The Orbea Rallon has changed a lot since its launch in 2013, and the new version features plenty of geometry and frame updates for getting rowdy when things get rough and steep
rbea The new Orbea Rallon will be ripping it up on the EWS circuit this year piloted by Martin Maes. We swung a leg over it to see how it stacks up against the best enduro bikes on sale now.
Need to know
- Updated Rallon platform has moved with the times. Longer, lower and slacker.
- Geometry designed around a 170mm fork.
- Rear suspension delivers 160mm, where the progression rate has been increased to work with coil shock and larger volume air shocks like the Fox Float X2
- Internal downtube storage has been added
- Three 29er options and one Mullet, but with MyO personalization it’s easy to customise your build
- Now available in four frame sizes
Evolution of the Orbea Rallon
It’s October 2013, and I’m wandering around Finale Ligure, Italy, in a daze. I can’t for the life of me remember why I was there. All I recall is Steve Jones from Dirt magazine asking me if I was attending the Orbea launch. I replied no, as MBR hadn’t been invited. I promptly became his plus one and the party got underway.
The reason for the end of season festivities? Everyone was gathered to celebrate the launch of the new Rallon R4, a 160mm travel enduro bike with a revised suspension layout and 27.5in wheels. Well, it was almost 10 years ago.
Well, it was almost 10 years ago
Two things really struck me about that bike. The first was how good the low BB height felt as it increased stability and confidence. The second was how effective the suspension was – the combination of the custom tuned Bos Kirk shock, concentric rear axle pivot and longer shock link giving the bike unparalleled tracking and control. I left Finale impressed that the more traditional XC brand for the Basque country had produced such a formidable enduro race bike.
Fast forward to 2017 and Orbea launched the next round of revisions, updates that include the switch to 29in wheels, a side-arm frame design, similar to, but not a copy of a Specialized, and a much shorter rocker link to actuate the shock. The low and lower BB heights remained, but the suspension feel had changed a lot on the Rallon R5, the bike less planted and plush, with a greater emphasis on pedalling performance.
Obviously I wasn’t the only one that noticed the difference as Orbea then followed that up in 2019 with the Rally On linkage that boosted travel on the rear by 10mm to 160mm, and increased the progression rate from 8% to 20%.
Frame and geometry
So what’s new about the 2022 Rallon R6? The biggest differences are the updates that Orbea has made to the sizing and geometry. As such the BB height is a hair lower still, the reach numbers have grown on all four frame sizes and the seat tube heights have shrunk.
In fact, Orbea has added 30mm to the reach on the size L, which brings it pretty much inline with the XL Rallon R5 that I tested back in 2018. I’d like to think I was ahead of the curve, but Orbea was simply behind the times with its sizing. Not any more.
It has also increased the chainstay length on all four frame sizes from 435mm to 440mm to better balance weight distribution with the longer front ends. That’s right, Orbea now offers a size small Rallon. Best of all, the latest Rallons all have relatively short seat tube lengths (435mm size L), but the frame layout retains good seat post insertion depth, 350mm on the L, 330mm on size S and M. So there’s no issues running longer dropper posts.
I was somewhat confused then that our test bike came with a 150mm Fox Transfer post, when given the amount of post above the seat collar I could comfortably have run a 200mm post. Orbea’s website states that the bike should have a 175mm post, which would be ideal for a really wide range of rider heights*.
The final tweak to the geometry is a 1.5º increase in the effective seat tube angle which, combined with the longer chain stays, improves the seated position for climbing. There’s also a dedicated shock extender link for running an MX/Mullet set up. The link corrects the geometry for the smaller 27.5in rear wheel but forgoes the geometry adjust feature.
Orbea has also added integrated downtube storage that it’s dubbed LockR and there’s even a multi-tool that stows neatly into the rocker link pivot. Both additions feel like an exercise in box ticking though. The cutaway in the downtube measures a mere 120x30mm, making it the smallest I’ve come across and over 50% smaller than Specialized’s SWAT offering. As such, you’ll struggle to get anything more than an inner tube through the hatch.
As for the multi-tool that’s tucked into the frame, it comes with 2, 3, 4 and 5mm hex keys. I used it to straighten the stem, and was then perplexed as to why the tool wouldn’t fold up again to go back into the frame. Yes, you guessed it, it was bent beyond repair. So while Orbea’s integrated storage and tools are a nice idea, you’d be much better off with a OneUp EDC Lite tool in your fork steerer and a Backcountry Research strap or similar wrapped around the downtube.
How it rides
Recently I’ve ridden a lot of enduro bikes that have 480mm, or thereabouts, reach measurements. The size L Rallon is no different…at least not on paper. Sling a leg over the low-slung top tube and the Rallon feels smaller than the numbers suggest. The reason? I think it’s down to the relatively low BB height.
Let me try to explain. Reach is closely related to Stack height. All else being equal, if you increase the Stack height you reduce the reach measurement because the top of the head tube comes back towards the rider. Much in the same way that raising your stem height makes a bike feel shorter.
Now, let’s look at it from a different perspective. Lowering the BB height does not change the reach but it does increase the Stack, which in turn alters the relationship between the position of the rider’s feet and hands. So if you run your regular bar height on the Rallon the bike will feel smaller. In fact, lowering the stem height made a marked difference to the feel of the bike. All of which is purely academic as the size L Rallon feels very well balanced, if not massive.
And while the overall suspension layout hasn’t changed dramatically from the previous version, subtle changes to the pivot locations give the latest Rallon a more rearward initial axle path. Orbea has also increased the leverage rate/progression and added slightly more anti-squat. And thanks to the increased progression and extra travel the Rallon feels more capable than before, even if it doesn’t pedal as well.
That’s pretty much always the trade-off however, and it’s one that’s made the Rallon a better enduro race bike. There’s a ride quality to the carbon Rallon frame that’s very forgiving. It’s reassuringly solid without being overly stiff. And while it’s not the slackest enduro bike I’ve ridden, the 64º makes it really easy to keep the front end weighted on flatter trails.
If I were going to race the Rallon tomorrow, is there anything I’d change? Yes, I’d probably fit a set of alloy wheels*, or at the very least wheels with thicker gauge spokes than the Race Face Turbine R carbon wheels that come stock. I’d also upgrade the Maxxis EXO+ casing rear tyre to a Double Down casing.
Why? Well I’ve just remembered why I was walking around Finale in a daze. Two days of practice and two day of “racing” at the EWS with 5 flats in total taught me a valuable lesson about trying to save weight on a 29er enduro bike. To my credit though, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t even get a Double Down casing 29er tyres back in 2013. So it’s one option I’d like to see Orbea add to its MyO customisation program.
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*Edit: Orbea has been in touch to say that the Rallon M-Team we received was not built to production specification and that the wheels and dropper post will be different on production bikes.