UPDATE: The Wild One: Riding The Underground Revival 27.5+ Hardtail Mountain Bike

Update January 30, 2019: The passing of Underground Bike Works’ main investor has left the company unable to continue. The sad news was reported by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. The article states there are still some bikes available but the Durango, Colorado, offices have been shut. Win’s Wheels was the delivery hub for Underground so if you are interested in purchasing a very rare bike, contacting Win’s is your best bet.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an Underground Bike Works Revival 27.5+ hardtail mountain bike for a week of thrashing around in the hills surrounding the beautiful (and dry and dusty) community of Somis, California. I say “fortunate” because only 250 of these bikes are being made. This was a unique opportunity to spend some saddle time on an ultra-rare, two-wheel creation.

The Revival 27.5+ comes to the trail with some serious DNA behind it. Rather than try to trace the family tree, you can click here and get the complete family biography. Let’s just say that if you shook the Underground family tree, names like Parker, Wadleton, Herting, Tomac, Giove and Rockwell would fall out. Impressive and intimidating.

The Revival 27.5+ delivers the attention to detail (check out the cable routing) that a rider should demand from a bike that commands this price.

The first mountain bikes were made for downhill, trail riding, back-country exploration, trials, dual-slalom and jumping (if you were brave or crazy enough). That’s because one bike did it all. The sport followed the inevitable evolution of specialization over the years as riders demanded more performance for one discipline and accepted severe trade-offs (or total write-offs) in others. The Revival 27.5+ comes full circle in the mountain bike universe because it returns to the days of one bike doing it all. Maybe that’s why they call it the Revival. Am I reaching here? I don’t think so.

If you are not looking at the tire’s width (you should be looking down the trail), it would be easy to mistake the Revival 27.5+ for a conventional 29er, only smoother and even less affected by the trail surface. It floats over loose trail debris. The tire noise is less than a conventional 27.5 or 29er. It is a sweet muffled sensation. If there is added compression and rebound generated from the tires, I didn’t feel it in the saddle. The expected “bobbing” just wasn’t detected.

The Revival 27.5+ bike has no issues with its rider getting out of the saddle to punch over inclines or to increase pedaling RPM to get on top of a gear. It is equally impressive in the saddle. It maintains traction over rocks and ruts, so the rider can just crank away. The pedal clearance helps in rocky sections too. The bike’s compliant tires greatly reduce (and I might say, “eliminate”) any advantage of a dual-suspension bike on a rocky, rutted climb.

I don’t know of many frames that can stand up to a camera’s macro-filter lens test. The closer you get to the Revival’s welds, the better they look.

You know how personal trainers always preach about working on core strength? The Revival 27.5+ took that sermon seriously. The bike’s frame has the core strength that makes railing corners a confident and controlled experience (doesn’t hurt having those meaty tires biting the trail). The steering doesn’t feel slack (sluggish) or steep (nervous). It is right there in the middle with a light, neutral feel to steering input. Off-camber corners? No problem.

This is a very forgiving hardtail that responds to aggressive riding techniques on the descents. Stay off the brakes and out of the saddle (dropped) with your chest a few inches over the bar and the bike feels like it is on rails.

The Revival boasts the core strength of an elite athlete. It starts at the bottom bracket and extends to the chain and seat stays. The Magura brakes are the perfect combination of power and controllable modulation for controlling the 27.5+ tires.

The Magura brakes are well matched to the task for slowing down these large tires. The only drawback to the Magura stoppers (I use them on my own bike, a Pivot 429) is finding a bike shop that stocks their brake pads. I buy them on Amazon and keep a spare set in the toolbox.

This is a limited production, hand-constructed, America-made, $6950 mountain bike. That friends, is a rare breed. The price will eliminate many potential riders (don’t worry, I’ve been told a more affordable version is in the works) but Underground never intended to make just another stamped-out hardtail. This bike breathes new life into the trusty hardtail mountain bike. Heck, it breathes new life into mountain biking. It expands the possibilities for the rider who doesn’t want the complexity or hassle of a dual-suspension mountain bike and wants one bike that can do it all.

I like my legs as close to the bike as possible and that’s a problem with fatter tires. The Revival keeps your legs tucked in with tight tolerances between the cranks and the chain stays. You couldn’t pull this off with a flexy frame.
The Industry Nine hubs are recognized as top-tier components on both road and mountain. The rear hub makes a cool ZZZZZZ noise when coasting that sounds like a pissed-off rattler. There is no other sound from the bike. No chain slapping and the tires are silent.
The first time I met Steve Hed, he called me an idiot for the way I tested wheels in Road Bike Action magazine. That’s actually better than someone who smiles to your face and then calls you an idiot behind your back. So I was sad to hear of Steve’s passing in 2014. It is a tribute to him that his wife Anne has continued the tradition of making great wheels. These are the wheels you put on a bike if money is no object.
The bone-dry foliage and baked trail surface of Southern California in August makes riding a lot less fun. The Revival 27.5+ changes all that. Really. It transforms the trails. The terrain always feels tacky. That said, I would love to ride the loamy trails of Oregon on this bike too.
Remember in The Wild One when Mildred asks, “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” And Johnny says, “Whadda got?” That’s the Revival 27.5+! Ask this bike, “What kind of riding am I going to do with you?” It will answer, “Whadda got?”

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