Words By Dean Hersey Photos by Matt Wragg.
When asked if I wanted to fly to the Spanish Pyrenees to ride the latest ‘enduro’ bike from Orbea, I understandably jumped at the chance. I’d get to spend time getting to know the all new Orbea Rallon on the trails of the Hidden Valley of Benasque under the ever watchful eye of our local guide, Doug (Basque MTB). I found this is the perfect terrain to test any bike, from high open alpine meadows, to red rock outcrops and the steep tight trails of the forests below. The trails offered a mixture of super fast flowing singletrack to steep rocky stepped chutes with tight dusty switchbacks.
You can see the full details of the bike in our news story here: http://singletrackworld.com/2017/06/2018-orbea-rallon-gets-29in-wheels-asymmetric-frame/ or a reminder of the spec is at the bottom of this page.
Being 5ft 10in I was fitted to a size large Rallon M-TEAM bike, which suited me fine and I honestly felt right at home straight away. Having spent the last few years riding 29ers (like a Five29) I was in my element and already felt accustomed to life with big wheels. I had my stem height lowered to put a tad more weight bias on the front tyre. The only other change I made was to pressures in the Maxxis Minion DHF and Aggressor tyres to help me find some grip in the loose dusty and rocky conditions. I spent the whole first day with the Fox Float X2 rear shock in the frame.
Day one was all shuttling trails that wouldn’t look out of place in an Enduro World Series race. The bike is exceptionally well balanced and I felt instantly comfortable and stable in high speed sections using the bike’s wagon wheels and long wheelbase to roll over big rocks and carry speed through the tougher sections and drops. In the steepest sections of trails the bike felt calm and planted, helping me to pick and hold my line.
After the main trait of sheer speed, the second attribute I noticed about the Rallon 5 is the balance of the bike especially under heavy braking. The extra speed I was able to carry meant I kept finding myself rushing into the tighter corners and slamming on the anchors later and later before letting the brakes off and smashing through the turn. This balance twinned with the bike’s travel makes this a hugely confidence-inspiring ride. I put this down to the frame’s light weight, the impressive Fox suspension units and frame’s geometry. Orbea has managed to create a bike that has a surperbly optimised frame balancing flex and feedback with strength and rigidity. For most of the first day I was a passenger on an express train. My lasting impression from the first day on the Rallon was just how flattering the bike performed. Getting myself out of countless sticky situations riding these trails blind.
The second day started with Doug leading us to the top of the high mountain pass of Port de Vénasque (2444m) that lies on the border between Spain and France opposite a snow capped Pico Aneto. I had the Fox coil shock strapped into the Rallon and the bike still set in the lowest setting for what had been described as a ‘backcountry epic’ to prove the Rallon’s ability to cross distance and show case its all round performance in taming big mountain terrain. The Rallon is no one trick pony. Yes, it has an amazing ability to stretch its legs and really fly, but I believe it is not just an ‘Enduro race bike’.
It was interesting to be able to swap the rear shocks out to make a comparison between the feel of the new Fox DHX2 coil shock and an impressively adjustable Fox Float X2 air shock. The coil setup worked beautifully on the long arduous descent down into France towards Bagnéres-de-Luchon. The DHX2 displayed a consistently perfect linear feel and beautifully smooth initial stroke improving small bump sensitivity.
It felt like an eternity of alternate switchbacks occasionally littered with loose head-size rocks poised to catch you out if you attempted to take a glance at the splendid views of the Pyreenes stretching out in all directions before you. The bike handled tight hairpin corners really well despite its long wheelbase, apparently thanks to a combination of its short chainstays, low bottom bracket height and good standover clearance.
I then had chance to test how the bike and its coil shock felt in a long technical climb with a smattering of damp rocks and roots. The bike climbed efficiently considering its travel. Aided by the grip of big wheels, the suspension design and the ability to flick the platform damping lever on the new Fox shock. We contoured the valley in the low cloud before descending once again down along side the river into Bagnéres-de-Luchon for lunch and time to process the events of the morning.
Little did I know, but the day was not over there. After lunch Doug led us to the lift station were we ascended up to the top of SuperBagnéres bike park. Wondering if we were dropping into the bike park trails, we sat waiting completely oblivious to what had been arranged by Orbea. Then the surprising sight of a bright yellow Orbea livered helicopter appeared into view from the blanket of low cloud covering the valley below. The pilot dropped us on a high slate-covered peak well above the tree line. Once the sound of the helicopter disappeared into the distance we dropped into the start of the most epic descent.
The Sierra Negra trail turned from moonscape to a high alpine meadow. Beautiful fast-flowing singletrack trail snaked down into the trees. The bike working its charm on me as a huge beaming smile was plastered across my face. We pushed on now into the steeps of the lower forest slopes. The level of grip in even the most vertical dry dusty corners was astonishing. My mind being blown turn by turn, section by section by both the mountain and the machine. The descent back into Benasque lasted 20 minutes. I didn’t want it to end. I had become really attached to the bike and becoming increasingly reluctant to hand the Rallon back to Orbea waiting at the hotel.
