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  1. #1
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    Considering an Optima Orca, looking for input on dual 26 swbs, etc.

    Hello,
    I'm considering buying an Optima Orca, not because I've researched different bikes and picked that one out, but because I've come across one for sale online and here in New Zealand used recumbents for sale are few and far between. Seems to be a good price and good condition so I'm wondering if I should jump at the opportunity or hold off and see what else might come along. It's not nearby where I can go and test ride it so it would be a blind purchase. But that's how I got my first recumbent, a Rans V-rex when I lived in California. When a moved here I sold that bike. I really enjoyed the V-rex but it is the only recumbent I've ever ridden. I found it to be a bike that made me want to ride more. It was a good hill climber and I reckon I wouldn't have been any slower climbing a hill on it than I would have been on a regular road bike.

    So why haven't I bought the Orca already? Well here are my concerns in order:

    1. The dual 26" wheels make it a high bike. Not sure if this is good or bad for me. It looks much more 'awkward' than the 20/26 swb bents. The seat position is much more reclined compared to something like a v-rex, your almost lying back flat! Not sure if it feels as awkward as it looks but I liked the body position on the v-rex and the Optima just looks wierd! It's a beautiful looking bike when nobody is on it but with a rider on it, it looks much stranger than other recumbents. Does it feel as strange as it looks?

    2. Known to be a heavier bike. Can it climb hills ok? I'm not looking for amazing performance or anything, just a little concerned that riding mixed/hilly terrain might not be pleasant if it is a beast to push up a hill.

    3. I envisage using it for medium length day rides in my local area (e.g. 30-50 miles were the typical length of rides I would take my V-rex on when I had it). I know it is designed for touring but I probably won't do much if any touring. So I'm wondering is it a less than ideal bike for my purposes?

    Any inputs appreciated especially from those who have experienced Orcas, Optimas or dual 26 swbs.

    Thanks,
    Aidan

  2. #2
    shaken, not stirred. gnome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aidanc View Post
    Hello,
    I'm considering buying an Optima Orca, not because I've researched different bikes and picked that one out, but because I've come across one for sale online and here in New Zealand used recumbents for sale are few and far between. Seems to be a good price and good condition so I'm wondering if I should jump at the opportunity or hold off and see what else might come along. It's not nearby where I can go and test ride it so it would be a blind purchase. But that's how I got my first recumbent, a Rans V-rex when I lived in California. When a moved here I sold that bike. I really enjoyed the V-rex but it is the only recumbent I've ever ridden. I found it to be a bike that made me want to ride more. It was a good hill climber and I reckon I wouldn't have been any slower climbing a hill on it than I would have been on a regular road bike.

    So why haven't I bought the Orca already? Well here are my concerns in order:

    1. The dual 26" wheels make it a high bike. Not sure if this is good or bad for me. It looks much more 'awkward' than the 20/26 swb bents. The seat position is much more reclined compared to something like a v-rex, your almost lying back flat! Not sure if it feels as awkward as it looks but I liked the body position on the v-rex and the Optima just looks wierd! It's a beautiful looking bike when nobody is on it but with a rider on it, it looks much stranger than other recumbents. Does it feel as strange as it looks?

    2. Known to be a heavier bike. Can it climb hills ok? I'm not looking for amazing performance or anything, just a little concerned that riding mixed/hilly terrain might not be pleasant if it is a beast to push up a hill.

    3. I envisage using it for medium length day rides in my local area (e.g. 30-50 miles were the typical length of rides I would take my V-rex on when I had it). I know it is designed for touring but I probably won't do much if any touring. So I'm wondering is it a less than ideal bike for my purposes?

    Any inputs appreciated especially from those who have experienced Orcas, Optimas or dual 26 swbs.

    Thanks,
    Aidan
    I've been watching that Orca as well. I have no intention of purchasing it as it would be too big for me and I don't need another recumbent. It's probably not too bad a price but it is several years old and is no longer a current model.

    If you are only planning on doing day rides, I would take off the rear rack. That will lighten it nicely. Since it's a 26" SWB you can get some fast tyres easily such as Schwalbe Kojaks.

    Being a porky touring bike with reclined seat it probably won't climb as quick as a Vrex. I used to have a Rocket and it was a reasonable climber given the engine powering it. The more reclined seat would take a bit of getting used to but will be adventagous downhill and into headwinds.

    Where abouts in NZ are you?
    I believe there currently is a RANS tailwind for sale on TradeMe at the moment as well.
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  3. #3
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    I have a Volae Expedition. 26x26 31lbs. I have no other recumbent experience, aside from test driving a Corsa. All other things being equal, the 26x26 has the second smallest frontal area and that makes a meaningful speed difference. On the uphill, weight is almost everything. A heavier bike will be slower up a hill regardless of it's type. DF included.

    Another factor I haven't seen much discussion on is breathing. I'm not sure the human body does a great job moving air reclined on your back. As your diaphragm moves down, (toward your feet) for belly drops down (toward you spinal cord). I'm not sure the lung volume is there in a fairly reclined bent. A DF, or an upright (seated) recumbent it would seem, is more efficient for moving air. Sitting upright your belly is not competing for space to breathe. Doubled over on a DF lung space expands when the diaphram moves down if the bike is large enough. I don't quite have 1000 miles on the Volae, so I can't give you anything definitive, but I know when I am really working, it seems as if wind is the limiting factor.

    It takes a lot longer to get comfortable on a 26x26. By that I mean confident with balance, starting out and making tight turns, but that gets better each time out. I could set the seat up some, quite a bit actually, but at this point I value the aerodynamics of being flatter more than the more normal seating upright.

    Make sure you ride the bike and the fit is correct. Not everything can be adjusted out. The wrong size will affect handling as the weight distribution shifts. Same bike, smaller frame I experienced some "deal breaker level" shimmy. Got the size right and all of that settled down. Can't ride no hands though.

    Only thing faster is one of those very low recumbents where the rear wheel is behind the rider and the front wheel in front. Fair that and it is faster still. Weight still matters climbing.

  4. #4
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    I was interested in that tailwind too but after a little research I discovered the tailwind is not suitable for anyone taller than 6' and I'm 6'2". The other bent for sale on Trademe is the TW bent - although it looks more like the vrex that I'm familiar with, I've read a lukewarm review of it and I'm not really considering it. In your experience is it easy to find used bents in NZ? How did you obtain your bents?

    I'm in Nelson by the way.

  5. #5
    Junior Member pmmpete's Avatar
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    I own an Orca, and am very satisfied with it. I find the seating position very comfortable, the handling stable but nimble, and the rear suspension a major asset. At the end of a long day, nothing hurts. It's fast on the level and on downhills, and climbs fine. I bought it for loaded touring, so a couple of extra pounds of frame is insignificant. I like the 26" high racer format, as the big wheels handle rough roads well, and I only need to carry one size of spare tires and tubes.

    The rear rack is great. I'm from Montana, where the weather changes occasionally and you can be a long distance from the next convenience store, so I'm always carrying at least one pannier. When carrying more gear, I put my rear panniers on the horizontal part of the rack, and my front panniers in front of them angled forward, which puts the panniers mostly behind the seat, and keeps a lot of the weight centered between the wheels. Then I start stacking gear on top of the rack. I like the beefy touring tires the Orca comes with. This spring I'm going to put mountain bike tires on it and do some backcountry touring on logging roads in Montana and Idaho, a long distance from the nearest town.

    You say "it looks much stranger than other recumbents." I disagree. It seems like a pretty moderate design to me. The angle of the seat is adjustable, and the seat isn't nearly as reclined as most low racer recumbents. You ask, "Does it feel as strange as it looks?" I don't think it feels strange at all. Compared to the V-Rex you used to own, the seat is a little more reclined, the bottom bracket is a little higher, and it has a hard shell seat rather than a webbing seat. But if you buy the Orca, I suspect that you'll get used to it quickly and like it a lot.

    I went from a Rans Stratus to a Orca, and found that my neck got tired from the more reclined seat position, so I added an ICE headrest. That was a great improvement. I probably lay my head on the headrest only about a third of the time, but being able to rest my neck occasionally makes the bike much more comfortable. I'm six feet (1.83 meters) tall, and the bike is a good size for me. I really don't know how tall you need to be in order for the bike to be easy to start and stop.

    But the real question is, what kind of bike do you want, and what kind of biking do you do? If you ride with racers on smooth paved roads, you don't carry anything but a water bottle and a patch kit, and you want a bike which is as fast and light as possible, the Orca wouldn't be a good match. If you're more of a touring cyclist, you ride on roads with less than perfect surfaces, and you want to be able to carry some gear, the Orca could be an excellent choice.
    Last edited by pmmpete; 01-12-10 at 11:35 PM.

  6. #6
    shaken, not stirred. gnome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aidanc View Post
    I was interested in that tailwind too but after a little research I discovered the tailwind is not suitable for anyone taller than 6' and I'm 6'2". The other bent for sale on Trademe is the TW bent - although it looks more like the vrex that I'm familiar with, I've read a lukewarm review of it and I'm not really considering it. In your experience is it easy to find used bents in NZ? How did you obtain your bents?

    I'm in Nelson by the way.
    I have the other problem. I'm 169cm short. Sometimes it is easy. sometimes it is hard. Keep searching TradeMe will drag out some at times.

    Oh and a more detailed pm has been sent.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmmpete View Post
    I own an Orca, and am very satisfied with it.
    Great to hear from an Orca owner!

