Look Out Levo SL – The New Orbea Rise Is A New Lightweight e-MTB

Big news out of the Basque region, as Orbea announces the expansion of its electric mountain bike lineup with the release of the brand new Rise. Sitting alongside the bigger travel Orbea Wild FS, the Orbea Rise is a mid-travel full suspension e-MTB that’s designed to be as lightweight as possible, and as natural-feeling on the trail as possible. Featuring a custom Shimano motor, a smaller battery, and complete weights as low as 16.2kg, the Orbea Rise has other lightweight, low-powered e-MTBs like the Specialized Levo SL and Lapierre eZesty squarely in its sights.

The New Orbea Rise – Give Us The Rundown

Think of the Rise as an electrified version of the Orbea Occam trail bike. It’s built around 29in wheels and it features 140mm of rear wheel travel, with either a 140mm or 150mm travel fork up front. It features a 65.5-66° head angle, a 76.5-77° seat tube angle, and 445mm long chainstays on all four frame sizes.

The Rise’s frame itself is all-carbon, utilising Orbea’s OMR layup that results in a claimed frame weight of just 2.3kg (that’s for the bare frame without a shock or motor), which has to be up there as one of the lightest going.

And we reckon the silhouette is absolutely superb! From first glance, it’s actually hard to tell that the Rise is actually an e-MTB, thanks to that slim downtube and the low-profile Shimano motor. It’s certainly a very different aesthetic to the Orbea Wild FS we tested recently, which remains in the lineup as the brasher, bigger travel, full-powered, enduro-oriented option from Orbea.

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
Heck that’s a good looking e-MTB! Orbea rolls out the new Rise – a lightweight, lower-powered pedal-assist mountain bike.

16.2kg? Seriously?

Yes really! Well according to Orbea anyway, we don’t have one here to verify it just yet. We also need to stipulate that the headline weight figure is specifically for the top-end M-LTD model though, and there are a few reasons why it’s so light compared to the other three models.

To get the complete weight down to that level, Orbea has spec’d the M-LTD model with Maxxis Rekon tyres with the lightweight EXO casing. Probably not our first choice for bashing down rocky trails on an e-MTB, but potentially just fine for lighter duties on more XC-style trails. We do see a lot of big travel e-MTBs being ridden on that kind of singletrack though, so perhaps Orbea isn’t actually that far off the mark.

Again, these are all likely sufficient for many riders who aren’t necessarily bombing the steepest and roughest alpine-style trails, and it all helps Orbea get the total weight down to a number that makes journalists like us write about it.

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
The M-LTD model makes some compromises on the build kit to get the weight down to just 16.2kg.

Up front the M-LTD model features the skinnier Fox 34 fork, which is around 200g lighter than the equivalent Fox 36. Specialized also spec’d a 34 on the Levo SL when it first launched, and while it is likely fine for a lot of riders and on easier trails, it is twangier than the bigger 36 – something that is more noticeable on a heavier e-MTB that you’re generally plummeting downhill at faster speeds on.

Other gram-saving spec decisions include two-piston Shimano XTR Race brakes, narrower 760mm carbon handlebars, and a 125mm Fox Transfer dropper post. Again, these are all likely sufficient for many riders who aren’t necessarily bombing the steepest and roughest alpine-style trails, and it all helps Orbea get the total weight down to a number that makes journalists like us write about it. So consider it job-done then Orbea!

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
Orbea has partnered with Shimano to develop custom firmware for the EP8 motor to make it more efficient, while reducing maximum power output.

It Gets A Custom Shimano EP8-RS Motor

Putting aside the weight and XC-oriented build kit of the M-LTD model for a moment, it’s worth pointing out that all Rise models get the same carbon frame that’s built around Shimano’s new EP8 motor that only launched a few weeks ago. Though it’s not quite the same.

Maximum torque has been restricted from 85Nm to 60Nm.

Called the EP8-RS, the motor is structurally identical to the regular EP8, aside from a small ‘RS’ badge that sits in the machined heat sink on the outside of the motor unit. The key difference here is in the firmware and how the motor behaves, which Orbea has dubbed ‘Rider Synergy’. Maximum torque has been restricted from 85Nm to 60Nm. That’s still decent, and it’s significantly more powerful than the Levo SL (35Nm) and it has a little more grunt than the Fazua Evation (55Nm).

