Bike Test: Underground Revival 27.5+

Underground Revival 27.5+ Hardtail

John Parker founded Yeti Cycles in 1985 and grew the brand into a powerhouse race team by working with elite athletes of the time, such as John Tomac, Missy Giove, Juli Furtado, Myles Rockwell and Jimmy Deaton. Parker later went on to sell Yeti in 1997, disappearing from the bicycle industry. Maybe John was just hiding out underground. Today, Parker is back and has assembled a group of highly regarded industry vets to help him establish an all-new brand known as Underground Bike Works. Assembled in Durango, Colorado, and welded in none other than Frank the Welder’s shop in Vermont, the Underground Revival is arguably a collectible piece of mountain bike history with a modern twist. Rich Adams, an engineer during Schwinn’s glory days, also joined in on the project.

Parker told us there will only be 250 of these bikes made with no plans to continue manufacturing; however, rumor has it Underground Bike Works might have a full-suspension bike up its sleeve. The bike that sits in front of you here is nothing short of a masterpiece, mixing old-school styling, such as the loop-tail rear end made famous by Yeti back in the ’90s, with modern geometry and components that make this bike a rideable piece of art. Maybe calling it a rideable piece of art is an understatement, because this little hardtail shreds. With only 250 of these bikes in production, we felt a little guilty getting it dirty, but that didn’t stop our wrecking crew from giving the all-new Revival a proper shakedown.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

One look at the Revival’s price and most riders will run for the hills, but the ones who understand this bike will long to own one. It’s hard to justify dropping nearly $7000 on a plus-sized hardtail; however, it’s a piece of history that you’re buying here. With an aluminum frame welded by one of our industry’s greatest craftsmen, along with attention to detail like none other and a modern geometry made to take on the trails, the Revival is designed to attract attention, and then disappear down the singletrack.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The Revival sticks to a more conventional geometry than the wildly aggressive hardtails we’ve been testing. The top tube doesn’t feel like you could land a Boeing 747 on it, nor is its head tube angle as slack as an enduro race bike’s. That said, the bike does feature a trail-ready geometry with a short rear end, snappy-yet-stable head angle and a 130mm-travel fork. It sports a pair of 27.5 × 2.8-inch tires to increase traction and reduce smallbump chatter. Furthermore, the bike features beautiful welds and small touches that will have early Yeti fans reminiscing about the good old days.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

Parker knows that at the end of the day people want to buy a bike to ride, not one to hang on the wall, so he spec’d this bike with top-notch components to ensure great ride quality. A pair of HED carbon plus-sized wheels and Industry Nine hubs quickly grab your attention until it’s diverted toward the 12-speed, XX1 Eagle drivetrain. Up front, the Revival smooths out the trail with a RockShox Pike fork and offers a Race Face cockpit well-suited for this bike. The Fox Transfer post, although a touch short for our liking, offers quality and a great lever feel.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setting sag: Setting up this bike for the trails is a breeze, but plan to spend more time adjusting tire pressure than dialing in the fork. We opted for 20-percent sag and made a few minor tweaks to our RockShox Pike to match our riding style and weight. Specifically, we adjusted our compression lever to a firmer setting in order to prevent the bike from diving under hard braking or pushing into turns.

We then focused on the tires and, after some experimentation on our local trails, we found anywhere from 11–13 psi was the magic number. Any higher and the bike tended to bounce off the ground; any lower and the tire began to move when pushed hard.

Moving out: The Revival doesn’t boast progressive geometry, but it’s far from outdated. In fact, the bike had an intuitive feel that immediately gave our testers confidence. The handlebars and dropper post could stand to be a bit more modern. While 760mm bars aren’t narrow, they feel small compared to the yardstick bars we’ve become accustomed to. Similarly, the 100mm-travel dropper gets the job done but left many of our test riders asking for more. When talking to Rich Adams, he said that due to the curve in the seat tube, a shorter-travel dropper had to be used to ensure full insertion. Other than these very minor critiques, the Revival is a comfortable and well-thought-out hardtail.

Climbing: When it comes time to climb, the Revival begins to shine. It may not be the lightest hardtail on the trail, but that doesn’t seem to slow it down. Thanks to the added traction of oversized tires and a balanced feel over the bike, the Revival takes on steep trails and begs for more. In fact, a few of our test riders cleared climbs aboard this machine that would normally cause them to dab a foot. The front wheel stays planted to the ground well, and SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle drivetrain combined with a 32-tooth cassette makes spinning up the trails as easy as 1-2-3.

Cornering: With a more contemporary geometry than other trail hardtails on the market, the Revival performs just as it should. The head tube angle provides a balance of stability and agility, while other companies are pushing the limits of hardtail design with super-slacked-out front ends. Diving into corners brought a huge smile to our test riders’ faces once they felt those plus-sized tires hook up and propel them around every twist and turn.

Descending: Believe it or not, before this bike hit the market, it was mostly tested in Moab, Utah. Most riders cringe at the thought of riding a hardtail over the rock-slab-covered terrain; however, after just a few rides on the Underground Revival, we realized this wasn’t your average plus-sized hardtail. It’s truly a machine built to chew up gnarly trails and spit them out behind it. Occasionally, our testers forgot they were even riding a hardtail until a big hit woke them up out of their flow state. If hardtails are your jam, we are sure this bike won’t let you down.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

As we mentioned earlier, our test riders criticized a few details on this bike, such as the handlebars and dropper post. Fortunately, these are easy components to swap out later, and riders who are accustomed to 760mm bars and shorter-travel dropper posts might not want to swap them out at all. The Revival has a stellar build, from it’s high-powered and easy-to-control Magura brakes to its high-class wheels and buttery-smooth fork. Underground over-delivered with this aluminum hardtail; however, considering the price, they needed to.

BUYING ADVICE

First things first; if you truly want one of these bikes, we highly recommend slapping a bookmark in this page so you can go order one now. With only 250 of these bad boys being made and no plans to continue manufacturing, you’ll need to act fast. The Underground Revival is part of mountain biking history combined with a shred-worthy frame and component spec. Sure, it demands a high price, but with parts like this and a unique story to tell, we’re sure this is one of those collector bikes you’ll keep long after it has been retired from riding.

undergroundbikeworks.com

underground revival


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