-shaped lever bodies to house the hydraulics, but the tiny levers are light and powerful in use and complemented the bike overall.
Orbea’s choice of a 10-speed derailleur system for its single-ring set-up is at the same time unusual and brave. It’s not something you see a lot of in the hybrid market, though single-ring systems have made inroads in the mountain bike world – in fact the Deore derailleur on this bike is a mountain bike component.
It makes a lot of sense, though, saving weight over a two or three ring set-up, more still over a hub gear, and still offers a decent spread of gears that finishes a good deal higher than those on the Charge Grater 3 – meaning you won’t run out of gears so quickly on flats and downhills.
What’s more, we found the whole range useable, with the derailleur not struggling or rubbing at either extreme on the cassette. With some deliberately abusive wrangling, we did manage to bounce the chain from the ring and wedge it against the chainguard, but in real life situations, it’s simply a question of picking your gears carefully so you’re not stressing and straining the drive unnecessarily. You soon get used to it.
Overall, we loved the Orbea Carpe H20's uniqueness and individual approach to a city bike with only the gears you need. We do think either a slightly more tailored approach to frame production, a higher-finish spec, or a lower price would make it more competitive in this burgeoning market, though.