The result is that the EP8-RS motor is claimed to draw less Watts-per-hour, so it doesn’t drain the battery as quickly.

Why Less Power?

Since the Rise is lighter to begin with, the theory is that it doesn’t need as much power as a bigger and heavier e-MTB. And while it may come as a shock to some e-MTB users, not everyone rides in the full Boost/Turbo mode all the time.

The other reason for restricting the motor’s maximum torque is based around improving efficiency and creating a more ‘natural’ riding experience compared to a full-powered e-MTB. By limiting the power output and reworking the power band and cadence range, Orbea claims the EP8-RS is vastly more efficient than regular high-powered motors. Power delivery is focussed in the 75-90RPM cadence range, so there’ll be less lurch to begin with – you’ll be relying more on your own power when pedalling off the mark, and the assistance will drop off at higher cadences too. The result is that the EP8-RS motor is claimed to draw less Watts-per-hour, so it doesn’t drain the battery as quickly.

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
The slim battery pack sits inside the downtube and isn’t designed to be easily removable.

Super-Slim Battery

Because of this, Orbea can build the Rise with a smaller – and crucially lighter – battery.

Whereas most e-MTBs are using batteries with a 500-700Wh capacity, the Orbea Rise features a much smaller 360Wh battery pack. The very narrow and long battery pack stows inside the downtube where it’s fully sealed, and it isn’t designed to be easily removable. That means you’ll have to recharge it via the port on the side of the seat tube – you can’t quickly remove the battery to charge it separately like you can on the Wild FS.

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
Orbea’s own RS battery pack gets 360Wh of juice.

It does mean that Orbea’s engineers have been able to engineer the Rise with a very slim and low-profile downtube though. This helps to bring the total weight down, while also creating that svelte profile.

The battery itself uses an alloy housing and is packed with new generation 21700 cells, which purportedly offer a higher charge/discharge rate and better battery life overall. Orbea claims the battery weighs just 2.2kg, which is light, but not quite as light as the 320Wh battery found inside the Levo SL (1.8kg claimed).

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
There’s also a separate range extender battery pack for those who want to add on more juice.

There’s A Separate Range Extender

Despite the smaller battery pack, Orbea reckons riders will be able to get two hours of ride time and up to 1200m of elevation while riding on the most powerful Boost mode on the Rise. If you ride on Eco, that extends to 4.5 hours of ride time and up to 2500m of elevation.

If you decide you need more juice though, Orbea will offer a separate add-on battery pack. The RS Range Extender does mean you’ll give up the water bottle mount on the frame, but it does add on a further 252Wh, bringing total capacity to 612Wh. With the Range Extender, Orbea claims you’ll get up to eight hours of riding and 4000m of elevation while in Eco mode.

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
The range extender adds on 252Wh, bringing total capacity to 612Wh.

Minimalist Controls

To go along with the diet-battery and motor, Orbea has gone for a minimalist vibe with the Rise’s electronic bits.

The main power button is discreetly located down on the seat tube above the motor, instead of on the top tube like you’ll find on most e-MTBs. There’s also no display on the handlebar. Instead, there’s a small Shimano E-Tube junction box that cable ties onto the dropper post cable. The junction box features a couple of built-in LEDs that light up to indicate which mode you’re in, and it wires directly into the EM800-L switch unit next to the left-hand grip, which allows you to scroll between Eco, Trail and Boost modes.

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
The standard setup on the Rise will feature Shimano’s discreet E-Tube junction box, rather than the SC-EM800 display we’re used to seeing.
2021 orbea rise e-mtb
A few e-MTBs could take a leaf out of Orbea’s book – this is one discreet cockpit.

Orbea’s justification for getting rid of the SC-EM800 screen was to keep the Rise looking as close to a regular mountain bike as possible. Furthermore, there’s wireless integration between the junction box and Garmin head units, so if you use one of those, you’ll still be able to get those more detailed metrics in front of you.

We quite like Shimano’s display unit though. The good news is that for folks who feel the same way, you will be able to add on the EM800 display at the time of purchase on Orbea’s webshop.

How Does It Compare To The Levo SL?

That’s a question we’re looking forward to answering in the future once we can get one in for a proper review on home trails. We’ve tested the Specialized Levo SL already, and came away impressed with the lightweight e-MTB concept – the low weight, smooth pedal feel and more agile handling being the big pluses for that bike.

