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Reviews > Orbea Rallon R5 2018 Review

Orbea Rallon R5 review
Orbea Rallon R5 review. Testing the new 29" enduro mountain bike from Orbea bicycles.

Orbea Rallon R5 Mountain Bike Review

photos thanks to Matt Wragg

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Intro

The new Orbea Rallon R5 was launched in July and, taking a break from running our mountain bike holidays, basqueMTB were there to help organise the press launch. More on that below. I managed to get a couple of weeks of riding on the bike before the launch and after the launch I was lucky enough to keep the bike for over a month and put lots more miles on it. The interest in the bikes has been pretty huge and I´ve received lots of of emails asking for my opinion of the bike and how it compares to the R4 Rallon and the Occam, so I thought that I should write a review and share my thoughts on the bike. Have a look at the “disclaimer” at the end of this article and I will explain my links with Orbea and how that does or doesn´t affect what I would write.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Jump to the details

I have tried to keep to the key points but there are a lot of words here, if you would rather just jump straight to the key sections you are interested in then you can use the links here.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Design

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Suspension

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Geometry

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Components

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Design

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: How It Rides

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Standout Points

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Conclusions

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: The Launch

You might have seen some of the coverage of the launch in the Pyrenees earlier this year. I was lucky enough to guide the whole trip and it was a serious test of the bike and one of the hardest, and best, 8 days I´ve ever spent on a bike. Day 1 was pretty standard press launch fare and we rode some of the best trails in the Benasque Valley with uplift support. These are trails we guide our guests on regularly and I know them well. We rode well over 4000m of descent, which might not sound a lot in terms of bike parks but trust me that for these types of trails it is a long, tough day. The trails were hugely varied, really letting the journalists get a feel for the bike and by the end of day 1 people had the bikes set up properly and most had formed a strong opinion of the bike.

It was day 2 which really pushed the limits and took the press camp to the next level. We were shuttled from our hotel at just before 8am, up into a beautiful valley on the French – Spanish border. From there we had an hour of walking, with our bikes “shuttled” up the vertiginous mountain path by a team of hardy, and well treated, mules, before we reached a crack in the wall of the Pyrenees. This was the start of our trail and we gingerly picked our way down some hugely exposed, technical mountain singletrack, descending well over a vertical kilometre with plenty of tight switchbacks taking us to the valley below. This trail blew the minds of some of our testers, they´d never ridden this sort of track before, and it was also a massive test for the bikes. I mean who designs a long and slack 29″ bike and then gets people to test it on the tightest switchbacks that they can find!

After the descent we had a long, technical climb before another tight descent to lunch. After an atypically decent French lunch there was a surprise as we were picked up by a helicopter, taken across the highest mountains in the pyrenees and dropped off at nearly 3000m, almost 2000m above our hotel. From there we had a big mountain descent that I know well, although when I have done it I carried my bike for around 6 hours to get there! The trail led all the way to the hotel where we arrived laughing, exhausted and reaching for a cold beer! I repeated this 4 times with different groups of journalists.

Why am I focussing so much on the press launch in this review? What has it got to do with the bike? There are two things for me. Firstly it really demonstrates the aspirations Orbea have for the bike and the confidence in their product. This was NOT easy terrain and a lot of the journalists suffered technically, physically and mentally. It was a massive risk and I think that the launch matches the bike perfectly. The best way to get someone to like a bike is take them to terrain that flatters their riding and makes things easy for the bike, this was not what Orbea chose to do. The second reason I mention this is that each group of journalists racked up about 8000m of descending in 2 days. On very rough, technical mountain trails. It was really hard, I know because I repeated it 4 times in a row without a single day off and afterwards all the skin peeled off my hands and my fingers swelled up so much I couldn´t fit my gloves on. It was a massive test for me and I came to have a deep understanding of the bike, how it coped when I was fresh and riding aggressively, and also how it coped when I was dying and just holding on and praying for the descending to stop.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Bike Design

Lets get this out of the way first. The new Orbea Rallon R5 is 29 inch only. That´s right. No 27.5″ option at all. I can almost hear all the complaints, I thought the same thing before I rode it. Wait until we get to the riding impressions section and I´ll talk you through that! The bike is also carbon only and comes in 3 base models all of which can be customised via the MyO program.

