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Orbea Rallon V4 Review

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Orbea Rallon V4 with BOS Kirk and Deville suspension review.

Orbea Rallon V4 Review

Rallon, pronounced more or less like Ra-y-on, is a Spanish slang for a baby wild boar. It is also a mountain near Bardenas National Park. I guess that the Orbea Rallon is named after the mountain, however I often like to believe it was named after the Wild Boarlets that you sometimes see snuffling furtively in the Basque forests as the sun goes down. Regardless of these random ponderings the Orbea Rallon is the fourth version with that name which Orbea has released and it represents a dramatic departure in design for the Basque cooperative. Orbea have a history of making top end road bikes and cross country mountain bikes, the Rallon V3, this bike’s predecessor, was a 150mm travel bike but it displayed its cross country routes very clearly and in my opinion was very compromised as a 150mm travel “all mountain” bike. The new Rallon however seems to stride out in the world unencumbered by compromise and shattering expectations with every roll of it’s 27.5″ wheels. Has Orbea pulled it off, have they really made a great enduro or all mountain bike? Read on to find out how I got on with the Orbea Rallon.

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Orbea Rallon V4 Review: Background

I guess that I might have put in more miles across the different models that pretty much anyone. I have been riding the Rallon since April 2014, right the way through the busiest mountain bike holiday season we have ever had and have been putting in the miles. I have spent most of my time on the BOS equipped Medium frame and that is the frame I will talk about most, however I have also tested the small and large Rallon´s with the Fox suspension. Over the last 6 months I estimate that I have covered around 4000km on the Rallon with just under 200,000m of descending and around just over 50,000m of climbing. I think I have got to know the Orbea Rallon really well, and I thought it was about time I wrote a report on how I am getting on with it.

Orbea Rallon V4: Frame Details

A journalist told me recently that he thought that 27.5″ was forcing manufacturers into totally rethinking their frame designs and as such revisiting the moulds, jigs and all the parts that they try to keep the same when they release new models to minimise the costs. The upshot of that for us consumers is that we are getting a generation of bikes with all the recent innovations included. So, you can take it as read that the Orbea Rallon comes with 12 x 142mm rear axle, although you can change the dropouts to suit whatever you want; direct post mount 180mm brakes; tapered headtube; ISCG 05 tabs; stealth dropper post routing; modern geometry. What is fantastic is that Orbea has chosen not to go with some of the more dubious advancements in frame design, so you have a proper threaded BB and front derailleur compatible. There are a few less obvious features on the new Orbea as well which are worth mentioning. First of all is the downtube cable highway, something that you don´t really notice until you start adjusting cables but it keeps everything so neat and tidy that it´s worth the 15 minutes of hassle when you have to change brakes or cable outers.

Next up is the Enduro Max Black Oxide bearings, packing more balls that normal bearings and those balls are packed in marine grease, keeping everything running smoothly through the wet Basque winters. The frame comes with a lifetime warranty as well, something that I haven´t had to use. Leaving the most obvious frame feature until last: The Rallon is available in Aluminum only. At first sight it is a strange decision, Orbea undoubtedly have a wealth of experience in making fantastic carbon bikes so why didn´t they make the Rallon in carbon as well? The answer is simply down to cost vs benifit. They felt that for this model the weight saving would be minimal and that by using an aluminum frame they could offer far better components at their target prices, something which would have a far more positive effect on the ride quality. Make no mistake, Orbea are serious about this bike and are putting everything into making sure that each model rides fantastically as a complete package, and to do that they are sticking to what they believe in rather than jumping through marketing hoops.

Orbea Rallon V4: Geometry

The Orbea Rallon really pushes the envelop of mountain bike geometry, another limb which Orbea have climbed out onto in their search for the perfect bike to secure their foothold in the competitive Enduro market. The Orbea Rallon is an very long, low and slack 160mm bike as you can see quite clearly from the graphs above.

Long. Low. Slack

Note: Mostly I have taken the medium frames for the geometry, however for the Santa Cruz Nomad it seems like the large frame was a better match for the other bikes. Also, for the BB height I have used BB drop and BB height, however manufacturers normally only give one measurement so I have arranged the bikes according to the height of the BB from the lowest on the left to the highest on the right.  

 What is quite telling, I think is that when the Orbea was released it´s geometry was really out on the edge of the graphs I made, now with a few more recent updates from other manufacturers it has been joined out there. I think that we are going to see manufacturers starting to push the long, low, slack thing for these 150-170mm bikes and really see where the limits are. For me, on most of my trails the Orbea is perfect in the “Low” setting, i.e. the higher and steeper one. The “Lower” setting is a little bit too low for some of my trails, however feels absolutely amazing in others.

Having the two options is definitely fantastic for me, it´s like K.I.T´s TURBO button, you wouldn´t use it all the time but when you absolutely have to jump through a lorry and over all the bad guys it´s great to know it´s there.

Orbea Rallon V4: Weight

Orbea refuse to give bike weights on their website and I totally understand their reasons. Apart from anything else, some manufacturers give really optimistic weights meaning other brands either have to join them in their day dreams or have their bike seem heavy against the competition. If you  doubt that bike manufacturers lie about bike weights, and that some magazines just print what they are told, then get yourself a calibrated scale and have a check yourself. I have one in the back of the van and we weigh a lot of customers bikes… a lot of supposedly sub 30lbs bikes are more like 32-34lbs! For what it´s worth I have also ridden heavy bikes that climb much better than other, lighter offerings so I tend to not worry too much about it. My medium framed Orbea Rallon weighed 13.6kg or 29.98lbs without pedals, exactly as it arrived from the factory. I have put heavier tyres, pedals and changed the brakes to XT and now the Orbea Rallon weighs 14.24kg or 31.4lbs and I like it much, much more!

Orbea Rallon V4: Colours and Designs

The Orbea only comes in two colours, the black with white detailing and the yellow with black detailing. In my honest opinion the yellow one looks best, somehow the bright colour compliments the design but I do understand that it might not be, errrmmm, understated enough for everyone!

Orbea Rallon V4: Components and Choices

I know that the big question is do I go for the FOX or the BOS bike. All I can say is that the BOS bike is better, it depends how hard you ride as to how much better it is. The BOS shock has superior  damping control, giving a more controlled ride. The FOX bike is less controlled, maybe at lower speeds it seems a bit plusher but when you push it harder the damping is noticeably less controlled than the BOS. For the rear shock particularly, to get the most out of the suspension you really need to adjust the high and low speed compression damping and this leads us to the BOS shock. (You can see my rationale for that below.) Jungle in the UK has just taken on BOS, and they have a great reputation and will hopefully provide the service and support that you need when you spend so much on a bike. I have spoken to them about some items and have found them really helpful.

BOS vs Fox, the big question?

Other stand out components are the Mavic Enduro wheels which I find great. They are fast rolling and strong. I have broken one spoke and put a couple of dings in the rims but that is pretty good going for a typical season! The Mavic tyres are great when new but the rear looses grip after a few hard rides and lacks a bit of volume. I changed for Schwalbe Magic Mary / Rock Razor and they are fantstic. I love the Raceface finishing kit, the NEXT SL cranks are great and stiff and the Atlas bar, grips and stem are really nice. The Reverb stealth dropper is a no-brainer and I think that the stealth is a massive step forward from the older style post. I have full XTR shifting and I wouldn´t use anything else if the funds were available, it really is fantastic to use and is one of the things I instantly miss if I get on another bike. I changed the brakes from the Formula TR1´s, I found them pretty good when used in conjunction with the RAHOX pads, however after one incident when they let me down I have changed them for my trusted Shimano XT´s.

What would the ultimate build be for an Orbea Rallon

For me the ultimate build would be the BOS suspension and a set of the Mavic Enduro wheels. Shimano XTR shifting and braking is the best. The Raceface Next cranks and Atlas finishing kit are perfect and I have topped that off with a lovely set of Raceface Atlas pedals. Yellow frame with red pedals and grips. Orbea allow you to specify your own bike when you buy it and this is what I would specify for myself.

Orbea Rallon V4: Suspension and Set Up

The Orbea Rallon has a very gentle progression in shock rate through the travel, a little less than 10%, meaning the force required to compress the shock increases gradually through the shock stroke. This provides a gentle protection against bottoming out the shock, however I found that I needed to tune the shock quite carefully to get the lovely plush performance without bottom out. The air pressure was pretty critical but it is the high and low speed compression damping which are key to getting the most out of this bike. The concentric pivot offers great anti-bob and really limits the brake jack so you can run very little low speed compression damping.

High speed compression damping is really critical because the suspension is so linear and you need to run quite heavy damping to prevent bottoming out. I am running around 6 clicks of high speed compression from fully closed and around 3 clicks of Low Speed from fully open. I ran the rebound pretty fast, at around 6 clicks from fully open and I ran around 27% sag, measured in all my normal riding clothes. I found the set up really critical compared to other bikes I have used and once you get it right you will really notice the effect. It is worth pointing out that the FOX suspension was great but when you start pushing hard, to get the best out of the bike, the BOS shock with independent high and low speed compression damping is best.

Orbea Rallon V4: Climbing

I have read a few reviews about how the Orbea is sluggish to climb but I can honestly say that I haven´t found this at all. This thing climbs like a maniac! The bike doesn´t bob much at all, which keeps things easy to control and the steep seat angle and long top tube really keeps the bike stable on the climbs. I find that the lockout lever on the Kirk shock works really well, the bike doesn´t bob much anyway but the lever helps it sit up a bit and improves the angles for climbing. Overall the Rallon feels like a very efficient climber and at 30lbs out of the box it definitely isn´t heavy for going up hills!

