The original Ripley was a quick-footed, razor-sharp 29er. When it came to climbing and threading the needle on tight singletrack, it was a hard trail bike to beat. Why then has Ibis rolled out a new version? Well, there are actually two new versions–one that features the same basic geometry as its forefather (with improvements to the chassis) and this longer, slacker and rowdier iteration.
At 24.4 inches on a size large, the toptube on the Ripley LS is about a half-inch longer than on the original and the head angle is relaxed by more than a degree-and-a-half. That equates to 67 degrees when paired with the 140-millimeter-travel fork that came on our test bike and 67.5 degrees when running the stock 130-mil fork. There are longer and slacker 29ers out there, but as with last year's re-boot of the Mojo HD3, Ibis isn't trying to win an award for cranking out the most 'extreme' bike–the company wants its bikes to climb well. Mission accomplished on that score. The Ripley monkeys up tight, technical climbs. The dw-link suspension does a fine job of combating suspension bob while still providing traction in technical spots. You can flick the lever on the Fox Factory Float DPS EVOL shock, but, frankly, the bike scoots along even when run wide open.There is much more at play here, however, than tweaks to the bike's angles and dimensions. For starters, Ibis chased away some flex from the frame by adding stiffer eccentric cores. Our test bike wore a conventional 142×12 rear end, but you can opt for a Boost 148 swingarm, which will net an even stiffer rear end. Other tweaks include a cleaner and quieter internal cable-routing system, more rear-tire clearance, a lower seatmast and a quiet, hassle-free, threaded bottom bracket.
Quick, responsive, playful–our testers ran out of adjectives to describe the Ripley's nimble feel, but one tester summarized it well: "It's a bike that begs to be leaned over and ridden like a giant BMX bike."
We couldn't find fault with the components on the XT one-by Werx kit. If the price for those caviar-grade parts is too high, Ibis offers 10 kits, including the $3,950 Special Blend, which sports the same frame with budget parts.
MSRP: $7300 (Werx build)
Q&A with Scot Nicol
Before this year's test bikes rolled into our barn, we had questions about them–some of the same questions that you might be asking yourself when you start poking around at a new bike. The Ripley LS–a longer, slacker and more aggressive version of Ibis' popular Ripley 29er model had our curiosity piqued. Here's what Scot Nicol, Ibis' founder, spirit animal and loudest bullhorn, has to say. –Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: What were you trying to achieve when you guys were designing this updated Ripley?
Scot Nicol: When we do demos, we like to ask people where they ride and how they ride. One category that was missing in our line is the more aggressive 29er rider, someone who likes to bomb the steeper lines. In Europe and the UK in particular, we’ve noticed that people love to point it downhill and those are often rooty or very rocky lines that benefit from the rollover of the 29-inch wheels.
As with the HD3, we didn’t go too slack on this bike, so that the climbing performance would be preserved. We don’t like sluggish, floppy bikes. We like fun bikes. We tried to reach a happy compromise with the Ripley LS, where the lively feel of the original Ripley was preserved, but you could push the bike harder on the descents.
We’ve also seen riders who have jumped from 29er to the 27.5 (650b) platform who now want their big wheels back. The needle moved pretty far over to 27.5 over the last few years, partly due to there being some not so good big wheel bikes out there. That’s old news now, a lot of companies are making much more capable and enjoyable 29ers, and we’re seeing people move back. Many of them went to far slacker 27.5 bikes and are looking to retain that descending prowess. That's why we made the LS.
One other thing: because both forks and shocks are so much better than they were when we initially designed the Ripley, the bikes can be pushed much harder and faster. Slacker head angles are more confidence inspiring at higher speeds, and since the suspension allows you to push the bike so much harder, the switch to a slacker geo matches the capability of the suspension better.
VF: These are the changes that I have listed for the new frame. Are there more that I’m not seeing?
- Internal cable routing using our flexible and easy to setup port system
- Increased tire clearance
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Seat mast lowered by 1/2" to accommodate today's longer droppers
- Choice of Boost 148 or 142mm x 12mm Shimano through axle
- Stiffer eccentric cores
- New rubber molded chainstay and seatstay protection
SN: Correct. That about sums it up.
VF: Just a point of clarification—will you continue to offer both Boost 148 and "normal" 142 rear ends?
