The Spanish marque Orbea has been less than high profile here in the USA. Aside from the short travel end of the family nabbing plenty of XC podiums beneath the powerhouse Luna Pro Team, Orbea sightings in the wild haven't been that common, especially where the longer travel bikes are concerned. As such, and in spite of Travis Engel's high praise during a summertime preview test ride, we approached the strikingly styled and vibrantly orange, 150-millimeter travel, 29-inch wheeled Rallon Team with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. By the numbers, it is at the long and slack end of the current trend toward long and slack, with a flip-chip adjustable head angle between 65.5- and 65-degrees, and a corresponding 76- or 75.5-degree seat angle. Our size Large test bike sported an almost 48-inch (1,217-millimeter) wheelbase, but with a sensible-ish reach of 455 millimeters. A curvaceous carbon fiber frame with a subtle asymmetry around the rear shock features a very Split-Pivot-esque suspension design, with a Fox Float X2 Factory shock doing the business out back while a burly, 160-millimeter travel 36 Float Factory handles things up front.
These components combined with those numbers would lend a betting person to slap his or her money on 'plow' and roll the dice. And that would be a good bet. This is a bike that plows with the best of them. Point it down any line, let go of the brakes, and laugh. Stable as a battleship cutting through a glassy sea. But there's a twist. The Rallon is also a remarkably agile, surprisingly fun bike to ride. It is responsive. It is nimble. It can be flicked from line to line, has uncanny balance, and it climbs with a comfortable ease that bikes this big, this slack, this long, really shouldn't. The suspension ate up everything in its path, from small chatter to big dumb splat to flat landings and poorly estimated cases, yet still provided an efficient platform from which to mash up hills.The spec fitted on our mighty spendy test bike was hard to fault, although at this price one might want to see some carbon rims instead of the nonetheless high-quality DT Swiss EX-1501 30-millimeter wide hoops. However, for some additional coin, these can be changed, as can much of the rest of the componentry. In this case, buyers can select different wheels, brakes, cranks, saddles, and shock, choose between three stock colors, or enter a custom order that offers 21 base frame colors, 21 secondary frame colors, 20 detail colors, four Orbea logo colors, 19 color options for the 'Rallon' decal, and a custom name decal. Please make mine Gloss Black, Gloss Black, Matte Black, Matte Black, Matte Black, with a Matte Black decal that says "Blackisthe Newblack."
Q&A with Jordan Hukee, creative director at Orbea
The asymmetry around the shock mount makes for a very striking looking frame. Functionally, can you explain the advantages of this (beyond the aesthetic)?
The asymmetry addresses directional forces of the suspension--the goal is to tie the shock ends together to reduce stresses (if you think about forces that are trying to push the front mount forward and the seat tube mount backward) so we wanted a frame member neutralizing those forces. A shock tunnel would have worked, but it’s bulky and a single strut is lighter. By moving the shock over, we accomplished a few things:
1. The strut is straighter and more inline with the frame, making it stiffer.
2. The shock and frame share more of the standover space, lowering the top tube and allowing a bottle.
3. It looks bitchin’!
Can you walk a potential customer through the custom 'MyO' ordering process--how long does it take, how much does it cost, how many total permutations are there?
The total number of options varies by bike, but if you really get down to colors and spec it’s got to be over 10,000 variations for most models. The cost of painting the frame is included, you only pay if you select components that cost more than the suggested build. And, of course, if you select less expensive components, your bike can get cheaper than the shown MSRP. As far as timing, the Rallon is backed up right now because it’s a brand-new model selling far beyond our expectations, but we’re getting it back under control now. The MyO model is far more custom than our competitor’s 'bike in a box' so we have to work hard to make sure riders know it takes time. The bike is only put in the system when you order, so we aim for 6 weeks if everything is in stock. Sometimes there are troubles with vendors (like Dura-Ace disc this year!) that can put a wrench in things, but 85 percent of the time, we delivered in under 6 weeks last year. We’ve added another entire assembly line just for MyO, so we hope to deliver in under 6 weeks 90 to 95 percent of the time by the end of 2018.
3. This is a whole lot of bike, big wheels, long and slack, tons of travel. Does Orbea position this as an enduro competition rig first and foremost, or is it a burly terrain bike suitable for everyman--who is the Rallon’s ideal customer?
Everything about this bike is aimed at a racer or guy who wants to put the hurt on his buddies going down. Since real life means we’re climbing a lot, we don’t make bikes that can’t go uphill. The steep seat angle is the single biggest aspect (in our opinion) for making a bike like Rallon a good climber. We fiddle with main pivot point and anti-squat of course, but the rider position makes the biggest difference. On the DH end, we really jumped feet first with the Cesar Rojo philosophy of long, low and slack with the Rallon R4, but with the R5 getting big wheels we didn’t go much further--we felt like we’d found a nice balance point between stability and fun … we only went about 5- to 8-millimeters longer in reach on this new model and we lengthened chainstays not because we couldn’t fit the wheel but because we were enjoying the more centered feel that the 435mm stays delivered.
Customer Part Two--Is it an everyman bike? Well, you know that probably 80 percent of Rallons (and Nomads) are probably sold to guys that don’t need that much capability, but the Rallon really doesn’t feel like it makes many compromises, so it goes a long way to filling that niche. For some people, it will be a quiver killer. For me, living in Park City, I still like a 25-pound ripper with a 68-degree head angle for the smooth trails, but the Rallon is right at home down south in the desert.