By Stefan Abram
Italian brand Wilier has just added the Rave SLR to its dropbar off-road range, a gravel bike designed to be fast both off-road and on.
The new frame is claimed to tip the scales at just 950g – impressively light for a gravel bike – while the front end has been made much lower so as to put the rider in an aggressive, aerodynamic position more similar to a road bike than gravel.
Blurring the boundaries between road and gravel even further; although the Rave SLR is, of course, going to be available in gravel builds with knobbly tyres and the choice of GRX, XPLR or Ekar groupsets, the bike will also be sold dressed in SRAM Force, Shimano Dura-Ace or Ultegra and with slick, road tyres.
Rave SLR versus Wilier's gravel range
It's easiest to get a grip on the new release when it's placed within the context of Wilier's wider gravel range.
At one end of the spectrum, we have the Jareen and the Jaroon – aluminium and steel (respectively) gravel bikes with long wheelbases, stable geometry and designed primarily for covering long distances, while heavily loaded.
Moving in towards the middle, we have the Jena. This bike is pretty similar to the new Rave SLR in many aspects of its geometry – both have a 71 degree head angle, which is on the slacker side for a gravel bike, and short 423mm chainstays.
The effect of a slack head angle and short chainstays is generally provide the bike with more controlled steering while still being easily flickable around the corners with your hips. Making for a more sporty ride, but less stable for heavy loads.
Onto the differences: the primary aspect which sets the Rave SLR apart from the Jena is the front end. Here, the stack (how high up the handlebars are) has been slashed by 31mm from 582 to 551mm, in a size medium. The reach (how far in front the handlebars are) has also grown a little, resting at 384mm for the Rave SLR and 382mm for the Jena.
The longer and lower front end allows the rider to assume a more aerodynamic position for higher riding speeds. It will also affect the handling a little – on steeper descents, for instance, it's easier to control the bike if you're a bit higher up and not as easily pitched forward over the bars.
Essentially, the new Rave SLR is for riding hard and fast while the Jena is more about being ridden hard and fun.
Another difference is present in the tyre clearances, with the maximum width rated for the Rave SLR being 42mm in 700c – compared with 44mm for the Jena. Admittedly, that's not a big change, so perhaps more significant is the fact that the Jena is also rated for 48mm 650b tyres while there's no word on 650b intercompatibility for the Rave SLR.
Finally, the seat tube angle has been steepened a little for the Rave SLR and now stands at 74 degrees compared with 73.7 degrees on the Jena. Again, not a big change just in isolation, but the presence 74 degree seat angle is on the steeper side for gravel bikes and makes it a little easier to weight the front end when climbing particularly steep trails.
The Rave SLR's diverging builds
Another way of viewing a fast gravel bike is as a highly capable 'all-road' road bike – it's essentially two sides of the same coin.
Rather than creating two essentially identical bikes, one for fast gravel and one for rough roads, Wilier has kept things simple and just offers the Rave SLR in both gravel and road builds, depending on your preference.
For gravel, you have the choice of Campagnolo Ekar, Shimano GRX or SRAM Force AXS XPLR, naturally paired with wider, knobbly tyres. While for road, you can get the bike built with SRAM Force AXS or the new Shimano Dura-Ace or Ultegra and slick road tyres.
Something that's worth noting is that Shimano's 12-speed road groupsets – 50/34t chainrings and an 11–34t cassette – provide a bottom gear almost as low as the brand's 1x GRX groupset. It's a 1:1 ratio for the former and a 0.95:1 ratio for the latter.
But added to that, you get the same number of single tooth jumps as on an 11–28t 11-speed cassette, which has been a WorldTour favourite for many years. Although designed for road, new Ultegra is a pretty interesting option for fast gravel riding.
One other difference between the road and gravel builds of the Rave SLR is that while the road build gets a 'traditional' one-piece handlebar/stem unit, the gravel build comes with an interesting split stem design. Whether this makes mounting a bar bag easier or harder is something we'll have to see.
Pricing and availability
Currently, pricing is only given in Euros and a date when the bikes will be shipping hasn't been provided. With new Dura-Ace and Ultegra being the exceedingly rare commodity they currently are, we'd guess that these builds at least will be some time coming.
Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.
Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20. Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually, to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.
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