Review: Orbea’s 150mm Travel Rallon All Mountain Bike
It’s safe to say that the Rallon could easily be the bike you didn’t see coming from Orbea. At 150mm of travel it is by far their biggest mountain bike and definitely marks a new era at Orbea. It’s pretty clear that regardless of how the Rallon performs, Orbea is completely vested in the mountain bike market and they are pushing to create truly competitive mountain bikes that will stack up against the toughest competitors, especially in the US market.
All of this is well and good, but the obvious questions remain: how does it ride, and is it worth your money?
Find out after the break!
The Making Of:
Until now, most of the technologies used for designing full-suspension bicycles were based on flat kinematics analysis. Advanced Dynamics is the result of a long process of joint research work with the CEIT (Guipuzcoa Studies and Technical Research Center, or Spain’s equivalent of MIT or something similar. Basically a bunch of extremely smart dudes.), using computer based, virtual modeling and simulation programs to study the performance of dual suspension bikes. Using this virtual analysis system, Orbea and CEIT were able to take into account all variables affecting a full suspension bicycle’s performance, giving rise to the four cornerstones of Orbea’s Advanced Dynamics technology: the bike’s dynamic suspension platform, perfect use of its suspension travel, its customized damper and its sealed bearings.
To facilitate the creation of the Rallon, Orbea more or less created a virtual rider to test the bikes virtually, calculating input from the bars, seat, pedals and tires. If interested Orbea is willing to go in to deep detail on the suspension set up of the Rallon, including the creation of the Lamda Link to adapt the Lamda curve above to the bikes suspension leverage ratio. If you are interested in learning more on what makes the suspension of the Orbea tick, check out this site. While the charts, graphs, and power point presentation were very convincing, I’ve ridden too many bikes that were touted as the next big thing, only to be disappointed out on the trail. You could say that for me, “the proof is in the pudding,” or suspension as it may be.
So what was it really like out on the trail?
Like they say, first impressions are everything and you only get one chance. From the moment of taking the big Rallon out of the box, to putting a leg over it the first time, I got the feeling that the Rallon was either going to be a huge success, or a total failure. You can tell just how much attention was paid to the details of the Rallon simply by looking at the bike, you could feel it while checking torque on the anodized, burly hardware that concealed double bearings at key pivots, and you could experience it while setting up the suspension. Initial feel and fit of components was top notch, and seemed like it would be a sturdy bike regardless of whatever you threw at it.
My only initial concern with the stock set up was the narrow-ish bar and fairly long stem, by all mountain standards anyways. If I were to buy the Rallon, the first thing I would do would be to replace the bar and stem for a wider and shorter set up, but I rode the Rallon stock for quite a while to give an accurate review. The only other parts I eventually changed out were the grips and the Saddle, even though both were excellent – if they fit you. The nose of the saddle was simply too wide for my liking, and tended to rub quite a bit on my legs forcing me to ride bowlegged to gain relief. The grips were also too large, due to my liking of very thin grips. The actual grips were great, they were lock-ons that didn’t slip, looked great, and felt pretty good, they were just too fat for my hands.
I would like to clarify though, it bugs me when a bike is panned in a review due to something as easily replaced as a stem, bar, or seat. As cyclists we all have our preferences and it would be nearly impossible to please all the people all the time. Truth be told, I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought a bike and was happy with every part on the stock set up. Also, I have spoken to Orbea and they agree that the stock setup that came on my bike was a little too XC and they are planning on changing it for the future.
The rest of the components truly performed flawlessly. Honestly the Rallon 30 is almost perfectly spec’d other than the few personal components mentioned above. My time on Dynasys 10 Speed XT on the Rallon and my Fuel, has not disappointed me. The shifting is light, crisp, and flawless, just what you want from your drivetrain. The matching Shimano XT wheels were also excellent, very light, fairly stiff, and UST. The Centerlock to 6 bolt adapters I had to use for the Formula RX disc brakes were kind of a pain, although the actual spec of the bike includes Shimano XT disc brakes with Centerlock Rotors, so no fault there. While I have ridden many Fox 32 FIT Cartridge forks before, the Tapered, QR15, TALAS RLC fork that came on the Rallon has to be the most buttery smooth example I’ve ridden to date.
The Rallon looks fast standing still, and after showing it to many of my friends and other mountain bikers, the unanimous response was “Damn, that’s an Orbea?” This may seem like a bad thing at first, but Orbea is much better known for their excellent road bikes, while their mountain line up seems like it is better received in Europe than America. The Rallon will change that.
While this build of the Rallon doesn’t make it one of the lightest bikes on the market in the all mountain segment, it can easily be built to around 27.5 lbs and its climbing ability belies its weight. While riding the Rallon, it never comes off as heavy or cumbersome. In fact, it is more than likely that you will find yourself surprised that you are climbing as quickly as you are, with minimal effort.
Stock Build: The stock build weighed in at 29 pounds, 10 ounces, without pedals. My Rallon came equipped with a full Shimano XT Dynasys 10 speed kit, although it was sent with Formula Rx brakes due to the XT’s being out of stock at the time. Suspension wise, the Rallon was equipped with a Fox Talas RLC Fit fork with a tapered steerer tube and QR15 axle up front, and a Fox RP23 XV Air can rear shock. The Rallon came rolling on very nice Shimano XT tubless wheels with Kenda Nevegal UST Tires with a 2.35 on the front, and a 2.1 out back. Most of the other components are Orbea’s in house OC brand, including the stem, bar, and seat post. Finally a Selle Italia SLR T1 saddle capped things off.
