Reviewed by Evan Turpen, John Hauer, and Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Lear Miller
Of all 25 bikes in the 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions, none screamed “RIDE ME!” more loudly than the all-new Orbea Rallon. The combination of BOS suspension, super aggressive geometry, and fluorescent paint had us chomping at the bit.
Many US-based readers may not recognize the Orbea brand, but know that they’ve been making bikes for a long time are just now entering the US market. Thanks to new Rallon the Spanish company has finally grabbed our full attention. This bike is exciting.
Orbea Rallon X-LTD Highlights
- Hydroformed triple-butted alloy frame
- 27.5-inch wheels
- 6.3-inches (160mm) of rear wheel travel
- C9-12 concentric pivot system with BOS Kirk rear shock
- Tapered headtube
- 66 or 66.5-degree adjustable head angle
- 74.5 or 75-degree adjustable seat tube angle
- 13.3 or 13.6-inch (338 or 345mm) adjustable bottom bracket height
- 16.5-inch (420mm) chainstays
- Threaded bottom bracket shell with removable ISCG05 mounts
- 12x142mm rear axle
- Measured weight (size Medium, no pedals): 29-pounds, 11-ounces (13.47kg)
- $8,799 MSRP
Now in its 4th major revision, the Rallon gains 10mm of travel, 27.5-inch wheels, 25mm of reach, and 40mm on the wheelbase for 2014. This adds up to a new school ride with a seriously long reach combined with chainstays that are shorter than most 26-inch bikes - a potentially awesome combination. The bottom bracket is also 14 or 21mm lower than previous Rallon, depending on the adjustable geometry setting used. By rotating the front shock bolt you can quickly drop the bottom bracket height from 13.6 to 13.3-inches (338 or 345mm) and head angle from 66.5 to 66-degrees.
Surely you saw the $8,799 price tag and thought, “Where’s the carbon frame?” Orbea’s stance is that the rider looking for the best ride will benefit more from custom-tuned high-end BOS suspension and SRAM’s carbon fiber wheels than saving a few hundred grams on the frame, so they’ve allocated the dollars in those areas. Even so, the aluminum frame loses 0.66-pounds (300g) for 2014, bringing it down to a pretty respectable 6.94-pounds (3.15kg) for a Medium frame with shock and hardware.
After receiving Pro rider feedback about the previous Rallon ramping up a bit too harshly, the rear suspension takes on a slightly less progressive leverage curve. The new bike has a more linear curve shape with an overall progression of about 10%. Also new is the C9-12 concentric pivot at the rear axle which improves the suspension’s performance under heavy braking. In practice, the C9-12 design is a bit more complicated than similar designs and requires use of a few tools to remove the wheel. Unfortunately the suspension design doesn’t leave room for a water bottle mount inside the frame.
Sealed Enduro Max Black Oxide cartridge bearings are used throughout the linkage, including a pair that replace the bushings you’d typically find at the rear of the shock that improve shock actuation. Torque specs for all pivots are conveniently printed on the hardware.
Additional details include dual-compound frame armor under the down tube and on the chainstay and seatstay, 180mm post mount disc brake tabs, and a nicely concealed direct front derailleur mount. The Rallon also has removable ISCG 05 tabs for riders who want to run a chainguide, and comes stock with a MRP AMG top guide/bash guard installed to protect the SRAM XX1 chainring. A standard threaded bottom bracket is nice to see as it’s much easier to work on and resists creaking over time. There’s about 1.5cm of mud clearance with the stock 2.25-inch Geax tires, which are actually quite massive.
Save the seatpost, Orbea chose to stick with external cable routing that cleanly tracks the top of the down tube. Routing for the RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post also follows the down tube before entering the seat tube.
The Rallon is available in four builds in the US market - the $8,799 X-LTD (tested), $6,999 X-Team, $4,599 X10, and $3,299 X30. Both the X-LTD and X-Team include BOS suspension, while the more affordable options use FOX. Several customization and upgrade options are available in Europe, including suspension, graphics, and colors.
On The Trail
Wanting to push the Rallon hard in variety of different situations, we chose several test loops that encompassed some of Sedona, Arizona’s best segments of trail. We rode a mix of steep, technical climbs and descents, long and rough descents, and fast flowy singletrack mixed in with some slickrock bits and sizable hits. Trails included Slim Shady, Hi-Line, Baldwin, Old Post, Coral Canyon, Ridge, Templeton, HT, and Made in the Shade. We also got in several laps on Brewer trail - a short, fast, rough, and loose descent that wouldn’t be out of place as a stage in a respectable Enduro race.