The frame on the Rallon R5 is a striking asymmetric design with a brace from the top-tube to the seat-tube on the non-drive side and the shock open on the drive side. The shock is slightly offset to the non drive side as well, giving even better access to the controls. This design allows Orbea to give great standover and leave space to fit a bottle cage in the frame, slightly offset to the non-drive side so it doesn´t impact on the shock at full travel. The seat post is kept low, meaning I could run a 170mm dropper post on the large frame, something I really liked a lot.

Orbea has used their very best carbon in the bike, and although I couldn´t feel a difference some of the testers were talking about the feel of the carbon and how it seemed to be stiff but not overly harsh on the chatter. Orbea has increased the stiffness from the previous generation Rallon but they have also balanced the front and rear stiffness, something that they believe is very important in how the bike rides.

The top of the range bike, with a coil shock, weighs in at 12.5kg, or 27.5lbs. That´s really impressive for a bike with proper components on it. The bike also comes with Orbea´s lifetime warranty which shows the confidence they have in the material.

One thing that I really liked was the designer, Xabi, stood up and presented the full history of the Rallon, right from the R1 which he designed straight from University. It was an OK bike in it´s time but he was very honest that it wasn´t great. Xabi designed every Rallon and you can see how proud he is about the new bikes. The first Rallon I rode was the R3 and I thought that it´s impressive suspension capability was hidden by poor geometry and bad components. Then I tried the R4, the 27.5″ one, which I love and really pushed the boundaries of geometry at the time. Now we have the 29″ R5 which I believe is the bike which really is going to make Orbea mountain bikes known across the globe. Xabi explained the this bike had no budget constraints in it´s development and also, very interestingly, he hinted that the bike is seen as a showcase of what the company can do and that it didn’t need to offer the same return on it´s development budget as would normally be expected. From that I read that Orbea put everything they have into this bike without focusing on the pure accounting although this wasn’t stated clearly.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Suspension

The Orbea Rallon R5 has 150mm of travel at the back and 160mm of travel at the front. All the options come with Fox shocks which Orbea spent many, many months developing and testing with Fox. I was lucky enough to test all 3 shock options and for me the conclusion is simple, the DH X2 coil shock performs best when the trails get tricky. It has a fantastic feel and the rear wheel tracks the ground like nothing I´ve ever tried before. The air X2 shock also performs spectacularly but looses out when things get a bit out of control or very fast. The advantage of the X2 is that you have more adjustability. The DPX2 I tested, which comes on the base level bike, definitely didn´t reach the performance of the X2, however it had the advantage that it was easy to set up. If you´re not used to setting up suspension or don’t like twiddling the dials then my advice is that the DPX2 works a lot better than a poorly set up X2!

Orbea raised the pivot point on the new Rallon R5 but keeps the same concentric pivot suspension set up. The raised pivot helps reach a better balance between suspension and pedalling performance. The bike definitely pedals well, although the compression lock on the DHX2 was definitely needed on longer climbs. On the steeper trails I felt that the rear suspension coped better with braking than the previous R4 Rallon and I was able to maintain a lot more directional control during braking on the very steep trails we encountered on the second day of the launch. On the high speed, rough sections the suspension is incredible and I was laughing out loud at how much speed I could carry.

There isn´t much to say about the fork. If you´ve tested one of the new Fox 36´s then you know how well they perform and for this bike that was no different. Excellent performance and reliability is my experience with these forks.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Geometry

Long, low and slack. Are you bored of reading that yet? Yes, this bike is designed to be an Enduro racing weapon and it´s long, low and slack. Not too long though, and Orbea has gone from pushing the limits with the launch of the R4 to being a little bit less extreme with the R5. It´s still longer than the previous R4 but not ridiculously long.

