Wilier Triestina Rave SLR gravel bike review: Two hearts that beat as one

Wilier says the Rave SLR is a gravel bike for racing, but whether that applies might depend on your definition of racing.

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Story Highlights

  • What it is:Wilier’s all-road and gravel bike with “two separate souls” but the same “racing inclination.” .
  • Frame features:Carbon fibre frame and fork, fully internal cable routing, mechanical and electronic groupset compatibility, removable front derailleur mount, gravel or all road spec and handlebar options.
  • Weight: 950 g (claimed, frame only); 415 g (claimed, fork only); 8.03 kg (17.7 lb), as tested, L size, without pedals or accessories.
  • Price: €8,300.
  • Highs:Fast, stiff, relatively lightweight delivering on that racing inclination .
  • Lows:Steering geometry, doesn’t tickle my racing bike fancy, expensive, limited tyre clearance.

It’s been just over a year since Wilier announced its attempt at the drop-bar quiver killer with its new Rave SLR. gravel racer and/or all-road bike. With the more adventure-friendly Jena gravel bike already in Wilier’s off-road range, the Rave is designed to be more of a performance-focused gravel racer and/or all-road bike, connecting sealed and unsealed surfaces as quickly as possible. As Wilier puts it, the Rave SLR is a bike with “two separate souls” made for all-road and gravel, but with the same “racing inclination.”

The Rave has already lived up to that lofty billing in the first 12 months since its official launch last October. The bike made a winning debut at Filippo Pozatto’s “pro-only” Serenissima Gravel race just four days after its official launch. Ivar Slik rode his Rave SLR to victory in the Unbound Gravel race in June. The bike also featured in ultra-endurance races and the inaugural UCI Gravel World Championships.

I’ve had the Rave SLR in for review throughout that time, and on either side of an injury-enforced four-month break and a further four months of gravel nervousness, the Rave has provided motivation, thrills, and plenty of food for thought throughout.

Can the Rave SLR really be both a top-shelf gravel race bike and an all-road bike?

Best of both?

I covered the tech and spec of the new bike when it was launched in October 2021, but I hadn’t yet got to Rave myself then. Before delving into the review, let’s first briefly recap what the Rave offers.

Wilier borrowed much of the carbon technology used in its Filante and Zero SLR road models to create a frame that supposedly offers similar performance, stiffness, and weight, but in a gravel package. The frame features truncated aero tubing, integrated cable routing, and clearance for 700×42 mm-wide tyres. The frame geometry is slightly more relaxed to better suit the Rave’s gravel and endurance focus. Weighing in at a claimed 950 g for the frame and 415 g for the fork, it’s certainly on the lighter end of gravel offerings.

One frame, two souls.

The Rave is available with several electronic and mechanical build options, including Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra Di2 R8100Campagnolo Ekar, and SRAM Force eTap AXS. Furthermore, there are two integrated one-piece carbon handlebar setups available. More gravel-oriented builds get Wilier’s J-Bar, with a positive rise for a more upright riding position and a split stem section (that makes the stem like a Y, not a J). All-road versions gets kitted out with Wilier’s more conventional-looking Zero-Bar. Both options have fully internal cable routing.

Wilier sent me the Campagnolo Ekar and J-Bar-equipped gravel-ready Rave SLR, which also came with a huge retail price tag of €8,300. To that, I also added a set of Campagnolo Shamal carbon road wheels with 28 and 32 mm-wide Continental GP5000 S TR tyres to test the Rave’s on-road credentials. Even with the single stock wheelset, though, the Rave would be a significant investment in anyone’s books, with some big expectations to go with it. But if Wilier has landed on a true quiver-killer platform, and this single bike can cover the job of two, perhaps it could somewhat justify that price tag.

Gravel roots

Growing up, my childhood heroes weren’t Sean Kelly or Stephen Roche, but rather rally drivers Colin McRae and Bertie Fisher. Rallying is in the water around these parts and McRae’s “if in doubt, go flat out” mantra transcended the cult rallying fanbase. That might explain why, to this day, the second my front tyre rolls off the sealed tarmac and on to any loose surface, only “flat out” will do.

“If in doubt, go flat out”

My preferred version of gravel is fast and sideways through short stages on the loose stuff connected by sections of sealed surface roads. I just don’t have the time (read: maturity) to enjoy the longer and more relaxed gravel routes or bikepacking. As such, versatility isn’t at the top of my priority list when it comes to gravel bikes, and I much prefer my gravel bikes somewhere closer to a road bike with greater clearance and obviously a few geometry tweaks, but retaining the road/racing bike soul.

