Orbea Rise: Initial Ride(s) Review!

On a dreary, cold, winter PNW weekend, I decided to take a trip down to sunny and warm Southern California to visit the Jenson USA headquarters. During that “sun-cation”, I was lucky enough to spend two days aboard the carbon Orbea Rise. Equipped with a slightly de-tuned Shimano’s EP8 motor, and dual 29″ wheels, the Rise has 150mm of front travel and 140mm of rear. But no one is talking about the travel- instead, the highlight here is that the bike weighs in at just 40 pounds, and has established an entirely new genre of eMTB.

I’ll go out and say it- if you are not already familiar with the Orbea Rise, you probably haven’t been paying much attention to eMTBs at all. The good news is that you’re here, learning about the Rise, because this is a bike you won’t wanna miss! The Rise is a VERY innovative platform, and has legitimized an entire genre of eMTBs that ride more like traditional bicycles.

This bike is really, really neat, and I want to give my pals at Jenson USA a HUGE thanks for the opportunity to spend a few days aboard this bike! While visiting the Jenson USA headquarters, and riding in sunny Southern California, one of the Jenson guys reminded me that not only is Jenson USA an Orbea dealer, but they’ve got a good stock of these Rise bikes. Lo and behold, they even had a demo bike on hand- and even in my size (medium, I’m 5’8″, or 174cm). fyi, this article contains affiliate links that will generate a small commission from any purchases.

As you all know I love to jib around and hop off anything that could be a jump. The Rise really suited my riding style, and especially so on these flatter trails. The spot where I was riding had tons of rocks and other obstacles that on an analog bike I would be forced to go around. But with the help of Shimano’s motor I was able to have more fun and do more on this bike than I would on an analog bike on the same trail.

So what’s all the hoopla about? Well, most eMTBs I’ve featured on my channel have weighed between 50 and 60 lbs. They have a good amount of travel, plenty of power, and are great for really rough, gnarly backcountry trails. However, like I’ve explained before, not many folks are actually riding spots like that. The Rise is a solid 10 lbs lighter, which goes a HUGE ways to maintain the traditional “bicycle” feel. With a bit less travel, and even a bit less power, the tradeoff of a big weight savings means the overall experience works much better on traditional MTB style trails. Especially those with jumps!

I preferred the handling characteristics of the Rise more so than those of the Occam- and I still do enjoy the Occam plenty! Although the geometry is the same on the two platforms, the added stiffness from the bigger, battery-housing downtube of the Rise contributed a lot to how good the bike felt. It is much torsionally stiffer than the Occam, which means more consistency and predictability during aggressive riding moments like this.

Within the carbon downtube is a large battery that powers Shimano’s new EP8 motor system. While we’ve been chasing max torque numbers for a few years, Orbea has gone a different way, and tuned the EP8 for efficiency instead of max power. Which makes a lot of sense, especially given the fact that the battery is not easily swappable on the trail. Instead, it simply doesn’t need to be swappable. The slightly lower powered motor is still a significant boost over no motor, and while I never did a proper range test, we had plenty of battery for 20-30 mile days.

Here’s an example of what “de-tuned” actually means- there’s a steep trail in my town with about a 20% gradient climb going up. On a traditional bicycle, I’ll see 3-4 mph while climbing- and to maintain that, my heart rate is spiked, maybe 90% of max. On the traditional eMTBs, at full boost, I’ll see 8-9 mph while climbing, and heart rate is at maybe 75% of max. On the Rise, I’d be at about 7 mph (and maybe an 80% heart rate). Still faster than a bicycle, and not far off from the bigger eMTBs.

Setting up the Rise:

Before riding the Rise off road, I did as I always do, and changed a few contact points to those that I am familiar with, and can trust. I installed my personal Industry Nine Enduro 305 32 spoke wheels (with carbon WR1 rims) which also had my heavy duty, double down casing tires installed. I swapped the controls over to PNW Components– a Range bar cut to 760mm, a 50mm stem, and a Loam lever. Though I do wish I had a spare Loam dropper with me in the right size- Orbea still hasn’t caught on to longer drop seatposts, and the bike had only a 150mm unit.

Even when I was trying technical trials moves, the Rise handled it without batting an eye. Usually I wouldn’t be trying moves like this on an ebike, but the Rise takes the best parts of an analog bike and combines them with the best parts of an ebike.