You can read the numbers and the charts below. I´ve put the Rallon R5 in twice because the geometry is adjustable between LOW and LOWER. For big mountain days with steep trails and fast speeds you definitely enjoy the LOWER setting, however for 80% of my riding I will use the LOW setting as the bike feels superbly balanced. The bike´s stability really shines through, however it is light and quick to turn. The new geometry really suits the 29″ wheels, the bike stays agile in the corners, helped by the fact that you can really lean the bike in without fear of the front wheel tucking, and the straight line stability and speed is breathtaking. When I´m riding with the rest of the team, who still have the 27.5″ Rallon, it is very noticeable that my bike is quicker over rough terrain.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Sizing

The sizing is a bit strange on the Rallon R5. They have a S/M, L and XL range. I´m not quite sure why they have sized it like that but it brings the size of the Rallon R5 in line with that of the Occam, and many other manufacturers. The previous generation R4 Rallon sized up very large, so a medium Rallon R4 was really equivalent to a large for many other manufacturers. Confused? It is simple, Orbea provides a great sizing chart on the web and I have found that it works perfectly for most people. You can find it using the “Calculate your size” link or by clicking here.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Components

You can read the component lists for yourselves. There is no weak point in any of the bikes in my opinion. The 12 speed SRAM works great, and that´s coming from someone who swore he´d never use SRAM again! The suspension is all Fox and works fantastically. Orbea have put a lot of thought into this, the “entry level” bike has the great DPX2 3 position shock and float 3 position fork which are definitely not “entry level” but have less adjustments, so this bike suits someone who doesn´t want to have too many dials to twiddle. The pick of the range for me though is the middle “team” bike but with the shock upgraded to the coil.

If there is a chink in the armour it´s the basic brakes. If you are doing 1000m plus descents or very steep trails then the standard Guide brakes aren´t up to the job. You really need to get the bigger rotors and Code or XT brakes in my opinion. The other component which has proved problematic in the past for me is the Raceface dropper post which I have found fiddly to set up and to need occasional resetting. I spoke to Orbea about this and they pointed out that for a 170mm dropper there are very few on the market and the Reverb seems to have a lot more problems. At the moment for me it´s a price worth paying for the 170mm drop which really makes a massive difference to the bike if you can fit it.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: MyO

What is MyO? It is Orbea´s customisable bike program really. They point out that it doesn´t seem fair that you buy an expensive bike but then have to change things you don´t like. Or you have the same colour as your friend. Why shouldn´t they be customisable they ask. When you enter the MyO program you can choose from a range of components on the bike so you get something that suits you. If you don´t see what you want it´s also possible to drop them an email and see if you can change a component for another option and if they have it in the factory they can make it happen for you. So far so good. This year Orbea have added in an option to select your own colour scheme for no extra cost. You can choose from several million options and also get your name or team name on the frame. The program is amazing, you can spend hours playing on it and making up your bike. It is all free and you only add on a couple of weeks to the delivery time. Of course if you won´t trust yourself to choose your own colours then you can just take one of the standard colour combinations!

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: On the Trail

I want to get a couple of points established first of all. Firstly I love the 27.5″ Rallon, I think it´s an amazing bike. Secondly I don´t really like 29″ bikes, I have tested them a lot in the past and they have been great for some things but overall, as one bike for everything, I don’t rate them. There have always been too many compromises for the variety of riding I like to do. When Orbea told me about the new Rallon R5 I think that they saw how disappointed I was and they assured me I would like it. Before I had to guide the press launch I requested a bike for a few weeks to test it out because I was concerned that I wouldn´t be able to ride it well and didn´t want my first ride on it to be with a bunch of fast journalists. When the bike arrived I decided to take it somewhere I thought it would suffer, to test it out properly. If you have been on one of our holidays then you might have ridden “El Cerro” and “Numero Uno”, they are very steep trails with tight, steep corners and I expected the bike to suffer a lot here. To the contrary, I was absolutely blown away. In the tight corners on other bikes you need to be careful not to tuck the front wheel by coming in too hot but the new Orbea Rallon R5 didn’t have that same feeling, you could really lean the bike in and slam it into the outside edge of the corner at speeds I hadn´t reached on these trails before. It was really impressive. From there I took the bike to the Pyrenees for the launch and on the fast rocky rails of Benasque it was amazing. The journalists were all impressed but I felt that they didn´t get the full effect, for the full effect you have to ride these trails a lot on the old 27.5″ bike and then swap to the 29″, the difference is really marked. The Rallon R5 carries speed and finds grip everywhere, especially with the Coil shock. On some of the trials I was riding new lines because I was confident in the grip and was carrying more speed to make these lines possible. Bear in mind that these are trails I have ridden a lot. One day we rode a long trail with some very tight, rocky switchbacks, dropping down 1200m to the valley floor. Here the length of the bike is noticeable and you need to open the corner up a bit more, however what you loose there you gain back with the stability of the bike which really lets you lean and load the front in these tight corners. It definitely needs riding on that type of trail, you need to increase the rider input, but it definitely isn´t slower than a 27-5″ bike.

