By Justin Steiner
Orbea started from humble beginnings in 1847 as a family-owed gun manufacturer. From there, the company evolved into producing bicycles by 1930, and transitioned to a worker-owed cooperative in 1965. In 1998, Orbea began a major initiative to internationalize and push their presence throughout the globe.
Many of us in the United States know Orbea primarily for their road bikes and racy mountain bikes, but the Spanish company does produce a full line of bikes and accessories—from kids’ bikes, to commuting bikes, to folding bikes, as well as helmets and wetsuits—for European and other foreign markets. Fortunately for us, Orbea decided to bring their newest 150mm-travel all-mountain/enduro/trail bike, the Rallon, stateside after three years of development.
My Rallon 30 tester sits roughly in the middle of the Rallon lineup. There’s a $6500 XTR-level bike (10) and a $3300 SLX-level model (50) in the lineup, as well as a $6000 version of the Rallon (X10) with a HammerSchmidt, Fox 36 fork, and dropper post for those who like to, um, “shred the gnar.”
The Rallon cuts a pretty striking silhouette with its aggressively hydroformed front triangle. The 1.125” to 1.5” tapered head tube—quickly becoming status quo on bikes like this—provides plenty of real estate for an ample down tube, while the sloping top tube offers decent standover clearance, despite the upward hump out front. Classy frame details abound, from matching blue anodized fasteners, to cleanly executed cable routing under the down tube, to twelve sealed bearings in the rear suspension. Fit and finish is top-notch.
The Rallon’s rear axle path is defined by the seat tube-mounted single pivot, which is placed in-line with the middle ring to minimize pedal input while pedaling in said ring. Due to the location of the pivot, pedaling in the big rig acts to compress the suspension, while the little ring provides a measure of anti-squat.
The Rallon’s Fox RP23 rear shock is actuated by a swing link Orbea calls the Lambda Link. This link varies the shock rate throughout the stroke in order to maximize small bump sensitivity, provide a responsive mid-stroke and deliver controlled bottom-out, much like the Santa Cruz Nickel, reviewed in this issue. See a theme with these rocker-actuated single-pivot bikes?
Parts-wise, my test bike was nearly representative of the factory-delivered spec for 2011, with the exception of the Formula RX brakes. For 2011, the Rallon 30 will feature a complete Shimano XT Dyna-Sys group—including wheels and brakes—mated to a Fox 32 RLC 150mm fork and Fox RP23 rear shock.
Aside from breaking a chain out of the blue, I was extremely impressed with the 10-speed XT drivetrain. It shifted flawlessly and I definitely appreciated the 36t cassette cog. Overall, the parts spec on the Rallon was spot on, save for the 2.2” Kenda Nevegal front tire and 2.1” Nevegal rear tire, which I swapped out in favor of some larger Kenda H-factor treads in a 2.35” version (fit with room to spare)—a more appropriate size for a 150mm bike, in my opinion.
Swing a leg over the Rallon and one of the first things you’ll notice is its height. This bike has a fairly high bottom bracket at 13.8” static, but sags down to 12” at 30 percent sag. The rest of the bike’s geometry feels familiar and comfortable from the first pedal stroke.
I initially pressurized the rear shock to the recommended setting, 215psi for my weight, but felt as though I was riding too high in the travel, and sag measurements confirmed this suspicion—well under 20 percent sag. I found 30 percent sag to be much more satisfactory, which was approximately 185psi for me. Set up as such, the Rallon settled into its own, providing supple response to small bumps while achieving full travel without harshness. Skip the recommended settings and simply set up this bike with 25-30 percent sag.
Orbea worked hard to tune the mid-stroke to remain responsive without the wallow that non-rocker-link, single-pivot bikes can experience. I’m happy to report their hard work paid off. While the Rallon’s suspension may not feel as refined as some of the dual-link bikes on the market, it does a nice job of keeping the mid-stroke snappy and supple.
Like most single-pivot bikes, pedal-induced bob does make itself known, particularly in the middle and big rings, but I found the level of bob acceptable given the bike’s intended use. The Rallon definitely places more value on suspension suppleness than it does efficiency, but the RP23’s ProPedal platform quells nearly all bob on the most aggressive setting (#3), which I felt compelled to use for long, sustained climbs, or climbs that were very smooth.
The Rallon’s geometry is well suited for the intended style of riding in terms of balancing stability and playfulness, thanks to the 17.12” chainstays, 68º head tube, and 44.3” wheelbase. As such, high-speed stability was on par with my expectations for a 150mm travel bike, while not being sluggish or so slack as to cause annoying wheel flop while climbing. On that same token, this bike is just long and slack enough to prefer to be aggressively leaned into corners—crank it over, swing your hips out, and let those side knobs go to work. The high BB has both merits and detractions. Pedaling through rough off-camber sections of trail is made easier, but cornering lacks the magical carving feeling a low BB affords.
What about the flaws, you ask? The Rallon’s front triangle is plenty stiff, but the rear swingarm seems to be less so. When loading the bike aggressively, such as on slickrock trails, you can definitely feel the rear end flexing. Not a deal breaker for everyone, but if you’re a bruiser, it’s something to consider. Also, the rear dropouts are fixed to the frame via chainring bolts, one of which I lost. When I noticed it missing, I found the remaining three bolts were also loose. I’m told these bolts should have had thread locker applied at the factory as part of normal assembly, so this should not have been an issue and will be addressed in the future. Oh, and one last quibble: There are no mounts for a water bottle cage on my size medium frame.
Orbea will be offering a 142x12mm dropout option mid-year 2011, which will likely stiffen up the swingarm measurably. Current owners will be able to migrate to 142x12mm in future, should they choose to do so.
The Rallon was a willing, eager, and capable companion on a recent road trip through southern Utah, where the bike performed well on all manner of trails. While it may not be the best value on the market when compared to other single-pivot bikes, the Rallon is a well-executed example of the genre, offers a measure of exclusivity and craftsmanship that separates it from the crowd, delivers a solid parts spec, and is the product of an employee-owned co-op. The latter reason alone makes it worth including on your 150mm-travel shopping list, if you ask me.
Orbea Rallon vital stats
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Weight: 29.5lbs. (w/o pedals,w/H-Factor Tires)
Sizes available: S, M (tested), L
Tester: Justin Steiner