Revel Ranger - Employee Bike Check W/ Liam Woods

employee Bike Check: Liam Woods

Revel Ranger Custom Build

What Is This Bike For and Why Did You Pick It?

For my everyday bike I choose to ride the Revel Ranger. It suits my local trails extremely well, it's fast, efficient and with a few tweaks can handle some pretty rowdy sections of trail. I come from a mixed background of BMX and XC (weird, I know). I really don't like riding a bike that is sluggish and doesn't have that quick feeling, nor one that only likes to hug the ground. Some of that comes down to bike setup so that is why I am giving you a deep dive into my setup.

In its stock configuration, the Revel Ranger has a 120mm fork paired with 115mm of CBF rear suspension. We have a full review on the Revel Ranger and also CBF suspension, so check those out.

The trails I tend to ride about 70% of the time are your normal trails: XC style mixed with some proper trail bike sections and the occasional downhill section mixed in there. I like to ride anywhere from one to five hours on this bike. The way I have it set up now is purpose built to be efficient on the climbs yet help me not die when we take these smaller travel bikes down the downhill trails. This is also my second Revel Ranger, hence the V2 (version 2 for Liam). My first Ranger was a bit more “stock” to the Revel spec with a 120mm RockShox Sid Ultimate up front, a RockShox Sidluxe outback and SRAM G2 brakes.

So, this is my everyday trail bike, or least that's what I call it. It’s perfect for my quick morning rides out the front door to all day weekend epics and whatever else I choose to throw at it. I also love to do the Downieville Classic and doing the two day race always forces me to find a perfect bike setup, striking the balance between an efficient climber and a capable descender. Some weird words for a smaller travel bike, but the Ranger does exactly this. Actually, I would go as far to say that my Ranger V2 build is the first bike that has surpassed the balanced performance of my old Yeti SB4.5, a bike way ahead of its time. That SB4.5 will always hold a special place in my heart but now this Revel Ranger is the leader and takes most of my current bike love.

Specs

Frame Model & Size

Revel Ranger | Large

Travel

130mm front / 115mm rear

Handlebar Width

750mm

Weight

27lbs with pedals & cage

Frame:

With the Revel Ranger I choose to ride a size large, being that I am 5’10” tall with a saddle height of 77cm. I do have some longer legs than some people my same height, but I don't have quite the upper torso. To me, the large with a 40-50mm stem is the perfect fit. With 473mm reach, the bike is long and roomy but not so long that it becomes hard to maneuver around. Did I mention that I like an efficient bike? The CBF suspension design is my personal favorite suspension platform that I have ever ridden. The way it balanced everything so well is like nothing I have ridden before. While climbing, the bike doesn't bob and gets that snap out of corners and can get you up the steep hills without much trouble, but it also manages to remain supple and provide an insane amount of traction on rougher terrain like a technical single track climb. Going downhill the bike has a supple feeling and the traction is also felt in corners. The support of the Ranger is good for a bike of 115mm travel and the bottom out resistance is a good balance. I use most of the travel all the time but there are hardly any harsh bottom outs. I mean, it's a 115mm bike that I sometimes ride down DH trails, so it bottoms out. I notice the rear end tracking and working better in the chunky terrain than many of my buddies’ bikes that have a more simple suspension design, like the new flex stay suspension designs.

Another great thing about the Ranger is the amount of mounts bottle and accessory mounts on this bike. You have your normal bottle cage down low, and with a singel can air shock you can fit a large bottle and with my Super Deluxe I can fit a small bottle in my Wolf Tooth Morse Code Cage. There is also another assessory or bottle mount higher up in the main traingle, I normally have my spare kit mounted here with the Wolf Tooth B-Rad strap, its awesome, clean and doesnt scratch my frame. I can also fit the smaller 450ml Fidlock bottle in that area and I use that for longer riders without water in the summer. Last there is a mount on the bottom of the downtube, for longer riders when I put the fidlock in the main triangle I put my spare kit down below, you can also put water down there if you need.

Suspension:

On this V2 build, I have chosen to go a bit beefier than my first Ranger build, with a RockShox Pike RC2 up front set at 130mm travel and a RockShox Super Deluxe out back. By going with the larger fork and shock it allows the bike to remain a bit more planted and composed in rough terrain, but it doesn't affect how nimble the bike rides or slow it down much on the climbs. I'm not out racing XC, or else the SID suspension would be perfect. When I first built up this Ranger I had the 130mm Pike up front while keeping the stock SidLuxe. Just by putting that fork up front took this bike's downhill performance up a huge notch, making it much more confident. Once I got the rear Super Deluxe on there it really made this bike shine for my style of riding. I get so much rear end traction and the shock stays much more predictable down long descents. I also have an offset shock bushing on the front mount, putting the bike in a little bit slacker position by about .4 or .5 of a degree and lowering the BB a few mm.

