Ever since the R5 Orbea Rallon was splashed across the front page of Pinkbike last year on its release, I have been ITCHING to ride it. Like, rocking backwards and forwards, hot in the face with a fever type itching to ride it.

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I’ve had my R4 Rallon for 3 years now and I bloody love it. Everything I’ve pointed it at on a trail or race track on some the UK best trails, it’s handled beautifully without getting stressed out…which in turn has made me a better and faster rider. But….that new R5…I’ve wanted it! Lusted after it! Coveted it more than is healthy!

Frustratingly, it’s taken 18 months for Orbea to sort out a demo fleet in the UK and as much as I’ve wanted to lay down a deposit on one, I HAD to try it first to answer some questions. Would it genuinely be better for me than my R4? Would I get on with 29” wheels?..I’ve never ridden them before (my gravel bike doesn’t really count). Could I actually justify potentially changing a perfectly awesome bike for something possibly only a bit better?!

So with Unit Cycles, my local Orbea dealer, getting a demo Rallon in, which was fortunately in my size, they dropped me a message to ask if I wanted to borrow it for a weekend.

Does the Pope poop in the woods (and if no one’s around, do they hear him scream?! )? Of course I did.

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The Rallon comes in 3 spec levels with the M10 (base spec – £4,199), M-TEAM (mid level – £5,399) and M-LTD (top of the range, money no object spec -£7,999), but Orbea’s upgrade programme means you can upgrade or downgrade parts to fit your needs and budget. The bikes come in a choice of 3 two-tone standard colour schemes but the MYO custom colour option means you can spec a custom colour with literally a million different combos – and that comes at no extra charge. That is pretty damn awesome when you consider for example, that Orange Bikes charge £100 for a single colour custom spray. The downside is only that you will have to wait 2-3 months to get a custom colour bike but that’s a small price to pay for something unique.

So this demo bike is the M10 spec but Unit Cycles wisely chose the fork upgrade, upping the stock Performance Fox Float 36 to the Factory Float 36 with the new GRIP2 damper. The rest of the bike is therefore standard stock however, although it’s the cheaper version, the components are still very good with Fox’s new DPX2 shock, DT Swiss 30mm wide rims, Maxxis 3C tyres and SRAM GX/X01 Eagle 12 speed transmission. It’s a well thought out spec and is primed for riding hard straight out of the box. Unit Cycles also wisely wrapped the frame in Invisiframe to keep it looking fresher for longer.

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The Fox Float 36 with the GRIP2 damper is very good and a relatively cheap upgrade on the MYO programme

I really wanted to weigh the bike to see how this mostly ‘lower’ spec R5 compared to my top spec R4…but unfortunately, I couldn’t find my scales anywhere since moving house last year. Going by the highly accurate ‘feel’ test, it felt heavier than my R4 which is around the 31lb mark with carbon bars and cranks, so at a guesstimate I would say this R5 is around 32-33lbs….ish? That is still pretty good considering the heavier 29” wheels wrapped in chunky tyres and I’d imagine the M-Team spec, with lighter wheels and carbon cranks and bars, probably comes in a couple of pounds lighter.

Frame Details

The R5 is a full carbon frame, unlike the R4 which was full aluminium, but retains the same Advanced Dynamics suspension system with the rear axle placed concentric pivot. The most obvious aesthetic is the single sided frame brace on the non-driveside. It allows added stiffness to the front triangle, although is debatable as to whether it’s structurally needed or just there to stand out from the crowd. Looking down from the riders’ POV, it does sort of look like the top tube has a swollen ankle!

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What sits between your legs and is purple and swollen?!

The suspension linkage now joins the front triangle at the seat tube rather than the down tube as on the R4, via a much shorter rocker link giving the benefit there is now room for a water bottle on the inside of the front triangle. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is possibly the most appreciated update to the bike over the carbon frame and wagon wheels for me in many way. Fortunately, the Rallon keeps an external bottom bracket but the switch from external cable routing on the R4 to internal will make outer gear cable replacement that bit trickier down the line.

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Bottle cage mounts offset as is the shock, but in the opposite direction

Also carrying over from the R4 is adjustable geometry via a flip-chip in the shock mount which slackens things out from 65.5 degrees head angle/75.5 degrees seat angle to 65 degrees head angle/ 75 degrees seat angle. For the demo, I only rode the bike in the higher setting (65.5 degree head angle/75.5 seat tube angle).

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Flip chip to switch it

Elsewhere, bottle cage mounts on the downtube are offset slightly to the left to give some room for a water bottle underneath the piggy-back shock which is offset slightly to the right above, and there is a bolt at the bottom of the seat tube, near the bottom bracket to secure a specific zipped stash bag included with the bike that will hold a tube, some small tools or maybe even a light battery for winter night rides.

