Just like every morning of my eighth grade school year, the story of the new Orbea Rallon started with some pretty tough geometry. Most notably, it's made the switch to 29-inch wheels. Not as an option, not only in large sizes, but all-in and across the board.
It's still got 160 millimeters up front, and dropped to 150 out back, but there's no question it's ready to jump into the pit with the rest of today's modern long-travel 29ers. And by the looks of it, it's coming out swinging. It has a lower bottom bracket and slacker head angle than the Specialized Enduro, the Trek Slash, and even the Evil Wreckoning. The Rallon (Orbea is a Spanish company, so say "ra-YON") will be getting closely compared to these bikes as riders start to take notice of this unassuming newcomer to the category.
You can steepen the head angle and raise the bottom bracket with a pair of flip chips at the lower shock eyelet, but I don't see why you would. In a (quite literally) forward-thinking move, Orbea gave the Rallon a 75.5-degree seat angle in its low setting. That's a half degree steeper than the steepest of the three bikes I just mentioned.
Among its many updates this year, that was probably my favorite. On the blisteringly hot L.A. day I spent climbing through the San Gabriel mountains on the Rallon, I needed all the help I could get. I sat higher in the travel, got more power to the pedal, and felt more comfortable in the saddle. When seated on flat terrain, the cockpit did feel short, but not in a way that affected my ability to cover ground. And the moment I would get out of my seat, the bike would immediately feel natural. Plus, when crouching over the rear wheel down steep sections, the saddle would sit a little further out of the way. It also helped that each Rallon model is available with the tunability of a Float X2 shock. Once I got all my dials dialed, the Rallon climbed like a mid-travel trail bike. The suspension is plenty active and never wallowed while pedaling.
With respect to pedaling, the linkage is relatively simple. The Rallon uses what Orbea calls Concentric Boost, which places a pivot around the rear axle similar to Trek's ABP and Dave Weagle's Split Pivot. It cuts down on redundant hardware, and its designers claim it keeps the suspension more active under braking loads. The logic behind the brake-jack claim is sound, but I'll confess I've never noticed my suspension tracking better while braking on any one linkage over another. Likewise while pedaling, Concentric Boost offers no fancy axle path and no elaborate anti-squat characteristics beyond those of any other well-designed single pivot linkage. But it does simplify a variable in controlling the drivetrain's force on the shock and allows for easier tuning of leverage rates and curves during frame development.
And the frame definitely got developed this year. A few clever details stood out like the adjustable preload on the high-stress rocker link pivot bearing and a soon-to-be released gear caddy that will bolt to the seat tube. The shock is offset slightly to the drive side, leaving room for a bit more standover and a bit larger bottle, which gets mounted slightly offset to the non-drive side. Also, the Rallon is now full carbon, and it wouldn't be the same without it.
It's got some beastly numbers, and there's no question it can plow. But the reasonable weight and finely tuned ride keeps it lively. Orbea took care to keep it from being stiff as a board, which I actually think is a matter of preference. I for one would accept a little more bounce from off-center rear wheel impacts if it meant I could force the tire into a skid with less hesitation. But I'm probably a minority, and I probably shouldn't skid so much anyway. And the Rallon strikes a decent balance. The rear end stayed calm when straightlining through no-flow rock gardens, and the well-thought-out frame is partly to thank for that.
The Rallon isn't the clandestine DH bike that the Wreckoning or, at times, even the Slash is, but it's more playful and definitely more efficient than either of them. In that respect, I'd even compare it to bikes like the Yeti SB5.5, though the Rallon is noticeably more capable in the rough, steep stuff. I live for the rough, steep stuff, and the low, slack Rallon is perfect there. I ran a 35-millimeter stem on my XL, and it was comforting to keep so much distance between my weight and the front wheel. And one unique edge it has over any of these bikes is customization. Like, not just the option of a Float X2 or DHX2. Deep customization, down to the color combination on the frame.
The new way of doing things
Orbea is a relatively small brand. In fact, they're structured as a co-op. The frames are manufactured in Asia, but all the painting and assembly is done in Spain. You can buy one off the shelf at an Orbea dealer, or if you can wait two months, you can order one in hundreds of color combinations and even more component configurations. Want X01 Eagle and XTR brakes? Fine. Want a DHX2 Factory rear shock and a Rotor oval chainring? Go for it. Start from one of three base price points and add whatever you want. The pricing structure is simple and clear, and it doesn't add up to near what you'd pay if you built one up from scratch.
Letting go of the Rallon after our short day together was not easy. There was so much left undone. How big of a day could I do on it? How's it behave in the park? What would it be like with a coil shock? The new Rallon has the potential to be a lot of different things, and we have a feeling you'll be seeing a lot of different Rallons.