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KTM Revelator Master review

13 May 2019
Verdict:

Moving to disc brakes may be the boost KTM needs to get it to a level where some features already suggest it should be. Photos: Peter Stuart

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£3,499.99
For 
• What it gives away in weight it more than makes up for in stiffness • Comfortable
Against 
• Position of rear brake seriously affects its performance

When reviewing a bike or product, its quality and performance can often dictate the format and narrative that the write-up takes on. If something is mediocre but not glaringly terrible in any way, then a walk through of its pros, cons and key features will likely follow a fairly linear pattern.

When presented with something that is generally amazing it can be difficult to know what to shout about first. But then, what if a bike is good - almost free of criticism - except for one unignorable flaw?

The quandary then is whether to announce the negative first and get it out the way, leave it until the very end, or chuck it in the middle somewhere in between more positive features.

Starting with the negative

In this case, I'm going to highlight the KTM Revelator Master's unfortunate weakness first, in the hope of comprehensively covering it off before moving onto the rest of the bike, with the intention of not unduly prejudicing the remainer of the review.

Brakes simply should not be under bottom brackets

In no way have I ridden every model from every brand that thinks positioning the rear brake under the bottom bracket is a good idea, but of the several I've used not one has worked particularly well and that's very much the case with the KTM.

Repeating a bad idea does not eventually make it a good idea.

The difficult route the cable has to take from lever to caliper, bending and twisting its way through the handlebar, down the tubes and out near the chainset sucks the efficiency from the Shimano Ultegra direct mount brake.

When pulling the lever you can hear the cable fighting against the inside of the down tube as it works to slow the rear wheel, Shimano's usual braking precision and power lost to friction.

The argument for putting a brake down there tends to centre upon aerodynamics. Airflow through the seat stays and over the rear wheel is cleaner and so you should ride along faster. With this bike, it is also the case that its aesthetics are boosted by the clean lines afforded by the lack of mounting points for a caliper.

KTM's frames are begging for disc brakes

KTM has recently revealed two new high-end performance machines, and each comes with disc brakes. Unlike Specialized, there hasn't been a definitive statement of intent to move all its top-end range to disc only, but such a move could be revelatory for KTM.

The current frame design across the brand and clear eagerness to avoid having a brake bridge in the standard place below the saddle is all possible with disc brakes but also means none of the compromise detailed above. Such a move could see this bike go from the 3.5* it scores here to potentially pushing 5.

All speculative, of course, and any new model would have to be taken on its own merits, but certainly a point worth considering.

The KTM Revelator Alto Master with disc brakes, which the brand already stocks, could be the answer to this and complete the move away from bottom bracket brakes.

The ride

With that howler covered I can talk about the rest of the bike and, importantly, how it rides. The first thing you notice when riding is the stiffness of the frameset and the resulting efficiency of power transfer when pedalling.

This is particularly obvious on the flat, even if the frame isn't the most aerodynamically profiled. It is also a welcome feature when climbing. Anything this bike might give away in weight is almost cancelled out by its eagerness to move forward even on steeper inclines - and this is with a rider made more for the cobbles than the climbs.

Components

The groupset is the excellent-as-always Shimano Ultegra Di2. With the transmission tuned and the mech hanger straightened out, the shifting was just as good as we've all come to expect from the Japanese behemoth.

The wheels are the ever-reliable Mavic Cosmic Elite UST, which ride excellently without much fuss. However, the retina damaging colour scheme cannot be overlooked. This is a custom appearance for KTM and not how Mavic would normally sell the wheels.

I get that the wheels' orange and black colouring matches the frameset, and it works for the latter, but a sleek design of black-on-black rims would give the bike a much better overall look.

Conclusion

This is an excellent bike but, as clearly stated, with one hurdle that it's hard to get over. I enjoyed riding it, particularly on climbs where it performed well but also meant the need to brake was reduced.

If this frameset is released in a hydraulic disc brake version then I'd be at the front of the queue to try it. Move that rear brake back to where it belongs or move wholesale to disc brakes and this is a bike that will flourish as it realises its full potential.

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