This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–https://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014
BEST OF TEST AWARD WINNER: BEST CLIMBER
When bikes start to get an evangelistic following, our collective eyebrows raise with suspicion. Are these shout-it-from-the-rooftop types just drinking the Kool-Aid, or are they really on to something? In the case of the Ibis Ripley 29, probably a little of both. But heck, after taking an-other KOM they deserve drink! Though our capable group of test bikes produced many con-tenders, none could quite keep up with the Ripley’s throttling pace on fire roads and still claw its way like a rock crawler up techy steeps. Giant’s feathery Trance Advance 27.5 0 made a race of it, but in the end the Ripley 29 reached down into its stealthy bag of dw-link tricks and pulled out the win.
See the rest of the award winners here.
One sure fire way to tell if a bike is something special, even unique? Round up a group of test editors and ask them to put said bike into a proverbial box. If they can’t agree which category it belongs in, or even who the bike would best suit — as was the case with the Ibis Ripley during our recent awards debate — then you know this is no ordinary two-wheeled steed.
We cant yet tell you what the outcome of that sometimes heated debate was; MTBr Enduro-Compare-O Awards will be announced next month. But it’s safe to say the Ripley, a bike that was six years in development, was worth the wait.
Indeed, this 29er has the get-up-and-go of a long-travel cross-country bike, the playfulness of a small-wheeled trail tamer, and even the cajones to tackle some light-duty enduro racing. (Not buying that last statement? Ask Brian Lopes. The multi-time world champ tabbed the Ripley on several occasions during his 2013 Enduro World Series campaign.)
Therein lies the allure of this category-bucking full carbon machine from California-based Ibis. It transcends traditional definitions of what a bike is or can be.
“It could make a lot of people really happy,” said one tester when asked who this bike was ideal for. “XC to enduro to just about everywhere in between. No it’s not quite as capable going down hill as some of the other bikes in this test, but don’t let its 120mm of rear travel fool you. This is an incredibly versatile machine, perhaps the most versatile bike in the entire test. No matter what your riding style, you can have a lot of fun on this bike.”
Meet Dave Weagle. He’s Smart
The elevator pitch for the Ibis Ripley goes something like this: It’s a bike that has the rollover advantages of a 29-inch wheel, but is also lightweight, nimble and fun like a 26er. The key to making this happen? Ask suspension guru Dave Weagle to come up with a design that maximizes pedaling efficiency, is optimized for 29er specific gearing, and has the usual dw-link attributes — small bump compliance and predictable travel throughout the range. Oh, and while you’re at it, jam it all inside the frame so the bike looks cool and offers greater protection from the elements.
This is all done with a pair of small eccentric pivots that rotate on BB30-style bearings. By keeping things light and compact, Ibis was able to stiffen the swing arm, shorten the chainstays (17.4 inches), and of course keep weight down. Our size Large tester with an upper-end build (MSRP: $5549) weighed 26.45 pounds.
The design also allows for a direct mounted front derailleur (if you need one), and there’s space for a water bottle cage. The only caveat is that Ibis is adamant that the bike is spec’d with 51-millimeter offset forks (120mm or 140mm), which shortens the trail, keeping steering quick and precise.
So what’s this all mean to you? Well, at least in the case of our test session, the design — and the bike — worked supremely well. The platform was stable enough that we never felt the need to mess with the Fox Float CTD shock. Indeed, when climbing — be it on fire roads or techy trail — the Ripley was simply outstanding.
“I’m just going to assume that all dw-link bikes climb like road bikes from now on,” gushed one tester. “I honestly felt no difference in any of the CTD modes, just smooth, rock solid spinning.”
“Ungodly amounts of grip,” added another tester. “The dual eccentric pivots actually seem to improve traction as you pedal. There is no need to get out of the saddle when riding, and the short head tube keeps you in attack position. Simply shift in to an easier gear, stay seated, spin your brains out.”
But this is not just a climbing machine. At the top of the hill the Ripley quickly converts to capable descender, especially in rolling terrain, when you still need to crank out a few watts to keep speeds high. In this mixed zone — where most of us spend most of our ride time — the Ripley shines, effortlessly toggling between fast and flicky, and powerful and efficient. Plus, the short chainstays make manual a snap.
“It was smooth as glass,” said one tester of the bike’s descending capabilities. “The suspension was predictable and never did anything unexpected. Even though there’s only 120mm of travel out back, you’d never know. It feels like at least a 130mm travel bike. It took log drops with ease and was incredibly composed and stable at high speeds, even over brake bumps and big holes.”
It’s also worth noting that Ibis has made some subtle on-the-fly material changes to the suspension. Originally the eccentric core parts were as lightweight as possible while still passing various in-house strength tests. But Ibis subsequently decided to add back about eight grams of strategically placed material to make the parts more tolerant, especially to over tightening.
Effective last January, all Ripley frames are now shipped with a beefier lower eccentric core and new titanium bolt, which besides addressing the over-tightening issue, increases lateral stiffness by 10 percent claims Ibis. These updated parts can be retrofitted on older Ripley frames, and are available on the Ibis website for $35.
Photo by Tyler Frasca.
Who Says Wagon Wheels Can’t Shred
We’ve all heard over and over about the limitations of 29-inch wheels, but the Ripley makes a strong counter argument to the sluggish wagon wheel line of reasoning. Despite a set of Stan’s ZTR Arch EX 29er wheels that several testers deemed too flexy for their tastes, this bike leaned and carved with grace and predictable ease, responding quickly to steering inputs.
“It’s quick, nimble and fun — and yes it’s a 29er,” commented one tester. “The shorter wheelbase means you can really push the bike into corners.”
“It’s willing to change direction immediately upon request,” said another tester. “It’s flickable in fast, twisty singletrack. But even going uphill, I felt like I’d be able to negotiate tight switchbacks.”