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The simple to use but very effective DPX2 shock

As with the R4, moulded rubber frame protection is attached to the lower downtube underside and driveside seatstay and chainstay but one area that is unprotected and makes me a little nervous, is the driveside chainstay next to the chainring. The R5 will take up to a 36 tooth ring but even with the stock 32 tooth, frame clearance is tighter than a gnat’s chuff. Now, I’ve not had chainsuck on a bike since ditching the front shifter years ago, but the lack of air between them makes me a bit nervous I have to admit and an aluminium plate there for protection would have been good for peace of mind.

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It’s a bit close down there…

Speaking of tight clearance, tyre clearance on the frame is good between the seatstays as there is no cross-brace between the two but down at the chainstay interface, it’s fairly tight with the 2.5” rear tyre in. This could be a bit of an issue for those who ride in claggy mud areas in the winter and if you’re wondering whether you can fit 650b+ in or an even bigger 29er tyre in, then the answer is basically no.

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…and here also

The R5 is available in three sizes: ‘small/medium’, ‘large’ and ‘extra large’. Why they didn’t just go with small, medium and large is a bit of a mystery as this is what they are. This large framed demo bike is a similar size to the medium R4 so it’s a bit confusing to be honest and if you’re not into geeking out on reach and stack numbers, it could be easy to get the wrong size. By all accounts, the sizing is bit limited on the Rallon if you’re vertically gifted : if you’re well above the six foot mark then even the Extra Large frame (i.e Large), could feel a bit small. For me however, this large frame with a 40mm stem is a close match to my medium R4 with a 50mm stem but does feel a touch shorter when seated, despite being 20mm longer in reach; the steeper seat tube angle giving you a more upright riding position than before. I had a quick ‘car park’ go on the Extra Large Rallon owned by MTB Strap On’s Sam a while back and I have to say, even that didn’t feel massive for me. The M-TEAM spec comes with a shorter 35mm stem and I reckon this would be too short for me so I would say only go for the short stem if you’re upsizing to a larger frame. So yeah, correct sizing is a bit tricky to pin point – for me at 5,8” with 32” inseam, the large frame is fine but an Extra Large probably wouldn’t be to far out of the question if I wanted a long bike.

With Autumn setting in fast in the southwest, Saturday dawned with a cool but dry day forecast and I decided to head out for a big XC/trail ride. The fact that 40mph gusts were also forecast didn’t put me off. The ride ended up being 35 miles in length with 4,000ft of climbing with a mixture of natural, steep, sometimes rocky trails, short downhill trails with the odd jump scattered down it and some hardpack ‘Sustrans’ type trails and road climbs in between to link it all together. The second ride was a winch and plummet affair at Grogley Woods near Bodmin which is the enduro training ground for most riders in Cornwall. Consisting of a 10 minute fire road climb and then a multitude of fast, steep, rooty, natural trails back down, it would be a great way to test the bike out.

Climbing

The first thing I noticed as I pedalled up some road and then some trails, is that it climbs very well. On road or hardpack, stick the Fox DPX2 shock into climb mode and the shock almost completely locks out, giving a nice efficient transfer of power to those big wheels. Initial acceleration was inevitably a touch slower but there was less of a difference from when I moved to the 650b Rallon from my 26” wheeled Orange Five (no doubt suspension differences accounted a fair bit in that however).

Off-road,with the neutral riding position, the bike climbed well and combined with the extra grip from the bigger rubber, there was rarely a hint of the rear wheel breaking traction on loose, rocky climbs. The front end never wanted to lift or wander on steeper ascents either and I didn’t feel like I had to get my weight further forward or over the stem as much as my R4 either. It goes without saying, that a 160/150mm travel bike won’t bag you any KOMs on the way up, but spin up at a comfortable pace and you’ll get to the top quick enough with energy still in the legs.

Pedalling

One thing I’ve liked about my R4 is that although it’s a long travel bike for trail riding, it’s never been a chore doing a 30+ mile trail ride on it. Sure, the flatter trails don’t exactly come alive on it (despite the original 650b promise!) and of course, a shorter travel trail or XC bike would be a bit quicker, but at a shade over 30lbs in weight, my R4 is just about fine for a big day out. Initially, I had wondered if, despite being carbon (presumption = lightweight) and 29” wheels (presumption = faster rolling & more momentum), that the angles and size of a 160/150mm 29” bike would make it more of pig to slog around for big miles than the R4. After my 34 mile trail ride effort into some hefty head winds at some points, I was really pleased to find that it was no more of an effort than the R4 i.e. pretty good actually. As mentioned earlier, this R5 is a little heavier than my R4 but it was not noticeable when pedalling with the neutral riding position being comfortable and would be fine for a big epic trail ride or enduro race in the hills.

