The Revel Rail 29 is one of the most balanced long-travel 29ers we’ve had the opportunity to throw a leg over. It’s remarkable uphill while topping the nimble charts on the downhills. It doesn’t have the “smash everything in sight” ride quality that a lot of modern enduro bikes possess, but it’s a fresh take on a long-travel platform that is extremely useable for a large variety of riders and trails.
Revel Rail 29 Geometry and Details
I see enduro bikes starting to fall into two subcategories these days. On one hand, you have bikes like the Transition Spire. It’s slack as hell, packs a big punch with 170mm of travel both front and back and has a wheelbase as long as a city bus. Then you have enduro bikes that get closer to blurring the lines between enduro and all-mountain. Bikes like the Rocky Mountain Altitude and Orbea Rallon come to mind. They’re still massively capable, but they fall on the more maneuverable, playful, and nimble side of the spectrum. The Rail 29 falls into the latter category. It’s a great climber and what it lacks in capability, it makes up for in maneuverability.
The Rail 29 is on the steeper end of the enduro bike scale. It’s got a 65° head tube angle. It’s paired to a pretty low front end with only a 646mm stack height on my size XL frame. It gives the bike a racy feel not too dissimilar to the Yeti SB130. The reach is a healthy 494mm and the chainstays are a nice and tidy 436mm. Put it all together and you’ve got a 1257mm wheelbase. Overall, it’s a pretty compact bike for the enduro category. We’ll get more into how that impacts ride quality in just a second here.
I rarely talk about components in these reviews. First of all, I rethink they only have a minor impact on the ride quality of the bike when compared to suspension design and geometry, and second, not everyone is going to have the same build as me. But, in this case, I’m going to talk about two components. The dropper post is shorter than I’d care for. I’m spoiled to have the legs of a baby giraffe, and I’m getting to the point where anything less than 200mm of drop feels short. The 175mm RaceFace Turbine dropper is too short for an XL, especially when there’s plenty of room in the frame for a longer dropper. Second, we’re going to talk about the brakes. My test bike has TRP DHR-Evo brakes. I will rant and rave about those things until the day I die, but just know that the stock builds come with Sram Codes or Shimano XTs depending on the build kit. I have to say, I wish the TRPs were stock.
Stock builds, including my loaner test bike, come with 160mm forks. Revel says that a 170mm fork will be fine. I think that would only make this bike better, but do be aware that it’s going to make your seat tube angle slacker. The Rail 29’s STA was about as slack as I can comfortably get along with. The added front end height with the 170mm fork is probably worth it in my mind, though.
Now let’s get into how this thing rides.
Revel Rail 29 Review
Revel has a way of making a bike do everything you want it to do on the climbs. Per category, they make some of the best climbing bikes you can buy. They’re efficient, they smooth out the bumps while providing great traction, and the geo is great. They tend to be a bit portly, but if you ask me, bike weight comes after all the aforementioned qualities when it comes to climbing performance.
The Rail 29 is no exception to the rules. It’s easily the best climbing enduro bike I’ve ridden. And, let’s get this out of the way now I guess. I’d argue this bike is more of an all-mountain bike than it is enduro, but it seems that most folks are wanting to call it an enduro bike, so I’ll concede the point.
The CBF suspension is a standout feature on the Rail 29. It is as efficient as you’d want a 155mm travel bike to be without giving up the plush and smooth quality that makes it comfortable to pedal for long periods of time. It smooths out bumps and trail chatter very well while keeping the rear wheel stuck to the ground. The anti-squat values are fairly high giving you a good pedal platform for those hard efforts. Some of the magic behind CBF (admittedly, a lot of it goes over my head) is in the way the pedal platform is firm and supportive but very active at the same time. It’s a bit of a weird thing to wrap your head around out on the trail. It’s kind of one of those things you need to try to totally understand.
The Rail 29’s geometry is great for climbing, in fact, I’d say it leans on the climbing side of the scale when compared to most other bikes in the category. It has that race-like fit where you’re pulled forward and lower to the bars. It makes the steering very responsive and helps keep your weight over the front wheel. Combined with the shorter wheelbase, The Rail 29 is easy to get around a tight corner or switch back. It’s easy to pick your way through the technical climbs too. It’s not as long or difficult to maneuver like some of the other enduro bikes these days.
