Artificial Selection: A Revel Bikes Tirade 29er Hardtail Review

Announced today, the Revel Bikes Tirade is a 29er, 140-millimeter travel titanium hardtail, unlike anything the brand has offered in the past. With generous tire clearance, beautiful cable routing, and more, it’s clear Revel has used merged its own design prowess, learned through making phenomenal full-suspension bikes, and the re-labeling of its titanium brand, Why Cycles, to force an evolution of the almighty hardtail. Read on for John’s nerdy science talk intertwined with commentary on how hardtails are still having a moment in 2024 below!

Cross-pollination and Selective Breeding

Natural Selection was a theory first proposed by Charles Darwin and asserts that an organism’s environment will ultimately shape its phenotype and, thus, its genotype. Artificial Selection refers to human intervention in this process, whereby we alter an organism’s genetic path by selectively breeding or designing for a more desirable outcome. This happens with everything from plants to animals and even our pets (think: seedless watermelons and Labradoodles).

Often, I use anthropomorphism to describe a genre of bicycle changes over time, stating the evolution influences impact how bikes become better suited for their terrain. We’ve seen gravel bikes become more like mountain bikes over the years, and in a lot of ways, hardtails are finally having their moment.

American kestrel, Falco sparverius, and Sharp-shinned hawk, Accipiter striatus, look similar, but falcons are more closely related genetically to songbirds and parrots than other birds of prey…

I like to think about how bike genres—or cycling taxonomy—evolve over time in these evolutionary terms; how bikes become better suited to certain terrain as a result of technological innovation. We’ve seen gravel bikes become more like mountain bikes over the years to adapt to rider demands, and in a lot of ways, hardtails are finally having their moment because we need more metal hardtails in the 140 mm + range that aren’t full-on BC inspired slack and long shred sleds. (Because I believe we need more people riding and caring about mountain biking and trail access.) I feel like the pendulum swung that way for a while, and it’s finally returning to more well-rounded, all-day-focused, pedal-friendly geometry with real suspension numbers attached!

One permutation of bike that has seemingly disappeared from modern MTB culture is the rim-brake mountain bike, championed by pioneers like Wes Williams of Willits and other builders in the 1990s. And aside from brands like Stridsland, the 26″ MTB. Growing up in the 1990s it was hard to imagine the 26″ wheel disappearing to the extent that it has today. Perhaps the “mullet” bike is next on the way out… 

Last year, Revel dissolved its sibling brand Why Cycles under its own label. The Tirade is the first new bike in the Revel lineup since they folded Why Cycles into the brand, and it is unlike anything Why—or Revel—has offered in the past. By combining their expertise in designing really killer full-suspension bikes with Why’s command of titanium engineering, Revel has artificially bred a new class of hardtail for its ever-expanding catalog.

They’ve selectively bred a whole new beast and pushed the brand’s hardtail phenotype up the evolutionary ladder.

This ain’t no cross-country bike, and it’s not a full-on slackened BC-inspired shred sled either. It’s an equally balanced platform that feels familiar and new simultaneously. This dichotomy surprised me on my first ride in the greater Phoenix area, where the Revel Tirade hardtail struck me as a selectively curated move from the brand.

There is a duality in the perception of hardtails. As someone who lauded their capabilities on The Radavist, I still struggle with their place in the bike industry. On the one hand, some–myself included–have made the case that they are a great learning platform for trail riding for riders coming from a road or gravel background; folks in this camp have also made the argument for the hardtail as the best all-around bike.

And on the other hand, many riders argue that the proliferation of full-suspension bikes has created a disconnect from how and where we ride bikes, and a hardtail is always the superior bike of choice. (i.e., hardtails keep you honest and tamp your riding style down, which is better suited for mixed-use trails where hikers and equestrians share the same singletrack as cyclists.) 