Final Build: I played around with replacing parts to see just how light I could get the Rallon, and with simply changing the wheels to some Easton Havens with lighter tires, and replacing the seat and seat post with a very light SDG combo, I was able to get the weight down into the 27′s. If you really wanted to, you could probably go lighter than that with full XTR although most of the parts I chose I wouldn’t want to go any lighter for durability’s sake. My final build was much more aggressive than the stock set up and included a 720mm wide Answer Protaper All mountain bar, 70mm Bontrager Rythym Pro Stem, and a Bontrager Rhythym seat and seat post I had laying around that was about 1/4 lb lighter than the stock saddle and post (more importantly it was narrower in the nose). I also fitted larger Tires, and ended up with a Kenda 2.35 H-Factor for the front, and Kenda 2.35 BBG in the back. Both Tires were marked as 2.35, but they were much bigger in reality with the H-Factor measuring a full 2.5 inches wide and the BBG about a 2.4. The tires hooked up like crazy, especially with all the damp leaves on the ground, and really allowed me to push the Rallon through corners without sacrificing too much on rolling resistance. All said and done, my build was about a pound heavier than stock with pedals, a computer, and GoPro Mounts, so I really didn’t add too much weight, while making the bike more aggressive.
This video offers a quick glimpse of what really goes on at the back end of a full suspension bike. The First half is with the Propedal turned on and it offers a very stable ride, yet remains plush through big hits, whereas the second half is with Propedal turned off. I found it interesting that I almost always had the Propedal turned on, due to how plush it remained even though it was still extremely pedal efficient. On most bikes I find the Propedal setting to be too harsh, and force you to chose between pedal friendly or nice and plush. The orbea really did both well, even with the Propedal on. I posted another video aboard the Rallon earlier that offers a rider’s POV.
Initial set up on the Rallon was fairly simple given the very accurate set up air pressure guide on the inside of the seat stay. I’m around 165 with all my gear and water, and I ran the shock right around 190, which is directly in the recommended range on the sticker. My only complaint on the set up sticker is that it is positioned so that you really can’t read it without removing the wheel from the bike, however this is simply an inconvenience, not a problem.
One of the best anecdotal experiences I had with the Rallon came while riding at Devou in Northern Kentucky. Devou is a fairly steep 2.5 mile climb which is then followed with an equally steep 2.5 mile down hill. While the downhill just begs for a bike with the legs of the Rallon, it was the climb that kept me from riding it on the Rallon for some time. However, when it came time to do some GoPro footage for the interview awhile back, I decided to give the Rallon a go.
Not only was I fairly loaded down with gear (camera, multiple mounts, knee pads, etc) but it was also a fairly cold day which for me always makes the climbing just a little bit harder. I had planned on simply switching the Talas lever to the lower setting, flipping the ProPedal on, and sticking it in the granny gear to provide for a painfully slow trudge to the top. After I was sufficiently warmed up however, I noticed that I was actually climbing quite fast, at least as fast and maybe even faster than on my XC bike. Most surprising to me was that I actually passed some riders while climbing. I have come to expect passing people on the downhills on the Rallon, however I never expected it to be so fast on the uphills.
So it climbs well, but obviously 150mm of travel isn’t needed for climbing, so how does the Rallon perform when the trail points down? I have to say that I have never ridden a bike regardless of the type, that is so eager to be hammered in the big ring. As soon as you start to feel gravity’s pull, the Rallon just begs you to shift up to the big ring and pedal your ass off. Before you know it, you will also find the smaller end of your cassette and realize that you have no harder gears, which is a strange feeling while rocketing down the trail. The effortless speed of the Rallon almost makes you have to change your riding style, as sections you would normally pump through you can now pedal, as it seems no speed is too much for the Orbea. I feel that I can state that claim, due to the fact that I reached 40 mph on a short, relatively straight descent close to my house, which my previous best was around 32 mph on a Gary Fisher Roscoe. The scariest part was that I still felt in complete control and felt like I could go even faster, and only had to apply the brakes due to the trail ending
I guess that would lead me to the other brilliant aspect of the Rallon: the fact that you feel almost instantly at home on the bike. The handling is so predictable, and so forgiving that you will quickly find yourself taking chances and riding lines you never thought possible. The best part of it all, is that if all this new found confidence gets you into trouble, the Rallon never seemed flustered and was easy to ride out of any sketchy situation.
While not really a detriment to the ride of the Rallon, I would say that the rear end stiffness could be improved with the addition of 142 x 12 thru axle. Perhaps what I was feeling was mostly wheel flex, but the rear wheel didn’t seem as planted when really pushing it through g-outs, even with a couple of different wheels. My test bike was not equipped with X12, although I have been told that future bikes will have that option and it may be available as a retrofit kit for the current Rallon’s due to their replaceable dropouts.
If you were considering the purchase of a burly, full suspension rig capable of riding anything and riding it well, and the Rallon wasn’t on your list – you had better add it now. The Rallon is simply too good not to consider it, regardless of your brand allegiances. Having never spent that much time aboard an Orbea MTB before, I had no idea what to expect, although I made sure to go in with an open mind and I’m blown away. The more I ride the Rallon, the more I like it. While having an XC climbing prowess, the Rallon manages to feel almost like a full blown downhill bike once you get moving, and transitions seamlessly between the two.
The only thing that keeps me from giving the Rallon 5 thumbs up is the lack of 142×12, and the handlebar/stem set up. Like I mentioned earlier these really aren’t that big of deal, which is why I only deducted 1/2 a point, once those specs are changed, it will deserve a true 5/5.