Overall on the uphills, I would have to put the Rail 29 at the top of the class. It’s a bike I’d happily grab for an all day epic with way too much climbing.
Don’t get me wrong, the Rail 29 is a competent descender, but it lacks a bit of that big, brawler attitude that most enduro bikes have a lot of these days. I didn’t shy away from riding the same “big bike” trails that I’ll hit most days on my Megatower—I just had to go a little slower. The tradeoff is that the Rail 29 is more fun on mellower trails and on the jumps than the bigger bikes are.
The suspension design is the star of the show on the downhills. It’s incredibly smooth and plush without unnecessarily blowing through the travel. Think Ibis Rimpo with a little more oomph. Little trail chatter completely disappears under you. There’s a ton of pop built into the bike too. It’s very easy to get off the ground as well as generate speed through rollers and berms. On some of the flowier trails I tested the bike on, the Rail 29 might have been the perfect bike. It’s smooth and stable enough without giving up anything in the pop and play department.
The Geometry is what I think makes the Rail 29 holds the Rail 29 back in terms of being a big brawler. The steep and low front end puts you in a bit of a forward position when you hit steep and rough trails. That heavy on the front position does a couple of things. It either forces you to ride pretty far off the back of the bike, where you have less control over the steering and less room in your arm suspension to absorb bumps, or it forces you to ride over the front of the bike and take your chances. I noticed a bit of a light rear wheel effect while riding the Rail 29. The back end is pretty drifty which I think comes from the forward position on the bike.
That forward position isn’t great on the steep stuff, but it’s amazing on the mellower flowier trails. It makes the Rail 29 the most responsive long-travel bike I’ve ridden. It’s incredible in a corner and really fun ducking and diving through the trees. It took me a minute or two to adjust to how quick the handling was, but once I got it, I was having the time of my life hitting corners and berms.
The geometry being a little more tame and conservative is what makes the Rail 29 so versatile. It opens up a lot of mellower options, where a full-on enduro bike is going to be a bit sluggish and boring. It can ride the big stuff, but it really shines on single black diamonds and blues.
Overall, the Rail 29 is a competent and versatile descender. It’s not the burliest but it’s the most responsive.
Revel Rail 29 Comparisons
Ibis Ripmo vs Revel Rail 29
The Ibis Ripmo came to mind while riding the Rail 29. They both have that very smooth, supple suspension feel with tons of pop. Apart from the Rail 29 having 10mm more travel, the geometry is very similar. Both bikes are fun, versatile, and capable. I think the Rail 29 is a little smoother and more supple than the Ripmo, both up and down. The Ripmo would probably win in a climbing challenge though.
Orbea Rallon vs Revel Rail 29
I recently rode and reviewed the Rallon. Like the Rail 29, It also falls on the more all-mountain side of the enduro category, although the Rallon is much closer to the other enduro bikes. It’s a more capable and confident descender with slacker geo and much more travel. My favorite thing about the Rallon was its ability to easily navigate a trail with its nimble ride quality. The Rail 29 builds on that quality and takes it to the extreme. If I was racing enduro or riding hard trails every day, I’d take the Rallon. If I wanted a capable yet versatile bike, I’d take the Rail 29.
Who is it for?
I see the Rail 29 being a great bike for a lot of folks. Two main groups come to mind. The first group is the ex-XC folks looking for a long-travel bike — people who love a good climb and are used to that forward-leaning position on the bike. They’re going to love covering lots of ground on the Rail and will enjoy the more comfortable and smoother suspension platform. It’s going to be a much more confident descender for folks looking for that.
The second group is the type of rider who wants the comfort and confidence that a long-travel bike affords, but they don’t care to ride double black diamond trails on the daily. People who want a big squishy bike, but find themselves on single black diamonds and blues most of the time should look at the Rail 29. It’s a better option for them than most other enduro bikes, as it’s a more responsive and versatile ride.
One-line bike review
The Rail 29 is the most responsive and engaging long-travel bike we’ve had roll through the shop.
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