We’ve been fans of Revel mountain bikes since they showed up a few years ago at the Hurricane MTB Festival with their first models, the Rail 27.5 enduro bike and the Rascal 29er trail bike. For most of us, Revel mountain bikes were love at first ride. A few weeks ago the new Revel Rail 29 showed up at the shop and we fell in love all over again. With 155mm of chunk-taming Canfield Balance Formula (CBF) suspension, fun-focused geometry and a beautiful carbon frame, the Revel Rail 29 seems like it was designed especially for Southern Utah. For our Revel Rail 29 ride report, we decided to take the bike to Cedar City to see what it could do.
OTE HU’s service manager, Todd Cramblett, a.k.a. Odd Todd, built up a medium Rail 29 and – what do you know – he rides a medium! He also had the next day off so Photo-John and Todd went up to Cedar City’s Iron Hills trails to break in the new whip. Todd’s personal ride is a coil-sprung Rocky Mountain Slayer 29er – a big bruiser of a bike, built for Brian Head bike park laps, the steepest mesa downhills and big hucks. Coming from a big freeride bike, he wasn’t sure about the Rail 29’s more conservative, trail-focused geometry. Read on to find out if the Rail 29 won him over.
Mountain Biking Cedar City, Utah
In late May and June, when it starts getting hot in Hurricane, Cedar City is a great alternative for outdoor activities. At an elevation of 5800 feet (1750 m), it’s 2500 feet higher than Hurricane, 600 feet higher than Gooseberry Mesa and 10 to 15 degrees cooler than our local mesa trails. In mid-June, it could be over 100 F in Hurricane and a nice, cool 85 F up in Cedar City. Cedar City also has trees and shade – a rare luxury on the mesas.
The Iron Hills/Southview trail system is just off the first Cedar City freeway exit at the south end of town, about a 40 minute drive from Over the Edge in Hurricane. The trails are on a west-facing slope of lava rock and red dirt, junipers and scrubby pine trees. It’s a very different environment from our local sandstone mesa trails. As much as we love the slickrock, it’s fun to head up to Cedar City to ride some flowy dirt and lava rock. There are trails for all levels of riders accessed via a mellow, green climbing trail called Lichen It. The trails are a nice mix of flow and tech and the builders, Trail Alliance of Southern Utah, took advantage of all the embedded lava rock to build some really cool rocky technical sections on the blue and black trails. If smooth, manicured dirt bike paths bore you, you’ll really appreciate the Iron Hills trails.
Our Revel Rail 29 ride report test loop had about four miles of climbing followed by a just over two miles of blue and black downhill – a little bit of everything the Iron Hills trails have to offer. The ride climbed up Lichen It to Green Hollow, a two-way blue trail with big switchbacks (or berms, if you’re descending) and some rocky, technical uphill bits. From there, Todd and John descended the double-black Boulderdash trail to Laval Flow, a blue trail with lots of chunky lava bits to keep things interesting. It was a great test loop for the Rail 29 with everything from smooth, sit-and-spin climbing to steep, exposed rocky tech.
Revel Rail 29 First Ride Review
The first thing you notice when you get on the Revel Rail 29 is the cockpit feels compact compared to a lot of current, long-travel 29ers. It’s not claustrophobic or cramped but it’s definitely a more upright, relaxed position than 29ers designed for head-down park laps and enduro racing. The second thing you notice is the plush, active feel of the Canfield Balance Formula suspension. Unlike some suspension systems that feel very firm when you pedal, the CBF suspension always feels open and active. It’s not that it feels bouncy or sloppy – it’s just clear it’s always reacting to the terrain, whether you’re descending or pedaling.
The Revel Rail 29 is an outstanding climber. Todd called it, “one of the best pedalers in our fleet.” Although the CBF suspension is very active, the bike never feels like it’s bobbing or wallowing when you’re pedaling. The active suspension delivers loads of traction, keeping the rear wheel engaged and moving you forward. Some bikes fall in the get ‘er done category when it comes to climbing. The Rail 29 makes climbing feel good. Whether you’re spinning up a smooth incline or standing and hammering through a steep rise, it always feels smooth and efficient. The shorter geometry comes in handy for technical sections, too. The Rail 29 makes it easy to finesse rocky uphill bits and cleans steep switchbacks with ease. There’s tons of embedded lava rock on the Iron Hills trails and Todd floated through all of it. In his words: “The Canfield suspension is money.”
On the descents, the Rail 29 is really playful and fun. There’s plenty of travel to smooth out the chunk and the suspension never feels harsh or overdamped. Todd noted it handled square-edged hits really well. The CBF linkage, combined with the bike’s shorter geometry, gives the bike a poppy, nimble feel that will have you looking for side hits and kicker rocks – and there’s no shortage of those on Lava Flow and the other Cedar City trails. The Rail 29 is surprisingly stable at speed, too. As noted earlier, Todd thought the geometry was a bit on the conservative side. However, he found it didn’t matter at all on the trail. The general expectation is that playfulness comes at the expense of stability. Revel seems to have broken this rule with the Rail 29. Point it downhill and let ‘er rip.
One of the highlights of the Iron Hills trail system is Boulderdash – it’s a work of art. It’s a spectacular example of what can be done by experienced trail designers with artistic vision and will. The centerpiece is a section of rockwork built through a slope of house-sized boulders. It’s difficult not to experience visual overload the first time you ride into it; but the trail is really well-built and rides way better than your brain tells you it will. It’s good cheap thrills and the Rail 29 rolled through the boulders with confidence!
Boulderdash leads you into Lava Flow. Don’t let the word, “flow,” fool you – it’s not your typical, smooth flow trail. It’s got plenty of berms, smooth bits and some tabletops but it also has lava rock gardens and some formidable built-up rock features. All of the big features have go-arounds but every time you open it up, you can bet there’s some kind of volcanic surprise waiting around the next corner. It keeps you on your toes, gives your bike’s suspension a good workout and was a great testing ground for our Revel Rail 29 ride report. Although a longer bike works well for plowing through chunder, the Rail 29’s shorter wheelbase makes it possible to finesse the rocks instead of just smashing through them. And the CBF suspension keeps you from getting hung up on the bigger, blockier rocks.
Revel Rail 29 Review Conclusion
In the end, Todd really enjoyed the Revel Rail 29 and found it more capable and fun than he expected. He said he’d run it on any trail and called it a, “perfect all-mountain, all-day bike.” No – it’s not a dedicated enduro/park sled or a replacement for his Rocky Mountain Slayer. But if you’re looking for a really well-balanced, all-mountain trail bike with enough travel for bike park and shuttle days, the Revel Rail 29 is a fantastic choice. For our local Southern Utah mesa trails, where versatility and agility are the name of the game, the Rail 29 is near-perfect. And for most mountain bikers, who ride a mix of trails, not just lift-assisted bike parks, the Revel Rail 29’s fun-focused geometry, long-travel and CBF suspension make it an excellent all-rounder quiver-killer. Come ride one of our Revel Rail 29 rental bikes and see for yourself!