PLACES TO RIDE: REVELING IN NORCAL WITH RAZZ WHEELS
Reveling in NorCal With
By// Action photos By
For those of you who don’t know me, before coming down to Los Angeles and working with Mountain Bike Action, I spent my time up in Sonoma County, California, where I found my passion for mountain biking. As a kid, I loved two wheels and wanted to spend as much time on my dirt bike as possible, but with a lack of places to ride motorcycles after outgrowing my backyard track, I quickly discovered mountain biking and the joys of peacefully riding through singletrack. My dad and I could often be found in Annadel State Park, enjoying the many great trails every chance we got. This later led me to join a local race team, providing the community and the foundation that made me the cyclist I am today.
Recently, I had the opportunity to head back home and enjoy a few great rides with friends and family. One of those friends was Charles Himes, the founder of Razz Wheels and one of the founders of Velo Fratello, a local cycling team. If you’ve seen some of my custom-built bikes over the years, you might have seen a pair of Razz Wheels on a few of those rides. A bonus of meeting up with Razz was their new connection with Revel bikes. Razz is the only California dealer for Revel north of the Golden Gate. That said, Razz doesn’t want to sell you a boring, off-the-shelf bike. Instead, Razz does full custom builds with the parts you want, the wheels you need and a set of vinyl graphics to tie it all together.
During our stay, we spent some time aboard both the Revel Rascal and Rail to bring you our first ride experience with these custom-built dream bikes.
THE STORY BEHIND RAZZ WHEELS
Razz was founded in 2017 with the goal of providing race-worthy wheels for the Velo Fratello team. At that time, the team’s racers couldn’t find the wheels they desired, so they challenged Charles to be the team’s personal wheel builder. With a background as a big rig truck mechanic and having a long-time passion for all types of bikes, Charles accepted the challenge. He soaked up every bit of knowledge possible from local shops, YouTube videos and trial by error to figure out his own style for wheel building. Getting started, Charles took a wheel apart, laid out all the pieces on a table, and rebuilt it over and over again until he felt confident in his skill. Soon after, Charles found himself building high-end carbon wheelsets for dozens of riders and racers across many different disciplines.
Fast forward to today, and Razz Wheels has put out over 120 hand-built wheelsets and become one of Industry 9’s top dealers in Northern California. Popular wheelsets include We Are One Composite rims for trail and enduro applications and NOX Carbon rims for trail and cross-county riders. Razz takes every wheel to the next level by working with customers to fully customize each wheel. Razz allows riders to choose spoke and nipple colors and patterns along with custom rim graphics, all designed to best match your ride.
HOW REVEL CAME TO PLAY
After a while, Charles wanted to try building a new wheelset and found Revel’s new RW30 rims were a perfect candidate. A customer of his asked if Razz Wheels could order him a Revel frame. Charles built a few frames, and then a few more, and then received orders for even more. Best of all, Razz customized each and every one of these bikes with high-end components and a signature style. Revel’s bike lineup includes the Rail, the Rascal and the Ranger. The Rail is an enduro bike built with 27.5-inch wheels and 165mm of travel. The Rail is Revel’s trail bike featuring 130mm of travel and 29-inch wheels. Meanwhile, the Ranger is a cross-country weapon with 115mm of travel and 29-inch wheels. Revel sells complete builds ranging in price from $5499 to $9999 and framesets for $3699. See the contact list if you’re curious about pricing from Razz Wheels.
Rail: Since Razz doesn’t have any demo bikes, we were lucky to find a customer who was gracious enough to let us beat on his enduro bike. Brett, a Marin County fireman, had Razz build him a beautiful Revel Rail with an AXS wireless drivetrain, Fox suspension and, of course, a pair of Razz wheels.
This beefy bike featured a plush 170mm-travel Fox Factory 38 fork, an FSA cockpit and Shimano ZEE brakes. Brett built this weapon to handle the rigors of downhill bike-park trails up in Tahoe while keeping it playful enough to handle local trail rides.
Rascal: This Revel Rascal belongs to the founder of Razz Wheels and features a drool-worthy list of parts and accessories. The bike used a 140mm Fox Factory 34 fork up front, a Fox Factory Transfer dropper post, a Race Face cockpit and cranks along with an XX1 AXS wireless drivetrain. The components alone are impressive, but what makes this bike really shine is that every bolt was replaced with an oil-slick color to match the cassette and chain. This bike is a true beauty, which we hoped would ride like it looked.
ON THE TRAIL
We hit the trails on these two bikes that are polar opposites to see how they could handle the rocky and chunky trails Annadel has to offer. The climb consisted of some baby-head rocks littered across singletrack that required some power to maintain momentum. To our surprise, the big-travel, small-wheeled bike known as the Rail handled the climbs impressively well considering its enduro designation. Its Canfield-licensed suspension provides support, allowing riders to grind up the trails in a seated position. Entering technical climbs, the bike presses on with ample traction and a maneuverable attitude.
That said, the Rail is a bike built for all-out downhill speed. This burly carbon enduro sled shreds down trails effortlessly. There is almost no need for line choice, as its long-travel suspension soaks up rocks and roots without a second thought. Meanwhile, the 27.5-inch wheels keep the ride fun by letting riders whip it around turns and into the air with style.
The Rail is ideally suited for a rider who wants to crawl up the trails and fly back down without compromise. We could easily see this rig being bike-park-worthy while retaining the ability to climb up and earn its turns back down.
The Rascal, on the other hand, is built with the entire trail in mind. This mid-travel 29er is an ideal package for riders looking for a balance between climbing and descending. The Rascal is punchy out of the saddle, allowing riders to charge up the trail or sit down and grind. On rolling terrain, it speeds over rocks and roots with ease, offering a playful amount of pop for bunny hopping over obstacles. When the trails point down, the Rascal is confident in its ability and allows riders to take a rough line or hunt for race lines.
The Rascal could easily be a do-it-all bike for most occasions. Sure, it might get a little out-gunned in the bike park, and it’s a bit plusher than a cross-country race rocket, but it blends those two personalities well. Riders looking for a more aggressive Rascal could swap the 140mm fork for a 150mm, as Charles plans to do on his next personal ride. If a rider is leaning towards a more cross-country-focused machine, we’d recommend giving the Ranger a try, although, during our trip, we didn’t have the opportunity to test that short-travel machine.
The Rascal is suited for the majority of trail riders wanting a mix of climbing efficiency and descending prowess.
ICING ON THE CAKE
After having an absolute blast catching up with old friends and riding some drool-worthy bikes, I had the chance to ride with my dad on some familiar trails. While it’s fun hard charging rock gardens and blasting through turns, it’s an experience second to none riding with your family. The sport of mountain biking is all about having good times through shared experiences, so getting the opportunity to pedal some trails with my pops was truly icing on the cake.
WRAPPING IT UP
In a short period of time, Razz Wheels has earned a strong reputation in the Sonoma County cycling community. Charles saw an opportunity to deliver custom-built bikes to local riders and goes through every detail to make sure the end result is an eye-catching ride. From beautiful hand-crafted wheels to complete jaw-dropping builds, Razz Wheels is proving small operations can make a huge impact.
To learn more about Razz Wheels, Revel Bikes and Sonoma County cycling, we’ve listed their contacts for your convenience here: