We spent a year thrashing the cheaper Orbea Rallon X30, and loved it. Can the flagship X-Team raise the bar even higher?
Launched in 2014, Orbea’s Rallon X-Team marked a major change in direction for the XC-focused Spanish brand. Designed in conjunction with Simon Andre, an accomplished elite downhill racer, only the model name and concentric dropout pivot survived the redesign. Travel was boosted to 160mm and the main pivot was raised to give a more rearward axle path to enable the suspension to better handle square-edge hits. The leverage rate was also smoothed out to produce a more stable suspension response.
It wasn’t just a suspension tweak though. The frame length also grew by 25mm, the head angle got slacker and the BB dropped by 22mm to 337mm in the ‘extra low’ setting. All in, it’s a very different proposition to its predecessor.
Orbea sweated the details, too. The geometry can be adjusted in less than a minute by flipping the asymmetric shock bolt. Cable routing is also exemplary; small guides on the chainstay allow the gear outer to slide freely without rubbing the frame as the suspension compresses. All of the hardware is top-notch and while needing an Allen key to remove the rear axle is inconvenient, it does eliminate the risk of smashing a QR lever on a rock or stump.
Having an adjustable BB height provides a much larger window of set-up options. Say you wanted to run the rear suspension softer for extra grip, you could put the geometry in the high setting, let some air out of the shock, and the resulting dynamic BB height will remain unchanged. It’s a great feature, and when you factor in the three-way damping adjustments on the Bos Kirk shock and Deville fork, you can fine-tune the set-up on the Orbea to match any track or riding style.
We welcomed the shift to a 1×11 drivetrain for 2015, but the DT Swiss wheels don’t feel as reactive as the Mavic CrossMax Enduros they replaced. Still, DT Swiss hub-bearings will undoubtedly last longer, and we won’t be mourning the loss of the semi-slick Mavic Roam XL rear tyre.
Selecting XTR Trail brakes from the upgrade options added a whopping £300 to the price tag, and it was a choice that we would instantly regret. The latest generation XTR brakes have two distinct bite-points, one close to the bar when you first pull the lever, but when you release it slightly it moves further out. If you release the lever fully the whole process starts over. It’s incredibly frustrating, so even though the stock Formula brakes feel wooden and lack sufficient lever reach adjustment, at least they offer consistent stopping power.
Our first ride on the Orbea Rallon X-Team was at the bike’s launch in Finale, Italy. Immediately beforehand we’d raced the Enduro World Series on what we thought was a finely tuned race weapon. Two corners in, it become clear that the Orbea was superior. We were bowled over.
That was almost a year and a half ago, and nothing since then has taken the shine off this bike. The Bos Kirk shock has proved the perfect match for Orbea’s suspension platform, offering stacks of grip and super-stable handling, while not being so over-damped as to suck the life out of the ride. It’s been reliable too.
In the extra low geometry setting you’re very aware of the proximity of your pedals to the ground, and often you can feel the heels of your shoes dragging in the dirt when cornering. Being so low on the bike really boosts confidence on high-speed technical terrain, but if you’re uncomfortable with the lack of pedal clearance, or need extra room to manoeuvre on rocky technical climbs, you can raise the BB and steepen the head angle. Climbing proficiency can be improved further by flicking the lever on the side of the shock to the firm setting; it’s no lockout though.
Photographs: Rupert Fowler
Orbea has left no stone unturned in its pursuit of speed. Frame construction and quality on the Rallon X-Team are first rate; the bike has incredible balance, yet it remains agile, and the suspension response is more neutral than Switzerland. Yes, the latest generation of Shimano XTR brakes proved problematic, but we chose that ‘upgrade’ ourselves and they still weren’t enough to detract from the bigger picture. The bottom line is that the Orbea Rallon X-Team is one of the most accomplished 650b enduro bikes on the market.