One thing I did manage to take from the epic day was that the Rallon has a characteristic in the mountains I had yet to find on any bike before. It stampedes through the terrain never making you feel the bike get uncontrollably out of shape conserving your energy. The carbon frame had a lovely feel to it, structured stiffness and a tuned ridgity that reduces fatigue. This means you can concentrate on screeching in delight on monster descents. Transferring to fast race times and maybe more importantly to most, longer days in the saddle on backcountry adventures or bike parks in the mountains. It is a machine that I never felt like I cringed or winced as I tore into rough sections. The travel comes as a welcomed friend rather than a weighty nuisance. Orbea’s marketing advert of Enduralin is described as “the formula of excitement and fun that turns a good ride into a great one.” After two long days riding the new Rallon in the mountains, I couldn’t agree more.
The only thing I can say is this is possibly too much bike for my local trails back home in this guise – where I wouldn’t get to appreciate all the attributes that made me fall head over heels for this bike. Possibly not being able to really stretch its legs on shorter, tighter and obviously flatter trails. I would love to utilise Orbea’s MYO (Make Your Own) customiser to build up the bike in a lighter package. Try a Fox 34 fork, slap on some faster rubber on carbon rims and fit the Fox DPS shock shaving even more weight. Creating the – what could be, dare I say it, the bike to do it all. Trips to the Alps or flying round trails at home, racing Enduros around the UK, throw in a trip to Megavalanche and epic adventures in the big mountains.
This is the 5th incarnation of the Rallon and in my opinion the most radical in terms of the design of its predecessors with its modern ‘enduro’ geometry. The new Rallon main frame and swingarm is constructed from Orbea Monocoque Race (OMR) carbon fibre and weighs in at 5.7lbs (2.6kg). The wheels’ size has taken a jump up from the previous Rallon of 2014 to 29in. Orbea markets this machine as an out and out Enduro bike with an emphasis on speed. Hence the hike in wheel size. Boasting 150mm of rear travel through Orbea’s own ‘Advance Dynamics’ suspension design (four bar linkage) coupled with a concentric boost (12x 142mm boost) rear end (similar in looks to what Trek use) to help limit the disruption of the shock with braking forces combined with a high pivot point and a claimed improvement in both progressiveness and linear suspension action over the previous Rallon design, achieving this with a collaboration with suspension experts Fox.
The bike is available in three different options to accommodate different budgets. Top of the range option is the Rallon M-LIMITED and weighs in at a very respectable 12.5kg (27.5lbs) without pedals but amazingly includes Fox DHX2 coil shock. All three bikes in the Rallon range features the same OMR carbon frame with a lifetime warranty. Orbea can also offer you full customisation via their websites MYO software. MYO customisation means you can design your own look with paint colourway options as well as component upgrades to build a Rallon that suits your style. Impressively the design your own colourway is offered with no extra charge.
A few key details that I particularly like about this frame is the neat small touches of the well thought out design. Like allowing for the use of a “proper” bottle cage. Orbea have cleverly offset the bottle cage bosses 5mm to the left hand side to ease access. Also the shock is mounted offset, 12mm to the right. This results in the shock is neatly tucked under the top tube away from mud and stones from the wheels. Also positioning it off centre it allows the rider to use the platform lever on the shock for climbing. A quick glance down can also give a visual reassurance to a tired rider that the lever is in the desired position for the upcoming trail features. I found this a great help whilst riding the trails of Benasque blind.
Clearance in the rear is ample for use with a more aggressive tyre and the inevitable muddy conditions. The stand over height is nice and low (767mm in size large), I feel this is key for a 29er meaning you can easily move from side to side aiding in the bikes manoeuvrability and cornering. Also there is flexibilty with sizing in seatpost lengths up to 170mm, offering the chance to fine tune fit if required.
I also like the idea of the oversized shock linkage that neatly utilises a ISIS spline style fixing design (incorparating the dual purpose link preload and rear axle tool) to further increase stiffness in crucial areas. The frame comes fitted with Enduro bearings with an anti corrosion coating. The Rallon frame also has all the other details that have almost become standard on frames of this calibre.
- full monocoque carbon OMR frame
- internal cable routing
- 150mm rear travel
- metric shock sizing
- adjustable geometry (rear shock mount bolt and chips)
- ISCG 05 chain guide mounts
- 180mm rear brake mount
- threaded BB shell
- Integrated frame protection
- 1x drivetrain only
- 29 inch wheels
And so that’s a thumbs-up from Dean. It looks like the Rallon is going to be muscling into the long-travel 29er territory previously populated by the bigger brands. We look forward to seeing a few out on the trails…
|Price:||£3899 to £6899. Frame £2999|
|Tested:||by Dean Hersey for A weekend in the BIG mountains|