Nobody is talking about how this bike climbs. I know it´s a bike designed for “enduro” and racing but one of the big surprises for me was how it climbs. It´s long and stable and the super steep seat angle really helps. The suspension is very active but with the lock out on it climbs so well, finding traction and without too much tendancy to lift the front wheel. I climbed things on this bike which I haven´t climbed more than a few lucky times in the last few years.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Standout Points

  • Climbing. I´m putting this first because it´s not what you expect!
  • Cornering. Super stable and agile. Again I have put this at the top of the list because it surprised me.
  • Speed. This thing is FAST, that in itself isn´t too important for me but it´s FUN which really is!
  • Customisable. Choose your components, choose your colour scheme. This is the future, The bike Industry should sit up and listen.
  • Lifetime Warranty / Crash Replacement. This is very important for me and demonstrates Orbea´s confidence in the new carbon frame.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Conclusion

To disclose, although I think it´s already clear, we have a relationship with Orbea. What is that relationship? We get a discount on bikes to buy for our test fleet and to use for the guides as well. I get to do cool things like guide their press launches. What don´t we do? We don´t have much input into the bikes at all. We don´t have an obligation to write anything about the bikes. If I write something then I will write my honest opinion and not hold back on any negatives. I´ve spent a long time building up basqueMTB and part of that is my reputation and I wouldn’t risk that by recommending, to many of my guests, something which I wasn´t fully convinced on.

What do I think of this bike in a couple of sentences. It´s an amazingly fun and fast bike to ride, it deals with pretty much everything with confidence and encourage you to push your own personal limits and ideas of what a bike can do. It seems strong based on the riding I´ve put it through and that´s backed up by a lifetime warranty. It´s light for a bike of this type. The fully custom, MyO, option is something really different and interesting.

Who is it for? Enduro racers looking to cut fractions from their Strava times will love this bike. I´m not them though! Aggressive bikers looking for something that they can push and enjoy on bigger days out as well as on uplift days. That´s more like me!

Who isn´t it for? Dedicated XC riders looking for a second, bigger bike. You need to ride this bike, drive it from the handlebars and lean it into the turns, hardcore XC riders might find that hard. We certainly saw some of the more XC journalists struggling to get the most front wheel grip and get the bike turning fast at first. If you live somewhere rubbish and don´t travel much for biking then you might find it too much bike for your trials and something like an Oiz or Occam might be better.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: Don´t Just Listen to Me

Don´t take my word for it. The journalists we had along can put it into words a lot better than I can. I´ve picked a few sentences from the various magazines which really stuck a chord with my experiences. It´s really interesting because these journalists cover a big range of styles and abilities so it´s nice to see that they all seem to find something similar in the Orbea Rallon R5.

Comments I agree with

  • Dirt: This bike looks set to really challenge for our enduro bike of the year
  • Pinkbike: Faster is better. But faster, safer and playful is way better. This is how the Rallon felt during two days of riding in the demanding terrain of the Spanish Pyrenees.
  • Enduro Mag: Well done, Orbea! The new Orbea Rallon 5 takes us right back to the spirit and roots of the best enduro bikes, but comes with the latest tech and some clever details. The Spanish secret weapon is a phenomenal enduro bike and we’re looking forward to spending some more time on this machine
  • VitalMTB: excellent handling in the steep, fast, and rowdy, all while being capable of making the journey to the top
  • Bike: The Orbea Rallon R5 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
  • BikeRadar: f you want a rig you can throw into the gnarliest terrain with total confidence, line up and be competitive at the highest level of enduro racing or occasionally mix it up and go for a big day pedalling in the hills, then this bike ticks all the boxes. With its geometry, this is definitely a bike that favours more experienced riders, but think of it like riding a race horse — be commanding and this bike will come into its own and excel.

Orbea Rallon R5 Review: The Bike I Want!

Orbea Rallon R5 review


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