    Quote Originally Posted by pmmpete View Post
    You say "it looks much stranger than other recumbents." I disagree. It seems like a pretty moderate design to me. The angle of the seat is adjustable, and the seat isn't nearly as reclined as most low racer recumbents.
    Well I meant 26x26 swb bents in general, it just looks more ungainly with the feet up so high in the air.

    Quote Originally Posted by pmmpete View Post
    You ask, "Does it feel as strange as it looks?" I don't think it feels strange at all. Compared to your V-Rex, the seat is a little more reclined, the bottom bracket is a little higher, and it has a hard shell seat rather than a webbing seat. But if you buy the Orca, I suspect that you'll get used to it quickly and like it a lot.
    That's encouraging.

    Quote Originally Posted by pmmpete View Post
    I went from a Rans Stratus to a Orca,
    Ah so you are a former Rans owner too, that makes your opinion more valuable to me, Rans being the only bent I've ridden. What was your reason for going from the Stratus to the Orca? Which do you prefer? The Rans seat is known to be comfy, how did it feel going to the Orca seat?

    Quote Originally Posted by pmmpete View Post
    and found that my neck got tired from the more reclined seat position, so I added an ICE headrest. That was a great improvement. I probably lay my head on the headrest only about a third of the time, but being able to rest my neck occasionally makes the bike much more comfortable.
    I've read about that issue - is there a constant strain on the neck?

    Quote Originally Posted by pmmpete View Post
    But the real question is, what kind of bike do you want, and what kind of biking do you do? If you ride with racers on smooth paved roads, you don't carry anything but a water bottle and a patch kit, and you want a bike which is as fast and light as possible, the Orca wouldn't be a good match. If you're more of a touring cyclist, you ride on roads with less than perfect surfaces, and you want to be able to carry some gear, the Orca could be an excellent choice.
    At the moment the only bike I ride is a mountain bike which I ride off road (we are lucky to have a great network of trails where I live). I do like the idea of touring but don't expect to have much opportunity for that as I've got 2 young kids so it's hard to get away by myself for long periods so I think I would be using it more for multi-hour rides on well paved roads. If you were not going to be doing any touring would you still stick with the Orca?

    I'm still up in the air about the Orca but your input has been encouraging.
    Thanks, Aidan

  8. #8
    Junior Member pmmpete's Avatar
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    Aiden, you asked "What was your reason for going from the Stratus to the Orca?" The Rans Stratus was my wife's bike, but I used it more than she did. I liked the recumbent position in general, but didn't like the long wheelbase configuration or the long handlebars of the Stratus. The bike felt cumbersome, ungainly, and awkward to steer, like I was steering a barge. And the steering felt twitchy. I felt like I had to focus on keeping the handlebars motionless. By comparison, the Orca handles like an upright bike. It's nimble and responsive, and you lean it like an upright bike, but doesn't feel at all twitchy or unstable.

    You said "The Rans seat is known to be comfy, how did it feel going to the Orca seat?" A webbing seat is certainly different from a hard shell seat, but both are comfortable for me. A more reclined seat puts less pressure on the bottom of your buttocks and more pressure on the back of your buttocks, which took me a while to get used to. I find that it helps to move around on the seat a bit and lift my weight off my butt occasionaly, rather than sitting in the same position for hours. I thought that a hard shell seat would make my back sweaty, but it doesn't - the foam pad breathes very well. Different people like different kinds of car seats, desk chairs, and bike seats, and they like to adjust their seats differently. I suggest that you give the Orca a test drive if you can to see how you like the seat. I didn't have to modify the seat of my Orca at all, but if you felt like the seat didn't have a big enough bulge in the small of your back, or a deep enough cup for your buttocks, you could glue some closed cell foam to the seat and sculpture it to the shape you want. In New Zealand, whitewater kayak stores will have appropriate foam for this kind of outfitting.

    You asked, "Is there constant strain on the neck?" Any seat which leans you back will put more stress on your neck than an upright seat. Most recumbent riders just get used to it, and it appears to me that only a minority of recumbent riders add headrests to their bikes. I added a headrest to my bike shortly after I bought it, and am glad that I did.

    You asked "If you were not going to be doing any touring would you still stick with the Orca?" I like the overall configuration and handling of the Orca. I like the rear suspension, which takes a lot of the shock out of bumps in the road. And I aways carry at least one pannier, so I like the rear rack. But if you didn't find the ride of your V-Rex harsh, and you didn't mount a rear rack on your V-Rex, perhaps you don't need some of the features which distinguish the Orca from recumbents which are designed more for speed and less for loaded touring on rough roads.
    Last edited by pmmpete; 01-29-10 at 04:42 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmmpete View Post
    Aiden, you asked "What was your reason for going from the Stratus to the Orca?" The Rans Stratus was my wife's bike, but I used it more than she did. I liked the recumbent position in general, but didn't like the long wheelbase configuration or the long handlebars of the Stratus. The bike felt cumbersome, ungainly, and awkward to steer, like I was steering a barge. And the steering felt twitchy. I felt like I had to focus on keeping the handlebars motionless. By comparison, the Orca handles like an upright bike. It's nimble and responsive, and you lean it like an upright bike, but doesn't feel at all twitchy or unstable.

