The Revel Ranger is relatively new, yet it already seems to have a cult following. On paper, it blurs the lines between a full-on XC race bike and a more user-friendly trail bike. It has the geo that you’d expect to see on an XC bike, with the travel of a trail bike. So, how does it fare out on the trail? Stick around to find out.
I’m not XC guy. I’ve done a marathon event over four years ago but don’t know the first thing about XC racing. I’m more of a ride bikes for fun kind of guy. If you want the XC expert review on the Ranger, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This will be your review if you want a fresh take from an average joe.
Revel Ranger Geometry
Let’s set the stage and cover some key features before diving into how this thing rides. It has 29” wheels, 115mm of rear travel, and 120mm up front. At 6’2”, I’m riding an XL. The Ranger is the steepest and shortest bike I’ve ridden for as long as I can remember. It has a 67.5° head tube angle, 498mm reach, and a 436mm chainstay length. Add all of that up, and you get a short 1223mm wheelbase.
To give you a frame of reference, the Ibis Exie, a full-blown XC bike, has a head tube angle of 67.2°, a reach of 519mm, a 435mm chainstay length, and a 1253mm wheelbase.
The Ranger uses the CBF suspension design. It relies on a whole bunch of nerd magic that goes well over my head, but the claim is that it provides excellent pedaling efficiency no matter where you are in the travel. We’re going to see if that’s really the case.
Today I’m riding a custom build that leans on the XC side of the spectrum. I think this bike could go a bit more trail with heavier duty tires, bigger brakes, and a proper trail fork. I have seen some folks putting a coil shock and all-mountain tires on this bike. I think they’re missing the mark. You’re better off just buying the right bike in the first place at some point rather than trying to turn one into something it’s not.
Revel Ranger Review
Usually, pedaling uphill serves the purpose of giving me and my bike some potential energy. It’s the necessary evil to have fun on the way back down. The Ranger changes that a bit for me. It makes climbing rather enjoyable. It strikes the perfect balance between efficiency and traction, all while being responsive and nimble.
Let’s start with the star of the show. The suspension platform on the Ranger is top-notch. It feels very firm and efficient without sacrificing traction and control. I have a bit of an aversion to full-suspension bikes that are so efficient they may as well be hardtails. I get that efficiency is pretty essential when you’re talking about racing uphill. But then again, so is keeping the back wheel on the ground. The Ranger isn’t plush in the bigger picture, but for an XC bike, it feels pretty good in the initial stroke. There was a tiny bit of pedal bob, but that’s a small price to pay for a bike that provides so much grip. Beyond traction, there’s plenty of control on offer. The bike smooths out rough sections of the climb very well. On the day I filmed the video review, I climbed a pretty rocky trail. It had a couple of steep sections with bigger rocks and ledges, but most of the trail was littered with cobbles and pointy rocks. There was very little smooth dirt to be had. The ranger was not only smooth (read: fast), it was easy to power up and over trail obstacles.
Nimble geometry also contributes to the Ranger’s technical climbing ability. Because of its shorter wheelbase and steeper head tube, it can get around tight corners and pick its way through rough sections with ease. The bike is easy to steer and doesn’t take a massive effort to get it around a corner. I did struggle a little bit with getting my weight too far forward from time to time. With a shorter wheelbase, you have a smaller margin for error on where you put your weight. It’s a little easier to get out of shape and find yourself too far forward or backward. I noticed it the most on big ledges where I was trying to lurch the bike up and over. I’d get too far over the bars and get the back wheel to spin out. I think I’d learn where the boundary is with more time, but it’s always going to be easier to stay centered on a longer bike.
I’m a really tall guy, and I struggle with slacker seat tube angles. The Ranger’s isn’t the steepest by today’s standards. Granted, it doesn’t have a lot of travel to sag into so it can get away with being a bit slacker. It still looks more like a traditional XC seat tube angle. Even with the saddle pretty far forward on the rails and a short stem, I was reaching for the bars a bit more than I’d like. Shorter folks won’t feel the effects of this as much, so if you’re not a baby giraffe, you probably won’t notice it as much as me.
