VIEW THE FULL RALLON R3 PHOTO GALLERY
The 2011 Orbea Rallon R3 is targeted as both an enduro and an all-mountain bike, with the idea that swapping out forks, wheels and rear axle diameter can dictate the 150-mm frame’s intended use.
To start, Orbea allows customers to pick and choose their optimal parts kit, offering an essentially custom bike to be rolled right off the showroom floor. Ranging in price from $3,299 to $6,499, the offered build kits include anything from Fox 36 Talas forks and Truvativ Hammerschmidt cranks, to Fox 32 Float and Shimano SLX drivetrain, and just about everything in between.
Our bike came with a build kit that included a Fox 36 Talas, Shimano XT 27-spd drivetrain, Mavic CrossMax ST wheels with a rear QR, and 2.35-inch Nevegal tires, which seemed like a reasonable balance of parts to showcase the frame’s intended multiple personalities.
As for design, Orbea’s engineering team in the Basque Country spent more than two years researching and designing the Rallon’s suspension. So while the single-pivot design may look simple, according to Orbea’s Xabier Narbaiza, there has been enough fine tuning of pivot points and suspension valving to negate many of the poor qualities that usually accompany such simple designs.
The custom Fox RP23 is a key component in the Rallon, so much so that Orbea solidly states that it’s not to be switched out with any other rear shock, including a stock RP23.
“We worked relentlessly on the shock’s valving, ultimately finding the perfect counterbalance to the frame’s dropping rates with matched rising rates, creating a consistent, linear feel throughout the stroke.” said Narbaiza.
Claimed weight for the Rallon frame is 7.1lbs, including rear shock and QR dropouts. Our size large test bike with Shimano 545 pedals and the tires set up tubeless weighed in at 32.3lbs.
This bike doesn’t need ProPedal. Seated climbing is one thing, as with a smooth enough cadence one can dismiss pedal-induced bobbing on just about anything. But to stand up and crank uphill on a single pivot, 150-mm travel bike with hardly a noticeable squish was quite impressive and definitely not expected.
There were several times during the first couple of rides where I stopped to doublecheck that the ProPedal was in fact not switched on. Yet, the suspension was still working, sucking up trail quite well during rougher climbs.
The Rallon feels stout, almost as if it were made with the intention of being marketed for rental fleets. And with a lifetime warranty on the frame, Orbea seems to feel the same way. Up front, the tapered head tube in combination with a Fox 36 and 20-mm thru axle, the only place left for flex was the bar and stem.
In the middle, the hydroformed tubes and tight triangles didn’t give a hint of flex in any riding situation, and the short, asymmetrical 425-mm chainstays, in combination with the forged Lamdalink, forged lower link, and sealed bearing pivots made for flinch-free rear wheel path.
Back to the back end, the short chainstays made steep, tight and twisty chutes a breeze. In fact, it out shined my 8-inch DH bike on more than a few sections of Colorado’s Keystone Resort’s more technical, steep trails. And of course the tighter rear end allowed for easy manuals and wheelies, too, which can be both handy with maneuverability and just plain fun.
Pairing the 150-mm rear end up with a Fox Talas 36 felt like a great match on this bike, allowing absorption of big hits and big drops on lift-accessed terrain, and even taking in some slack when the Rallon-specific RP23 came up short. At the same time, being able to drop the front end for climbs was key in control, and it was even appreciated to have a steeper head angle on flatter trail.
But the Rallon seemed to shine on big drops or big, single hits, absorbing them quite well with just enough progressive end-stroke to take six- to seven-foot drops with ease. Up until the progressive tail end of travel, the design offered a consistent, straight-rate feel otherwise, albeit a bit slow at times.
Some may argue bushings over bearings, including myself on occasion, but the sealed bearings on this frame worked quite well by offering smooth, stiction-free travel. All told, there are 12 sealed bearings on the frame, including a set in the shock eyelet.
A few things that were great in concept, but we didn’t have a chance to take advantage of, were the optional housing guide mounting holes for a drop-post, interchangeable dropouts for a 12-mm thru-axle kit, and the ISCG tabs off the bottom bracket for chainguides, etc. At first glance it seemed like the latter two features may be a bit of overkill for the Rallon, but after time spent riding DH-specific courses again and again, they are quite appropriate on this Orbea.
While the custom RP23′s valving is absolutely amazing in regards to pedal efficiency, when it comes to subsequent hits through rock gardens and the like, it tends to freeze up somewhere in the middle of the stroke. Unfortunately, I went from stopping to check if the ProPedal was on while climbing, to stopping to see if the rebound damping was too slow on descents.
Ultimately, I ended up running the custom RP23 completely open, and still felt it got confused in rougher sections.
Shorter chainstays can be a personal preference, and while I do appreciate the playfulness of them, as well as their benefits in tight, twisty trail, those traits come at a tradeoff at higher speed. Anything over 20mph and the rear end of the Rallon wanted to Buffalo Gal and swing around the outside, with the issue getting worse as speeds increased.
Our first few rides on the Rallon were on typical, somewhat mellow trail loops with as much climbing as descending mileage-wise. The bike does climb surprisingly well for what it is, but at 32-plus pounds it still felt relatively cumbersome compared to some ~150-mm designs out there. Obviously a change in fork and switching out a few bits and pieces could get this bike down to maybe 30lbs, but as is I was wishing I had something lighter while climbing.
As for slower-speed descending and flatter sections of technical trail, the bike felt like it needed to be man-handled a bit more than I was expecting. Even adjustments in front and rear suspension setup, and stem height were of little help. One minor improvement came by swapping out the stock 26.5-inch Orbea bars with a set of 27-inch bars of similar rise and sweep that seemed more appropriate for an enduro/all-mountain bike. A wider bar may have done more to tame the stubbornness at slower speeds, but not everyone wants to run super-wide handlebars, especially if local trails aren’t friendly to such wide loads.
One last little gripe would be the slightly narrow, lackluster stock handlebars and the stem, which has to go. For all the technology poured into this frame to make it so impressively stiff, it seems like Orbea could design a stiffer stem to match the Rallon.
The Rallon is a fun bike, and for riders who plan on mostly riding lift-accessed or enduro style trails it’s a great option. The rear shock valving was a bit of a buzz kill, and it may not be the best choice of frames for more typical trail riding but it’s not really marketed as such.
We’ll be curious to see if Orbea addresses the rear shock in the future, or if we simply get a phone call from them asking what we’re smoking.
About the Rider-Writer
Zach White started writing for VeloNews in 1996, and after a solid run at trying to escape the bicycle industry over the last few years we were finally able to suck him back in at Singletrack.com. With a history of both competing — and working — on bicycles since 1986, Zach has the kind of experience that is hard to come by. While he reviews product for singletrack.com, don’t be surprised if he squeezes in stories of racing 1991 World Championships on a hardtail with cantilevers, wrenching for international teams or running white tires and grips when they were cool the first time — in 1987.