Tested: Revel Bikes RW30 Wheelset
What is it about making carbon wheels that’s so enticing? Why does it seem like every single company in the cycling business is getting into the wheel game? Is there something I don’t know? Are carbon rims the secret cash cow of the bike industry? Perhaps we should ask Mavic, the 125-year-old French rim and wheel company that recently went into receivership, if they’d recommend getting a foot in the door. It’s as if you can’t be a legitimate bike company until you can add the word “wheelworks” to the catalog. When did this become the rule? Why? Do we really need more bike companies making rims? Nope, we’re good. All set, thanks.
But what if they could be manufactured more sustainably than other carbon rims? What if the raw material could be safer to work with, didn’t need to be stored in massive energy-sucking fridges, had an infinite shelf life (regular raw carbon comes with an expiration date), and what if that material could be recycled? What if that material could build rims with higher impact resistance at lower weights, and could be made much closer to home?
These are the questions that infant bike brand, Revel Bikes is asking. And the answer to all of them is a resounding yes. That’s the magic behind these things. Sure, the Revel RW30 wheels ride well. They have to. If they didn’t, this whole thing wouldn’t be newsworthy. If they’re not any good, none of it is worth a damn.
Except they are. The Revel RW30 rims have a forgiving ride quality that isn’t overly vague, with the ability to still feel sturdy and responsive. They actually feel about as unique as the way they’re made. They’re not quite as supple as the Crankbrothers Synthesis hoops, my current favorite rims, but they feel slightly livelier. Both are essentially the same weight, a respectable-but-not-wickedly-light 480 grams for the 29-inch version, but one feels more responsive than the other.
And one is more recyclable. Safer to manufacture. Both are special, but one represents something that’s bigger, something deeper. It’s still in its early days, but this new epoxy-less carbon manufacturing process could have the potential of changing the whole carbon game. Not just rims. Not even just bike frames. We’re talking airplanes and spaceships and stuff. We’re talking about potentially expanding U.S. carbon manufacturing.
If you aren’t in the loop on this yet, look up our article about it. Basically the carbon lay-up on the Revel RW30 rims is held together with a nylon-like substance instead of epoxy. Nylon can melt back down after it’s cured, but epoxy cannot. It’s effectively impossible to separate epoxy from the carbon after it’s set, but that isn’t the case with nylon, which is what makes the product recyclable. And it’s ultimately why they feel softer and more forgiving than most traditional thermoset carbon rims. When epoxy hardens, it’s brittle, but nylon retains some malleability. Another advantage is that the rims come out of their molds basically finished. They don’t need flashing to be removed, they require no sanding or surface coating. Oh, and Revel claims that the process builds stronger, lighter rims, too. It sounds like a classic too-good-to-be-true scenario.
Only, as far as I can tell, it’s not. The Revel RW30 wheels are nicely done. I tested the version that comes built with 28-hole Industry Nine Hydra hubs front and rear and Sapim D-Lite spokes, retailing for $2,200. They’re also available with Industry Nine 101 hubs for $1,975 and as rims-only with 28 or 32 holes for $700 apiece. And I was impressed.
At 1,840 grams, they’re in the neighborhood of other wheels in their class that have 30-millimeter-wide carbon rims. But they take a beating so you don’t have to. They smooth trail chatter better than most modern carbon wheels, which in turn improves comfort, control and traction. At the same time, they’re responsive, tight, fast and poppy.
On really demanding, rough, choppy terrain, I still prefer the feel of the Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels because they provide that little extra bit of traction. Although, when I swapped back over to the Synthesis wheels after spending time on the Revel RW30s, I found myself missing the razor-sharp steering response they provided. They just felt a bit more alive, more like a race car compared to a regular road car.
They strike a really nice balance, especially if you already know that rims like the above fore-mentioned Zipp Moto or Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels are too flexy or mushy for your taste. They’ll give you that extra level of support and deft handling that everyone loves about carbon hoops, but without the harshness or loss of control that comes along with most. They’re compliant enough to really notice an improvement in ride quality and cornering control, but not so stiff that they’d knock me off line. That combination makes for the sensation of cornering like you’re on rails.
The RW30s have held up to a fair amount of abuse including several intentional and unintentional harsh tire bottoming events without any sign of damage so far. They feel strong, composed and in control even when I’m not. But if they do break, they come with a top-notch lifetime manufacturer and crash replacement warranty. Revel will even send you a set of loaner wheels while yours are being repaired, all free of charge. The warranty, like the rims themselves, breaks the industry mold. Does the world need more bike companies making rims? When they’re like this, absolutely.
Get the story straight from Revel here.