Grabbing hold of the bars for the first time on our size Medium test sled, we immediately felt the added length of the front end while standing. Seated it’s a different story. Because the seat tube angle is a steep 75/74.5-degrees, the 23.9-inch (606mm) top tube length is manageable even with the long 17.4-inch (442mm) reach. The thinking here is that a long reach will provide greater stability when descending, while the steep seat angle will put the rider in a better climbing/pedaling position. We had three riders try out the Rallon - two at 5’10” and one at 6’0” - and all three felt comfortable on the size Medium frame. Our 5’10” riders opted to swap the stock 50mm stem for a 35mm to reign in the length just a touch, but our 6’0” pinner enjoyed the stock setup. Combined with the 760mm bars, the Rallon felt perfectly suited to our styles.
Almost everything is dialed when it comes to the bike’s geometry. The long reach combined with some of the shortest chainstays in the business make for a very confidence inspiring yet flickable ride. We rode the bike exclusively in the higher of the two geometry adjustment positions as we felt it was plenty low and slack in this position. Given how rocky and pedally the terrain is Sedona, we felt like we’d be clipping pedals far too often if we changed it. This is something Orbea is clearly proud of, as the geo adjustment labels on the frame read “low” and “lower,” which we respect. Even with 170mm length cranks (as opposed to the industry standard 175mm) we were still clipping occasionally.
Pointed downhill, holy moly! The Rallon rallies! The calculated combination of the geometry and BOS suspension really make this bike come alive, and it was truly an eye opening experience for all three of us. It begs to be ridden faster and faster and launch higher and farther, and we never felt as though the bike was overwhelmed. It can be casually ridden as well, although the slack head angle makes it really shine at speed.
Even though it has near World Cup downhill race bike stability through the roughest terrain (yes, it’s that good), if you need to quickly navigate tight switchbacks or wheelie between obstacles it’s surprisingly easy to do thanks to the super short rear end. Though it’s not as responsive as bikes with a shorter wheelbase or steeper head angle, it changes lines with ease and never once felt sketchy in any way. Even in the high setting the bike was dialed, and we can imagine it gets even better in the lowest setting. Frame stiffness is up there with the best of the best with no noticeable flex, wiggles, or play.
This was one of the very rare occasions when we’ve jumped on a new bike and had the confidence to immediately charge rough sections of trails at true race pace. It’s very, very confidence inspiring.
A big part of the bike’s downhill prowess is the rear suspension, and it’s clear that Orbea has taken advantage of being based just a few hours drive from the BOS headquarters. In short, the BOS Kirk rear shock was phenomenal and worked amazingly well over all types of bumps. It was lively and supple off the top, had an amazingly controlled feeling, and ramped up smoothly as you reached bottom. Small bumps, square edge hits, g-outs, chatter, and drops were all absorbed without the slightest complaint. We’d go so far as to say It was one of the best trail shocks we’ve ever ridden, which is in large part due to the efforts by both BOS and Orbea to come up with the perfect tune.
The Kirk shock has external low- and high-speed rebound and compression adjustments that allow for even more fine tuning, though the knobs are quite hard to turn. Our preferred settings were within one or two clicks of those suggested in a BOS tuning guide provided by Orbea.
While the BOS Deville 160mm fork was extremely controlled, it felt over-damped, leading all three testers to ride it with the compression wide open. It had a lot of support when things got gnarly, but not with the same smoothness that the rear had in all conditions. Given more time on the fork (which we’ll have in an upcoming long term Deville review) we’d like to play with reduced air pressures while using the compression adjusters to compensate. On long, rough descents the fork built pressure in the lowers and became harsher, requiring us to burp the pressure from underneath the dust wipers to neutralize the pressure. The fork also had almost no clearance between the top of the tire and arch. On a positive note, it was extremely stiff and features a 20mm axle that most trail forks have gone away from.
At 29.7-pounds, the 160mm travel Rallon is of a respectable weight despite having an aluminum frame. On trail the perception of the bike’s weight is average. Some of this could be due to its very stable nature. It doesn’t have the same snappy feel as some lighter weight options. Even so, it rolls well, carries speed better than most, and never felt overly sluggish.
This bike doesn’t rocket forwards in the same manner as more pedal-minded suspension designs, but it’s still quick under hard efforts. It has a slight amount of bob, but this becomes almost unnoticeable under really big sprinting efforts with no drastic loss of power. The bike just motors forwards smoothly. It has a good amount of anti-squat which also helps with pedaling efforts. Combined with the steep effective seat angle, this gives you a bike that goes up a lot better than the travel and slack head angle would have you expecting.
Techy climbs were enjoyable as we could motor straight up the gnarliest of sections with gobs of traction from the rear suspension and tire. The only real limit was our balance and power, not the bike. Body position was very neutral feeling on climbs, and surprisingly we never once had to fight to keep the front tire down. The low bottom bracket did make it more difficult to time pedals between obstacles, however.
