'LS' stands for long and slack, but that's sort of like naming a fat guy Tiny. Believe it or not, the Ripley LS has the shortest reach in the test, and is the second steepest. Even the XL, which we tested, with its reach of 448 millimeters, is still shorter than the majority of our size-large bikes this year. The wheelbase is one of the shortest as well. Maybe LS should stand for light and speedy. It would be a lot more accurate. After all, the Ripley feels lighter and accelerates quicker than most bikes operating outside World Cup XC course tape. It makes sense, since the blueprint for what became the Ripley was a race bike with 100 millimeters of travel and 26-inch wheels. The dual eccentric links were utilized specifically to pull off the most lightweight and compact version of a dw-link platform.
When the Ripley wound up being a 120-millimeter 29er, it was always intended as a trail bike with cross-country speed, and it's owned that identity better than nearly anything else on the market. With each update, the Ripley finds its way onto rowdier terrain while constantly straddling the course tape. The latest version got two main improvements: wider, stiffer, more reliable eccentrics and increased tire clearance to fit the new breed of 2.6-inch rubber.
The Ripley still rips up climbs the way it always has, but now with improved traction thanks to Schwalbe's 2.6-inch tires. We upgraded our build with a pair of Ibis 942 carbon hoops, a worthwhile investment for those looking to maximize acceleration. Testers especially appreciated the upgrade on the multiple punchy, technical climbs on our test loops. This is where the Ripley's hover-board effect shines as well, allowing the rider to go full-gas through junk with no noticeable bob, squatting or loss of suspension activity under power.
The tires offer increased traction and reduced trail noise, but the Schwalbes flatted easily under our testers, who'd be better off with a tougher offering. Aggressive riders might also consider Ibis' 800-millimeter-wide bar, though that won't make the Ripley duck the tape. With a skilled pilot, the Ripley will descend just as fast as other bikes in the category, but if you're looking for point-and-shoot, this isn't it. The Ripley is agile and precise—point it toward a line and it'll go there, but lose focus and it'll bite you in the ass. If you're looking at the Ripley, it's worth throwing a leg over the Trek Fuel EX as well. It has a similar XC-rooted feel, but is a touch less efficient on climbs and a touch more confident when gravity takes over.
Q&A with Scot Nicol, Ibis Cycles founder
Compared to the previous Ripley, the LS is longer and slacker, but size to size, it's shorter than any other bike in this year's Bible. What's the deal with that? Has the long reach trend gone too far? Would lengthening the front end cause the Ripley to take on unwanted handling characteristics?
We are big fans of the long reach bikes for more aggressive riding. One of those longer reach bikes you mention in your test is the Mojo HD4, which is what our EWS team is racing on this year. However, we don’t think every bike out there needs to be an EWS shredder. If we were to lengthen the front end any more on the Ripley, we’d also want to up the travel and reach (see the next question for a comment on the travel). One of the other changes we’ve seen recently is a lowering of the seat tube, so we can accommodate longer and longer droppers. A side benefit of this is that people can move up a frame size to gain a longer reach, without compromising standover.
Many of the good ol' 120 29ers we loved have been updated to 130 millimeters of travel—we can think of a several off the top of our head. You kept the Ripley at 120 millimeters of travel. How come?
We’ve squeezed as much travel out of the dual eccentric system as we can. If we wanted to give it more travel, we’d need to either reduce the size of the eccentrics (so we could put them closer together), or we could lengthen the chainstay. Neither of those is practical. More travel in this platform would require a change to the more traditional links like what you find on the Mojo line. We’re still blown away by how capable the Ripley is, and it’s a 120-millimeter bike!
What's the most aggressive setup you've tried on the Ripley? Like, would it be cool to run it with a longer fork and a coil shock, or would that be getting too far outside the bike's designed purpose?
A lot of people run a 140 fork on the Ripley, and we’ve approved it for that length fork. Coil is a no no for a couple reasons. Mainly it’s because the dw-link is designed very deliberately for the progressive curve of an air shock.
How did Ibis update the Ripley's eccentric links? Can you quantify any sort of performance or serviceability improvement from the change?
The V3 Ripley update is mainly about 2.6-inch tire compatibility (which we love on that bike). Frame design is always a puzzle of optimization, and wider tires means reduced cross sections in the chainstay, with possible lowering of the rear end stiffness. People love the stiffness of the Ripley and we did not want to compromise that. So along with that tire clearance change, we made the upper eccentric the same width as the bottom one, gaining stiffness. Overall, despite the change in cross section of the chainstay, the Ripley V3 stiffness is maintained, even though we’ve gained significant tire clearance.