In their short time in the industry, Revel Bikes has become synonymous with thoughtfully crafted carbon mountain bikes. Revel initially offered just two mountain bikes: the Rascal, a 29” trail bike with 130mm rear travel, and the Rail, a highly capable 170mm front/165mm rear travel, 27.5” enduro bike. Revel later introduced the Ranger, a 120mm front/115mm rear travel 29” short-travel machine for those looking to eat up as many single track miles as possible. While their lineup has been well received, it has been lacking a long-travel 29” offering.
Answering the calls for an aggressive 29er, Revel announced the Rail29. Unswayed by industry influence, Revel hasn’t blindly hopped on the “longer, lower, slacker” train that some other manufacturers have eagerly punched a ticket for. After multiple years of development, Revel has produced a long-travel 29er that aims for the elusive balance between climbing prowess and descending capability. The result is geometry that may appear conservative on paper, although “calculated” may be a more apt descriptor. Instead of designing a bike that ticks all the boxes of industry trends, the team over at Revel has created a long travel bike with enough versatility that I hesitate to place it in any one category. Enduro, all-mountain, or aggressive-trail bike? At the end of a ride, does it really matter? Categorization aside, the Rail29 has been designed to descend aggressively and climb easily. The new frame maintains the same 65-degree headtube angle of the 27.5” Rail, and its seat angle steepens by 1-degree, bringing it to 76 degrees. In its stock configuration, the Rail29 has 155mm of rear travel and 160mm upfront. A 170mm fork can be fitted, further slackening the headtube angle to 64.5-degrees.
The introduction of this bike has been long anticipated by those who have experienced the ride quality of the Canfield Balance Formula (CBF) suspension design Revel uses. Whether grabbing an extra pedal stroke under compression or climbing a technical section, CBF stays active and maintains consistent pedaling forces, regardless of suspension sag, travel, or braking forces. On the trail, this suspension platform provides the feeling of a spritely climber that is composed under quick acceleration. A long-travel 29er built around this suspension platform offers the potential for a balance between climbing and descending capabilities.
I sat down for a brief interview with our mechanic Blake Collins after he had a chance to ride a demo Rail29 for a day. Eager to hear how the calculated geometry numbers and CBF suspension system translated into ride characteristics on the trail, we chatted about his first impressions of the bike.
What were your expectations for the bike on paper? Did the bike meet those expectations in person?
The Rail29 was on my radar a little bit. I was expecting it to be pretty similar to what my Patrol V2 is. On trails, the Rail29 seemed to be a little bit more “sporty” than my Patrol. They are definitely different bikes. The Rail pedaled better on technical climbs. While both bikes have similar intended use, it was noticeably different climbing and on fast little parts of the trail where I had to change direction pretty fast. I was a little bit surprised by how easy it was to get that bike to change direction, especially considering its larger 29in wheels. I thought it was going to be sweet… and then it was sweet and I’m happy about it.
What was one aspect of the bike you noticed within the first minute of riding it?
When Doug and I set out to film we had this ride in mind where we were going to climb up and ride Spirit Bear and then head over to Devil-Cross. So immediately on this ride, I have this line on Spirit Bear where I start on the right edge and air one or two bike lengths to the slab. Basically, just air into it. So not a tremendously aggressive move but I was pretty nervous about it because I had never descended on that bike before. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it handled it great. It surprised me in a good way and set the tone for the rest of the day of filming.
How would you describe this bike’s ability to climb/pedal?
In the realm of bikes that I like to pedal on (long-travel enduro bikes), it felt more efficient. I was reaching down for the lock-out on the fire road because there’s really no reason not to. When keeping it in the “open” mode on more technical sections of the trail, the platform felt really good.
Is there one place you've previously ridden that you think this bike would perform well?
Yeah, the desert! I would be pretty keen to get that bike out on some trails in either Grand Junction or Moab. It felt pretty planted and stable but at the same time really efficient. I think that bike would do really well on trails where you have to redirect your momentum quickly and have lots of punchy climbs thrown into the descents. I think that if I was in the desert with technical riding where you have to be very precise with your momentum the Rail 29 would do really well.
What other bike does the Rail29 remind you of?
It reminds me of the Ripmo or even the Sentinel. It’s not really a sled. You have bikes out there that are all-out sleds, and those bikes have their place. There are people out there that want that and are just alright with having a bazooka of a bicycle on everything. But this bike felt more like a “nimble-bruiser”, similar to other bikes in that 150mm travel range.
Who would you recommend this bike to?
It kinda goes back to the areas this bike would suit, if you are someone in the southwest this bike would make a ton of sense. The beautiful thing about this particular bicycle is that because it’s so well rounded that it could appeal to someone who is looking for an aggressive trail bike or somebody who maybe wants the capability of an enduro bike. It has the capability to hit big jumps and air into rock rolls but still pedals around efficiently. I feel that it even appeals to the people that already have the big sleds and want something more efficient and capable. Also, it could be for people who want to go for long pedals but are more curious about riding some more aggressive lines or are trying to go a little bit faster.
Blake’s feedback further reinforced my theory of what Revel has tried to encapsulate in the Rail29: a “big bike” that isn’t burdensome when pointed uphill. Maintaining similar climbing characteristics to other bikes in their lineup, while allowing for more descending composure, the Rail29 delivers freshness to a category that is diluted by 63.5-degree headtube angles and an influx in high-pivot suspension. Backed by a lifetime warranty, along with a crash replacement program that extends to second owners, Revel has produced an enticing option for a long-travel bike that makes no sacrifices on the climbs and offers an abundance of performance on the descents.
The Rail29 is offered in sizes Small through XL and comes in two colors, Shred Velvet Cake (red with pale gold accents) and Lead King (gunmetal grey). It is available for pre-order now as a frame-only option for $3,499, as well as complete builds. Builds offered are the GX Eagle Kit ($5,999), the Shimano XT Kit ($7,299), the X01 Eagle Kit ($8,299), and the XX1 Eagle AXS Kit ($10,999).