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Surprise! Stout Revel Rover Carbon Gravel Bike Is Smooth, Nimble
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Surprise! Stout Revel Rover Carbon Gravel Bike Is Smooth, Nimble

Revel Bikes is a smaller brand, but it gained popularity due to its reportedly brilliant CBF suspension that graces its mountain bikes. The Rover is the first non-suspended carbon bike for the Carbondale, Colorado, brand.

Revel released the Rover in early 2022 amid endless gravel bike product announcements. The Rover caught my eye because Revel was a brand I was unfamiliar with, and a trusted industry confidant told me I wouldn’t be disappointed. I’m a lifelong supporter of the underdogs, so I ordered a frame and built it up with Shimano GRX Di2 (800 series) and Revel’s R23 recyclable carbon wheels.

I rode the Revel Rover as my daily gravel rig for five months. I started in the heat of late summer on dry, dusty hardpack and carried on through a wet, muddy, cold winter. Now spring is here, and I’m still stoked with how this bike rides.

In short: The Revel Rover broke the mold on how I thought carbon frames ride. Despite looking stout, the Rover delivered a surprisingly smooth ride on rough gravel, which added to its cornering prowess. And it retained the lightweight and lateral stiffness of carbon. The one thing missing is bosses for cargo and fenders, which limits versatility.

  • Material
    Carbon Fiber
  • Sizes
    S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Colors
    Mint Chip, T1000
  • Bottom Bracket

  • Smooth ride for a carbon frame

  • Excellent cornering characteristics

  • Reasonable price for a high-end carbon frame

  • T47 bottom bracket for ease of maintenance

  • Only compatible with 1x drivetrains

  • No rack or fender bosses

Revel Rover Frame First Impressions and Stats

Surprise! Stout Revel Rover Carbon Gravel Bike Is Smooth, Nimble
Look at that fork crown! (photo/Seiji Ishii)

I was wary after unboxing the Revel Rover carbon fiber frame and fork. The large diameter down tube with its angular cross-section made me think the lateral stiffness would be excellent, but the bike would be unforgiving. The last few carbon gravel frames I’d received have pencil-thin seat stays and other features aimed at compliance. But it isn’t visibly the case with the Rover.

The seat stays are stout and have the “old-school” stay bridge (and they aren’t dropped). And the fork crown reminded me of a bulldog. I have lifted weights my entire adult life and have zero hope of ever having shoulders like the Rover fork. All this gave me the impression that the bike would put as much power into the rear wheel as possible, but I would suffer on rough gravel.

frame dimensions

Another thing that sparked concern was the relatively steep seat tube angle. At 75 degrees, it is steeper than any other gravel bike I was testing. The other gravel bikes in the fleet, and others I tried, had seat tube angles hovering in the 72 to 73-degree range. I like to sit “behind” the pedals, especially when the torque demands are high, so this was troublesome.

The right side chain stay has a considerable drop. This is a common way to ensure clearances for everything living on the chain side of the bottom bracket. But the Rover’s drop is very pronounced. The seat tube is round, which is becoming less common. But I appreciated the ability to run a dropper post. Conversely, Revel’s T47 threaded bottom bracket is increasingly popular — ditto for the Universal Derailleur Hanger.

Revel chose to make the Rover only compatible with single chainring setups. I still prefer to run 2x if given a choice, as do several of my gravel racing acquaintances. But we may be in the minority.

Finally, the paint made me smile. The “Mint Chip” color (a grayish “T1000” is the other option) struck me as bright and happy without being gaudy.

The Build

Shimano GRX Di2 drivetrain
The Shimano GRX Di2 drivetrain never missed a shift; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

Revel Bikes also provided a set of its R23 wheels, while Shimano sent a GRX Di2 groupset. I rounded the bike out with PRO (owned by Shimano) cockpit components, Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 pedals, Elite Vico Carbon bottle cages, and Specialized S-Works Pathfinder 42c tires.

Revel offers several builds, including ones with the Shimano GRX groupset. Other options include SRAM Rival and Red. These builds start at an MSRP of $3,199 and run up to $8,199.

My large frame size build came in at 19.5 pounds with the tires set up tubeless.

Revel Rover Ride: Surprisingly Comfortable

The Revel Rover’s looks were deceiving. All my initial concerns about chassis harshness dissipated within a few miles on my local hardpacked and rock-strewn dirt roads. The bike was not at all harsh. Every time I looked at the fork crown or down tube, it was a mind-bender. How can something made of carbon and look so burly ride so smooth? I don’t know, but the Rover soaked up chatter like a champ.

I was particularly sensitive to front-end chatter as I was still recovering from wrist reconstruction surgery. And I didn’t unload or stiffen my affected side or compensate in any way while riding the Revel Rover. I cannot say this about every carbon gravel bike I’ve ridden.

Part of this could be due to the Revel R23 wheels. They are one of only a few wheels at the time to use FusionFiber composite, which employs thermoplastic instead of epoxy and resin to bind the carbon. The thermoplastic isn’t nearly as brittle as traditional epoxies and resins, which purportedly allows flexing, potentially delivering a smoother ride. FusionFiber is also recyclable, which is another plus.

Revel Rover gravel frame top view
The Revel Rover frame has a seat tube angle on the steeper side for gravel; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

My concern about the relatively steep seat tube angle was also quelled. I had no issues getting my PRO saddle into the correct fore-aft position with a setback post.