2020 specialized turbo levo sl emtb electric mountain bike sworks
Orbea’s new Rise will help to legitimise the lightweight low-powered e-MTB segment that has so far been dominated by the Specialized Levo SL.

The Orbea Rise follows a similar concept, and really, it helps to legitimise it by providing a genuine contender to Specialized. Orbea has tackled it by going with a Shimano motor rather than engineering its own, as Specialized has done with the SL 1.1 motor on the Levo SL. This will deliver a different ride experience, and it also results in an extra kilo of mass for the Orbea. Here’s how that breaks down;

The flip-side to that extra kilo of weight is that the Orbea Rise offers some tantalising advantages when it comes to power and range;

2020 specialized turbo levo sl emtb electric mountain bike expert carbon
The SL 1.1 motor on the Levo SL is a little lighter, less powerful and more compact.

Otherwise suspension travel is pretty similar between the two bikes, both look very clean and slim for an e-MTB, and both will fit a water bottle inside the mainframe.

Geometry is also pretty similar, though the Orbea is a little more progressive with a steeper seat tube angle (77° vs 75°), a longer reach  (450mm vs 435mm on a Medium) and a shorter fork offset (44mm vs 51mm). Chainstay length is also longer on the Orbea Rise – they come in at 445mm vs 437mm on the Levo SL.

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
The second tier option, the Rise M-Team, comes with a bigger Fox 36 GRIP2 fork, a Float DPX2 piggyback shock, burlier tyres and 4-piston brakes.

The Orbea Rise Lineup

There will be four Rise models available in Australia for 2021, starting at $10,499 AUD for the M20 and going up to $16,999 AUD for the M-LTD. That’s a lot of cash, but it’s quite a bit less than the equivalent Levo SL models.

As mentioned earlier, the 16.2kg complete weight belongs to the top-end M-LTD model, which features those lighter tyres, skinnier fork and 2-piston brakes. In comparison, the next model down, the M-Team, gets a 150mm travel Fox 36 GRIP2 fork, a piggyback DPX2 shock, 4-piston brakes, an EXO+ rear tyre casing and a Dissector up front. It bumps weight up to a less-headline-grab-worthy 17.5kg, but we feel it’ll be the much more practical and popular option out of the two.

Read on for a closer look at the specs and pricing of the full Orbea Rise lineup for 2021.

2021 orbea rise m-ltd e-mtb
The Rise M-LTD comes with a skinnier 34 fork, lighter EXO tyres and 2-piston brakes to help get the weight down to that 16.2kg headline-grabber.

2021 Orbea Rise M-LTD

2021 orbea rise m-team e-mtb
We suspect the M-Team will be the more popular option with its burlier tyres and bigger 150mm travel fork.

2021 Orbea Rise M-Team

2021 orbea rise m-10 e-mtb
If you’re not so worried about XTR though, the Rise M10 keeps the Fox Factory Series suspension and pairs it with a Shimano XT groupset for a few grand less. Nice!

2021 Orbea Rise M10

2021 orbea rise m-20 e-mtb
Coming in at almost the same price as an alloy Levo SL, the Rise M20 gets the same carbon chassis and EP8-RS motor as the top-end Rise models.

2021 Orbea Rise M20

2021 orbea rise e-mtb
Does the Orbea Rise have what it takes to push the Specialized Levo SL off its perch? We’re looking forward to finding out!

Does This New Segment Have Legs?

In our opinion, the most exciting aspect of the arrival of the new Rise is the fact that Orbea is helping to legitimise the lightweight, low-powered e-MTB segment.

The concept itself of course isn’t new – Focus was first to the party with the JAM² way back in 2016, where it introduced the idea of using a smaller and lighter battery to help bring the total bike weight down. The goal was to provide a more natural handling and riding experience for riders who were happy to put more of their own effort in rather than rely on full Boost the whole time.

The segment has since been bolstered by the Lapierre eZesty, and more recently, by the Specialized Levo SL. We’ve also seen some more of the Euro brands, like Rotwild, also join the party, and we expect we’ll see more arriving over the coming year. Given that Focus laid the foundations for the category, the German brand is surely due to launch a new lightweight e-MTB based around the Shimano EP8 motor, which as Orbea has already proven, is a legitimate engine for such a bike.

We’re also intrigued to see if the likes of Trek, Scott and Canyon dive into the category with the same vigour, and we’re excited to see what will come if they do.

2021 orbea rise e-mtb

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