Descending

Pointing it downhill, the biggest surprise was that it didn’t feel like I expected a big wheeler to handle. There was initially an element of ‘oversteering’ on the exit of fast turns but I quickly adapted and never really noticed it again, but apart from that, it didn’t feel a handful in the corners or slow and cumbersome to move around at all. One section at Grogley (Quarry Tipper trail – one of my favourites) has a series of steep tight switchbacks down through the woods and would be my test to see how easy the larger wheels would be to manoeuvre through. To my pleasant surprise, the changes of direction felt no slower than the R4 and the bike whipped through them without any issues, thanks to the short 435mm chainstays. Any worries of big wheels being slow to turn were thrown out of the window and dismissed with a Strava PB.

Despite possibly a touch slower acceleration, it still picked up speed very quickly and really kept it at a high pace down the trails. Where it was really noticeable was over roots where it just felt like the bike was skipping across the top…those bigger diameter wheels and tyres just rolled over them so much more easily that it felt like I was floating over them and the suspension didn’t get hung up in the squarer edged ones either. It just felt crazy fast!

As for in the air, I have to admit that I’m an average jumper so I can’t really say how well the bike is to whip, flip or table (but Cai Grocott doesn’t seem to have a problem) but it felt very stable on the gaps and tables that I sent it off and that extra speed had me overshooting the landings on a few as well – I didn’t necessarily feel like I was going faster, but obviously I was!

Components

I was very impressed with the DPX2 shock. It’s simple with just rebound and low speed compression adjustment, together with essentially a ‘climb’, ‘trail’ and ‘descend’ switch which can also be fine-tuned further in the ‘descend’ mode, and handled rocks, roots and climbs very well. There’s no high speed compression adjustment other than inserting spacers inside the shock to increase the ramp-up however. It was that good that I did wonder whether the upgrade to the DHX2 was worth it for most UK riders. The DHX2 is designed as an air shock for downhill bikes and proper hard charging elite enduro racers. If you’re not top level, then the DPX2 will almost certainly be good enough for the majority of riders who are using an R5 for mostly trail riding and a touch of UK enduro racing.

Both the M10 and M-TEAM spec bikes come with Shimano’s new 4 Pot XT brakes. I used to be a big fan of Shimano brakes, they had great power but did have a tendency to leak or lack consistency sometimes. I’ve loved the power the Formula R0 brakes on my R4 have and these XTs paired with a 203mm Icetech rotor up front and 180mm rotor at the rear, were also nice and powerful and I’d be happy to go back to them.

The Raceface Aeffect dropper with 125mm of down and up has a nice smooth operation and I really liked the lever ergonomics having been used to the Rockshox Reverb plunger for years. The return speed is a little slow but overall was nice to use. There was plenty of room for to go for a 150mm dropper so I would prefer to go with more drop just because I could.

The mostly SRAM GX Eagle transmission (the rear mech is actually X01) also worked really well and I was surprised with the smooth action of the GX shifter as I expected it to be a little clunky having been using X01 on my R4. I wouldn’t have any concerns in ‘dropping spec’ to GX Eagle in the future – it’s very good.

The DT Swiss E1900 wheels are a solid wheelset, although being the cheaper spec they lack the Ratchet hub, which is easy to maintain and easy to upgrade to quicker engagement down the line. There’s a fair bit of rotation of the cranks on the 3 pawl hub which may or may not be a thing for you, depending on what you’re used to. The 30mm internal rim width means running a wide tyre gives a nice profile and grippy contact patch with the ground. A Maxxis Minion DHF up front is my year round choice so it was great to have the 2.5” version here. It’s big but doesn’t look ridiculous on these wheels but the 2.4” Aggressor on the back wasn’t quite to my liking as I needed to run it with quite low pressure to get the grip I wanted off-road…but then was a little too draggy on-road/hardpack for me. My personal preference is a Minion DHR II or High Roller II.

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DT Swiss E1900 wheels solid but lack the Ratchet mechanism for a quick pick up

Summary

So having finally ridden the R5, I’m definitely impressed! For me, it rides very similarly to the R4 but with the bigger wheels, it now rockets through the rough stuff more smoothly and more quickly.

The M10 spec is a very good base spec and will get you riding and racing quickly fresh out of the box, but I think the £240 upgrade to the Factory Fork is well worth it as a minimum if you can afford it. In my opinion, the important upgrades are the fork and the wheels to the DT Swiss E1501 set, which are lighter and have the 36t Ratchet rear hub for quicker engagement.

It’s a killer…and I want it!

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Rhubarb and Custard

Positives

  • Agile and stable;
  • Base model spec is well though out;
  • Pedals very well for a long travel bike;
  • DPX2 shock great for trail riding;
  • MyO custom colours at no extra charge.

Negatives

  • Sizing – if you’re very tall;
  • Tyre/mud clearance near the bottom bracket if you live where the mud is claggy.

If you want to try the Orbea Rallon M10 out for yourself, get in touch with Unit Cycles based near Truro, Cornwall for a demo.

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