Orbea Rallon V4: Descending

The Orbea Rallon is unashamedly a bike aimed at Enduro racers, as such it needs to be an efficient and capable climber but it is more focused on descending. Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to ride many bikes down many hills but I think that the Orbea Rallon is the fastest bike I have ridden on most descents. The geometry definitely helps with this, the long top tube and low bottom bracket give the bike incredible stability when speeds get high and in the corners. The Rallon´s surefooted attitude in corners is addictive, the bike really digs in around corners and when it eventually does break traction it is really predictable. When things get tight the bike needs to be worked a bit more than a shorter bike but the short chainstays keeps it very managable. The bike loves it when things get rough and loose, the BOS suspension is at its best here with its impeccable damping and silky smooth action right through the travel. With a fast rebound, the suspension generally stays high in its travel, only using the minimum travel needed, and it lets you feel the terrain but gives you enough isolation so that you can search for grip and choose the fastest lines.

Supsension, LO or LOWER?

I normally like to keep it in the “LOW” setting, this gives the bike a bit more clearance and I find it more appropriate for the type of terrain I ride most often. The “LOWER” setting really turns up the hooligan dial to 11 though; the bike finds another level and you can really lay off the brakes and go a bit crazy. I find the “LOWER” setting best for those trails where you aren´t pedaling much, where the tracks are a bit wider and you definitely don´t have any sort of obstacles on the side of the trail. I find I clip pedals a bit, often when trying to put a burst of pedaling in on a descent, but the more I ride the Rallon the less often I do this and the 170mm cranks definitely help. Everything on a bike is a compromise and I would definitely take the Rallon´s low stance every day despite the occasional pedal clip.

A lot of fast bikes are single minded in their pursuit of speed, I have ridden bikes like that, which eat up the terrain and don´t encourage the rider to try and play about at all. The Rallon can be ridden like that, just hold on and the bike will blast you down the trail, however it isn´t how I like to ride. I like to jump, manual and pop my way down the trail, trying to get air off trail features or lift the front wheel over them and pump through. The Rallon really comes alive when you try to ride like that, it seems to accelerate really easily as you pump and it is really easy to manual the bike despite its length. The Rallon also takes to the skies really easily, popping off the smallest obstacle and it is really stable in the air; that´s something important to a ham-fisted hot head like me. Then when you get it wrong, the fantastic suspension action is there to help you get it all back together

Orbea Rallon V4: Reliability and Any Problems

So far I have had only a couple of issues on the bike. First of all I have broken the lockout lever off the BOS shock twice; it´s just in a really bad place for catching on the bottom of shorts. I have dinged the Mavic Enduro wheels a couple of times but they bend back into shape and they are still nice and true. I changed out the Formula T1 brakes after then needed bled a couple of times, once at the top of one of my favourite 1000m descents in the Pyrenees. The early frames had a weakness at the rear brake mount, this has been fixed and Orbea replaced all the rear swing arms sorting the problem. The aluminium bolts used on the shock mounts are a bit soft and I accidentally rounded one on the first bike I had, that is easily fixed by not over tightening them and sticking to the torque settings (oops!), but I would prefer to see a steel bolt, particularly on the chip to change the supension from LOW to LOWER.

Orbea Rallon V4: Conclusions

Who isn´t the Rallon for? Weight weenies, you can get other 150mm bikes which are a pound or two lighter.

Who is the Rallon for? Enduro racers are going to love this bike, it is seriously fast and more than strong enough for the roughest, toughest descents while still being light and efficient enough to climb all day long. Anyone who wants to ride rough tough descents on a bike that makes them fun but can still climb all day and not wear you down.

What is the Rallon best at? The Orbea is a special bike. It is fast, but still a lot of fun and will hold your hand and play with you all day long. It really shines when the trails get rough but on smoother singletrack it remains nimble. On the tightest corners you will notice the length but on tracks like that the trails speed is generally low and the inherent stability of the bike stands out. There is a horrible Euro marketing term, polyvalent, meaning a bike is good at many different things, and much as I hate it, this term is designed for the Rallon. It is a bike that you will use every day and you will really have to search for a reason to take any of your other bikes out. Downhill shuttle runs… Rallon, Big Mountains days… hmmm the Rallon, Enduro Racing… errmmm yeah it´s the Rallon again.

“Life is too short to ride shit bikes”

I run basqueMTB because I love bikes and I am not going to lessen my enjoyment by riding any bike which I don’t love. In a way this review is only trying to explain my thoughts on the Rallon, not give you my verdict on it. My verdict should be clear by the fact that I have chosen to ride the Orbea Rallon rather than one of the many other bikes I could have chosen.

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2 Replies a “Orbea Rallon V4 Review”

  1. Brian Neumann Says:
    June 26th, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Best bike review ever.

  2. Hi there, helpful article. I’m interested in getting a Rallon in the new 2016 guise. Just interested in sizing. I am 5ft 9, and not sure between s and m. Can i ask what height you are? it says you ride a m but doesn’t mention height, which would help me decide.
    Thanks

    PS riding looks awesome in basque country, we went to Samoens this year that was great, but always looking for new places to ride.

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