Revelate Designs Rifter Review: A Frame Bag for Slackers
Just announced, the Revelate Designs Rifter is a universal-fit frame bag that’s USA-made in four sizes from 100% recycled RVX 30 and designed for modern hardtail geometry. We got a hold of the feature-rich Rifter for this first-ride review. Find all the details and our initial findings here…
It’s amazing to think about how much hardtails have changed over the last decade, and I’m not just referring to axle standards and tire clearance. Frame shapes are dramatically different, which the under-bed bike storage in the back of our camper van recently confirmed. I originally built it back in 2013 around a dropper-less Surly Krampus and a Santa Cruz Superlight 29. Fast forward 10 years, and the space isn’t nearly long enough for the mountain bikes Virginia and I currently have. Most modern hardtails have vastly longer wheelbases than the ones being made just a few years ago. Not to mention, I didn’t want to manually lower the rigid posts every time we rolled the bikes in, so the space is too tall, cramping the bed area. Had I known droppers would be my favorite staple component in the future, I would have made it shorter.
More relevant to this review, frame triangles are also considerably different. Seat tubes are shorter, seat tube angles are steeper, top tubes are longer, and many triangles are squeezed at the front with a bent downtube that forms a very tight wedge. Retrofitting older frame bags on new hardtails tells this story. The new Revelate Designs Rifter addresses these changes and a few others. I’ve been testing one on my Pipedream S5 for a few weeks leading up to the release.
Revelate Designs Rifter vs. Ranger
The Revelate Designs Ranger frame bag was the predecessor to the Rifter. Similar to my van bike storage area, Revelate’s original universal-fit frame bag was first designed about 10 years ago around popular hardtails such as those Surly and Salsa were making at the time. Think Karate Monkey, El Mariachi, and Krampus. The Ranger isn’t being replaced by the new Rifter, as it’s a great bag that’s still relevant to many bikes, new and old, especially those with more classically designed steel frames. However, as bikes have changed both in materials and geometry, the folks at Revelate Designs realized a different bag shape was needed to round out their product catalog.
Contrary to what you might think, since modern bikes are effectively longer, the new Rifter is shorter in length and taller than the Ranger. The reduction in length is mainly due to changes in head tube/down tube gusseting, resulting in the tight front triangle space I mentioned earlier. Aside from angle tweaks, Revelate also took the front derailleur and large chainrings out of the equation. Because most modern hardtails are designed for and fitted with a 1x drivetrain, it allowed them to extend the bottom of the bag lower in the triangle toward the bottom bracket, where Rangers stopped short to not interfere with front derailleurs. Still, the net storage volume of the Rifter remains about the same as the Ranger from size to size. It comes in four sizes to fit a variety of bikes. Here’s a list with weights and volumes; note that the volume was calculated for an irregular right triangular prism:
226 cu in
269 cu in
348 cu in
433 cu in
According to product designer Dusty Eroh, the Revelate Designs Rifter was designed by analyzing the triangles of many modern hardtails, including but not limited to the Otso Voytek, Salsa Rangefinder, and the Specialized Epic—basically, frames with alloy and carbon tubes and a “fat” area where the tubes are joined together at the front.
I really only had one modern hardtail to try with the Rifter. The size “Longer” Pipedream S5 is indeed quite long, and it has a short and squat triangle. This bike might not be the target audience for the Rifter with its beyond modern—even futuristic—geometry. Even so, the Large Rifter fit very well, as shown. While it leaves a little unused space at the front with the small-diameter steel tubing, it fills out the rear of the triangle perfectly. It also makes it easy to see how the Rifter would be ideal for titanium, alloy, or carbon frames of this ilk.
Oddly enough, I previously fitted the S5 with an old frame bag made by Bedrock about a decade ago. It was designed for a size medium Jamis Dragonslayer that has been used on the Why Cycles El Jefe and other hardtails we’ve reviewed—most which would have been perfect for the Ranger frame bag. The Bedrock bag fit the S5 pretty well, but there was some leftover space at the bottom, and the back angle of the bag was a little slack. The Rifter fit much better and didn’t feel as cramped or askew as the Bedrock bag.
Like many of Revelate’s stitched products, the Rifter frame bag was designed in Alaska and is made in Seattle, Washington. It’s also constructed out of USA-made materials, including a new 100% recycled RVX 30 material from Dimension Polyant that’s manufactured in Connecticut and made specifically for Revelate Designs. The RVX 30 has a 100% recycled polyester backing, which Revelate claims increases the stitch strength and makes the interior brighter. Additionally, the Rifter features a polyester lining fabric that’s also 100% recycled.
Like the Ranger, the Revelate Designs Rifter has three fixed velcro straps at the back and a large top tube strap. The Rifter gets three moveable straps for the downtube, each with a foam frame protector, plus a moveable two-position velcro top strap at the front.
The Rifter more or less has all the features you might want and expect. Like many frame bags, it has an optional internal divider formed by a two-piece velcro attachment, a nice feature for storing a cook pot like the Vargo BOT or just an extra water bottle for day rides. Revelate also added a small mesh pocket on the bottom of the bag, which I found to be a handy spot for tools or keys to keep them from bouncing around on day rides. The Rifter also has a port for a hydration hose at the front, and my favorite features, a full-length side pocket rather than just the front half on the Ranger. I love this for the ability to toss in a pump, phone, or other small items to keep them from bouncing around when the bag isn’t full. That said, the left pocket is also the only con I came up with for this bag, specifically the fact that the pocket isn’t full-height. It only takes up about half the height of the bag.
That brings me to one of my favorite characteristics of the Rifter: it’s wider than most of my custom frame bags and has a moderately flared front, providing a little more packing space—perhaps another benefit afforded by hardtail modernity, namely slightly wider Boost cranks.
- Model Tested: Revelate Designs Rifter Frame Bag (Large)
- Weight: 301 grams (10.6 oz)
- Place of Manufacture: Seattle, USA
- Price: $170 at Campfire
- Manufacturer’s Details: RevelateDesigns.com
- Excellent material choices and construction, as usual from Revelate
- Nice details and features, such as the mesh pocket and moveable straps with foam padding
- Four sizes and thoughtful geometrical design should work with a range of modern hardtails
- The Rifter is wider than most of my custom frame bags and has a moderately flared front, which I really like
- Made in the USA from almost 100% recycled materials
- Only comes in black
- I’d like to see the left-hand pocket with a deeper, full-height pocket and perhaps a couple pockets stitched in
Every time I use my old Ranger or Tangle frame bags, I’m reminded how well-made and perfectly thought out Revelate’s frame bags are. The Revelate Designs Rifter is no different. The Alaskan brand married its excellent manufacturing and construction techniques with 100% recycled fabrics, a full feature set, and a well-researched geometrical design. It also has an appropriately thick width, beefy zippers, and comes in four sizes to fit a variety of modern hardtails. If your old frame bag doesn’t quite fit your new hardtail or you’re just weighing out options, the Rifter shouldn’t be overlooked.
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