By Alex Boyce
With the introduction of their new Rise M-Team, it may be worth asking, “Has Spanish bike brand Orbea brought the e-MTB revelation of 2021?” No doubt there have been some really good pedal-assist mountain bikes rolled out this year, but the Orbea stands out for going in a different direction than most others.
Based around a Shimano EP8 RS motor with a 360-Wh battery that’s hung on a lightweight carbon frame, the Rise eschews the common trend of overbuilding the bike by designing it instead around the tenets of non-assist cross-country bikes. In short, that means a bike where performance is measured not by its girth and suspension travel, but how efficient the ride can be.
Designed with a priority for saving weight, the carbon Orbea Rise is available in three versions—from a super-lightweight Rise M-LTD at $10,999 down to the M10 at $8599. The Rise M-Team is a no-compromise lightweight trail bike rolling on 29-inch wheels with a high-level component build. It has a new Shimano EP8 RS motor and proprietary reduced-size battery.
The component build is definitely targeted to save weight. Although the motor is a standard-weight (2.8 kilograms) Shimano EP8 model, by using a 360-Wh battery, the weight of the final package has been reduced. The RS is a lower-powered version of the EP8 with only 60 N/m torque instead of 85 N/m. This in turn reduces the battery current drain, which means the battery can be smaller and lighter. The good news is that the range will stay the same as a normal system.
In addition to the more moderate-sized 180mm brake rotors, to further the weight savings, Orbea spec’d the lightest components from Shimano’s high-end XTR range. The 29-inch Race Face wheels are mounted with downsized 2.4-inch Maxxis Dissector tires to help assure low-rolling resistance.
As expected for a bike in this price range, the Rise rides atop top-of-line Fox suspension components and a Fox Transfer seatpost. Although little has been compromised on this build, it is possible to upgrade the build with even lighter wheels using the bike-builder tool on Orbea’s website.
As unconventional as it is, kudos to Orbea for somehow convincing Shimano to make a lower-powered RS motor that fits the theme of their design. All that was needed to be done was reduce the output power to reduce the current drain. This can be felt when climbing, as the motor requires more input than a standard system to maintain pace.
The feeling of the motor, though, is smoother and less sudden in operation, which, paradoxically, can be better at climbing. We found there was less wheelspin and a smoother delivery, both of which was made evident when climbing alongside a rider with a standard EP8 motor who struggled to maintain climb speed and grip on tight-twisting trails.
The battery is fully integrated and can’t be removed, but the Rise’s range is extendable with the additional 252-watt battery extender. This combination takes the total possible on bike capacity to 612 watts, which with a power-reduced motor is going to mean very long rides are possible.
The display is the Shimano standard display, and the slimline power switch connects via Bluetooth to the Shimano app, which will allow the user to tune the motor performance according to their preferences.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The M-Team is intended for the performance-minded trail or all-mountain rider who wants the very best components on a lightweight electric mountain bike. At just shy of 10 large, you can be assured it will also make your wallet lighter as well.
The Rise is basically a modern e-bike built in the profile of a traditional cross-country mountain bike where lightweight and agile handling are still a priority. We were surprised by the amount of push the motor gave us despite the lower power and how that translated into a very smooth climbing machine. Even on steep switchbacks with hard corners, we were able to stay in the saddle and just pedal upwards.
Similarly, we found the geometry to be conservative by modern standards and best suited to all-around trail use. The bike has been designed for efficient pedaling and easy climbing, not extreme descents.
In fact, there is an even lighter-weight version available with reduced (140mm) fork travel aimed at the more serious cross-country rider.
The rear stays are short enough and the seat tube angle steep enough that pedaling efficiency will be high in most conditions, and the riding position will be more centralized. It is not a bike ideally suited for hanging off the back on steep descents.
It’s clear once you have made it to a flat section of trail this bike comes alive as you spring down the trail, changing direction quickly and easily with finesse. Nothing about this bike is hard to use. The motor keeps on giving up to 25 km/h, then very smoothly transitions off. The suspension if well setup is very good at smoothing all the trail chatter out.
In our opinion, this is where the Rise excelled—on slow trails where you have lots of ups and downs and distance is your aim—not pure height changes in one climb, more of a cumulative ride character.
Point the Rise downhill and you start to learn the limits of its capabilities. Attaining faster downhill speeds is not at the top of the list. The bike handles well, but will reach the limit in very tough conditions, with the brakes and tires being the source of its limits. Obviously, weight has to be saved, and these components are the lightweight versions so will perform differently to a burlier enduro setup.
The bike is very lively, and in rough stuff at speed it can get somewhat nervous. But, as the Rise climbs better than many bikes we’ve ridden, there’s the compromise. How much is that compromise? Well, in our experience we could comfortably ride up to all-mountain-level trails, but once they got rocky and steep, we felt both bigger brake rotors and better tires would be an advantage.
You would be looking at the Orbea if you’re in the market for a lightweight, explore-worthy trail bike. However, it’s not so much just a cross-country bike as it’s way more capable than that. Thanks to the good trail geometry and overall light weight, the Rise feels like a mountain bike that comes with a little bit of power.
Given the bike industry’s reliance on designing overbuilt gravity bikes with tires, brake rotors and suspension parts all designed for higher speeds and bigger hits, the Orbea Rise M-Team comes as a welcome surprise.
A light e-bike with predictable handling and good range—crazy, huh?! If you are coming from trail riding on a traditional mountain bike where fitness and handling skills are still welcome, then this could be the bike for you to buy. Will modern e-bike mountain bikers who’ve grown accustomed to more of this and more of that embrace the concept of having less bike? We hope so.
ORBEA RISE M-TEAM
Weight: 39 lb.
Frame: Orbea Rise OMR 2021 carbon
Fork: Fox 36 Float Factory 150 Kashima coat
Rear shock: Fox DPX2 Factory 3-position adjust Evol Kashima coat
Motor: Shimano EP8-RS
Battery: Orbea RS internal 360Wh
Controls: Shimano E7000
Charge tme: 3–4 hours
Top Speed: 20 mph
Range: 15-25 miles
Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR M9100 SGS Shadow Plus
Chain: Shimano CN-9100
Brakes: Shimano XTR M9120 hydraulic disc 180mm
Saddle: Fizik Taiga Kium rail
Dropper post: Fox Transfer Factory Kashima dropper 31.6mm
Wheels: Race Face Turbine R30 TLR 15/110mm
Tires: Maxxis Dissector 2.40” 60 tpi 3CMaxxTerra Exo TLR
Color choice: Sap White/Green Fog
Sizes: Small, medium, large,