Orbea Rallon trail bike – First ride review

By James Huang, in San Juan, Puerto Rico | Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9.00am

Orbea's hotly anticipated new Rallon trail/enduro machine looked set to combine reasonably light weight, efficient pedalling performance and capable suspension with striking good looks.

Now that we've had a chance to sample it for ourselves – in Puerto Rico of all places – our initial impressions suggest it's definitely worth a closer look.

Most intriguing is the bike's suspension characteristics. Orbea mountain bike product manager Xabier Narbaiza says these were the result of arduous computer modeling and data compilation, not only of linkage kinematics but also of how forces such as pedalling and braking input affect the rear end.

All of that was then overlaid with separate in-house dyno testing results of countless rear shock models, settings and tuning profiles until the company got just what they were after.

As a result, the Rallon feels distinctly firm off the top of the stroke, to the point where we initally ran 20psi less than recommended for our body weight based on raw sag measurements. But the rest of the stroke is remarkably linear and coil-like so we then found ourselves quickly blowing through the travel at first.

Once reinflated closer to spec, though, the rear end sat higher up yet still managed to be surprisingly active on smaller bumps. Though that's likely due mostly to the suspension design, part of the credit must go to the 12 bearing cartridges integrated into the pivots – including at the normally sticky rear shock eyelet.

The lambda link tweaks the leverage ratio throughout the travel range of the rear end to provide a coil-like feel but with a surprisingly stiff initial stroke that yields efficient pedalling without overly affecting small bump performance: the lambda link tweaks the leverage ratio throughout the travel range of the rear end to provide a coil-like feel but with a surprisingly stiff initial stroke that yields efficient pedalling without overly affecting small bump performance

The Lambda link tweaks the leverage ratio throughout the travel range to provide a coil-like feel but with a surprisingly stiff initial stroke that yields efficient pedalling

The slight progression at the end of the stroke meant we regularly used full travel but never bottomed out harshly, plus that initial leverage ratio 'hump' yielded far better than expected pedalling performance, even with the included Fox RP23's ProPedal platform turned off.

Admittedly, we rode down much more than up at the newly crafted Toroverde Adventure Park in the mountains of Puerto Rico, but the climbs we did do were brutally steep, slippery and punchy, and any flaw in pedalling performance would have readily presented itself. Instead, all we got in return for our efforts was a refreshing dose of get-up-and-go and a notably reactive feel – very impressive for a bike with 150mm of rear wheel travel.

The triple-butted and hydroformed alloy frame is fairly light at 3.2kg (7.1lb, claimed, with shock) but also rock-solid beneath you. The tapered head tube and heavily shaped down tube and top tube make for a reassuringly flex-free front end under heavy braking and good torsional stiffness when you're cranking out of the saddle or attacking technical terrain.

The tapered head tube is backed by a heavily shaped top tube and down tube for impressive strength, according to orbea: the tapered head tube is backed by a heavily shaped top tube and down tube for impressive strength, according to orbea

The tapered head tube is backed by heavily shaped top and down tubes for impressive strength

And it's more of the same out back, with fat seatstays, chunky asymmetrical chainstays, a beefy forged aluminium linkage and thick interchangeable bolt-on dropouts (a 142x12mm through-axle option is already in the works) adding up to a suspension system that resists getting knocked out of plane and seems to faithfully follow the front end.

Orbea have done a good job with dialling in the geometry as well. Chainstays are a remarkably short 425mm – just 2mm longer than the Alma hardtail – for easy manuals and quick pivoting about the rear wheel.

That's matched to a fairly long front centre (distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the centre of the front hub), a 68- to 69-degree head tube angle (depending on fork travel) and resultant longish wheelbase that shifts your weight slightly rearward and makes for confident handling both at speed and in technical descents. A not-too-tall bottom bracket height helps keep your centre of gravity low, too.

Fat chain- and seatstays plus a beefy forged alloy linkage yield excellent swingarm stiffness for accurate tracking: fat chain- and seatstays plus a beefy forged alloy linkage yield excellent swingarm stiffness for accurate tracking

Fat stays plus a beefy forged alloy linkage yield excellent swingarm stiffness for accurate tracking

Given the Rallon's impressively multidimensional personality, Orbea will offer a variety of build kits that will suit both the pedal-intensive enduro crowd and more gravity-oriented folk, too. Fork travel will range from 150-160mm, Truvativ's HammerSchmidt transmission will be included on the top-end Rallon 10, and customers will even be able to choose from various tyres to suit their local terrain.

One must-have option on your list should be an adjustable-height CrankBrothers Joplin seatpost. While it was easy enough to move our seatposts around with the included quick-release collar, we would have much preferred a telescoping post for faster transitions between up and down.

We'll secure a long-term tester in the near future for a more proper shakedown but the initial taste test has been promising. In the meantime, Orbea have some complete bikes available now, with the remainder set to arrive within the next couple of weeks. Retail prices will range from US$3,000 to $5,800. At present the Rallon is only available in Spain, France and the USA.

Orbea offer the rallon with 150mm or 160mm-travel forks, allowing riders to tune the handling characteristics to their preferences: orbea offer the rallon with 150mm or 160mm-travel forks, allowing riders to tune the handling characteristics to their preferences

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Orbea offer the Rallon with 150mm or 160mm-travel forks, allowing riders to tune the handling characteristics to their preferences

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