On paper, then, the Rave SLR should be right up my street. According to the Rave SLR webpage, Wilier set its sights on “creating a product with two separate souls, perfect for all-road, perfect for gravel, but the same incredible racing inclination”. That sounds a lot like my kind of gravel bike, but could it live up to that billing?

Well, yes and no. There is no doubting the Rave’s speed, both on and off-road – and if there were any doubt, the stiff ride will quickly remind you. I had a lot of fun on the Rave, chasing new gravel routes, connecting sealed roads with loose shortcuts, and whizzing through singletrack, all without so much as a whimper of disapproval. This bike motivated me to get out on a bike plenty of days last winter when I would otherwise not have bothered. And when fitted with the more aero Shamals and narrower Continental tyres for club ride duty, the Rave’s sleek lines and fully integrated routing never looked out of place.

Ekar, not to be confused with e-car. And yep, the tape job is terrible.

Truth be told, the Wilier has me confused. On the one hand, it is a gravel bike for racing and an all-road bike for jaunts across both sealed and unsealed surfaces. It is, at least, aesthetically aero and offers little in the way of comfort, and features the internal cable routing and integrated handlebars people have now come to expect from performance-focused bikes. While not the most aggressive or overly progressive, the 570 mm (+10mm mandatory headset cap) stack and 391 mm reach are certainly on the racier side of the gravel geometry spectrum in terms of rider position. And with no additional bottle cage or luggage rack mounts, no suspension, and no dropped chainstays, clearly the Rave is, as Wilier claims, a bike with a “racing inclination”. 

But here’s where the confusion starts for me. First, there is the J-Bar. The positively sloping split stem is taken straight from Wilier’s Jena adventure gravel bike to produce a more relaxed and upright position. There’s definitely a place for that, and yes, it’s arguably the fit that many people actually need. However, that upright position is still at odds with the bike’s racing inclinations of the rest of the Rave’s design. To me, the J-Bar’s inclusion here feels more like a last-minute attempt to expand the Rave’s beyond those who might actually want to use it for racing.

There is a solution of course, and that’s to buy the Rave in one of the all-road setups with the more aggressive Zero-Bar, and then add gravel tyres. But that ultimately leads to another question that I will get to later.

Wilier did kindly send a Zero-Bar, which (after much headache in the workshop) definitely allowed for a much more race-like setup and position. But while that solves one problem, it highlights another potential contradiction. The Rave is undoubtedly fast, and the more aggressive position prompts you to stay on the gas. But there’s nevertheless no sense of urgency or nimbleness. It’ll tackle gravel, road, or even singletrack, but it lacks the agility and zip I feel a bike with that “race inclination” needs to meet its racing credentials. The Rave may be a racing bike, but it struggles to have you feeling like a racing cyclist.

In my opinion, the steering geometry is just too relaxed with its 70 mm trail figure and slack 71° head angle, again arguably more at home on the Jena’s intended use case than the Rave’s. The result is a predictably stable bike at higher speeds and in straight lines, which probably proved quite helpful to Ivar Slik in winning Unbound Gravel with its long stretches of straight Kansas flint. In fact, the Rave is so stable, Slik could probably have ridden the entire Unbound course with his hands above his head. But that stability turns to a sluggish and lethargic feeling at lower speed and in tighter turns where the Rave feels like it has a turning circle equivalent to that of the moon.

Keep in mind there is nothing inherently wrong with that particular aspect of the Rave, and one could even argue that such super-stable handling is exactly what someone would want for modern gravel racing [particularly US-style gravel racing – Ed.]. But as I said earlier, I like my gravel bikes to be more like rally cars, and this Rave just doesn’t deliver on that flat-out rush I was craving. Would I personally be better off on a cyclocross bike with room for bigger tyres? Maybe. “Gravel riding” is ultimately a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and while this Rave SLR interesting mix of go-fast aero shaping, weight, and stiffness combined with lazier handling might be perfect for someone else, it’s just not my gravel or all-road cup of tea.

If left to me, I’d like to see the Jena and Rave more distinctly differentiated. Keep the Jena platform for exploring with its more upright positioning, slower handling, and more plentiful mounts. But make the Rave SLR even more racing-oriented with faster handling – and drop the J-Bar.

More information can be found at Wilier.com.

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