Revel Rail29

Revel Rail29 X01 Eagle Review

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By far the most popular bike in the boutique brand’s range, the Revel Rail29 is the flagship of the stable. I suspect it’s more popular in 29in than 27.5in, being designed in the technical mountains of Colorado.

  • Brand: Revel
  • Product: Rail29 X01 Eagle
  • From: Cyclorise
  • Price: £7,999.00
  • Tested: by Tim Wild
Revel Rail29
Revel Rail29

Trail Mix

I first got my hands on a large Revel Rail29 in Sedona earlier in March this year, intending to put it through its paces on the technical climbs and steep, rocky chutes of the surrounding cliffs. But two feet of snowfall put paid to that, so I spent a couple of days riding elsewhere, on less demanding, more pedal-y trails instead.

It wasn’t what I felt like doing at the time, but it’s a pretty good way to review a big travel bike that claims it’s a great climber – a few XC-ish laps, racing to catch up to locals with considerably better adapted lungs than I have, and you get a good idea of how much of your leg power’s actually generating momentum.

First impressions were pretty favourable. The full-carbon build (frame, wheels, bars) makes the bike light – with an X01 Eagle build and some Time Speciale pedals on, it weighed in at a tasty 14.7 kg.

Given that this is as big a bike as I’d ever want to ride, with as much travel as I’d ever need, I was expecting to fight harder on climbs and pedalling sections, or at least be conscious of the greater effort required, but the Revel Rail29 ia a genuine pleasure to climb on.

There’s very little bob, despite a suspension setup deliberately skewed to the plusher end (I was expecting to do a lot of sketchy rock drops and stuff) and the transfer of power to pedal felt right – no delay, no jump, just momentum.

Does it translate?

It’s an odd thing, but no matter how much time manufacturers or enthusiasts spend tinkering with the tiniest details – a few mm off crank length here, a greater degree of stiffness there – the question of whether a bike’s work owning is often down to something much bigger and blunter. When it comes to a high-end, top-specced, rider-built bike of this size and cost, there’s not much question about whether it’s a good bike, because it almost certainly will be.

A bigger question: Will owning one in the UK be a colossal pain in the arse?

That’s about design, and customer service. It’s all very well designing a dream bike for your environment when your environment is either dry as a bone or covered in snow. But the precision and beauty of your CAD drawings don’t mean a thing to the UK rider spraining a finger trying to dig four ounces of compacted mud out of that stupid divot in the suspension housing just so the wheels will go round.

Or, to put it another way, can the Revel handle being covered in heavy mud, having its drivetrain filled with gritty water and receiving a less-than-stellar clean between rides, because I can’t quite be arsed, and – if it can’t – how hard is it to make it someone else’s problem?

So I took it out for a few rides back home too, to see how it fared in the chalky sludge of the South Downs. Tighter corners, slippery roots, nasty great puddles and mud finding its way into every possible nook and cranny.

Again, I thought I might not like it. I thought it might be too hard to move around, or that it would become unbearably annoying to clean, or that it might start to feel sluggish in the climbs – none of that came true. It’s a dream to ride, even on less demanding trails than the rocks of the USA can throw at you, and that confidence from the geometry and suspension make for a compelling experience. I even – and this is not something I would do on purpose – showed up to what I thought was an XC ride, discovered everyone else was on their gravel bikes, and did a 60k ride that was mostly on the road, and had a good time. Not an official part of the reviewing process by any means, but worth mentioning.

As for the customer service side, Revel are distributed by Cyclorise, which means a UK-based person who knows and likes the bikes will be on the end of the phone or email chain, will probably remember your first name, and care about what happens next.

Magic Carpet Ride

Despite this bike being, on paper, an enduro bike, what it really is is a way for a decent trail rider to have as much fun as possible, and test themselves to the limit.

I won’t pretend to know everything about the specific geometrical differences that the Canfield Balance Formula suspension design offers (something about putting all the forces through the top of the chainring on 100% of the travel) but out on the trails the suspension of this bike feels fantastic.

Again, here’s a big blunt testing tool: on the same day, I rode exactly the same trail on two different bikes within the space of an hour. The first was a Transition Smuggler, with 140mm of travel upfront and 130mm in the rear, and I loved it. But when I hit the same trail on the Revel Rail29, I loved it even more. Not just because the extra travel smoothed out the bumps and the drops, but because the confidence the suspension performance gave me to handle the added pace meant I rode better – faster into corners, more aggressive line choices, greater appetite for risk.

It’s a super-responsive riding experience, with no wallow or muffling of experience. The Zeb is a lovely fork – smooth, supple and springy – and the Super Deluxe Ultimate delivers 155mm in the rear that soaks up trail chatter and bigger hits with equal ease.

Niggles

This isn’t the kind of stuff that makes much of a difference, and certainly wouldn’t put me off owning one of these bikes for a second, but if you’re going to pay this kind of money, you deserve to know about any imperfections. And, like the discovery of the rogue blob of mastic under the sink in your nice hotel room, the Revel has a couple of irritating ones.

Firstly, the frame protection on the downtube started peeling off almost immediately, which is annoying, because it’s glued, so you’d have to work out a safe way to glue it back, or spend way longer than you wanted to arranging for someone at Revel to take care of it so your Copydex efforts didn’t invalidate a warranty. Might seem petty, but that’s the kind of loose thread that can unravel in surprisingly fast and expensive ways.

Secondly, the beautiful ‘Lead King’ paint (a kind of sparkly black according to Revel, but it looks olive to me) took a pretty serious beating as mud and grit got forced through the slim gap between bottom bracket and rear triangle, and was speckled with white chips after just a few rides. So if the paint’s not up to par on the part of the frame that’s clearly going to get the most punishment, then why not?

Thirdly, I personally don’t love the Lizard Skins Charger Evo grips – they’re too soft for me, and they tore on one fairly low-level crash.

Would I?

The arguments about money, and the general price of bikes, and what constitutes value, are never going to end, and certainly not here in this review. My personal preference towards lower priced bikes and reliability over spec and incremental performance gains are just mine, and I fully understand and respect those whose priorities and attitudes are different. I’ll try and stick to the facts.

There’s no getting around it – this Revel Rail29 is likely at the top end of most people’s budget, coming in at around £7,999 for the build I rode.

Revel’s gone to a lot of trouble to use the very best carbon for both frame and wheel construction, there’s great components in the spec (Cane Creek headset, the Crank Brothers dropper, SRAM X01 Eagle, RaceFace bars, Revel RW30 fusion fibre rims (recyclable) on Industry 9 1/1 hubs, SRAM Code RSC brakes) and you can go blingier if you want.

Lifetime bearing replacements for the original owner are now specced for UK buyers too, as a nod to the increased filth levels. It’s also a smaller brand, which means it’s passing through fewer hands and likely better quality control than a bigger manufacturer. And compared to other top end boutique brands – it’s pretty competitive.

But I think the more important question isn’t about the price, as much as what you get for your money. The majority of us don’t have the time, budget or space for a huge fleet of bikes – for many of us our main MTB represents one of our biggest single purchases, and we need to use that bike a lot, in a lot of places.

Local trails, bigger trips to trail centres or riding holidays, those longer XC days in the saddle, all of it. And that bike doesn’t have to be some kind of magic Swiss Army Knife that’s just as good at one thing or the other – but we do want that bike to handle as many things as possible with as much fun as possible.

Aboard the Revel Rail29 I got to ride brutal technical descents, a couple of jump lines, lung-busting XC against former legends, big rock slabs, wet roots, smushy mud, wooden drops, and several miles of quiet Sussex roads on this thing, and never once wished I was on something different.

Revel Rail29

Overall

The Revel Rail29 is a lot. A lot of bike, a lot of travel, a lot of money. But it’s a whole lot of fun in return. I definitely would.

Geometry of size Large

  • Head angle // 65°
  • Effective seat angle // 76°
  • Seat tube length // 453.5mm
  • Head tube length // 108mm
  • Chainstay // 436mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,228mm
  • Effective top tube // 630mm
  • BB height // 31mm drop
  • Reach // 469mm

Review Info

Brand: Revel
Product: Rail29 X01 Eagle
From: Cyclorise
Price: £7,999
Tested: by Tim WIld for

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