Testing, Testing: The Ibis Ripley

Believe It Or Not, The Ripley Is Finally Here

Ibis was founded by NorCal rider Scot Nichol way back in 1981 when mountain biking was in its infancy. The first bikes were rolled out of his garage shop in Mendocino, California. These versions were not like the technology-driven super bikes of today, but they were based on the same motto: Build a bike you would want to ride.

The Ripley has been a long time coming, with tantalizing photos of prototypes “leaking” for years before the bike’s actual release. When Ibis offered up a brand spankin’ new Ripley for a full test, we simply couldn’t resist.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

Ibis’s goal was to bring the advantages of 29-inch wheels to a lightweight, nimble and fun trail bike, and they succeeded. With 5.5 inches of travel, the Ripley is a snappy bike that isn’t cumbersome or heavy, and it is configurable for a wide range of terrain and riding styles because it’s compatible with forks with up to 5.9 inches of travel. Bottom line, this is a trail bike that can satisfy the needs of a huge cross section of riders.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

Ibis is a carbon fiber company. Every production bike they make is carbon fiber–with the exception of some limited-run vintage bikes. The carbon frame uses a dw-Link suspension that rides on cartridge bearings. The linkage is tucked neatly into the frame and essentially hidden from view, adding to the aesthetics of the already beautiful frame. The frame also uses a 12×142 rear axle, direct-mount front derailleur, tapered head tube, and 73-millimeter, threaded bottom-bracket shell.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

Our Ripley came spec’d with Ibis’ new wider-than-average carbon wheelset, boasting a 28-millimeter inside diameter. The wider rim spreads the tire casing to provide a larger contact patch and allows the rider to run lower tire pressure, which results in better traction. We had our relatively small and lightweight Schwalbe tires mounted on these impressive hoops and never found ourselves needing more bite.

The rest of the component package is clearly carefully chosen and includes a SRAM X01 drivetrain, Shimano XT brakes, and a smattering of Ibis’ house-brand carbon components, which did not disappoint.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setup: The Ibis Ripley makes setup a breeze by using tried-and-true Fox CTD suspension front and rear. We simply set the single air-valve shock and fork to 30 percent sag and hit the trail.

Pedaling: The Ripley’s dw-Link suspension design is incredibly efficient on the trail. The suspension exhibits plenty of anti-squat characteristics to keep the rider high in the travel and feeling efficient, with or without the help of the shock’s CTD lever. We found ourselves riding almost exclusively with this bike in the “D” Descend mode (the most open damping mode), even when the trail didn’t demand it.

Climbing: The Ripley’s “believe it or not” character shows up the most on the climbs. The Ripley scales up the hills as if it’s on a mission to shoot out from under you and do the rest of the ascent on its own. The bike feels light and lively under the rider, especially when you consider you’re hauling enough travel to handle all but the gnarliest trails. A mix of seated and out-of-the-saddle climbing efforts work best with this bike. There’s not quite enough suspension to charge up super technical climbs; instead, plan to use the lower gears and pick your lines carefully as you take advantage of the bike’s light and nimble manners to float uphill. When the trail points up, this bike’s only limiting factor is your fitness.

Cornering: Trail 29er bikes from every company have been plagued with long wheelbases, long chainstays and sluggish steering; however, the Ripley bucks this trend with a dialed geometry that corners with confidence, whether it’s a high-speed sweeper or low-speed tight, switchback. While the wagon-wheel hoops may never be as nimble as a 26 or 27.5 trail bike’s, the Ripley does a great job of “hiding the wheel size” by making it very manageable on the trail, especially in the corners.

Descending: The Ripley’s suspension does a great job factoring out pedal bob, regardless of which setting the CTD shock is in. As a result, the dw-Link system is not the plushest we’ve tested. That said, the bike’s not-too-slack/not-too-steep geometry makes it confidence inspiring on all but the steepest and rockiest of trails. With a talented pilot, the Ripley is capable of riding very aggressive terrain. It would be a stretch to call this an “enduro” bike, although the handling manners are solid enough to conquer most of the terrain on any enduro course.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

After a few weeks of riding, we decided to give the Ripley a deep down clean. When we removed the fork, we discovered the internal cable routing had rubbed on the steerer tube, wearing through the anodization. While this damage might be hidden, it’s still important to use some anti-rub protection here.

Our bike came spec’d with a flat carbon bar and a stem with a negative rise. Cross-country riders will love the forward and aggressive position. Trail riders should swap the super-low bar for a riser and a short stem with a little rise.

BUYING ADVICE

Riders looking for a fast and racy-feeling rig that can also handle long-haul, backcountry adventures will be thrilled with the Ibis Ripley. The bike blends near-best-in-class climbing characteristics with plenty of descending confidence for aggressively shredding the way back down.

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