Revel won’t be your first thought when it comes to trail bikes but their Revel Rail 27.5 might be about to change that.
Revel are a relatively new brand, recently taken on for UK distribution by Cyclorise who are very particular about the brands they deal with, so when the Rail arrived at my door I was excited to see what the bike had in store. At first glance it looks lovely with its sleek lines and gloss black paint. But obviously there is much more to a bike than that.
So the credentials… Revel includes some fairly well known industry names. Adam Miller (founder of Borealis and Why Cycles), Jeremiah Starkey, former lead engineer at RockShox and Trust Performance, Jason Schiers (founder of Enve). With experience like this to back up the brand things are looking good from a business and engineering side.
However, all that means nothing unless the bike performs. On paper, the Revel Rail ticks all the boxes… CBF suspension platform (Canfield Balance Formula), a patented suspension layout that points the drive forces to the top of the chain ring through 100% of the travel to keep it active under pedalling. Optimised carbon layup to maximise stiffness and reduce weight, sealed bearings, lifetime warranty, threaded bottom bracket, long low slack geometry. It has all the ingredients of a great frame.
The Rail is Revel’s 27.5” wheeled bike, with intensions of zipping up the climbs and ripping the descents. A 170mm Rockshox Lyrik Ultimate handles things up front, while the 165mm of rear travel is controlled by a Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock. Revel’s passion and expertise are wholly rooted in carbon fibre design and manufacture, and that translates into an all carbon frame. Both front and rear main sections and both links are carbon, with Revels main unique claim about their process being that they use more 30/60 degree fibre placement than the norm.
Most carbon fibre layup processes use 0/45/90 fibre placement, and Revel claim their process results in stronger, stiffer sections using less material. And less material equals less weight. I’m not sure of the frame weight, but the complete bike came in at around 33lb with pedals, and not a particularly light build, so the frame must be fairly light, if that matters to you. A couple of other points that could sway you if reliability is a key factor; a threaded bottom bracket shell, meaning creak free pedalling and easy home servicing, and a lifetime warranty for the original owner, suggesting that Revel have some serious confidence in the frames strength and longevity. The frame also comes complete with a Cane creek headset and an integrated chain guide.
The bike that I was sent was a bit of a mish mash of parts, which was down to the massive supply problems being faced within the cycle industry. The usual build would be Shimano XT 12 speed, but unfortunately all Cylorise could source was a mix of XT and SLX 11 speed, which also meant the rear as spec’d rear Hunt wheel could not be used as they couldn’t get hold of the required HG free hub. To be honest, XT 11 speed works absolutely fine, I just had to pedal a little harder than usual due to the smaller cassette than you get with the 12 speed version.
Brakes were Shimano XT 4 pistons, which were faultless and super powerful as usual. Bar, stem and seat were supplied by Burgtec and the seat post was a Bikeyoke Revive, all top quality components. Another nice touch were the Rev Grips Suspension grips, which if you suffer with hand or arm pump, you should check out Ben’s review here.
The frame geometry is fairly conservative, with a 65 head angle, 11mm bottom bracket drop and 430mm chain stays, and the size large had a reach of 475mm, so all fairly middle of the road for a modern enduro bike.
Tyres were an odd choice considering the bike’s intensions, a pair of lightweight Onza Porcupine 2.6”, but again that was down to supply issues. After a couple of rides on them thankfully a pair of Onza Aquilas in 2.4” arrived in the post, which once fitted transformed the bike from being skittish and pingy to planted and sure footed.
When it came to the overall performance of the bike, I could not fault any of the components, which does make it easier to focus on what matters, which in this case was the frame. I think Cyclorise do plan to offer full builds but for the moment they are only offering frames due to the long lead times on forks and group sets.
When it came to actually spending time on the Rail, unfortunately due to lockdown I was unable to get much quality time on it which was a real shame. As by the time I did finally get to ride it on trails deserving of it, it was needed back at Cyclorise for a photoshoot, but I did manage a couple of decent rides on the steep, fast and loose trails of Risca Bike Park.
The Rail’s climbing ability caught me slightly by surprise! I’d go as far as to say it’s the best climbing bike of its type I have ridden when it comes rough climbs with a loose surface. The suspension really is as supple and active under pedalling as Revel claim, providing heaps of traction over choppy ground without bobbing or wallowing in the travel, and there was no need to reach for the lock out lever.
No matter how hard I smashed the pedals it maintained a steady rhythm, its only limiting factor the power input in the saddle. The only criticism I have is the 75 degree seat angle meant I had to run the saddle rails all the way forward, but then I am used to a bike with an 80 degree seat angle.
Once I had swapped out the tryes for the Onza Aquillas, the Rail, well… it railed. The suspension performed as I’ve come to expect from top of the line Rockshox, with the Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock providing a very supple ride with plenty of support through the travel, and impressive bottom out resistance. The o-ring on the shock did indicate I’d bottomed out on a few occasions, but it never felt harsh.
The main thing that struck me was how compliant the frame felt for a carbon bike. Recent carbon frames I’ve ridden have felt much stiffer, in fact too stiff in most cases. I know ‘feel’ is very subjective but perhaps there really is something to be said for Revels lay-up process.
The resulting ride characteristic of the compliant frame and relatively low weight was a pretty lively bike, full of pop, easy to loft the front wheel but still stable enough when things got fast and loose. I just wish I had been able to keep hold of it for a little longer to throw it through some big jump lines.
What do we think?
The Rail ticks all the boxes, so if you are in the market for a top drawer 27.5” wheel, carbon frameset the Rail is a great option, especially as most bikes/frames with around the 160-170 travel mark are either 29” or mixed wheel these days. However… I doubt it will be long before Revel launch something with at least one big wheel…and when they do I really look forward to riding that one.
Compliant ride quality
Supple and supportive suspension, both up and down hill.
Could do better:
Seat angle is a little slack
You can check out the Revel Rail 27.5 on their site here.