These days, I’m somewhere in the middle. To offer a further counterpoint, Travis did a great job penning why he believes most new mountain bikers should start on full suspension bikes. He used key indicator words like “most” and “should” to soften the edges around bold statements, aligning them as the superior mountain bike platform. Hey, it’s a Dust Up! op-ed article. It’s meant to ruffle some feathers. No harm done, though! But I’m still of the mindset that a broad array of cyclists can and do benefit from riding hardtail mountain bikes. Myself included.

I’ve spent the last year almost exclusively pedaling my 160/140 Starling Murmur into our mountains of Santa Fe. But once our trails got covered in snow, I was relegated to a trusty hardtail. And, on a recent “Radavist Retreat” in Phoenix, I opted to leave my full suspension behind, taking the Revel Tirade instead. I have no regrets. No ragrets.

Quick Hits

  • Five sizes: Small, Medium, Large, XL, XXL
  • Frame weight: 2,290 g (5.05 lb) size Large
  • Complete as reviewed weight: 29 lbs size XL
  • Frame is made in China at Revel’s 8-year partnership factory
  • Size-appropriate seat tube angles. Slightly steeper on XL and XXL
  • Shorter seat tubes with long insertion depths to run longer dropper posts
  • Internal cable routing – clean, quiet, and simple
  • ISCG 5 bash guard tab
  • SRAM UDH derailleur hanger
  • Sliding dropouts with 17 mm of chainstay length adjustability
  • Revel has a number of build kits available, starting at SRAM GX for $5,199
  • Price as shown with Revel carbon wheels: $6699 
  • Price as offered with minor part spec changes and Synthesis Enduro Alloy wheels: $5499
  • Price for frame: $2,499


Terra Influence

Hardtails run the gamut of the mountain bike experience. And while the thought of a 140-millimeter travel 29er might not be what most people think they are looking for, I’d argue the long touted 120 mm travel spec is an incredible disservice to these bikes’ potential. Hear me out, 120 mm when sagged at 20-30% creates a drastic travel reduction.

Suddenly, you’re looking at just shy of 75 to 84 mm of travel. Versus a bike with 140 mm of travel, sagged at 20-30%, and you’re still above 100 mm. What I’m saying is the notion that 140 mm is a lot of travel for just about any terrain seems like splitting hairs, er millimeters, and if one thing has been proven by modern full-suspension bikes, it’s that it is easy to design longer travel bikes that pedal really, really damn well.

I’m a 6′ 2″ rider who weighs 190 lb on a good day, with long legs and a long wingspan, so you should also take this op-ed as just that: my opinion! Shorter riders or riders in different terrains might feel like 120 mm is all they need, and that’s ok. But I’d rather have more travel than less for how I ride bikes in mountainous Western states. In a lot of ways, the terra informs the bike, and where a brand (or media company!) is based carries additional influence. 

Stack height is another qualm I have with 120-millimeter hardtails. Why have a slack-ish head angle and a steep-ish seat angle only to have a meager 120 mm of front travel that is already maxed out on steep terrain? In this scenario, the steep seat tube puts you more over the front and the head tube steepens even more as the fork compresses; add a low stack number to that equation and it can feel quite shit. Even for someone who has decent bike control. This is often compounded by many 120 mm travel hardtails having notoriously short head tubes in the XL sizes.

The only bike that uniquely addressed the geometry plus shorter suspension problem in a way that contradicted this issue and worked well in my recent experience was the Hayduke LVS, which leaned on its longer rear end to stabilize the arguably under-gunned front travel.

The Tirade addresses sure-footedness by being packaged in an incredibly well-balanced and predictable behavior; it climbs with efficiency and descends well above its pay grade. But we’ll get into that in a second. First… that name.