When I do reviews, I like to spend a lot of time on the bike, so for this I’m just doing a “first impressions” after spending 3 days with it. Logan rode it for a day, so I was able to firsthand witness how it held up, which was fine- besides a flat tire with the svelte stock EXO casing units. Case in point why I ALWAYS swap over to WTB Tough casing or Maxxis Double Down!

Riding the Rise

When climbing on the Rise, there are 3 power modes, the highest of the 3 is “boost” mode. I generally kept it there when I was doing any jobbing or side hits. The boost mode on the Rise is great, it comes in very smooth, and puts power down for about a third of a second after you’re done pedaling. This meant I could use the boost to help launch the bike off random rocks and roots for better bump jumps. The lowest power setting feels like a regular bike, as you can barely notice the assist, and I spent the majority of time in the middle setting. The middle setting was a great compromise- it used very little battery, and still nearly doubled my climbing pace. When not trying a “high-performance” feature, I’d generally run in the middle setting, and it felt very appropriate.

The Rise has 3 power settings, on the lowest it pretty much feels like an analog bicycle. The middle setting is great for descending, or if you’re on a trail with lots of ups and downs, and you want to conserve a little juice. The boost mode felt great, and any steep climbing, as well as any stunting, was done on boost. The motor’s power came on very smooth, even in boost , and I never felt like I was out-of-control with “too much” power.

After some back and forth with my contact at Orbea, it turns out the Rise and the Occam share the same geometry. However, the Rise feels a lot more stable, predictable, and confidence inspiring. The reason for this is the stiffer frame. The geometry feels pretty good when its being ridden under eMTB parameters- which are usually around 20mph or slower. For reference, most of the riding in my video is below the 20mph max speed electric assist cut off.

I was really excited to ride the trails we did, as one had a great jump line built. My biggest complaint about eMTBs on “MTB” trails is that they aren’t that much fun to jump. The extra weight is really restricting when it comes to manipulating the bike in the air. However, the Rise felt much more natural than other ebikes I’ve ridden when it comes to jumping. It’s not as easy as a regular bike, but it’s in this weird intermediary zone between a full blown ebike and analog bike. I do still prefer jumping and playing on a regular bicycle, but I would LOVE to have a Rise of my own as a second bike as more MTB type trails get opened up to eMTB access.

Similar to the Occam, the suspension isn’t as progressive as I’d personally like. For my tastes, the Rise could use more volume reduction front and rear, which would result in more progression. That would mean less bottoming on jump landings, take offs, and in tight, smashy corners. But it’s not scary to jump, you can force it into a landing, and pump when you need to. I just want MORE of that!

Unlike many early generation ebikes I’ve ridden the Rise doesn’t have a lot of motor drag when above 20 mph. I still felt like I could put some pedals in and I wasn’t losing efficiency because of the drag on the hub. This adds a lot to it feeling like a regular bike.

A nice update to the eMTB experience is the pedaling efficiency when you’re past the 20mph e-assist speed limit. On earlier eMTBs, trying to pedal when riding faster than the speed limit (and that means the motor is on, but not providing any assist) felt like you were riding through deep sand. It was so bad that we would turn off the motors when riding fast downhill trails!

With the reasonably short chainstays, the Rise pumps a lot better than other ebikes I’ve ridden. Pumping an eBike? Yep, it feels like a normal MTB, so might as well ride it like one!

One thing I love about Shimano’s EP8 drivetrain is how clean the cockpit looks compared to a lot of ebikes. There is one extra wire that is routed along the dropper post cable. Instead of a screen and 6 extra wires forming a rats nest on your handlebars.

Concluding Thoughts:

I still really like riding my regular pedal bike, and I will probably prefer my regular pedal bike for a long time. But that’s also regional. As with any bike preference, it matters where you ride, and what type of riding you do the most. Analog bikes will build more muscle, but ebikes like the Rise are great for increasing cardiovascular endurance and for losing weight. I feel that having a lighter weight ebike (like the Rise) would be great for both skills training and maintaining fighting weight. On the ebike spectrum this one is probably the coolest for trails mountain bikes are already riding. Now if only I could get one for my own fleet!

I would certainly consider adding a Rise to my fleet. Orbea did a great job of combining what people love about regular bikes and what people love about ebikes to create this mix of the best of both worlds.

You can learn more about the Rise over at Jenson USA here: https://bit.ly/OrbeaRiseJKW2022

Learn more about the non-motorized Occam here: https://bit.ly/OrbeaOccamLT2022jkw

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