Who gives a toss about climbing manners when you're on a bike made to smash through all the things on the way back down? Alright, I care, and maybe you do as well, but this section of the review is what really matters. If you forced me to sum up the Rallon's descending abilities with a single word instead of the twenty thousand that I usually barf out, it'd have to be 'versatile.'
While some enduro-type machines can feel slow and bogged down on any trail that doesn't look vertical on a topo map, the Rallon was a surprising amount of fun on all sorts of low-grade flow terrain that's insidiously replacing trails that call for skills. I'd usually avoid such terrain when on a bike like the Orbea with the same enthusiasm that I use to avoid our daily Skype PB work meetings, but I didn't need to this time. Flow trails, I mean, not the meetings. The Rallon's efficiency helps, surely, but it also has a light, sporty feel to it, and the rear of the bike refuses to sit deep into its stroke like the bean bag chairs that many enduro bikes are. The lightweight DT Swiss wheels and relatively light Maxxis rubber help as well, no doubt, and it makes for a machine that could nearly be mistaken for a long-legged trail bike if you were blindfolded and managed to not pedal into a tree right away.
I was immediately at home on the Rallon when rolling down steep lines.
The angles are there for when you want to see what you can get away with on gnarlier terrain as well. These days, a skilled rider can make any bike look good, but the Rallon might make some less skilled riders look pretty good on nasty, steep, rough ground, and I'd argue that a big part of that is its reasonable reach and wheelbase that don't feel overwhelming. This is a bike that's easy to move around, and while some of these new limos don't feel like an extension of your body until you've either hit mach chicken or are pointing straight down a damn cliff, the Rallon always gave me the impression that it wanted to do exactly what I wanted to do. That's a good feeling.
Simply put, the Orbea is an easy bike to throw around any type of corner, off any type of jump, and at any speed. It's also an easy bike to manual and generally be a hooligan on, which is of the utmost importance.
You can choose either an air or coil-sprung shock for the back of your own Rallon, and I went with the latter for my test bike despite some feedback from others saying that its suspension is too linear to play nice with a steel spring. Part of my reasoning is this: If a customer can order a Rallon with a coil shock despite it not being ideal, I better try it out as well.
Due to a tendency for me to eat my feelings, I managed to gain 15lb between the time I ordered the Rallon and told them I weighed around 160lb so they could put the right weight spring on it. That's probably a good thing, though, as the 450 in/lb spring that came on the X2 shock ended up being bang-on for me when it comes to sag, and it would have probably been a touch over-sprung if I was still not eating a family-size bag of Nibs for breakfast most mornings. The bike's good amount of anti-squat helps, but the back of the Rallon also has plenty of support in the mid-stroke, too. That said, with 30-percent sag, I felt bottom probably a few more times than I expected to, and on smaller impacts than what should be gobbling up all of the X2's stroke.
It wasn't a critical smash, bang kind of thing ever, but more of a,''Oh, that was all the millimeters,'' a bit too often. With an air-sprung shock, you'd be able to get more ramp-up in the later part of the travel, which would likely also let you run a bit more sag, too.
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 plenty of anti-squat, the Rallon is more of a sporty, playful bike than a boring ground-hugger, and that makes it fun nearly anywhere.
And speaking of shocks, I do have one important gripe: the fact that it's offset to the drive-side by 12mm and exposed to my right leg meant that the anodized blue pedal-assist switch stuck out enough so that my leg actually fliped the lever to full-firm on many occasions. And it happened even more often when I was wearing knee pads. My feelings about cheater switches aside, I don't think that it's a stretch for me to call this a serious issue - I mean, who wants to be halfway down some rowdy descent and have their bike feel like it's being held up by a piece of wood? That exact scenario happened multiple times but, having asked around, it seems I'm the only one with this issue. So maybe it's just me.
I also found myself losing the front-end more than a few times on quick corners, and especially when traction was questionable. I know, of course things are going to slide when there isn't neverending grip, but it happened a bit too often for my liking. That's odd because the Rallon's handling is sublime and intuitive 95-percent of the time... except for the 5-percent when the front tire wanted to tuck on me. I tried a few different tires, tinkered with stem height, and also replaced the 32mm stem with a 50mm unit to see if that worked in tandem with the 455mm reach. The last change helped, as expected.
Without a limo-ish wheelbase, the Rallon is happy to poke its way through slow-speed technical sections.
The good news is that you can pick your stem length if you set up your Rallon through Orbea's MyO program, which is pretty cool. The bad news is that I should have been less endur-bro and gone with the 50mm stem out of the gate instead of the stubby one I chose.