First Ride: Revel Bikes Rail

New Colorado MTB brand Revel bases short- and long-travel models on Canfield Balance Formula suspension design and the results are impressive.

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A bike brand was born at the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. Revel Bikes launched its first two models, the Rail and the Rascal, just before the expo opened to the public Friday. Minutes later, just about every demo bike was gone, out onto Sedona’s iconic red dirt.

Revel is an offshoot of Why Cycles, the custom titanium bicycle company based out of Carbondale, Colorado. Adam Miller, who started Borealis fat bikes before launching Why Cycles, knew full-suspension carbon bikes were in his future. He just had to figure out how to make a bike that wasn’t simply good; it had to be great to compete with the incredible offerings already on the market.

So he took three years to figure out what would set Revel Bikes apart from the rest. In that pursuit, Revel licensed Canfield Balance Formula (CBF) suspension from Canfield Brothers. Both the Rail and the Rascal are built around this platform.

Based on my first ride aboard a Rail in the Arizona desert, it seems that Miller’s new venture is off to a ripping start.

Revel Bikes

What makes CBF any different from other suspension platforms?

“The Canfield Brothers really developed CBF for downhill and it was almost sort of accidental that they made the best pedaling suspension system out there,” says Jeremiah Starkey, Revel’s COO. “You’re not spending any pedal power going into the suspension. All the pedaling power goes into turning the wheel. It creates, in our mind, the most efficient suspension out there. It’s a dual-link: We have two links between the front and rear triangles. The center of curvature is a point in between your axle path and your instant center. The center of curvature is focused right at the top of the chainring, which keeps the chain perpendicular to the axle path.”

If you’ve spent enough time around mountain bikes in recent years, chances are you’ve heard the term instant center. That’s the point around which the rear axle path moves throughout the suspension activation. You’re less likely to have heard of the center of curvature, which is what Revel has focused on with the CBF suspension.

Photo: Whitton Feer

The center of curvature is essentially the path of the instant center throughout the suspension’s movement. The CBF suspension aims to keep that center of curvature focused in a small area just above the chainring. Doing so should, in theory, provide a more efficient and consistent pedaling platform that’s less affected by things like sag settings and braking forces.

The general idea is to create a progressive suspension feel while simultaneously isolating the suspension from braking forces as well as pedaling forces. In a practical, on-the-trail-sense, that should mean these bikes transfer most of your pedaling power to the drivetrain rather than to suspension movement. And braking forces shouldn’t have a significant effect on suspension movement either.

There are a lot of moving parts on both bikes. The CBF suspension necessitates it, but that doesn’t make this an especially heavy bike. Revel was able to tailor the carbon layup to ensure the weight stayed down by reinforcing tubes where they needed reinforcing, and keeping the layup minimal where added strength wasn’t especially necessary.

Revel Bikes
Tech editor Dan Cavallari interviews Revel founder Adam Miller trailside at the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival in Sedona, Arizona. Photo: Whitton Feer

Revel Rascal quick look

The Rascal is Revel’s 29er. It sports 130mm of suspension in the rear and 140mm up front. This is your best option for everyday trail riding and long adventures. There are three build kit options ranging from $5,000 up to $8,700; a frame and fork option is available for $3,200, and a frameset will run you $2,600. It will fit up to a 2.5″ tire. Stay tuned for a first ride review of the Rascal soon.

Revel Rail quick look

This is the big boy bike for enduro riders. There’s 165mm of suspension in the rear and 170mm up front. The head tube angle sits at 65 degrees and the seat tube angle is 75 degrees. It’s got a long top tube, too (590mm size large), as you’d expect on a bike that’s made to go downhill fast. Pricing options are identical to the Rascal’s.

Both bikes are covered by a lifetime warranty, and Revel offers a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy should you not dig the bike once you receive it. And the bikes get shipped to you in an Evoc case (included in the price of the bike). If you don’t want it, you can return it to Revel (for no additional charge) for a $200 credit.

First Ride

Sedona’s legendary red rocks play host to a mix of tacky red dirt, slick rocks, and cacti on all sides. The trails are often technical, but descents can be fast, twisty, and in many cases, very exposed. In other words, it was a perfect playground for the 165mm-travel Rail.

Before you make an assumption about the bike based on its travel, you should know up front that it climbs quite well. The front end is of course fairly slack, and the top tube is pretty long on the size large I rode, so muscling up and over technical features on climbs takes a bit of attention.

But the Rail is surprisingly nimble on climbs anyway. It fits well in the trend of long travel bikes that have found footing on climbs thanks in large part to anti-squat capabilities in rear suspension design. The CBF suspension here limits bob under heavy pedaling loads, so you won’t get too bogged down on the way up.

Photo: Whitton Feer

Of course, you won’t mistake it for an XC bike. I probably wouldn’t choose this for all-day epics, but for enduro riders the Rail has a lot to offer. That will become apparent when you point the Rail downhill, exactly where it shines. For such a big bike, it’s surprisingly nimble and responsive. It all but begs you to kick out the rear end and flick off every little rock.

And it seems Revel has hit the nail on the head with its anti-rise properties. Braking is a comfortable and confident affair as far as I could tell.

After a short ride, it was clear the Rail’s handling was excellent. It tracks superbly through corners and thread-the-needle technical sections. It’s eager to pop out of corners with power, and it’s far more playful than a big bike like this should be.

There’s also clearly something special about the CBF suspension. I’ll reserve my final take for a full review later this spring when I’ve gotten more rides on it, but I have a suspicion the Rail (and the Rascal, which uses an identical suspension design) will continue to impress. The suspension feels surprisingly responsive on small hits, given how it ramps up toward the end of its stroke to prevent harsh bottoming. The mid-stroke is where it shines, though. It felt active yet supportive, reactive yet resistant to excessive bob.

The Rail impressed immediately, and it was cool to see a small, up-and-coming brand get so many things right on the first try. Revel is definitely a company to watch — and one that’s got me excited to throw a leg over the Rascal on the trails back home in Colorado.

Revel Bikes
Photo: Whitton Feer

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