The BOS Kirk rear shock has an easily accessible “pedal efficiency lever” that drastically increases low-speed compression. This helps to minimize bob while pedaling on fire roads, but the extra compression damping was a tad too much for climbing on unpredictable off-road terrain, not that we ever felt it was needed. It feels best when adjusted to the recommended base settings and never touched again.
Complete with BOS suspension, a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post, Race Face cockpit, and SRAM’s XX1 drivetrain and Roam carbon wheels, the Rallon X-LTD is well-equipped for even the most discerning of riders. There wasn’t a single component that wasn’t worthy of this bike, although we’d prefer a different fork, brakes, and tires for the ideal setup. Finding a fork that could match the performance of the BOS Kirk rear shock would be a very tough task, however.
The stock Geax Goma 2.25-inch TNT tires worked decently well with just one flat in the rocky terrain. They were predictable, but lacked the crazy cornering and braking bite that we prefer. Where these tires really excelled was with their smooth rolling and hardpack grip, especially for a more aggressive treaded tire. They also had a huge air volume despite the 2.25-inch size designation. Getting the tires to seat properly in the SRAM Roam carbon wheels was quite difficult, too.
SRAM’s Roam 60 wheels worked flawlessly, rolled smooth, engaged quickly, gave the GEAX tires a good profile, and felt plenty stiff for the job. They also helped keep rotational and unsprung weight down, improving acceleration and suspension performance.
Formula’s T1 Gold brakes with 180mm rotors didn’t impress us with their power or modulation, and we felt that other brakes would help us ride even faster with more control. Despite being almost too grabby at slow speeds, they required a very hard pull to get full power and lacked the brute force to get the job done when moving quickly. We never experienced any fade though, which was a plus. The levers are also not among our favorites ergonomically.
SRAM's XX1 drivetrain worked well with no complaints other than the chainring size. The bike comes with a 28-tooth chainring which we quickly swapped to a 32-tooth for a more speed-friendly gear range. Combined with the MRP AMG top guide, we never dropped a chain.
The bike was extremely quiet with the derailleur’s clutch mechanism and rubber chainstay and seat stay protectors. The only noise that was noticeable was coming from the cables at the front of the bike rattling together. With some zip-ties and/or electrical tape much of this noise could be reduced.
Long Term Durability
The Orbea Rallon is a well put together and solid feeling bike. Combined with the lifetime warranty the frame should last for many years to come.
We did run into three component issues, however. First, the BOS Deville fork had the pressure build up issue previously mentioned. Second, the RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost blew a seal and leaked hydraulic fluid inside the frame. Third, the BOS Kirk shock failed on our fourth outing.
When the shock failed, it began cavitating and lost some of the rebound damping. Curious about what happened and why, we reached out to Orbea, who in turn reached out to BOS:
“We have had good experiences with the Kirk suspension platform for over a year during testing and planning with BOS. The problem seems limited to [pre-production test] bikes as we have not run into it again with production models that are shipping with bikes now.” - Xabier Narbaiza, Orbea MTB Product Manager
“We made a pre-production run of 30 Kirk shocks for the Rallon test bikes. Being finished outside of the normal assembly procedure, these shocks were finished in a hurry and suffered from a lack of proper QC. As the production run is made on the regular assembly line with all the QC checks, it will not happen anymore. And obviously the BOS warranty would cover the issue.” - Jaycee Charrier, BOS OEM Sales Manager
The shock was quickly repaired and has performed without fault since.
What's The Bottom Line?
The 2014 Orbea Rallon X-LTD oozes confidence. It inspires its pilot to push harder all the time and rewards those that oblige. Rough and chunky terrain are where it excels most, but it’s no slouch elsewhere. We'd be hard pressed to find a trail that the Rallon would struggle to rally. It’s a good, not great climber, but it more than makes up for this with its descending capabilities. We haven’t thrown a leg over many bikes in the last few years that felt as comfortable and eager so quickly. The geometry works very well, the rear suspension is dialed, and the spec is close to perfect.
With a different fork that could match the suppleness and amazing control of the rear shock you’d have one beast of a bike. Add in some more powerful brakes and more aggressive tires and you could probably put most downhill bikes to shame. Even with the component issues we had, it was among the best all-mountain/trail/enduro bikes we’ve ever tested. Slightly different components and a better price point would make the Rallon a five star ride.
Orbea knocked the ball out of the park with this one, and we’d recommend the Rallon to any aggressive rider. It’s a great ride, especially if you live for the descents.
Visit www.orbea.com for more details.
About The Reviewers
John Hauer - In 13 years of riding, John has done it all and done it well. Downhill, 4X, Enduro, XC, cyclocross... you name it. He spent 7 years as the head test rider for a major suspension company, averages 15-20 hours of saddle time per week, and is extremely picky when it comes to a bike's performance. And yeah, he freakin’ loves Strava.
Evan Turpen - Evan has been racing mountain bikes as a Pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most.
Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.