In 2014 when Orbea launched the Rallon R4, it was a pretty revolutionary bike with its long, low and slack geometry. Since then other manufacturers have gradually adopted the new-school enduro geometry and the Rallon no longer stands out as one of the extreme bikes on the market. If the R4 Rallon was revolutionary then the new Rallon is definitely evolutionary with Orbea opting to tweak the existing bike rather than offer any major redesign. I´m lucky enough to have put in lots of miles on both the 2014, R4 Orbea Rallon and then new 2016 bike. Read on to see how I have been getting on with the bike…
R4 Orbea Rallon (2014 Bike)
Before talking about the new bike, it´s worth putting down a few thoughts on the older bike to set the scene. I have ridden and raced the R4 Rallon through the Pyrenees mountains for the last couple of years and have been very impressed with the bike. Orbea set out to break into the burgeoning Enduro scene and rather than play it safe they went out on a limb and made a very long, low and slack bike without a carbon frame option. It was a move that could have failed spectacularly but the bike gained rave reviews across the international press.
When it comes to going very fast the R4 Rallon was a great tool, it is very fast and stable but maintains its maneuverability, possibly due to its low center of gravity and short chainstays. I have ridden all the models but the BOS equipped bike is definitely the fastest and the BOS damping really makes sense when you ride near your limit. If you aren´t such an aggressive rider then the FOX suspension is really good and maybe a bit more supple at lower speeds. I have had zero problems with the Rallon despite putting 1000s of kms on the bike on very technical terrain in the Pyrenees. The only issue I have had is with the BOS forks and the carbon Raceface cranks, more on that below.
New Orbea Rallon (2016 Bike)
Frame / Design
The Orbea Rallon hasn´t changed much this year as we have already mentioned. The biggest change is the switch to a Boost 148 rear end, no doubt a new standard that has irritated many riders. I include myself in that statement to be totally honest. However, the Boost 148 has let Orbea keep the short chainstays but improve mud clearance, it has also increased the already impressive stiffness of the frame – something you can definitely feel when you are pushing hard on the bike. The Boost-148 has definitely improved the Orbea Rallon, and despite the fact that it´s another standard, I find myself being a big fan.
The bottom bracket graph is a bit confusing because some manufacturers specify BB drop and others height. Basically it goes from low on the left to higher on the right. The Orbea Rallon features twice to show the two BB height settings.
While much of the bike remains unchanged, Orbea updated the geometry of the Rallon slightly. They have basically lengthened out the top tube by 5mm and slackened the head angle by 0.5º but it has made a big difference to the frame, especially the head angle change. To explain why we need to talk about the geometry change chip on the Rallon. On the R4 and the new Rallon you can change the geometry by swapping the position of a chip in the upper shock mount. You need an allen key to do it but it takes around 1 minute on the trail. It slackens the head angle by 0.5º and drops the BB by 7mm. On the previous R4 I tended to keep the bike in the lower setting because I preferred the head angle, but it meant I had to learn how to ride the bike to avoid pedal strikes due to the low BB. The new bike I tend to keep in the higher setting, which has the same head angle as the old bikes “low” setting. This makes the geometry change way more usable because, for me, both settings now make perfect sense on different trails. I tend to run in the higher setting but find myself changing into the lower setting for a day of downhilling or if I know I´m riding a particularly gnarly, pedal-free track.
One thing I mentioned in my old review of the R4 Rallon was that the rear suspension needed careful tuning to set up properly. The shock curve on the 2014 bike is very linear which made it tricky to set up and I found that I needed to run a lot of high speed compression damping to stop the bike bottoming out regularly but not so much so that the rear end became harsh. It was a fine balance point. The new bike has a more progressive shock rate, meaning that you don´t need to worry about bottoming out as much and can run the shock a bit softer with less high speed compression damping. I find that the overall suspension feel isn´t very different from the previous bike, however it definitely makes setting the shock up much easier.
Other changes on the bike are more subtle. Orbea made the front derailleur mount removable so you can run 1 x 11 tidily, and they now offer 1 x 11 on the top two models. The cable routing has been tidied up keeping the brake hoses external for ease, and all the bolts have the torque settings etched on them. Nice touches! Orbea also lengthened the head tube slightly because the feedback from riders and racers was that they were all running spacers under the stem. The new turquoise colour is beautiful and definitely less exhibitionist than the old yellow one, although you can still have yellow if you want flash!