The frame was laterally stiff, no doubt. But a smidge of lateral or torsional give made climbing out of the saddle feel more natural. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but the frame felt different than the other carbon gravel frames during punchy climbs. Especially when they were littered with embedded stones, and it was essential to leave enough weight on the rear tire to ensure traction.

The same feelings hit me while navigating rough, wide-radius, fast turns. There was enough compliance vertically, laterally, and torsionally to keep me skimming across uneven terrain while leaning over more confidently than on other rigs I was testing simultaneously. I know these turns well; they are right out my door, and I’ve ridden them for almost a decade. So I’m sure I didn’t imagine this characteristic.

This tiny amount of give and compliance, combined with the alchemy of Revel’s frame geometry, made the Rover one of the best turning and descending carbon gravel bikes I’ve tested. Some of this, of course, relied on the Revel R23 wheels and Specialized tires.

Revel Rover gravel bike rear view
The Rover has clearance for 50mm tires; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

The Revel Rover can handle 50mm wide tires, providing ample tire options and the ability to run lower pressures. One minor gripe was the dropped right chain stay was so low that the chain would hit it on rough descents. I installed some protection tape to silence the chain slap and protect the paint.

One significant complaint, though, is the lack of threaded bosses for racks, fenders, or bento boxes. This limits the utility of the Revel Rover, and the gravel bike culture seems to desire that. So without these bosses, the frame is limited to strap systems to mount the various accessories and bags that the adventurous set may desire.

But How Was Shimano GRX Di2?

Revel Rover gravel bike front view
Shimano designed GRX Di2 brake levers and hoods specifically for gravel; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

The Shimano GRX Di2 groupset hardly entered my mind while riding, which was good. Changing gears and braking required no directed thinking or effort. Every bit of the groupset worked incredibly well right out of the gate, and I almost forgot parts were hanging off the frame. It was that good.

The climbs here are short but steep and frequent, giving me countless opportunities to shift under load. I also fanned multiple gears bombing down rough descents. I never missed a single shift during the entire five-month testing period. And I rarely cleaned or lubed my chain (yes, shame on me, but it was for testing).

The braking was noticeably better than with other groupsets I’ve used on gravel. The engagement point was positive, and the progression of braking power felt steep but controllable. Interestingly, the pivot point differs from Shimano’s road brake levers for increased leverage. The hardpacked terrain near my home has gravel and rocks in most turns and, in the warmer months, a layer of eyebrow-raising dust in the most inopportune places. But the Shimano GRX brakes made me feel like a fighter pilot. I could hammer the straights and descents and scrub just enough speed, even with the dust, and stay within the limits of tire adhesion as I leaned into the turns.

Additionally, Shimano graced the brake levers with a pronounced flat front surface with a slight texture. This delivered a positive grip and maintained a good feel when the going was rough. The hoods allowed a deeper set with the hands compared to Shimano road groups, and the hood covers have raised ribs for traction. Finally, I appreciated and frequently used the buttons on the inside surface of the hoods to flip between the data and map screens of my Garmin head unit when the going was rough.

There are always some gripes, but with Shimano GRX Di2, they were minor. I don’t like to wear gloves during the hot Texas summers, and the texture on the hood covers would tear up my hands a bit on hot rides when my skin was softened by sweat — a pretty minuscule complaint.

I shifted using only the right-side paddles, the “stock” configuration for a GRX 1x system. But when the going got rough, or I had winter gloves on, hitting the smaller paddle took deliberate effort (even though they are larger than road versions). But this is easy to fix with Shimano’s E-TUBE app, which allows programming many lever functions. I plan to program the system to use the larger paddles on both sides to shift like SRAM, then keep the smaller buttons working on each lever, doing the opposite of the larger paddle. This will provide backup shifting options should I crash and destroy a lever. Technology!

Workhorse PRO Components

The PRO Discover alloy cockpit components struck me as “workhorse” gear. Nothing sculpted nor flashy. Just robust aluminum goods that quietly did their job. Zero complaints, and along with the aluminum GRX crank arms, I had fewer worries about damage from rocks flying up from the tires or minor crashes.

The one PRO item that did stand out was the Stealth Team Saddle. It does have a carbon base and rails, but otherwise an understated look. But I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was for me. It had just the right amount of squish and the correct base shape. And the center cutout didn’t deliver an overly noticeable feeling, which is common for me. I liked it so much that I got another one for a road bike.

Conclusions on the Revel Rover Gravel Bike

The "T1000" color from Revel Bikes
The “T1000” color; (photo/Revel Bikes)

Don’t let the burly look of the Rover frame fool you. This bike’s ride quality belies the frame tube sizes, shapes, and material. It’s the most comfortable high-performance carbon gravel bike I’ve tested. The only gravel bike that was cushier was titanium. But it still felt racy and efficient, and the confidence while on lean in rougher turns was undeniable.

It may have a steeper seat tube than some prefer, but in the end, it was a non-issue for me. But the lack of bosses may be a deal breaker for the more adventurous set, which is a huge portion of the gravel brigade. And for some, the 1x-only configuration could be the stopper.

Finally, the MSRP of $2,400. To be sure, this is a lot to pay for a frame and fork in the eyes of many. But for a high-end carbon fiber gravel frame and fork with excellent ride characteristics, it represents a good deal. There are comparable framesets going for thousands more.

Lastly, the Mint Chip frame and dark anodized GRX and PRO components drew countless compliments for stunning looks. The T1000 color drew the same from me when I saw it.