Orbea's fifth-generation Rallon (pictured above) impressed me with its all-around abilities when I reviewed it last year
, but the Spanish brand has made some changes for 2020 that are intended to make the bike even more capable. This includes a 10mm bump in travel at both ends courtesy of a 170mm fork up front and the revised 'Rally On' linkage that eeks out more squish from the Fox shock, as well as a claimed increase in sensitivity and a ''more progressive leverage curve
'' that was wholly needed.
And, in an unusual and very un-bike brand-like move, Orbea is selling the backward-compatible Rally On linkage separately so that owners of the fifth-generation Rallon can convert their bikes to match the 2020 version. I had to try one, obviously.
The kit will go for $299 USD when it's available at the end of August, and you'll find two new rocker arms with fresh bearings installed, a new pivot axle (not shown), a new shock clevis, and all new hardware inside the box. You'll get a bearing preload tool as well. What you won't find, however, is a 170mm-travel fork; that one is up to you to figure out but it's also not a requirement to use the new linkage.
Rally On Linkage Details
• 10mm increase in travel to 160mm
• Increased suspension sensitivity
• Increased progression
• Includes new bearings and hardware
• Availability: End of August, 2019
• MSRP: $299 USD
• More info: www.orbea.com
Don't want or need 170mm up front? Orbea says that the linkage doesn't change the bike's geometry if you decided to run 160mm at both ends, which is exactly what I've done with my grey and orange Rallon.
Also worth noting is that you might have to bump up the shock's spring rate slightly - 50in/lb if you're on coil, or a few strokes of a shock pump if you're on air - due to the average leverage ratio going up. Air-sprung shocks might need a volume spacer taken out, too.
What's Different About the Linkage?
The $299 USD kit includes new left- and right-side rocker arms with the bearings installed (not shown), a new shock yoke, new axle (not shown) and all new hardware (also not shown).
I doubt you'd be able to tell the old and new versions apart if you only had a quick glance, but it's a lot more obvious when you compare the two side by side. Also, keep in mind that millimeters matter; even the smallest difference in pivot location can have a big effect on how the suspension performs. Put next to each other, it's easy to see the difference at the shock yoke pivot (it's a few millimeters lower) and at the seatstay pivot (it's a lot of millimeters lower).
The new link is being held in this photo, with the old link still on the bike behind it. The rocker's main pivot (blue) hasn't changed, but the shock yoke pivot (green) has moved down slightly. The seatstay pivot (red) has been moved down even more.
According to Orbea, these changes are what provides the increased travel and sensitivity but, more importantly for someone like me who's running a coil-sprung shock, increased progression through the stroke. That means less bottoming even though it should feel a bit more forgiving off the top. Sound familiar? If you read my review of the Rallon last year, you might know that I complained about exactly that - it was a bit too linear for the coil-sprung shock that Orbea offers as an option, and it wasn't as forgiving (especially as it's coil-sprung) earlier in its travel, either.
Shoutout to Orbea for not only making changes to address the Rallon's short-comings but also for making the solution retro-fittable to the previous model.
Given that bike companies are notoriously good at making sure consumers will want to buy into the latest model, it wouldn't have surprised me in the slightest had Orbea not sold the new linkage separately.
How Hard is the Installation?
The new shock yoke keeps the 'LOW' and 'LOWER!' geometry options.
Not only is the linkage retro-fittable, but consumers (or a pair of hands they trust) can install it own their own. The job requires the following to complete: 5, 6, and 8mm hex keys, the ability to remember 'lefty loosey, righty tighty,' and a rubber mallet or another non-marring motivator.
Is it difficult? No, not at all, but you'll need to be nice to the aluminum pivot hardware and pay attention to what went where. If you're competent enough to install an internally-routed dropper post, change your bottom bracket, and cook yourself a decent dinner, you'll be able to handle this job. Hell, I can only manage two of those things and I still figured it out, so you'll be fine.
Make sure you undo the clamp bolt on the bottom of the rocker (left) before you try to remove it.
The two rocker arms lock onto a large, splined aluminum axle that runs through the frame and spins on sealed bearings.
To get the stock linkage off, you'll want to loosen all of the hardware before you remove the shock; trust me, it's easier this way. Once you've done that and slid the shock out (mine was terribly tight at the forward mount due to extra paint build-up around the bolt hole), you can start taking the links off. And, like every full-suspension mountain bike since the beginning of time, there are some pivot spacers to keep track of while you do this.
Is it an All-New Rallon?
The two rocker links (the long ones) fit onto the splined aluminum axle that runs through the frame, and a single pinch-bolt on each side keeps everything in place. I loosened one of these bolts and then used a socket and hammer on the same side of the splined axle to slowly separate the two, then I gently tapped the axle out of the opposite link.