Suspension setup is always super important, but for myself being a lighter rider I am always looking for an odd balance between off the top feel and small bump compliance but also having support and bottom out resistance. I often don't run much compression front or rear, and try to tune mostly by spring rate (air pressure) and ramp up (volume spacers).

For my dropper post I lvoe the RockShox Reverb AXS post, once you use it a cable actuated post feels not as good. The quick acuation of the AXS post is awesome, I have had two of them and both for a long time without issues. I ride the 170mm drop on this bike.

Fork Settings

Fork PSI

82

Volume spacers

2

HSC/LSC

3/14

Rebound

6

Rear Shock Settings

Fork PSI

82

Volume spacers

2

HSC/LSC

3/14

Rebound

6

Front End/Contact Points:

While lots of points on your bike are important to feel right and allow you to ride to your best potential, I would argue that your front end and contact points are some of the most personal parts you can choose. For my cockpit I am running Trail One Components handlebar, stem and grips. For grips I have Trail One Hell’s Gate grips. Having been involved in the development process with Trail One Components, I am super used to it. It's a touch thicker than some grips and I feel that provides some extra cushion and reduced fatigue for me. I chose Trail One Crockett Carbon bars in the lower 15mm rise option and I have those cut down to 750mm. Holding on to the bars is the Trail One Rockville stem, a made-in-the-USA machined beauty that's 35mm diameter by 40mm length. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without some titanium bolts as well. On my cockpit I run everything pretty neutral. The grips have the palm pads on the top side and my brake lever angle isn't too extreme, although I try to run them a little more flat as it feels comfortable in steeper terrain allowing me to get back more. Coming from XC racing I've always run pretty narrow bars. I ran 740mm for a long time on my trail bikes and then eventually to 750mm with grips that measure 760mm end-to-end. On this style bike, I favor climbing traits pretty equally to downhill traits, so I tend to run a lower handlebar height. On the Ranger I just have a 5mm spacer under the stem between the headset top cap and the 15mm rise bar which means I am decently low, but I find that this is the best balance for 50/50 uphill and downhill efficiency.

I have been using the same model of pedals and saddle for a long time. With my saddle I ride the Fizik Anteres, regular width. I've had the Anteres on all my mountain bikes for seven or so years now. The shape just works for me, I can do long days or sometimes ride without a chamois, so why fix what isn't broken? For pedals I ride Shimano XT Trail pedals. Having tried other brands of clipless pedals I always end up back on Shimano. The very tactile in and out feeling is what I really like and the nice thing is lots of friends and shops have extras or parts if you ever need.

Brakes:

Brakes are a very opinionated subject and for good reason. Most of the major brands all have a very different feel. I prefer a lot of modulation and with that I choose to ride the SRAM Code RSC brakes. Yes, Code brakes on the short travel bike. I run them for a few reasons. Firstly, I ride this bike on some pretty steep and proper terrain, so it's always nice to have confidence in your brakes. Secondly, I have Code RSCs on my bigger travel bike, so the consistency is nice between the two. The lever feel and “positive” stop they have does feel better in my opinion over SRAM G2 brakes and they are only about 40g heavier per brake (sometimes tires vary by 50g between two of the same model tires). Thirdly, when I travel or bring multiple bikes on trips, they all use the same brake pads so I can just bring a few spares instead of multiple pad sizes. I have 180mm SRAM Centerline rotors on right now, but I’m waiting to get some HS2 rotors in centerlock.

Wheels & Tires:

Wheels and tires are one of my favorite topics to talk about. A wheel and tire change can really have a huge effect on your bike and on a short travel bike like this it can take it from an XC weapon to a trail slayer. My everyday setup blends weight, width and knob design together to try to get the best of all those worlds. My wheels are Roval Control SL wheels, which are 1250g for the set and have a 30mm inner width. The weight to width ratio is insane and there is pretty much nothing like it on the market. The Roval hubs feature DT Swiss 180 internals so you know they will be strong and easy to get parts for. The tires that I run almost all the time on this bike are Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.3 EXO 3c. Yes, I know they make a 2.4 width and that tire is also great. But the 2.3 weighs in at 825g, over 100g lighter than the 2.4 version and that is on your outermost part of rotational weight, arguably the most important place to count grams on a bike. Riding them front and rear I get great grip, braking traction is amazing, and being a 2.3 casing with slightly shorter knobs than the 2.4, it rolls decently fast. They are very predictable in almost all terrain. Plus, when I wear down the rear, I switch the front to the back and only use a new front tire, helping me get tons of life out of every tire cycle.