The most obvious components to talk about are the BOS suspension units which Orbea offer on their top of the range bike, the X-Team as tested. The BOS KIRK shock works amazingly well and I have never had a problem with it. It is easy to set up, tuneable and performs really well in conjunction with the Orbea Rallon´s rear end. The BOS DEVILLE fork also performs really well, however I have had one problem where the fork lost travel on the first ride and had to be returned to BOS to replace a seal. The replacement fork performs perfectly and I have put lots of time on it without any issues. The BOS suspension definitely prefers to go fast, and when you use it aggressively the performance is impressive. It offers a lot of support and the damping is very controlled, especially on bigger hits. With the new suspension curve of the Rallon it is definitely easier to set up the shock than on the older bike which needed a fine balance of pressure and high speed compression damping to get the best out of it.
I haven´t tested the FOX version of the new Rallon so I can´t comment on it. On the old R4 I found that the FOX worked well, it just wasn´t as controlled as the BOS damping when things got a bit rowdy.
The DT Swiss Spline E-1700 TLR wheels perform really well. They are quite stiff and strong and I haven´t managed to put a ding in one yet. I don´t like the free hub as much as the Mavic wheels which were on the old bike, as there is too much rotation before it engages, but it´s something you get used to. As soon as Mavic bring out their 148 wheels I will swap over.
The 1×11 transmission is fantastic on the bike. I had to change the 28t chainring for a bigger ring, but I really like the fact that Orbea have specced a Shimano drivetrain as I find that the multiple downshift really makes the 1×11 drivetrain work for me. With the SRAM shifters it takes too long for me to find a harder gear and I´m never going to be a grip shifter.
The raceface components are a mixed bag. The handlebars are perfect and look amazing and I love the grips. I have broken a set of the super lightweight Next SL cranks though, after 4 weeks of heavy use. They broke where the metal inserts for the axle bonds into the carbon. The failure was completely non catastrophic and I can still ride them because the non-drive-side crank is held in place by the bolt but they wobble a lot as you pedal. I´ve put on an XT crankset and am much happier. I don´t know exactly when the failure happened but I had a very big crash during the Spanish leg of the Enduro World Series and if I´m honest it could have happened there.
The stealth Rockshox Reverb is fantastic and works great for me. On older bikes with non-stealth Reverb´s I have had problems where the hydraulic hose connects to the top of the post but the Stealth model gets rid of this problem completely.
Models / Options
The 2016 Rallon is 27.5” and aluminium only. Orbea claim that they don´t save much weight with carbon and the lower cost of the aluminium means that they can spec better components at their price point. There are 3 models of Rallon, the X-Team, X10 and X30. This review focuses on the top of the range X-Team which retails at $5,999 / €5199 and comes with 1×11 Shimano drivetrain, DT Swiss Spline E-1700 TLR wheels, Raceface carbon finishing kit and the BOS suspension.
Orbea allow you to change the specification on any of these models when you order. You can see all the options over on www.orbea.com
Riding The Orbea Rallon 2016
The bike rides amazingly, lets just get that out there up front. If you don´t read any other part of this review that will tell you all you need to know. It is unashamedly a bike orientated towards going fast, however it´s not a one trick pony and the frame is agile and loves tight twisty singletrack. You need to think a bit more about the tightest of tight switchbacks but the Rallon never feels unmanageable, probably because of the inherent stability of the bike. The BOS suspension feels best when you are going fast, at lower speeds it performs well but never dazzles. When you really start to push the bike you will have a few moments where you are laughing out loud at how much the suspension and super stiff frame lets you get away with.
I have been riding the Rallon daily for the past 4 months and haven´t had any niggles apart from the teething problems with the BOS fork and the crank problem. The frame is perfect and the paint is still perfect, definitely something that Orbea does really well.
Orbea Rallon 2016 vs 2014
Is the new bike better than the old bike? The answer is yes, it is but not massively so. Orbea have got around the one niggle with the old bike, tire clearance. The new suspension is a lot easier to set up, although ultimately not that different to the older bike. The colour is nicer, if that´s important for you and the cable routing is a bit better. The Shimano 1×11 option is fantastic. It´s not a massive difference, it´s evolutionary as I said at the start of this article, but the new bike has made an already fantastic design just that little bit more polished.