Founded in 1981, Ibis Cycles has a long history of crafting high-performance frames. In fact, in 1988, founder Scot Nicol was building a dream bike out of the original Sebastopol, California-based shop using steel lugs and carbon tubes sourced from an aerospace company. When Nicol described the exact weight, stiffness and strength targets required for his project, his supplier told him structures with such a high requirement often “end up in outer space.” Scot simply replied, “Yeah, that’s the stuff we want.”
Now, 38 years later, Ibis continues to push the development of mountain bikes from its headquarters in Santa Cruz. The bike that got the most attention from Ibis fans over the past year was the Ripmo, a bike built to handle the rigors of Enduro World Series racers. That being said, Ibis is well aware that an EWS-capable bike is most likely overkill for the average rider, so Ibis took what it learned from the Ripmo and brought it down to a smaller size in the all-new, fourth-generation Ripley, a trail bike suited for daily adventures that maintains the characteristics of its shred-worthy older brother.
Our wrecking crew spent time aboard this new model up in Santa Cruz, but now, after many laps on our local trails, we’re ready to bring to you the full review of the Ibis Ripley V4.
The fourth-generation Ripley received a ground-up redesign and offers a lighter-weight frame than the Ripmo while claiming to be just as stiff. The Ripley got longer and slacker, and the seat tube is steeper. The seat tube was made as low as possible, and by eliminating the dual-eccentric design, Ibis was able to offer riders of all sizes the ability to run long-travel dropper posts. A positive side effect of this longer dropper-post clearance is that it allows Ibis to run a slightly higher bottom bracket height, which helps prevent pedal strikes while retaining a low center of gravity.
The same level of carbon is used across the line, offering riders a premium carbon frame whether they purchase a high-end XTR kit or an entry-level SRAM NX build. Internal cable routing with guided tubes ensures ease of setup and keeps the bike quiet on the trails. A replaceable downtube protector and a removable ISCG-05 mount allow riders to run extra chainring protection if needed. Meanwhile, the ability to run up to 2.6-inch tires and a range of fork travel from 120mm up to 140mm means this bike can be tailored towards aggressive cross-country use or beefed up to become a lightweight enduro sled.
The model we tested came with Shimano’s 12-speed XTR system, Fox suspension and Ibis wheels, along with an Ibis cockpit. A Race Face Next carbon crankset was swapped out from the XTR crank; however, the rest of the build is true XTR. All in all, our bike offered the level of performance we’ve come to expect from these components.
Other optional build kits include the entry-level SRAM NX kit with a starting price of $4200. Five build kits span the price range from $4200 up to $9200.
During our testing, we had a slight issue with our dropper post, but with a little investigating, we were able to quickly address the problem. The Bike Yoke Revive dropper post began to sag on us after the first couple of rides, but once we learned that the dropper could be “reset,” we were able to bleed the dropper and have it functioning in a matter of minutes.
The Ripley rolls on a dw-link suspension platform with 120mm of travel. In fact, its design comes straight from the Ripmo and uses similar lower links. The Ripley’s kinematics become more progressive than the Ripley V3s in order to give it a snappier and more playful feel. Riders looking to really push the limits of the Ripley could equip it with a larger piggyback shock; however, the spec’d Fox Float DPS shock does a fine job of handling rough terrain. Throughout the suspension platform, Ibis uses bushings in high-load areas and bearings everywhere else. The Ripley might be small, but its stout suspension is one of the many factors that contribute to this ripper’s shred-worthy nature.
DOWN AND DIRTY
The low seat tube forced our 5-foot-9 rider to run his 160mm-travel dropper close to the minimum insertion mark; however, the added clearance gave the Ripley an almost BMX-like feel. With its low-slung top tube and short chainstays, the Ripley provides a nimble and flickable feel that entices riders to take full advantage of every trail.
Ibis took a few steps to improve the climbing prowess of this little machine. First off, Ibis cut over a 1/2 pound out of the frame weight, then steepened the seat tube angle by 3 degrees and increased reach by an average of 45mm per frame size.
Our testers were spoiled aboard the top-level model, which weighs right around 26 pounds. With its updated dw-link suspension design, the all-new Ripley is ready to rip right up the trails. This Ibis offered a comfortable climbing position when seated, placing our weight right near the middle of the bike. Meanwhile, the added reach helped glue the front end to the ground. When the rider is standing, the steep seat angle can make the saddle feel like it’s all up in your business, but thanks to the dropper post, it can easily be pushed out of the way.
After we conquered the climb, our Ripley lit up at the thought of flying back down the trail. Although the fork has slightly longer travel, the Ripley charges on with a balanced forward-and-aft feel. We’ve ridden a few short-travel 29ers lately, such as the Smuggler from Transition, that really require you to ride the front fork and smash the rear end. The Ripley prefers a more neutral rider that places his or her weight in the middle of the bike. With that said, a rider could put a 140mm-travel fork on this bike for the ability to smash down the trail with authority. Most riders will find the balanced feel of the 130mm-travel fork to be a more natural riding position. Overall, the Ripley is a stiff and precise descender that offers everything we’ve come to love about the Ripmo but in a short-travel package.
MODS AND UPGRADES
We couldn’t help but wonder what the Ripley would be like with a big shock, a longer fork and wider bars. This setup would rule the trails while retaining climbing performance and a playful attitude. But, then we had to remind ourselves that the Ripley is designed to be a trail bike, and that if we wanted more, we should just opt for the Ripmo. In its current trim, the Ripley is quite capable, and its top-level build kit leaves nothing to be desired.
Our one and only complaint was the issue we had with our dropper post. While it was a quick and easy fix, it was a bit of an annoyance when it happened to us mid-ride.
The bottom line is that the Ripley is a trail bike very well suited for the majority of trails out there. So, as long as you don’t spend a lot of time flying high over your local bike park, the Ripley should have no issues handling your local terrain. This little shredder has a lot of attitude in its small package. Ibis hit the ball out of the park with this model—a bike that reminds you just how much fun short-travel 29ers can be.
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