Video by Ryan Palmer and Justin Brantley
Words by Vernon Felton
Has there ever been a bike that has taken so long to go from brilliant idea to touch-it-feel-it reality?
It's a fair question, because Ibis has been working on this 29er for six years. Just to recap here: George Bush Jr. was still in office when these guys started work on the bike that would eventually become the Ripley. Justin Bieber was practically a fetus at the time. I think America was mad about the Macarena back then… In other words, six years is a hell of a long time to spend designing and fine-tuning a bike.
So, what gives?
Well, it's an interesting story. We know because we went down to Santa Cruz and found out for ourselves. And we brought a video camera to film it all.
Check out our exclusive video above, from our new Blueprint series, and get the straight dope from the guys who designed the Ripley.
Of course, since we're already typing, we thought we'd provide a quick synopsis for all the folks who like to paw through nouns and verbs and such. We even included pretty pictures for the easily distracted. Here goes…
The Ibis Ripley is a 120-millimeter travel, 29er uber-trail bike. The Ripley is capable of rocking a 140-milimeter fork up front, yet boasts a frame weight of just 5.2 pounds. This is not, however, the bike that Ibis originally planned to build.
NO EXTERNAL LINKAGES
Ibis had intended to design a cross-country 29er with just 100-millimeters of travel. A kind of switchblade of a bike for the XC racer crowd. So they went to Dave Weagle (he of DW-Link fame) and asked him to create the simplest, lightest version of the DW-Link.
Ibis wanted the lightest and stiffest bike in class. Weagle surprised Ibis by suggesting that they use two small eccentric links housed in the seat tube, as opposed to external linkages. There'd be several benefits: the eccentrics themselves would be light and small, plus they'd allow for a shorter rear end, more tire and front derailleur clearance and they'd keep the swirly suspension bits from getting coated in mud and muck.
FROM BUSHINGS TO BEARINGS
Ibis intended to make the eccentrics pivot on bushings and settled on a variety that have been used in the doors and hoods of cars for an eternity thanks to a "virtually infinite lifespan". As a back-up plan, they also began designing a bearing version, just in case things didn't go peachy with the bushings, which is exactly what happened.
Initial testing with the bushings went quite well—for a good, long while actually—until Ibis racer, Evan Plews, was racing a sloppy 100-mile endurance race in Georgia and the bushing system got gunked with mud and went tits up. Evan finished the race, but the contamination thoroughly the bushings. Ibis realized they needed to rethink the bushing project. In essence, they found that there wasn't enough room for both the required bushing material and adequate seals in their particular eccentric configuration.
So, the Ibis Ripley now uses bearings in the eccentric links. In the end, they were able to make a bearing version that weighs within 21 grams of the original bushing design. Impressive. Ibis states that the bearings are also easier to assemble and service, more readily available to consumers, stronger and stiffer than the bushings they were going to use, and that the bearing system gives the bike better small-bump performance.
THEY HAD TO CHANGE FACTORIES
Long story short, after a few years it became clear that the factory that Ibis had been using for their previous models just couldn't make the Ibis Ripley. There were too many novel shapes and features going on in the Ripley frame. So Ibis ate the costs on the molds developed at the first factory and started up with a new manufacturer. The upside, according to Ibis, is that they were able to build a stiffer and stronger frame. This, however, added time to the project.
REVISED (TRAIL-ORIENTED) GEOMETRY AND TRAVEL
Somewhere along this odyssey, trends changed and the folks at Ibis realized that they really didn't like riding 100-millimeter forks on 29ers. Just too little travel. So, they upped the rear travel on the bike to 120-millimeters. Ibis had also originally planned to equip the small and medium-sized Ripleys with 26-inch wheels, because they couldn't get the handlebars low enough. Fork tapers were too long at the time, which required very long headtubes that (in conjunction with the 29er forks’ longer axle to crown dimensions) would lead to stupidly high handlebars and crap handling. Fork manufacturers, however, began shortening the tapers on their steerers and this allowed Ibis to make the entire Ibis Ripley line in a 29er flavor.
It took awhile to dial in the geometry as well. Basically, Ibis wanted to build a 29er that steered and handled like a nimble 26er, but which also brought big-wheel benefits to the party (namely better angle of attack and roll over). When Trek opened up the 51-millimeter fork offset to other manufacturers (it was originally a Gary Fisher exclusive), Ibis was able to reduce the trail on the fork and improve the responsiveness of the steering (so that, again, it more closely matched that of a 26er).
THE END RESULT
Ibis went to great lengths to make a bike with a shorter rear-center, low standover, low handlebar height, and low bottom bracket—all with an intent to give the bike a more agile feel. They also, however, opted for a somewhat slacker head angle and a longer front center—to give the bike a more stable and confident feel on descents.
As we mentioned earlier, you can also run a 140-millimeter fork on the Ibis Ripley, which obviously slackens the head angle a bit (from 70-degrees with a 120 fork to 68.5-degrees with the longer travel option) . If you feel like geeking out on geometry charts, we've included them here as well.
As for drivetrain, you can run the bike as a triple, double or a single-ring set up. Ibis states that the Ripley is, in fact, the first DW-Link bike designed around a 2×10 drivetrain. It's optimized to mesh with a 35-millimeter chainring and will pedal well with the 29er-friendly (lower-geared) double chainring set ups. Clearly, XX1 would work well here. But if you love your triple-ring crankset, Ibis notes that'll work just fine as well.
Here are the Ripley’s key features
• 120mm rear wheel dw-link travel
• 5.0 Pound frame with X-Fusion MicroLite Shock, 5.2 pounds with Fox RP23 CTD
• Approved for 120-140mm forks, 32 or 34 stanchion
• Tapered head tube (Cane Creek AngleSet & Chris King InSet 3)
• Internal TT cable routing with molded carbon cable stops
• Shock Specs: 184mm x 44mm with .4 volume spacer
• Provision for cable-actuated adjustable seat posts
• BB92/Press GXP style integrated BB
• 142mm Maxle rear axle
• 160mm carbon fiber post mount rear brake mounts
• High direct mount front derailleur mounts directly on swingarm
• Headset: IS ZS44/28.6 | EC49/40
• BB height w/ 2.1″ tires: 325mm (12.8″)
• Geometry measured with 520.8mm axle to crown fork
WHAT WILL IT COST?
You're looking at $2,900 for the full carbon fiber Ripley frame with a Fox Kashima-coat, Float CTD rear shock. Complete bikes range in price from $4,700 to $7,000 and there are all sorts of customizable tweaks in the offering as well. Here's an abbreviated price list.
Check out these other videos from Bike Magazine’s Blueprint series: