Words by: Liam Woods
With a name like the Rail, you would expect the Revel Rail to handle quite well in all types of terrain. Well, let me tell ya, it rails! The Revel Rail is a long travel modern enduro bike rocking 27.5” wheels front and rear. There is 165mm of rear suspension travel handled by the amazing Canfield Balance Formula, or CBF for short, and the stock spec has a 170mm travel fork up front. With modern geometry, yet not extremely aggressive, the Revel Rail can handle terrain at your local bike park, DH shuttle trail, or hit a long day in the saddle and earn all your turns. There are three build kits to choose from as well as a frame only option, and currently the Rail is available in Penguin (black with white logos) or Mint Chocolate Chip (mint with black logos) in sizes S, M, L, and XL.
Who is Revel Bikes? Revel is just over a year old and when they first launched in February of 2019, the team came out with their two bikes, the Rascal, a 130mm 29” trail bike, and the Rail we are reviewing today. Within their first year of making mountain bikes, they came onto the scene strong, and much of that is because the Revel crew is made up of some serious industry veterans who live and breathe bikes. They are self-proclaimed nerds, or as they call it, Revelers. The superstar lineup includes owner Adam Miller, Jeremiah Starkey, a suspension engineer formerly at RockShox, Chris Canfield, who helped develop CBF that the Revel bikes use, and Jason Schiers who is possibly one of the most prolific carbon fiber engineers, working with ENVE, Reynolds, Trust Performance, Crank Brothers and more.
The Revel Rail has a new, tweaked version of the CBF suspension design that Canfield bikes used for so many years. This time, the Revels get carbon links as well as a yoke, or extended link, driven from the seat stays. Having spent time on a Canfield Riot in the past, I knew just how good CBF was and that with a slight tweak to the extended link (or yoke), it would perform great. What is CBF and why is it so special? CBF is actually an acronym for Canfield Balance Formula, coming from the Canfield brothers of Canfield Brothers Bikes. Check out the video we made with Chris Canfield explaining CBF in detail. CBF uses two parallel moving links that are tuned to optimize all key features suspension should have. From a smooth rear axle arc, to good anti-squat and anti-rise, CBF covers it all. One of the main features of CBF is that the center of curvature is aimed right above the front chainring, so no matter what gear you are in, or sag, or any other variable, CBF bikes still pedal great without squatting or bobbing into the travel. While still remaining plush to soak up bumps on the climbs, CBF is quite a well rounded and balanced suspension platform. For more information on CBF check out our in depth video.
Both Jeff and I have had the chance to ride the Revel Rail in quite a few different locations. Jeff first rode the Rail when he visited Revel HQ and took it out to the local Colorado desert terrain. On those rides in Colorado, Jeff put the Rail to the test on the steep rocky climbs and could really see just how capable the Rail is at tech climbing. The CBF rear suspension really has some of the best all around kinematics out of any suspension design I have ridden, which is something I first experienced on my Canfield Riot. The CBF seems to have the best climbing traction at the rear wheel. Additionally, the suspension stays supported under climbing load and there is no unwanted movement or “bob”. The Rail rips up the climbs, holding a surprising amount of traction. Both Jeff and I found we had more traction at any given time and made those tech climbs just that much easier. While having 165mm of travel, the Rail is a really efficient bike and has a little bit of zip to it while climbing, more so than many other bikes in this category. The seated geometry works well. While the actual seat angle isn't as steep as some bikes right now, the position is comfortable and allows you to sit in the bike during long climbs. It's not an aggressively steep seated position, but steep enough I wasn’t wishing I had been climbing another bike.
That not so aggressive geometry also follows suit with the rest of the bike. The Rail has a 65-degree head tube angle. This isn't super slack but I found it easily slack enough for all terrain yet helps the bike not feel like a slug and retains a very fun and poppy feel. Reach is a similar story at 470mm for a size large frame, and the medium and XL are 450mm and 495mm, respectively. I personally really like the overall geometry package of the Revel Rail. It makes this bike feel almost like an all-mountain bike with longer legs. The geometry is balanced front to rear and that really makes the Rail easy to get along with. From long or tech climbs, to flow trails and the chunkiest terrain, the Rail is wrapped in some pretty good numbers, and I think that allows so many different styles of riders to enjoy this bike.
After you climb to the top with more traction than you are used to, the story continues when you start descending. The CBF platform isn't just good for climbing, but also can excel at downhill terrain as well. With 165mm travel you have a lot to use, but I never found myself either having too much or too little travel. The support from the rear end is solid, enough to not need a suspension adjustment when riding jumps or smoother trails, and then immediately hitting steep, chunky style trails. The rear end tracks well just as it does on the climbs, and you can really get some serious traction out of this bike. I found that those awkward flat corners that have a few rocks or down steps in them are really where you can lose the rear end on so many bikes. This wasn't the case for the Rail. It held its line and you get so much confidence once you start to know just how far you can push into the rear end. The CBF design also allows it to get out of the way for sharp, square edge hits without feeling like the bike is being slowed down. It's actually the opposite, you can really hold momentum over square edge sections and when combined with some pumping, the Rail thrives in that type of terrain. Another thing the geometry and wheel size leads to is sporting a very poppy and fun nature. This is the bike you can have a blast on at a bike park or hitting all those side jumps and jib options. With some short 430mm chainstays giving a helping hand to any jumps or manuals you need to pull, I found myself trying more on-trail manuals and really just having more fun cruising down trails looking for the fun lines versus trying to go my fastest. Both types of riding are really fun, but man does it put a smile on your face when you float over some jumps or trail features instead of trying to go over them racer style.
The rear RockShox Super Deluxe feels so good as well. Running about 28-29% sag, the stock amount of volume spacers the shock has stock feels good and has a decent progressive curve that helps resist bottom out. I ended up putting in one additional volume spacer to try to get just a little more progression out of the bike, making it feel very supportive on those big hits. I almost always run my LSC wide open on my rear shocks, and the Rail is no different. Only a few times on a very smooth trail with jumps did I want to add some LSC. The bike really doesn’t need much help to have that rear end feel as good as possible.
The Revel Rail is a long travel 27.5” bike with some amazing features wrapped in some very balanced geometry. With Canfield Balance Formula suspension, you really get the best of both worlds with climbing traction and no pedal-bob, and with the downhill prowess you need, soaking up square-edge hits, holding traction and momentum and a decent progressive curve to back it all up. You can choose to ride the steepest, chunkiest trails you can find or live at the dirt jump park with the Rail, it really can do it all. Oh, and you can pedal comfortably and clear those tech sections to make it back to the top as well. With full internal cable routing, rubber frame guards on the chainstays and downtube, and two color options with some stubble logos, the Rail not only looks good but rides even better.
This article was written / authored by Liam Woods. Liam has been in the bicycle industry for over 10 years as a racer, professional mechanic, service manager and as of late, media and content creator. Liam has ridden thousands of different bikes, ridden countless components, tested endless MTB apparel of all kinds and written reviews on it all. He's a key piece to the Worldwide Cyclery "All Things MTB" content creation puzzle. He also makes consistent appearances on the Worldwide Cyclery YouTube channel and Instagram.