The Up Side
Light on its feet, efficient, lightning-fast—there's no climbing cliché that can't be used with the Ripmo. Put simply: It's one of the best climbers of the test, regardless of travel or wheel size.
Not quite as stable at warp speeds as the Yeti SB 150 or the Fezzari La Sal Peak, but its pinpoint predictability stands out way more. The Ripmo's spot-on geometry and superb suspension allows the rider great control while descending at any speed, and traction is aplenty.
Dollar for Dollar
Ibis is a boutique brand, and you're going to pay boutique prices for an Ibis bike. But, it has broadened its build-kit options in recent years and as such, you can get into a complete Ripmo for $4,200. The rest of its builds are priced in line with the Yeti SB 150.
The Ibis Ripmo is burly. The long-travel 29er is built around 160 millimeters of travel in the front, 145 in the rear, beefy 2.5-inch-wide tires mated to rims with a 34-millimeter-internal width and a 1,220-millimeter wheelbase (size large). Those stats indicate that it might feel sluggish and sled-like on the trail, but we were blown away by how wrong that indication was.
The first attribute testers noticed is the Ripmo's lightning-quick acceleration. It tears off the line like a 100-meter-dash Olympian when the gun fires, and proceeds to move nothing like you'd expect from a long-travel 29er, proving that the category's Cadillac days are over. And once you're going, its agility quickly becomes the next standout characteristic. The Ripmo is lively, nimble, easy to move around corners and allows the rider to maintain incredible control while picking through chunky descents.
Our long-travel test course included successive rock ledges on ascents requiring riders to heft front ends over obstacles, shifting body weight forward and quickly cranking a pedal stroke to the next shelf. This provided ample opportunity for getting hung up. Our course ended with a heart-pumping, relentless descent marked by steep, rocky, exposed chutes in which precision, brake control and perfect speed were required to remain unmarred. It was hard work that somehow seemed far easier aboard the Ripmo.
The Ripmo immediately impressed everyone on climbs—light on its feet for a bike of its travel, and exhibited pedaling prowess on par with shorter-travel offerings. Its DW-link suspension platform is incredibly efficient—in fact, one tester noted that he felt this bike brings out the best of Dave Weagle's eponymous suspension design—and it scaled the repeated rock ledges without losing rear traction.
The Ripmo goes fast downhill too, but it doesn't have to like some bikes in its category, namely the Yeti SB150, whose ultra-slack front end and long wheelbase begets a stability that makes that bike want to absolutely haul when it's pointed down. What the Ripmo might give up slightly at warp speeds it more than makes up for in the precision department—its pinpoint predictability allows you to roll up to a technical move and take time to position your body without sacrificing any control required to clean the meanest sections of trail. It responds in-kind to its pilot's power inputs, maintaining traction and momentum through chunder while pedaling as hard as desired. And while other bikes in its category require a conscious weight shift forward in order maintain cornering performance, the Ripmo doesn't ask the same of riders. It's intuitive, responsive and carves without needing to be coerced.
All of these ride characteristics point to both the DW-link, as well as to Ibis' ability to nail an ideal geometry balance. The Ripmo's 65.9-degree headtube angle and 76-degree seat tube angle (77 on the size small) felt perfectly matched, its 471-millimeter reach (size large) comfortable and its 341-millimeter bottom-bracket height low enough without causing pedal-strike anxiety. The frame has an added bit of versatility with clearance for 2.6-inch tires, a rubber choice that would give this bike a traction and control boost that it doesn't necessarily need, but would benefit from nonetheless.
Best of all, the Ripmo comes in a size-small frame and goes up to an XL, so anyone from 5-foot to 6-foot-6 can happily ride into the sunset on this bike. Er, scratch that. Anyone with money can happily ride into the sunset.
The only drawback to the Ripmo is that they don't come cheaply, and although Ibis has managed to bring prices down substantially in recent years, it's certainly not aimed at the budget-minded. Still, $4,200 will buy you a complete bike at the SRAM NX level, or you can name a frameset for $3,000. And if money is no object, the top-of-the-line XX1 build runs $9,600. But if we had an extra $5,000 to spend on one bike, you can bet the Ripmo would be high on our list.
Q&A With Scot Nicol, founder, and Colin Hughes, director of engineering
We were blown away by how spot-on the Ripmo's geometry felt. The bike was quick on the ups, stable and controlled on the downs, lively and maneuverable everywhere else. Give us a bit of background: How long was it in development, and how exactly did you arrive at its geometry?
When we started, the Ripmo was basically a 29er version of the HD4. It was happiest under aggressive riders on steep terrain and riding mellower trail back up. About a year and a half into the project, we tested steep seat angles and found they cured the lifting and floppy front wheels that slack bikes usually suffer from while climbing. A number of us had been riding with our saddle forward to mimic this seat angle for years, and we finally just built it into the frame.
About the same time, we also started testing different fork offsets and found they added stability without making the head angle slacker. These two changes made the bike much better overall, so we delayed its release 6 months to retool.
– Colin Hughes, Director of Engineering
One tester noted that he felt like Ibis was getting the best out of DW Link with the Ripmo—more than any other bike model does. How did Ibis work with Dave to incorporate that platform into the Ripmo, and was it any different from the process with say, the Mojo or the Ripley?
Working with Dave Weagle hasn’t changed too much over the years. We tell him what type of bike we’d like to make, the geometry, and what kind of suspension characteristics we’d like it to have. He then gives us the suspension pivot points that will make that happen. We then design the rest of the frame, and once we have prototypes, there is a lot of shock tuning with our testers, engineers and Fox to dial in the performance we’re looking for. Note that not all dw-links are created equally. Dave’s system allows for a broad spectrum of ride characteristics, which allows him to tailor the system to meet the desires of each of his licensees. Hence, one dw-link bike does not necessarily ride the same as another. They all tend to have excellent pedaling efficiency, but beyond that the similarities are not automatic. It sounds like your tester likes the same things we do and if he feels the Ripmo is the best we’ve done it’s because Dave, Ibis and Fox are constantly learning.
– Colin Hughes, Director of Engineering
Any plans to start making a small Ripmo in Santa Cruz, like Ibis has done with the Ripley? Or plans to expand U.S. manufacturing at all?
The US-made small Ripley project has been a success, and we’ve already begun scaling up our U.S. manufacturing. The next project will involve building all sizes of a completely new model. Stay tuned for updates.
-Scot Nicol, Founder