A Trail Tirade

My cynical side rolled my eyes when I read the name of this bike: Tirade. It felt aggressive with a dash of machismo or unwarranted trail aggro bro vibes so prevalent in mountain bike marketing (e.g. Butcher, Aggressor, Slayer, etc; ad nauseam.) Yet, after spending time with it I have recentered my opinion. Reflecting on the name rather than reacting to it, I now look at the Tirade not as a boisterous and arrogant proclamation, or rant, but as a critique of the current mountain bike zeitgeist. It’s almost as if the bike is saying, “Don’t undervalue hardtails!”

I imagine Gandalf the Grey aboard a hardtail on the bridge of Khazad Dum, saying to the bike industry Balrog, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”  in a tirade of epic proportions.

I digress… ANOTHER Tolkien reference? Anywayyyyyyyy…

Is the Tirade a proclamation of the hardtail category’s well-deserved recognition? Are hardtails having a moment? I’d say so. A number of brands I’m in communication with have some very interesting bikes on the horizon, all with 140 mm or 150 mm travel spec. After years of reviewing bikes with 120 mm of front travel and feeling under-equipped, it seems like mainstream hardtails are going through a travel-growing phase, and I’m here for it! It happened with full-suspension bikes, where it seemed for a while like brands were over-selling too much suspension, so perhaps the recentering is happening with the hardtails now, too? Sure, 160 mm hardtails will always exist but will 140 mm become the defacto travel number? I hope so.

Geometrically Speaking

While Why Cycle’s bikes were more “expedition-minded,” geared more towards bicycle touring and bikepack racing (Why Cycles even pinged El Jefe himself to design a signature 120 mm travel bike for bikepacking races), the Tirade is much more aligned with Revel’s all-mountain machines. The angles are more modern for a trail bike, yet emphasize a well-rounded behavior, encoded in its DNA with a 64.7º head tube angle, a 73.5º seat tube angle, with 59 mm of bottom bracket drop or a 317 mm high bottom bracket with 2.4″ tires as specced.

For a long time, everyone was making seat angles very steep, which enabled the bike to climb very well up steep singletrack but ultimately–on a hardtail–ended up feeling an ass-hatchet on traversey terrain. Revel dialed that back with a modest 74º-ish angle, while keeping a progressive reach, stack, and head angle. Bear in mind, I don’t mind steep seat angles on full suspension bikes because they have a rear shock to soften the blow. On a hardtail, you have no such luxury! So a slacker seat angle is less harsh on your butt. This one simple move created a superior bike…

For your sizing reference, my saddle height is 80 cm here on the size XL, and the distance from the tip of the saddle to the handlebar clamp is 58.5 cm. I call this measurement “extension.”

The sliding dropouts leave room for 5-17 mm of adjustability, allowing the rear end to be tukt at 425 mm or longer 440 mm depending on your use case. The stack is a vast improvement over many 120 mm travel bikes I’ve reviewed in the past at 640 mm plus a few spacers so you can dial in your preferred fit. The reach number, 492 mm, is dialed to fit well within what I would consider appropriate for a size XL  For taller riders, there’s even a XXL!

Build Spec

There is no single integer that wholly influences the bicycle riding prowess equation; it’s a parts-to-the-whole situation. Yes, it helps that the Tirade was specced with a bomber groupset, including Shimano’s magnificent cable-actuated XT groupset and Revel CSS Composite wheels. And although the bars ended up feeling slightly narrow for my broad shoulders, even the cockpit was more than appropriate for the bike’s intended use. The Crank Brothers dropper, Maxxis DHF tires, and grips/saddle made for a fluid transition from my personal bikes to this review platform.

While the Tirade was specced with 2.4″ Maxxis DHF tires, it would gladly take the width and profile of my favorite mountain bike tire, the 2.6″ tough casing Teravail Kessel. Oh and that fork? Yeah, it set up like a breeze using Fox’s fork-mounted quick setup guide, and is stiff in the exact place you want stiffness on a titanium bike: on the front! I’m glad Revel specced the Fox 36 over the Fox 34. The latter would not have been a good choice for this bike due to the stanchions flexing too much, in my opinion, for an all-mountain bike like this. Plus, you can rebuild the Fox 36 to 150 mm if you want to slightly over-fork it.

