Racing Heritage Hits The Trail
American riders think of Orbea as the brand that Julien Absalon rides.
The most dominant modern day cross-country racer in the world has made
the name Orbea synonymous with superior high-speed, cross country
weaponry: hardtail weaponry. Now that’s great if you are a cross-country
racer, but where does it leave the rest of us? Orbea, a Spanish
company, understands this and offers the Rallon trailbike platform.
Handy helper: We found to get the most out of the Rallon 30, the rider
has to become very familiar with the shock’s ProPedal lever. This is not
a set-it-and-forget-it suspension.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Rallons are trailbikes in the classic sense. They are
made for riders who would never dream of shuttling a hill but still
want to let it hang out on the downhills. These riders want a bike that
doesn’t beat them up on long rides but still keeps them in touch with
the trail. These are riders who attack technical sections. In other
words, these bikes are made for the vast majority of mountain bikers.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Rallon’s hydroformed aluminum frame is backed with a lifetime
warranty. The gusset-less frame uses box-section tubing everywhere but
on the seat tube and tapered head tube. The result is an
industrial-strength look that appears boxy and is all business. The
suspension’s pivots swing on sealed bearings, and the hardware is etched
with recommended torque settings. The asymmetrical swingarm has
replaceable dropouts, and Orbea outfits the frame with cable guides
under the top tube should you decide to add an adjustable-height
seatpost. The Rallon is available in four models: from the $3299 Rallon 50 to the
$5999 Rallon X10. They all use the same frame and are distinguished by
the component group selected for each model.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Rallon 30 could be dubbed the Rallon Shimano as it uses their new
3x10 drivetrain and Shimano components pretty much throughout the bike.
Orbea specs 175-millimeter cranks on the large and X-large frames
(170-millimeter cranks on the smaller models) to better fit big riders.
The Fox RP23 shock is fitted with an extra volume air canister. Finally,
the Selle Italia SL T1 saddle, with its shiny black cover, is
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The setup: The Rallon 30 runs the Fox shock upside down (the
ProPedal lever pointing upward), so remember that in this case, the
ProPedal is engaged when the blue lever is pushed away from the
chainring side of the bike. With the ProPedal in the off position, set
the rear suspension for 20-percent sag, and then do the same for the
fork. You are ready to go.
Moving out: While the handlebars feel slightly narrow, don’t
worry, Orbea doesn’t expect the Rallon rider to be stretched out like
their star, Julien. Instead, the rider is positioned in a fairly upright
position with his weight biased toward the front of the bike. With the
shock’s ProPedal option on, the bike accelerates nicely without
noticeable pedaling induced suspension movement. The bike does, however, bob noticeably with the ProPedal off or in its
softest setting. The bike feels lighter than its almost 30-pound weight.
The slim frame and stays never make contact with the rider.
Hammering: Again, the ProPedal must be engaged when powering
down a trail. The rear end is laterally stiff, and this means that when
you put down the effort, it doesn’t lose anything in the translation to
forward momentum. The low top tube allows you to whip the bike without
making leg contact.
Cornering: If you want fast-twitch steering, Orbea offers
plenty of bikes with cross-country racing geometry. The Rallon slows
things down with a slack front end that makes cornering a fairly slow
proposition. Slowing things down even more is the bike’s long wheelbase.
The Rallon doesn’t slice-and-dice corners; it arcs through them.
Climbing: The same flex-free traits that we liked while
hammering the Rallon come into play on the climbs. The 3x10 drivetrain
on 26-inch-wheeled bikes is sweet, because there always seems to be that
extra gear needed to clear the top of a climb. You are already biased
forward, so there is no need to slide to the saddle’s nose for the steep
stuff. You do not want to use the fork’s travel reducer for climbs,
because a phantom drive-train drag is evident when the fork is in the
low rider position and the granny gear is driving the chain.
Descending: Be sure to remember to turn off the ProPedal before hitting the slopes.
This allows the rear suspension to fall into its travel and slightly
slackens the head tube angle. Even with the extra volume air-canister
shock, the rear suspension delivers a noticeable jolt when pegging
square-edged bumps. You need to get light or pick a smoother line to
carry your speed.
Braking: The rear suspension firms under braking, so it is best
to scrub speed before or after rolling the bumps into a corner. The
bike has a tendency to dive under braking, so the rider needs to keep
his weight back.
Sunny Spain: One strong head tube.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Flipping the stem to give it a 10-degree rise will help move the rider’s
weight closer to a balanced position. If that isn’t enough, a higher
rise bar that is a bit wider would benefit the Rallon rider while
descending, or during hard braking. The Rallon’s shock valving could use
some mid-stroke fine tuning—not something you can do without the help
of a suspension shop like Push Industries, Hippie Tech Suspension or
Isotuned. We found it too firm, and that translates into taking harsh
hits or living with a rear end that feels too high.
The Rallon has a distinct European flavor. That means pedaling
efficiency takes precedence over downhill proficiency. That’s pretty
much the opposite of what the American rider wants, which is to survive
the climb so that he can make like Aaron Gwin on the descents. If
climbing and pedaling performance are more your trail-riding focus, the
Rallon 30 gets it done if you are willing to take full advantage of the
shock’s ProPedal feature.
For more Information: Orbea Bicycles
Reprinted from the June 2011 issue of Mountain Bike Action Magazine