Not too long ago, mountain bikers often had one bike for logging all-day, cross-country excursions and a different bike for getting rowdy and having fun. In those days, once the butter was churned and the horses shod, I’d occasionally modify my 100-millimeter XC bikes to be more playful, capable, and downright more fun to ride by adding a slightly longer-travel fork (usually 120 millimeters), meatier tires, a wider handlebar, a shorter stem, and even custom 1×9 drivetrains. Fast-forward 12 to 15 years—bike geometry and componentry have evolved to create lighter-weight, slacker, more agile and more stable terrain-conquerors. Not surprisingly, many of those characteristics have trickled down to brands’ endurance-oriented offerings. Over the last few years, more shorter-travel bikes have appropriated the slacker head tubes, steeper seat tubes, and more capable componentry to create a somewhat new category, which could be called: Aggressive XC (“XC Free?”). The new Revel Ranger slides into this category, whatever you want to call it.
Revel In The Details
If you’re not all that familiar with Revel bikes, the primarily consumer-direct brand has been around for just under a year and a half. The Ranger is their third offering and features 120 millimeters of front travel matched with 115 in the rear. It’s currently available in a GX Eagle kit ($5,000), Eagle X01 kit tested here ($7,200), or the top-shelf Eagle XX1 AXS build ($10,000). The Ranger is also offered as a frame only ($2,800), plus frame and fork build kits from $3,500. It’s worth mentioning, each bike purchased is delivered in a snazzy Evoc bike case, which you get to keep.
Out of the box–or bag, as it were–the Ranger’s striking, high-gloss, clear-coat carbon aesthetic, sleek frame lines and subtle branding screams speed and high-performance. Its X01 build kit features a wide range of premium XC-focused and sturdy trail-oriented components, like Rockshox’s new SID Ultimate fork and SID Luxe Ultimate air shock, SRAM’s G2 RSC brakes with 160-millimeter rotors, Crank Brothers Highline 7 dropper post, and Revel’s RW30 carbon wheelset matched with 2.4-inch Maxxis’ Dissector EXO up front 2.4-inch Rekon EXO in the rear. The size medium Ranger Eagle X01 test bike weighed 26.5 pounds without pedals.
Bike sizing can often be all over the map, meaning it’s not uncommon for one brand’s size medium to have similar reach and wheelbase numbers found on a different brand’s size large. Revel’s Ranger seems to fall in line with relatively newer sizing predominantly seen on boutique-ish brands, versus what’s found on household bike brand names. By newer sizing, I’m referring to the brands whose size large bikes are around 475 millimeters and medium bikes in the 450 range. The medium Revel Ranger I tested hits that mark with a 453 reach. (For reference, Specialized’s new size medium Epic Evo with the same wheel size nearly identical front and rear travel has a reach of 436, while its large reach is listed as 460.) Additional geometry measurements of note on the Ranger include a wheelbase of 1194 on the large and 1170 on the medium, a 67.5-degree head angle and 75.3-degree seat tube angle.
The Suspension Design
At the heart of Revel’s full-suspension bikes lives their dual-link CBF (Canfield Balance Formula) suspension platform, which was invented years ago by the Canfield Brothers brand. We covered how the concept works in a couple of Bible of Bike tests. One on Revel’s mid-travel Rascal and later on the long-travel Rail. The Colorado-based brand says their licensed CBF suspension platform separates itself from many other designs by centering drivetrain forces around the top of the front chainring during the entire stroke of the rear wheel travel and throughout the entire geara range, which results in maximum pedaling efficiency regardless of how rough or smooth the terrain is, or where the bike is in its travel. According to Revel, this design allows the suspension to do its job independently of drivetrain and braking forces and makes sag settings less critical.
To The Trail
I set up the Rockshox SID shock sag (say that aloud 5 times fast) in between the 25- and 30-percent indicators, and then adjusted the SID fork to settle in around the 15-percent sag mark for a balanced initial feel. The XC-race-oriented SID suspension from RockShox won’t overwhelm you with external tuning adjustments because, other than a lockout lever and the air pressure valve, there kinda aren’t any. I’m of the mindset that suspension is meant to be active and is beneficial both uphill and down, so unless I’ve mistakenly signed up for a fire road hill climb race, I’ll rarely reach for a lockout lever. For those who just can’t live without lockout, you’ll be pleased to know by flipping the levers on both the fork and shock the lockout is as firm as they come, and remote lockout options are offered when ordering a Ranger online. On smooth terrain, the front-and-rear lockout does provide the sensation of being more efficient at the expense of comfort; however I found the Revel Ranger pedaled extremely well in the fully open setting on both chunky uphills and mellow singletrack.
The Ranger’s 67.5-degree head angle and 1170-millimeter wheelbase (size medium) lean toward the conservative side when compared to other new bikes of similar builds and intended use, such as Yeti’s 115 and the Transition Spur. Yet, the Ranger’s got a neutral riding position, a balanced feel between the wheels and a versatile spec. It makes it feel at home on everything from swooping singletrack to jump- and berm-filled flow trails. Since most of the bikes I ride are in the 140-millimeter-travel range and up, I initially thought the sensation of speed could be similar to how doing 40 in a go-kart can feel faster than doing 70 in a car, since a go-kart is so much closer to the ground and has less suspension. I assure you, the Ranger is no go-kart. If anything, with its low standover height and agile handling, it reminds me of a longer, smoother, and more stable slalom bike.
For as swift as the Revel Ranger felt on the uphills and more mellow and flowing terrain, when entering rowdy rocks sections at speed the limits of the endurance-oriented RockShox SID fork became evident. The latest SID features a new casting and wider stanchions to make it Rockshox’s most capable XC-race-oriented fork to date, although on high-speed rough terrain the SID found its bottom out zone, and found it often. Worry not, this is easily remedied by installing air spring volume reducers to create a more progressive front-end and first line of defense against trail chunder.
At Home On The Ranger
The Ranger’s X01 build features a variety of nice touches I’ve yet to really mention, such as the 2.4-inch Maxxis Dissector and Rekon tires, which in this width and EXO casing configuration are a primo combination for loose-over-hard-packed terrain. The cockpit features Enve’s 780-millimeter M6 carbon bars paired with a Truvativ 40-millimeter stem, plus Ergon’s super-comfortable GE10 grips. Long-haul riders will also appreciate a second set of bottle-cage-style frame mounts on the downtube which more and more are being used for on-frame storage.
After a few weeks aboard the Revel Ranger, it’s proven to be as efficient, agile, and stable as it is stylish. There are aspects I love about a bike that has relatively modern geo, but can punch above its especially light weight on technical terrain. And I’m probably not alone. Recovering endurance racers and aggressive trail riders alike will appreciate the Ranger’s pedaling efficiency and light weight, however it delivers those qualities in a more capable, playful, and ergonomically friendly package than a traditional “high-poster” XC rig. Thankfully, the days of building fun and playful XC Franken-bikes out of spare parts are behind us, and Revel’s Ranger is the one of the latest head-turning aggressive XC bikes worth checking out.
And you can check it out at revelbikes/ranger.