All the new parts go back together in the same way, but don't forget that the rocker arms are left- and ride-specific; it'll start to look really strange if you get it backward. If you're having trouble getting those pesky pivot spacers to stay put, a small dab of sticky grease will hold them in place and free-up a hand. This is also the time to clean and re-grease all the bits, and to make sure that the large bearings in the Rallon's seat tube are still spinning smoothly - mine still feel like new.
The revised linkage doesn't drastically change the Rallon's character - it still feels like the big-hitting all 'rounder that it is - but the update does do exactly as it says on the box. There's the bump in rear wheel-travel from 150mm to 160mm, sure, but it's how things change at the beginning and end of the stroke that's more interesting. For comparison's sake, I kept the Fox shock's settings identical to how it was run with the old linkage. This actually gave me the same amount of sag as I also weigh a nip less than when I first reviewed the Rallon.
New linkage, who dis? Now quite, but there's a difference in how the Rallon's suspension performs.
Here's what I had to say about the Rallon's suspension when I reviewed it last June: ''It also didn't feel overly supple, however, even with the coil-sprung X2, which is the flip-side to that great on-power performance. I felt like there was a bit more feedback coming up through the pedals than I expected, even with the shock's compression damping backed out, but it's not harsh enough for me to use that word - harsh - to describe the action. Instead, I'll call it a bit less active than some, but not all, enduro bikes.
With the new linkage installed, the back of the Rallon is certainly a touch more active and forgiving. It's not as drastic as, say, the difference between air-sprung and coil-sprung, but the bike is now as sensitive as I'd expect it to be with Fox's X2 shock doing the work. Now it feels coil-sprung, whereas I wasn't getting that kind of action from it previously. And, just as importantly, the bike still doesn't act like a stuck-in-the-mud enduro rig; it has stayed relatively sporty given its intentions.
Back to that review, I also wanted more bottom-out resistance with the coil-sprung shock that I (and others) chose to spec it with: ''That said, with 30-percent sag, I probably felt bottom a few more times than I expected to, and on smaller impacts than what should be gobbling up all of the X2's stroke.''
This complaint is mostly looked after, too, as the Fox shock is now less likely to reach the end of its stroke when it shouldn't. That said, it could use even more progression, especially given that the X2 is relatively easy to bottom compared to other coil-sprung shocks.
I suspect that Orbea had to make sure the new link would also play nice with air-sprung shocks that inherently ramp-up, and adding too much progression might keep some riders from getting full-travel with them. The new linkage is an improvement, but it also shouldn't keep air-sprung shocks from getting all of their stroke.
More sensitive suspension action should me more traction and less fatigue.
While all of the above makes sense, I couldn't reconcile my Rallon's geometry with the numbers that Orbea said the new linkage provides. According to them, there shouldn't be any change to the geometry with the new linkage installed and the stock, 160mm-travel Fox fork still on. With the old links, the head angle measured 65-degrees bang-on, as expected with it in the 'LOWER!' geometry setting. With the new links installed 30-minutes later, I used multiple angle-finders (digital and analog) multiple times and every one of them told me the bike now has a 64-degree head angle. Yes, they were all zeroed. Suspecting that the vast amounts of energy drinks I consume have finally gone to my brain, I had someone else go through the same routine only for them to get the same result.
Many of my local trails lose elevation quicker than an elevator shaft, so I'm not exactly bummed about the slacker front-end given that it's probably going to save my ass at some point soon. It also makes the bike a touch more relaxed at speed, as you'd expect, and technical climbing a bit less relaxed. And don't forget that the Rallon's seat angle also gets a bit slacker, which isn't ideal.Orbea's response regarding the geometry change:
''After checking head angles and bottom bracket heights of two bikes outside the factory with iPhone clinometers and a third inside the Orbea facilities with much more accurate measurement tools, we were unable to reproduce any of the geometry changes mentioned in the article. We are investigating further with Mike to see what might be giving a 1º variation from our engineering designs and subsequent measurements, but since that change would require a fairly massive bottom bracket drop or fork height increase, we remain confident in our assertion that the new linkage will not alter your frame’s geometry.
What we can wholeheartedly confirm is that the improvements in feel are subjective but noticeable and we are extremely happy that Mike and other testers have reported the same increase in traction and mid/end stroke support with the 2020 Rallon and new linkage assembly. Rally On!
Improved suspension sensitivity+
Increased bottom-out resistance +
Slacken's geometry by 1-degree
Slacken's geometry by 1-degree