Usually when we review a bike, we go over previous iterations, updates to geometry, or if it’s a new model, how it fits in with a brand’s existing offerings. In the case of the Revel Rail, however, the usual pfaffing is unnecessary because this is a brand-new bike from a brand-new company. That the Revel Rail held its own at the Bible was impressive, and that the brand pulled this off in their first year is quite frankly mind-boggling.
It would be easy to paint this bike as an underdog, but that’s not exactly the case. The Revel team, while small, packs a ton of industry expertise—and consequently everything on this bike feels well thought out. The geometry is what you’d expect for an aggressive 27.5-inch trail bike (75-degree seat tube, 65-degree head tube and 430-millimeter stays), and you get all the modern touches, like guided internal routing, refined layups and just one size of pivot bearings. The company even designed a clever integrated chain guide.
Still, the numbers only tell half the story. We were shocked by the immediate sense of confidence we got from this bike, pretty much from the minute we pulled it off the stand. It doesn’t feel like a small company’s first attempt; it feels like an established heavy-hitter.
The Rail makes excellent use of the relatively unsung but well-proven Canfield CBF linkage, which gives you nearly 100-percent anti-squat no matter where you are in your travel or gear range. On the trail, that translates to a bike that pedals efficiently while still attentively reacting to the terrain. At 31 pounds and sporting 165 millimeters of rear-wheel travel, it’s no XC bike, but with the range it can cover, we’d put it firmly in what we think of as the ‘mountain adventure’ category. It even felt fast climbing the road back to our house. Then there’s descending. It feels like Christmas when you realize that you do, in fact, get 165 millimeters of travel. This bike picked up speed over Park City’s most jumbled quartzite lines, giving you that elusive purr you sometimes get with good suspension. It is joyful in the air, and true to its name, corners like a slalom ski. You can snap it around almost carelessly and it’ll hold traction just a little longer than the taller-feeling 29ers. Push it and this bike will be a willing accomplice for whatever trail mischief you can cook up.
It is interesting that Revel chose to go with the 27.5 platform for this bike, especially when it seems that long-travel 29ers are the only thing anyone’s willing to ride anymore. But to us the Rail was a nice reminder of what you can do with smaller wheels. This is a bike that never feels wallowy, or locked-in, or like you’re piloting a tractor; it feels like it’s begging you put a little extra sauce on that hip, because why not?
Revel primarily sells direct-to-consumer, so you’ll probably have to make your build selections and payment online. The website makes it clear what you’re getting, and you can toggle between fork, dropper and wheel options. The bike we tested with the RockShox Lyric fork, Industry Nine wheels and SRAM X01 Eagle retails for $7,000. Frame-only runs $2,800 and a unique frame-and- fork option goes for $3,500. As a bonus, every complete bike comes shipped in an Evoc case to help eliminate cardboard waste.
As we head back into a 29er world, a long-travel 27.5 bike might feel like a blast from the past, but it makes a strong case for littler wheels. The Rail is so capable that we forgot about the travel, wheel size and almost everything else—besides, of course, milking as much speed and fun as we could get out of every inch of trail.
Q&A with Adam Miller, founder of Revel
Candidly, the geo seemed reminiscent of 27.5 bikes a couple years ago (in, we all agree, a good way). Did it just take that long to get to production on this first bike or was this an intentional choice? If you want to pass on this one, the question can be “why did you choose a 27.5 platform?”
Ha! Interesting question- Honestly it really comes down to just that we made the bikes we wanted to ride. Our geo is still on the modern side of the spectrum, but I do think we really hit some sweet spots in the geo range. A lot of bikes now are almost on the “too modern” side of the geo spectrum. Our 65-degree head angle, 75-degree effective seat angle, 430mm stays and a 470mm reach on a large is right in the sweet spot of what a lot of riders today want, and feedback has been really good on that. We don’t have any plans to change our geometry drastically on any future models- these numbers just work! So yes, even though we spent over 3 years working on the Rail, this geo was a very intentional choice and we feel like it is dialed for a wide range of riders.
How did you find and decide to use the Canfield linkage? How were you able to eliminate the weight issues other bikes have run into with this platform?
I’m typing this email while sitting in a coffee shop before heading to Outerbike Bentonville and I’m sitting right across from Chris Canfield while he’s mapping out kinematics for one of our future bikes. The short answer is the CBF platform is the absolute best suspension platform available and Chris is freaking amazing to work with. We’re kinda just a group of friends making the bikes we want, and drinking a few beers with Chris usually quickly turns into multi-hour discussions of suspension design theory and formulas and ideas. It makes making bikes really fun, and amongst our design team, we all collectively fuel each other’s passion for trying to make the absolute best mountain bikes out there. I first rode the CBF platform 4 years ago on a Canfield Balance as I was testing different bikes with a slight idea that I wanted to start a full suspension mountain bike company, but I wanted to make something different. After about 100 yards in a parking lot I knew CBF was that something special, and by the next day our patent licensing deal was in place and the wheels started turning for Revel. We spent a lot of time on the carbon layup- we tested 13 different stiffness prototypes which was super fun (even though it tested my patience). Basically, we optimized the bikes to ride really well, and weight was a secondary concern, but I think we found a really good balance of ride quality and weight.
Can you talk a little more about what Revel is doing to be more environmentally friendly? Why was that a priority when you started this brand?
Environmental sustainability is something I’ve always wanted to strive towards, especially in an industry centered around products built to have fun outside in nature. We ship all of our complete bikes in reusable Evoc travel cases instead of cardboard boxes when a customer orders a bike directly from us. If someone doesn’t want the Evoc case, we pay to ship it back and we reuse it for another customer’s bike. We don’t print with harmful inks on our cardboard boxes either. All of our packaging material is reused and recycled- it makes for not the prettiest bike packaging, but far less wasteful. We’ve explored using recyclable carbon fiber resins, but we’re not quite there yet. We compost and recycle in the office. We’re a small company now and we are just doing what we can- none of this is too drastic but every step of the way we have a company policy to choose the more sustainable option even if it costs a bit more. I hope we can continue to improve on this and work towards even more environmentally sustainable business practices.
Sweating the details.
How to put rigs through the wringer.