SN: Yes, we will. There are going to be people who will still want 142. Eventually, as we see the orders for the 142 drop to zero, we’ll discontinue it. We’ll reserve some for crash replacement purposes and warranty work as well. We own the molds for both sizes, so there’s no incremental cost in keeping the two current.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel the Ripley really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
SN: The Ripley does so much so well, that it’s a hard question to answer (sorry for the cop-out answer). It’s always been known for its climbing prowess, and that will still be the case with the LS. The rear suspension is identical. What changes with the LS is the capability when the going gets tougher, rougher and steeper. At the time of this writing, there aren’t a lot of the LS models out in the world. We did get Jeff Kendall-Weed an early production frame and he did some Strava runs on some of his local gnarlier trails. We were surprised to hear from him that he bettered (on this new Ripley) some of the fastest times he'd recorded on his Mojo HD3.
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
SN: We’re still enamored with Roxy Lo’s beautiful design of the bike. The dual eccentric dw-link is still an elegant and simple design that has matured in this model. We’ve tweaked where we put material both in the frame and in the eccentric cores, and further increased the stiffness of the rear end. This will be further enhanced with Boost 148, but the Ibis 941 wheels on the bike are a much bigger improvement than either of those changes. Still, every bit helps and the bike just gets better all the time.
The cable port system is also very nice on this bike, allowing numerous clean cable routing options.
VF: Component spec is always hard to nail–what were you aiming for with the spec (on this particular build kit) and how did you achieve it?
SN: Tom Morgan, our President, does all the spec on the bikes. He also does the graphics on the bike (we all wear a lot of hats here). If you look at our bike builder, you’ll see that Tom has created numerous kits. Right now, you can order the Special Blend version, which is a complete bike that sells for $3,950 (a pretty incredible deal considering the frame only is 2900). We have a 1X Spec now on the Special Blend as well. We then go to X01, XT in 1x and 2x guise, the same 1X or 2X for XTR and we also offer XX1. We have a ‘Werx’ Spec kit on each of these kits as well. That’s 10 different group offerings. Each spec has well-matched component offerings
We outfitted this particular test bike we sent you with the XT 1X for a few reasons. It’s the newest of our spec offerings, it’s not at the highest price point we offer. We felt that 1X would be adequate for the trails you are riding in Vermont. If you were doing this test in Crested Butte, we’d probably give you a 2X, to accommodate the long climbs and total absence of oxygen. We added the Next SL crank because it’s a nice way to save a bit of weight on the bike.
VF: Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked?
SN: For a number of reasons that we’ve mentioned in other answers, this Ripley is a different beast than the original Ripley from four years ago. I think it would be easy to look at this bike and say, “Oh that’s a Ripley”. This is true, of course, but there are so many small improvements that the whole package is a completely different animal than it was before.
VF: What sets the Long and Slack version of the Ripley apart from other trail-bike 29ers?
SN: Probably the climbing performance. That’s due to both the dw-link and the light weight of the frame. Most of the slack trail-bike 29ers are beastly descenders. When you combine that with incredible climbing performance, you’ve got a great all-around machine.
VF: How does the shock/shock tune differ on the new Ripley (that is, from what was spec'd on the original recipe)?
SN: The new Fox DPS with EVOL sleeve is the current shock offering. Our riders and engineers worked with Fox to develop a specific tune on this shock, specifically for this bike. Not available in stores. It’s the same shock for the New Ripley and the Ripley LS, and frankly, if retrofitted is a huge upgrade on the O.G. (original geometry) Ripley (information on the tune is available in our online tuning guide, by the way). The differences you’ll feel is that the new shock gives you small-bump compliance that almost makes it feel like a coil, and the mid stroke support is greatly improved, despite the buttery initial travel performance. All in all, it’s a massive improvement to the way the bike rides.
VF: You've also moved towards spec'ing the Ripley with a 34 now, right? Did you find that people were riding the bike aggressively and wanted something stouter up front?
SN: The new Fox Float 34 weighs about the same as last year’s 32, yet it offers the stiffness of the 34 platform. That was the main driver in choosing this fork. We offered a 140-millimeter-travel Float for the bike previously, giving people a choice of either 120 or 140 travel on the Ripley. A lot of people were putting 140 Pikes on with the 941 rims and getting a much more gravity-friendly rig. With this new model, we chose 130 as a happy medium. The new Float 34 covers the advantages of the 120 in weight and the 140 in stiffness and plushness. Ripley owners are welcome to put a 140 on this thing, the bike can handle it. Here at Ibis, we do like the balance of the 130 front 120 rear that we’re currently offering.