    You said "The Rans seat is known to be comfy, how did it feel going to the Orca seat?" A webbing seat is certainly different from a hard shell seat, but both are comfortable for me. A more reclined seat puts less pressure on the bottom of your buttocks and more pressure on the back of your buttocks, which took me a while to get used to. I find that it helps to move around on the seat a bit and lift my weight off my butt occasionaly, rather that sitting in the same position for hours. I thought that a hard shell seat would make my back sweaty, but it doesn't - the foam pad breaths very well. Different people like different kinds of car seats, desk chairs, and bike seats, and they like to adjust their seats differently. I suggest that you give the Orca a test drive if you can to see how you like the seat. I didn't have to modify the seat of my Orca at all, but if you felt like the seat didn't have a big enough bulge in the small of your back, or a deep enough cup for your buttocks, you could glue some closed cell foam to the seat and sculpture it to the shape you want. In New Zealand, whitewater kayak stores will have appropriate foam for this kind of outfitting.

    You asked, "Is there constant strain on the neck?" Any seat which leans you back will put more stress on your neck than an upright seat. Most recumbent riders just get used to it, and it appears to me that only a minority of recumbent riders add headrests to their bikes. I added a headrest to my bike shortly after I bought it, and am glad that I did.

    You asked "If you were not going to be doing any touring would you still stick with the Orca?" I like the overall configuration and handling of the Orca. I like the rear suspension, which takes a lot of the shock out of bumps in the road. And I aways carry at least one pannier, so I like the rear rack. But if you didn't find the ride of your V-Rex harsh, and you didn't mount a rear rack on your V-Rex, perhaps you don't need some of the features which distinguish the Orca from recumbents which are designed more for speed and less for loaded touring on rough roads.
    Thanks again for your insightful input.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 57rebike View Post
    Another factor I haven't seen much discussion on is breathing. I'm not sure the human body does a great job moving air reclined on your back. As your diaphragm moves down, (toward your feet) for belly drops down (toward you spinal cord). I'm not sure the lung volume is there in a fairly reclined bent. A DF, or an upright (seated) recumbent it would seem, is more efficient for moving air. Sitting upright your belly is not competing for space to breathe. Doubled over on a DF lung space expands when the diaphram moves down if the bike is large enough. I don't quite have 1000 miles on the Volae, so I can't give you anything definitive, but I know when I am really working, it seems as if wind is the limiting factor.
    Interesting point, not something I had thought about. Anyone else find this an issue with the laid back position?

  11. #11
    Junior Member pmmpete's Avatar
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    Aidan:

    You said "the Optima just looks weird! It's a beautiful looking bike when nobody is on it but with a rider on it, it looks much stranger than other recumbents." A rider in my town has a Volae high racer with a hard shell seat; I can't remember the model. When we set the Volae and my Orca side by side, their configurations are identical. The bottom bracket is the same height, the seat is the same height and angle, everything. The frame designs are quite different, but the configurations are identical. The Orca's frame is quite similar in style to the frames of several other manufacturers which make recumbents with rear suspensions, such as Challenge.

  12. #12
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    My comment was regarding high bents in general - it just looks a bit weird or unnatural to have your feet up so high

  13. #13
    Junior Member pmmpete's Avatar
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    I refer to my Orca as my "Barcalounger," which is a popular brand of reclining arm chair here in the You Ess Aye. My feet are at about the same hight in both of them.

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    Thanks to everyone replying to the thread and just to update you all, I didn't get the Orca - someone else did a 'buy now' on it. But I've just won the bidding on a Rans V2 Formula. I was more keen on this bike than the Orca having owned a Rans before and I always fancied trying a lwb. So I'm pretty excited and looking forward to getting the bike.

  15. #15
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    I own a V-Rex. And an M5 Carbon Highracer. And a couple of lowracers. Except for the V-Rex, they are all have seat angles of 20-23 degrees. I've never had neck problems with them, but I'm finding that adding a neck rest adds just a bit more comfort. I adjust them so that I can ride without using the rest, or if the road is smooth I can lay my head back just a little and relax. The shell-type seats are quite comfy, as long as they fit the rider. That's important. If the shell is too big, it's not a big deal, but if it's too small for you, you will hate it.

    I've never met an Orca in person, but all of the highracers I've ridden handled just fine.

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