Frame Detailing and Flexiness

Why Cycles was absorbed by its older sibling brand, Revel Bikes last year but Revel kept Why’s DNA in this cross-pollination experiment. Phenotypically, Why was known for its cold-formed sculpting and shaping of the 3/2.5 butted titanium tubing. That DNA remains present in the Revel Tirade.

The head tube, which uses IS42 top and IS52 lower cups, bottom bracket shell, and dropouts, is CNC-machined from blocks of 6/4 titanium. These parts need to be strong, so Revel has specced a more robust grade of titanium. The chainstay yoke and support gusset are made from titanium plating and bent to maximize tire and chainring clearance.

Sticking to the front end, that beefy head tube gusset is a testament as to how this bike is intended to be ridden: HARD! While saying ever so politely, “it’s ok if you hit a rock, head on, or two from time to time.”  I wouldn’t call any hardtail in the previous Revel/Why Cycles catalog an “all-mountain bike” but the Tirade fits well within that niche and has the grit to prove it. Speaking of bashing rocks, the Tirade has integrated ISCG5 bash guard mount tabs…

My favorite details on the Tirade are the OCD cable porting, seat stay yoke(s), and resultant generous tire clearance. For the Revel dealers and mechanics out there, the internal routing is not sleeved, so you’ll have to pull new housing through with the old housing.

The torque spec for the slider hardware is 15-18 Nm, for future reference…

You can run it singlespeed, make the chainstays longer (440 mm) or shorter (425 mm) based on tire selection. I opted around 433 mm for the review period after tinkering between both lengths. And yes, you can run a cable-actuated derailleur on the custom-designed UDH-compatible slider with 5-17 mm indicators laser etched on the top of them.  This bike has details where they matter and no fluff in between.

Through the use of butted titanium, Revel was able to engineer tubing profiles that provide a well-rounded riding experience while cutting down on weight. Butted tubing is thinner in the middle than at the ends, so over the course of the frame, several hundred grams are saved overall.

Non-butted titanium bikes can be very stiff. Stiffer than steel, even, but Revel chose specific diameters and butting profiles that allow the Tirade to have some of that fabled “dancing” behavior I love so much. The flattened down tube and seat tube at the bottom bracket increase stiffness in that area, yet the chainstay yokes allow for a lot of movement when you press on a pedal sideways. Although, when riding, you rarely exert such a solid side-loaded force on a bike. Overall, the Tirade is flexy where you want it–at the top tube and seat tube/rear end– and stiffer where you need it–at the front and bottom bracket.

Shredding Lightly

Finesse goes a long way when riding a hardtail in what is arguably full-suspension terrain (i.e., blue and black trails). Now, I don’t ride bike parks or enjoy bigger jump lines or gaps. My preferred terrain is steep, loose, rocky primitive trails with little traction and booters in the form of rocks or water bars. Plus, I enjoy techy climbs.

For me, mountain biking isn’t about the dedicated descent, it’s about the climbing, the traversing, those little interjected sections of steep, techy, punchiness that interrupt your moments of unbridled glee. Interruption is what makes a trail dynamic and hinders it from feeling mundane. Like a bird hitting a thermal and finding the edge only to plummet, mountain biking is the most engaging for me when it’s aberrant and interrupted.

As such, a bike needs to respond to input and impact acutely; slamming the brakes at an abrupt turn when anticipation is not possible, course-correcting under load, zapping back onto the opposing berm face to make that sharp turn, or a mid-air calculation to avoid impact (for those whoooops! moments). These are just a few number of ways a good bike will become a willing and capable ally on a ride. A great bike, as cheesy as this sounds, will feel like an extension of the rider and match their abilities.

