Mountain biking’s relationship with carbon fiber rims is backwards. So many innovative technologies that started off-road were eventually, grudgingly, adopted on road bikes (disc brakes, single-ring drivetrains, tubeless tires). But carbon rims were prolific in the road marketplace before they became common on mountain bikes.
In the last few years, things have changed and there are tons of carbon wheel choices for everyone from XC racers to downhillers. It is almost hard to pick a carbon wheelset with so many brands in the mix.
That’s why Revel’s RW30 wheels caught our attention and merited a review. Despite being the Colorado bike brand’s first wheel offering, they feature novel carbon technology.
Revel RW30 highlights
- $1,975-$2,200, depending on hub option
- 29mm internal rim width
- Hookless bead design
- Two hub options: Industry Nine 1/1 and Hydra
- 27.5” or 29” options
- 28- or 32-hole spoke configurations
- Made-in-USA carbon fiber rims
- Fusion Fiber carbon fiber material — no epoxy used in construction
- Lifetime warranty and crash replacement policy and rim recycling program
Revel RW30 pros
- Precise steering and handling
- No durability issues despite hard riding in Moab, Utah
- All-American hubs and rims
- Carbon recycling gives you warm fuzzies
Revel RW30 cons
- Ride feel seems a bit harsh until you get accustomed to it
- Why 29mm, not 30mm, internal width?
What makes Revel wheels different
Carbon fiber technology typically combines a fabric with an epoxy resin that is molded, pressurized, heated, and cured to make it all stick together. There are many process variations but it is often done by hand and requires a bit of cleanup afterward to sand the epoxy or clear-coat the raw carbon finish.
Revel teamed up with a Utah aerospace company to bring a new carbon fiber construction to the cycling realm. Fusion Fiber is a carbon fiber material and process that does not use epoxy resin. Instead, this carbon has a nylon-like polymer, which is more pliable than a cured epoxy. Revel says Fusion Fiber leads to a manufacturing process that is more efficient, less time-consuming, more environmentally friendly, and capable of producing a better rim.
Without resin, Fusion Fiber has an unlimited shelf-life and doesn’t require refrigeration like most conventional carbon used in bike parts. Robots, rather than people, lay up the carbon rims for further consistency. Do not worry, these are friendly robots. Finally, the rims cure in a matter of seconds, not minutes, and come out of the mold ready to go, not requiring further finishing work.
Revel claims that Fusion Fiber affords greater durability, which is key for off-road rims. Plus, according to their engineers, if damage is incurred, this carbon technology helps prevent cracks from propagating. So, hopefully, if you crack an RW30, it won’t be catastrophic, so you can finish the ride. Whether or not that’s the case on the trail, Revel backs its rims with a generous lifetime warranty and recycles broken rims that are returned for warranty.
The fact that Fusion Fiber can be recycled is a big deal. Revel rims can be recycled into new products while the majority of traditional carbon fiber products end up in a landfill where it will never decompose.
Setup and initial impressions
When you spend two-grand on a pair of bike wheels, expectations are high, and happily the Revel wheels are a polished product right out of the box. The shiny graphics pop, but are subtle enough. The five, swoopy circle logos offset 90-degrees from the valve stem are a riff on the Revel “R” logo. Maybe they look a little like a DoorDash icon, but who are we to talk!?
Like most tubeless rims, the RW30 employs basic tubeless-ready rim tape. That works just fine, but as always, be mindful if you resort to tire levers. Fortunately, my new 2.5” Maxxis Assegai WT and 2.4” Maxxis DHR WT tires mounted easily by hand.
It’s a tremendously small nit to pick, but it would be nice to have a rubber o-ring beneath the valve stems’ nuts so they cinch tightly the first time. I had to snug up the valve nuts after my first ride.
Revel RW30 ride review
My first foray on the Revels was a local trail system that’s very — how shall I put it — primitive and unregulated. The trails are steep, fast, loose, and rough. Ideal testing grounds for a carbon enduro wheel.
The first run down the hill left me feeling a bit stunned, and not in a particularly positive way. The RW30 offered super-precise steering but that came at the expense of ride quality. I thought they seemed a bit harsh. But there are two good explanations for that. First, I was coming off of Zipp’s 3ZeroMoto rims, which are structurally designed to be far more compliant than any other mountain bike rim. They have a single-wall construction, like a motorcycle rim, and it works as advertised. But this isn’t a Zipp review — all I’m saying was I’d gotten used to listening to Kenny G., so a little Guns ‘n Roses caught me by surprise. Second, my tire pressure was a little too high on that first ride.
My fellow tester, Bruce, also got a pair of RW30 wheels to ride, and he rode them with CushCore XC tire inserts. He too thought the initial ride feel was a bit harsh, but not to the point of turning him off. He bottoms out his tires regularly, and pointed out that the noise the Revels made during rim strikes was substantially more muted than any of his other carbon wheels. Perhaps an effect of the Fusion Fiber, the wheels seemed to dissipate the energy from violent impacts very effectively. Eventually, he came to appreciate how they seemed a bit more stout than the ENVE AM30 wheels he tested previously.
Once my first ride was behind me, I grew entirely accustomed to the Revel RW30 wheels. I got my tire pressure dialed, and I began to really benefit from their stiffness. While there are a lot of factors at play on a bike, I could tell that these wheels helped me pick precise lines, and they rarely deflected or strayed from where I put them.
I rimmed out pretty frequently on sharp rocks. Despite running tubeless tires without any sort of insert like a CushCore, I never had any issues with rim damage or flat tires. And as I mentioned in the “pros” section, I put these wheels through the wringer in Moab, riding all of the Amasa Back singletrack, the Mag7 to Portal shuttle route, and even a bonus desert day at the Tabeguache trails in Grand Junction, Colorado.
SHOP REVEL WHEELS
It's safe to say I was confident riding Revel RW30 wheels on nearly any terrain.
These days, there are certainly less-expensive carbon wheel options for mountain bikes. Revel is also one of many brands to offer a no-questions-asked crash replacement policy, which is likely one of the biggest reasons why carbon rims are finally being adopted by a lot of mountain bikers. Performance-wise, the RW30 isn’t lightyears ahead of the competition, but it’s a great rim that’s worth the money and won’t let you down.
In terms of the basics, Revel checks all of the boxes — impressive for its first entry into the wheel market. So how do they stand apart?
You might want to buy a pair of RW30s because the rims and Industry Nine hubs are both made in America. From a technical standpoint, the resin-free carbon construction is also pretty cool and arguably better, but I’m not sure if that translates to noticeable trail performance. And finally, Revel’s recycling program is really the right thing to do, considering how wasteful our sport can be.
A lot of mountain bikers have a misconception that carbon fiber is a short-lived throwaway product, but I’m inclined to believe that a pair of Revels would last longer than most components, and that also speaks to their sustainability.