Drivetrain:

This past year I made the switch over to SRAM AXS for all my bikes. I know, it's not necessary but I didn't want to have just one bike on AXS as the shift timing and shifter style is different. So once GX AXS came out I could justify having that on the bigger bike where I am more likely to damage my rear derailleur past the point of saving. But on the smaller travel bike I went for weight, choosing the SRAM XX1 AXS rear derailleur matched with the SRAM GX AXS shifter since the shifters are the same but with different back colors and it has the SRAM Rocker Paddle. I use the newer rocker paddle as well to feel more like a traditional SRAM shifter. For gearing I have a SRAM XX1 10-52t cassette and a SRAM X01 chain wrapped around a Wolf Tooth 32t chainring that is mounted on a Race Face Next SL crankset in 170mm. Being that this bike does a bit of everything for me, I find the 32t allows my legs to be fresher on big days and steep climbs and the 52t rear cog is a great bail out gear when I just want to spin. For my bottom bracket I like to ride Wheels Manufacturing whenever I can because I love the quality of the bottom brackets. They feature Enduro bearings and are easily serviceable as well.

I also have a custom upper chain guide on my bike. Since the Ranger doesn't have any chain guide mounts, I modified a bottom bracket mounted upper guide. I found a OneUp Components bottom bracket mounted chain guide on Pinkbike. I chose this one as I tried another brand but since the top guide was fixed my spacing was not correct and hit my rear triangle. The OneUp chain guide allows for the upper guide to be spaced out while the mount stays behind the BB. In order to fit the chainguide I had to do a bit of dremeling and cutting. First to fit my Wheels Manufacturing bottom bracket with the larger bearings and cups, the outside ring on the chain guide had to be ground down so it was flush with the mounting spot on the guide. After that I had to modify the back of the upper plastic guide. To get the main part of the guide on top of the chainring I had to cut off about half of the backside of the guide. By doing this I can rotate the guide to be on top of the chainring and spacing it out it works perfectly. I'd rather be safe than sorry with a little bit of weight but a lot of security.

Assecories and Special Touches:

What makes our bike special from your buddies, what do you value? Storage, a quiet bike or maybe something else. For myself, I really value storage on my bikes as well as I need my bikes to be quiet. For the storage on my bike, I already mentioned my spare kit with the Wolf Tooth B-Rad strap, but it's so awesome I want to mention it twice. In that spare kit I have a Turbolito tube, two 20g c02, a c02 presta head, a small tire lever, spare tire plugs & a large Park Tool tire boot all wrapped in a small black cloth bag to keep it all clean and helps any small things from falling out. Plus I can take it on and off without having to re-organize and strap it all down.

I also have a One Up Components EDC tool in my fork's steerer tube, I choose to thread my steerer tube and run the full size EDC tool. That has my multi tool, chain breaker, a chain quicklink and on the bottom I have the tire plug kit, I normally have it loaded with one large tire plug and one small, so I can quickly pull it out and plug a tire, I just take off the plug I don't need, but having this loaded and quick access has saved me and friends a ton of times.

A quiet bike is a happy bike! I used to have to go to great lengths to get my bike dead quiet, foam in the frame to stop cable routing, shrink wrap cables so they don't tap and bounce, add a ton of 3m mastic tape all around the bike, mess with the rear derailleur so it doesn't slap around and so much more. Now bikes are pretty damn good, with AXS on my bike I only have front and rear brake cables. I don't have to worry about cable slapping around. Inside the frame the Revel Ranger has tube in tube routing and the cables don't rattle in there. I do still add some extra mastic tape to both the chain stay and around the rear tire to prevent rocks from scraping the frame, this just adds protection and I can peel it off when I am ready to sell the bike. The last trick I do, I put a pedal washer between the b-tension plate and the main derailleur body, by doing this it does not allow the main derailleur body to move while riding. I think this helps not only quiet down the bike as the rear derailleur does not bounce as much, but also has more precise shifting in rough terrain with the body not bouncing around.

Quick Ride Review:

To me, my Revel Ranger is a mountain bike. It goes equally as well uphill as it does downhill. By choosing parts from XC race to downhill and everything in between, I find this bike matches the trails I ride. As I mentioned in the beginning this bike finally passes the Yeti SB4.5 in performance.

The way the Ranger climbs is the first part of loving this bike. It can feel snappy when you need it to but mostly the way it just works over technical and rough terrain is my favorite part. In hard tech climbs I feel this bike has so much traction while not being a slug or stuck to the ground. You can pop it up and over stuff on the climb and get support to power up steep sections. On faster and rolling terrain the bike has a nice aggressive feel that makes you want to pump, get on the pedals and fly over terrain with speed. Once the trail gets going downhill the bike becomes super fun. What got you to the top with ease now allows you to play around on jumps and features and still provide traction in corners. The way the rear end tracks has other short travel bikes asking what they can do better. While the Ranger isn't the longest nor the slackest short travel bike out there, I think it's the perfect do it all bike. I have yet to find a short travel bike that is equally matched going up as it is going down, which I attribute to the bike itself and not the part spec. The Ranger frame can go from XC to trail without any hesitation with the right build.


January 24, 2022

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