The Tirade shines in all of these scenarios and more. While riding the Hawes trail network, we took a descent I had yet to ride. Each corner was blind, every drop or rock escarpment was unknown, and riding in terrain like this becomes an act of reliance on your instincts and your faith in the bike you’re on. What was remarkable about the Tirade was the frame’s familiarity. It flexed, danced, and sprang into action.

Even in very steep and rocky terrain, the Tirade didn’t put me too far over the front, and the high stack kept the bike feeling balanced with my ideal riding position… “The Waterfall” on South Mountain

Meanwhile, riding the arguably more techy trails on South Mountain, where we shot the Knolly Tyaughton on this Radavist Retreat, and last year’s Chromag Darco review was shot, I was in a more familiar terrain for the first time on a hardtail, which required a different set of riding calculations. The Darco’s rear suspension does a lot compared to the lack thereof! Yet, I was still hitting the same sketchy rocky booters, and taking the same lines as I was on an arguably more aggressive trail bike.

Combined with carrying a hefty camera bag, I often ride with caution, erring on scoping the trail’s features before blindly engaging, but the Tirade felt so familiar and connected to me that even the shifting of the camera bag weight on my back didn’t have any adverse effects on the riding experience.

When a steep step or rocky outcropping would pop into my path, shifting my weight to lift the front of the bike up and over while carrying momentum felt like a continuous, uninterrupted HB pencil line on acid-free archival paper; the contact felt fluid, but you could really feel each inconsistency in the surface, in a good way. It’s this connection to the trail that makes a hardtail such a blast to ride.

If, and when, a poor line choice was made, I was more concerned about the health of the wheels and tire than I was about the flexy titanium frame, mainly because the bike was able to take on the emotional trauma of being smashed sideways into a rock face. Sorry, friend! Check out that upper bottle trying to work itself free, too!

Final Thoughts, Nitpickin’ and the TL;DR

I don’t know how to say this without coming across as an arrogant hardtail occultist but here we go: The Revel Tirade is everything I want in a hardtail mountain bike. It’s still holding on for dear life in a world switching to electronic shifting with dedicated shifter cable and dropper cable ports; something I wish my AXS Womble had.

It’s just slack enough to handle the rough stuff and just steep enough to make pedaling a pleasure. The bottom bracket drop is modest, but high enough to keep your pedals off of rocks while climbing, and the rear end can be dialed in depending on your preference of tire and handling.

The frame itself has a nice flex and it is light-footed and flickable while maintaining its steered course. Yet, if you fuck up and find yourself in a precarious position, it is easy to wrestle back onto a safer line. The branding is minimal, as the construction speaks for itself! The finish is subtle, and the construction is perfect, with ne’r a hiccup in that stack of nickles bead line.

Most importantly, even with a Fox 36 fork, the bike is incredibly balanced and I never felt like I was getting bucked over the front thanks to the proper stack height.

I feel like I rarely say this but I have zero qualms about this bike (other than the lack of seat-tube water bottle bosses on the XL and XXL–two sizes with plenty of room for it!). The Revel Tirade is an example of a bike that has evolved due to artificial selection; it’s a cross-pollinated genetic example of industrial perfection, sampling Revel’s all-mountain geometries and Why Cycles’ materiality and obsessive detailing. While the name is sort of cringe, I’ve come to terms with it by reclaiming a Tirade as a proclamation that fuck yeah, hardtails are having a moment!

If this were my bike, I’d swap in a set of titanium handlebars from DOOM, Oddity, Black Sheep, or even some deadstock Why 31.8 bars and call it good.

Dare I say this? It’s perfect.



  • Titanium is immortal
  • Internal routing for cable-actuated drivetrains
  • Dialed geometry
  • 140 mm as reviewed but can be over-forked to 150 mm
  • 29 x 2.6″ clearance
  • Minimally branded with exceptional construction and finishing
  • More affordable than custom titanium frames



  • THE NAME, or rather your interpretation of it… ;-)
  • Internal routing
  • No seat tube bottle bosses  :-(


Check out more at Revel Bikes. \m/