Words by Mike Levy, photography by Margus Riga
So yeah, I think they’re saying it’s fast?
There are three Rangers to choose from – the one pictured here is the $7,199 USD middle child; the AXS-equipped version goes for $9,999, and the GX bike for half that.
• Travel: 115mm rear / 120mm front
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: 29″
• Head Angle: 67.5°
• Seat Tube Angle: 75.3°
• Reach: 473mm (large)
• Chainstay length: 436mm
• Sizes: SM, MD, LRG (tested), XLRG
• Weight: 26.23lb / 11.89kg
• Price: $7,199 USD
Regardless of the spec, all the bits hang off the same carbon fiber frame that weighs a claimed 2,766-grams (medium, w/ shock) according to Revel. Not gonna lie, with many options coming in at well under the 2,000-gram mark, it doesn’t sound all that fast. There’s more to this than weight, though, and the frame is a stunner in person; both front and rear triangles, both upper and lower links, and the clevis are all carbon fiber, and there are titanium and aluminum fasteners holding it all together.
Things I like: The threaded bottom bracket, room for a large bottle inside the frame with another spot on the underside of the downtube, as well as room for a 2.6″ wide rear tire. Actually, I don’t like tires that big but I’m not going to complain about tons of mud clearance. Routing is internal and tube-in-tube, and the short, 439mm seat tube is also nice to see. Not only that, but Revel even has a chart on their website that helps you figure out which post to pick for your bike to get the most amount of drop.
At 5′ 10″ Revel says that I should be on a large-sized Ranger, and that comes with a 473mm reach and that stubby, 439mm seat tube that let me run a 170mm Crank Brothers Highline dropper. Head angles aren’t everything, but it’s worth noting the Ranger’s 67.5-degree front-end; that’s essentially the same as the SB115 that I didn’t get on with, but with a 120mm fork rather 130mm. The Ranger is longer overall, as you’d expect. Compared to the Spur, its head angle is also 1.5-degrees steeper, and the 75-degree seat angle is 1-degree more relaxed. That’s a lot of numbers to think about, but I’ll let you guys in on a secret: Aside from sometimes having to confirm that I’m on the correct size, and assuming nothing strange is happening, I almost never even glance at a review bike’s geometry chart until I’m deep into the testing process. I don’t know how others do it, but I think that lets me be more open to what the bike is “telling me” me when I ride it.
Revel says they wanted the Ranger to be a fast, efficient bike, and that its ‘Canfield Brothers Formula’ suspension layout accomplishes exactly that. CBF is a dual-link, co-rotating system, meaning both the upper and lower links rotate clockwise, with a clevis to drive the SIDLuxe shock and deliver 115mm of travel.
Remember when I said that, relatively speaking, the Ranger’s 2,900-gram frame isn’t the lightest? The truth is that a bike doesn’t need to be a flyweight to be quick, but it does need to use an efficient-feeling suspension system. The ones that are good at it, like Spot’s Living Link, dw-link, and a few others, add life and energy to a bike, and the Ranger’s CBF layout does the same. Yes, there were much lighter bikes to ride, and it also finished second-to-last in both our bro-science Efficiency Test and total lap time… But wow, it feels like an absolute rocketship on the trail. The clock might not lie, but I can only report on what I experience, and what I experienced was the desire to go flat-out for most of every ride.
That’s the nice thing about an efficient suspension system; it’s kinda like it rewards you more for your hard work than something less responsive, and therefore you’re more likely to put in that work. All of a sudden your riding buddies are wondering which Russian website you ordered your ”herbal medicine” from, and you’re the jerk who asks “ready to drop in?” as soon as they get to the top. I realize that doesn’t square with my timing, but it’s worth noting that I also bagged a handful of PRs on the Ranger while riding trails outside of our test loop.
What happens when you get to the kind of sections where skill counts for more than squats? There were times on the Transition Spur when it felt like I’d never clean a patch of shiny roots that some jerk planted right in the middle of that sharp uphill lefthander, but the Ranger seemed to be more manageable. Mind you, while the Yeti SB115 and Cannondale Scalpel SE 1 are happy to be steered around troubles, both the Spur and Ranger give you the sensation that you’re swinging the bike’s front-end around the rear tire’s contact patch that isn’t moving at all. At those tipping-over speeds, the black Revel was more of a friend than the Spur, but neither can match Yeti or Cannondale. But hey, just ignore me if you do most of your climbing on gravel roads.
The Ranger’s long-stroke dropper post, short stem, and wide handlebar all say, “Why the hell are you wearing lycra, Levy?” and my only answer is that my boss made me do it. I think I might have confused some other riders who expected me to pick my way slowly down anything remotely challenging. Yeah, not on this bike. This thing is a competent, capable party bike that was probably cringing every time I threw a leg over it while wearing my enforced sausage suit.
I get to ride a lot of different bikes, and a not so small part of the gig is being able to get on a new-to-you machine and not just ride it well, but also quickly figure out what’s going on before you try to explain it. And most bikes that look like they make sense, do make sense on the trail, but there is often a ride or three where I’m still not sure if we’re gonna be friends or not.
But the Ranger was instantly ‘right’ to me as soon as I coasted into the first descent, a sure sign that the package – geo, components and cockpit, suspension – suit my preferences, at least in this hazy category.
Those preferences lean towards a bike that’s more alive and light-footed than stable and secure feeling, but not so much that I end up pin-balling down rocky trails even more than I usually do. Right now, it almost looks like it’s on purpose, and on the Ranger, there were a handful of times when it actually was. Revel has landed on this fun middle ground where their new bike isn’t quite the descending demon that the Spur is, but the difference between them was only noticeable to me on the roughest, fastest few hundred feet of some rides. I was going a bit quicker into the steep slabs and fast, choppy corners when I was on the Transition, but for those times when you’re not pretending to be on an enduro bike, or if the descent is full of corners, especially the tight kind, the Ranger is in a league of its own.
If it’s not scary-steep, the Ranger loves to dive into an impossibly tight switchback, and it gives you that close-to-the-deck feeling that provides loads of confidence. And back to that energy again – a stab at the pedals gets you moving instantly. While a long-travel cross-country rig will usually live up to that description, the Ranger rides nothing like that on the trail because, well, it isn’t one.
The Ranger is an interesting bike that sort of straddles two worlds. On one hand, it has this ‘ready for anything’ vibe, but on the other hand, I seemed to always want to pedal hard when I was on it. This bike doesn’t want to do casual, relaxed laps, and that goes for both directions.
Okay, but would I WANT to do a cross-country race on the Ranger? I wouldn’t mind, sure, but I’d rather be on the Epic if my spring and summer were filled with number plates and cramping. The Ranger is fast, but it’s also ready for more than what most cross-country race courses can provide.