While most of an XC race/ride is going to be spent on the climbs, you can’t completely disregard the time spent going downhill. The Ranger does a good job balancing the two. It obviously shines on the climbs, but it’s still a deft descender.
Again the star of the show here is the suspension. The same semi-plush and controlled ride quality from the climbs shines through on the DH. It affords the bike a certain degree of forgiveness and stability that compliments the quick and nimble geometry very well. The initial stroke is relatively plush, considering there’s only 115mm of rear travel. It keeps the rear wheel from hanging up on the small trail chatter. Again, the trail I filmed the video on had a ton of embedded cobbles and pointy rocks. Surprisingly, the Ranger felt anything but rattly in those conditions. The back wheel didn’t bounce around unless the rocks were particularly big or the speeds high. I did have a couple of “oh sh*t” moments on the bike, but most of them came down to me running out of talent in places where the bike wasn’t designed to ride.
The Ranger’s geometry is what keeps it in the XC category for me. It’s not trying to blur the lines or be something it’s not. It’s an XC bike, and it’s not ashamed of it. The first thing I noticed on the descents was the short wheelbase—It was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it kept the bike easy to handle, and on the other, it made the sweet spot pretty small for my lanky frame. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bike with quicker and more responsive handling. It’s easy to steer, leans around a corner, and dodges trail features with the best of them. It’s fun to pump, manual, and jump. In fact, the place where it doesn’t feel like a traditional XC bike for me is when you’re goofing around on the trail. Most XC bikes aren’t this fun or playful.
While the Ranger felt at home on cruisy blues and green descents, I started to feel that wheelbase on rougher black diamond trails. I mentioned it in the climb portion of this review, but the short wheelbase makes for a small sweet spot where your weight is evenly distributed between the wheels. I found myself outside of the butter zone from time to time. It’s moments like those that you hope your lesson isn’t too painful.
Revel Ranger Comparisons
I think the Ranger’s closest comparison will be the Ibis Exie. The geometry is fairly similar, with the most significant difference being the Exie is quite a bit longer. The Ibis blew me away with its climbing prowess and downhill stability, given the category. I think it would beat the Ranger in a flat-out efficiency test, but the ranger is going to take the cake on uphill tech. The shorter wheelbase makes it easier to navigate tricky uphills. The Exie is more stable at speed, but a little longer than the Ranger, so it will struggle a bit more on really tight switchbacks. The Exie’s seat tube angle works better for tall folks.
Giant Trance 29
The Trance 29 came to mind because it’s probably the closest bike to the Ranger that I’ve ridden in the last month or two. I couldn’t get over how well the Trance pedaled. It felt extremely fast uphill. The Ranger isn’t quite as fast, but again, it’s going to out-nimble the Trance on uphill tech. Downhill they feel pretty comparable even though the Tracne has more travel. I will say I’d be more willing to try tough lines on the Trance than I would the Ranger.
This one is throwing it back a bit—It’s been quite a while since I’ve owned my Transition Spur. I think these two can tackle the same kind of terrain/riding style, but they’re probably as opposite as two bikes in the same category can be. The Spur feels much more aggressive on the descents than the Ranger. I didn’t feel the need to back down from bigger lines and steeper chutes when I was on the Spur. On the Ranger, I felt myself needing to ride more conservatively. They both climb well, but I don’t think the Spur will hold up to the Ranger, especially in a race.
Who is the Revel Ranger for?
Well, this one seems pretty obvious. The Ranger is a great bike for someone who wants to either race XC, endurance events or prefers to fight gravity rather than work with it. If you like to pedal and get a solid workout in, the Ranger is one of the best bikes I’ve ridden on the climbs. It made climbing fun while not completely sacrificing downhill performance.
Again, I’m not XC race guy, but if I wanted to do an XC race, this is probably the first bike I’d grab to show up at the starting line.
One-Line bike review
The revel Ranger, making climbing fun since 2020.