Revel Ranger Review: Introducing the Smedium-Travel Mountain Bike


The newest offering from Revel bikes uses modern geometry and perfectly tuned suspension to hit the sweet spot for today’s XC bikes. Goldilocks just found her new shred sled.

Revel Bikes is still very new by most industry standards, but the brand’s third bike offering reeks of bike vets who know how to get rowdy. Formed in 2018 by Adam Miller, he and his Revel team partnered with CBF suspension to build the absolute best full-suspension mountain bikes — like ever.

The first two bikes, Rascal and Rail, were met with high praise and even nabbed a few best-of-the-year awards.

But when Revel released the Ranger, an XC 29er featuring that same bottomless CBF suspension design, I was extremely intrigued. Especially on Midwest trails, I find most full-suspension bikes to either have too much suspension travel to throw around our tight, twisty, tree-lined trails, or so little that it’s not worth the weight penalty or maintenance needs to warrant a rear shock.

The perfect bike for me would be a short-travel 29er that allowed me to hit some bigger trails in Duluth, Minn., or Marquette, Mich., while not feeling like I was pushing around something too big for my local trails.

So when I received the email that an XL Ranger was headed my way, I was anxious to see if this bike would be my Goldilocks.

Revel Ranger_MTB

In short: The Ranger outperforms its specs in almost every category. The short-travel 29er loves to go downhill and never flinches if you take a bad line or push it hard. Sure, it’s a little heavy, and the XL tends to suffer from pedal strikes more than I’d like, but this thing rips. It’s sitting high on the list of my favorite bikes for 2020.

Revel Ranger XC Mountain Bike Review

Out of the box (EVOC bike bag in this case), the Ranger oozed performance and quality. The unique green, called Johnny Green Jeans, and clean, sleek lines pair perfectly with the subtle graphics and dual gloss/matte finish. I caught myself sneaking into the garage for one last look before hitting the pillow at night. But bikes aren’t only about looks, so let’s get to the good stuff.

Revel Ranger_MTB

My demo bike came specced with SRAM XO1 12-speed drivetrain and G2 RSC brakes, Revel’s RW30 rims laced to Industry Nine’s 1/1 hubs, with RockShox SID Ultimate 120mm fork up front paired to a SIDLuxe Ultimate 115mm shock in the rear. Rounding out the build is an ENVE M6 carbon handlebar and Crank Brother’s Highline 7 dropper post.

All said, this build sits right in the middle of the price range at $7,399.

After setting the sag to 25% on both the RockShox SID fork and rear shock, I clipped in and hit the dirt. But to be sure, it wasn’t love at first pedal. Still, I could feel the potential. The Ranger wanted to go fast and get rowdy.

It was somewhere in the middle of my third ride that it happened. All the dial turning and fine-tuning led to a perfectly balanced bike that was as comfortable powering up loose, rocky climbs as it was ripping down. And I was impressed with how little my pedal stroke affected the performance of the suspension.

No matter where I was in the suspension travel, the power transfer felt consistent. That’s the “perfect porridge” behind this machine: the dual-link Canfield Balance Formula suspension.

Revel Ranger_MTB

Canfield Balance Formula Suspension

I’m not going to go too deep into the magic that is the Canfield Balance Formula (CBF). I’ll let you dig into the details over at Revel’s site. But CBF is a big part of why this bike is so good. It’s not a new design and has been in use by Canfield bikes since 2016. But when Miller wanted to make the best bikes out there, he knew CBF was the ticket.

According to Revel, the patented CBF focuses the center of curvature in a very finite area on the chainline at the top of the chainring, pointing the pedaling forces directly where you want them. This creates the most efficient-yet-active pedaling platform possible, completely independent of sag, travel, and both drivetrain and braking forces.

And after spending a good amount of time pedaling in a variety of terrain, I can confidently agree that it works.

CBF-animation
CBF in action

Revel Ranger Review: The Ups

The playful, modern geometry pairs with the CBF suspension design to deliver a bike that feels confident on the descents, speedy on the flats, and punchy on the climbs. I really appreciated the true XL sizing too; I’m on the big end of XL at 6’4″ with long legs and arms.

The 667mm effective top tube length (ETT) and 498mm reach felt great, even with a short stem. And I never felt cramped, not even on extra-long rides. The 67.5-degree head angle and 436mm chainstays are a perfect go-fast, ride-hard combo. I was never afraid to point it downhill and let off the brakes.

The CBF really works. It’s almost unbelievable how well it isolates pedaling and braking from the suspension travel. With the SID rear shock, I did find myself locking it out for longer climbs, as it lacks the tuning of something less race-oriented. I’d recommend upgrading to the FOX shock or ordering the bike with the lockout — or both.

Up front, the SID fork was surprisingly supple and felt great most of the time. At 230 pounds, I was a little scared that it wouldn’t be able to handle my weight and riding style. Really, the only minor issue showed itself when hitting repeated bumps at high speed — the fork tended to bottom out despite my attempts to tune it. But this was very seldom and not a dealbreaker by any means.

Revel Ranger_MTB

The Downs

Is this bike perfect? No. But I had to really pick the Ranger apart to find anything negative worth mentioning.

I’m a big guy with long legs, so I’m the worst-case scenario on pedal strikes with an extra-long wheelbase and 175mm cranks. I found that I was smacking my pedals on the ground a bit more than normal. I had to think more to clear rock gardens and make sure I was picking good lines and pedal position.

When I mentioned this to Revel, they quickly sent out the FOX FLOAT DPS Factory shock for me to try. The FOX improved the pedal strike but didn’t fully eliminate it. But the bike felt even better. This is an upgrade option I would recommend. With more tuning and a trail mode in addition to fully open and locked out, I was able to leave it in trail mode and never wish for more or less travel.

The XL weighed 28.5 pounds with pedals. For an XL full-sus bike, it’s not bad, but not the lightest out there. While this bike was not designed as a full-on race bike, I can see it being a viable option for someone who wants to race it on Saturday and hit some rowdy trails on Sunday.

One other note: At about 150 miles, I noticed the rear end felt a little sloppy under hard cornering, which was a major contrast to how it had felt up to that point. After speaking to Revel, the brand took the bike back to find the issue. Revel determined that the rear wheel was not laced to spec and quickly took care of it.

This was an issue the brand thought it had solved in early QC, but my wheels snuck by. Despite addressing this issue previously, the brand told me it plans on going through all its wheels again. The customer service at Revel is incredible, and I have no concern about this being an issue going forward.

So how much do I really like this bike? Enough to buy it. Sorry Revel, this one’s not coming back. The check’s in the mail.

Bottom(less) Line

This thing rips. If you’re looking for an efficient, capable XC bike that lets you get a little rowdy when you point it downhill, this is the bike for you.

Some bikes are a little too big. Others a little too small. But the Revel Ranger is juuuuust right.

Kurt Barclay
By

Kurt Barclay is a longtime cyclist and has spent much of his life around bikes. In 2014, he left the music industry to pursue a career in the bike industry and joined GearJunkie in 2018. When he's not on his bike, he enjoys photography, exploring backroads, cooking, camping, and being outdoors.

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