Specialty Files: 1983 Ibis

In: BLAST FROM THE PAST By: Dirt Rag Contributor On: October 27, 2016

Ibis Cycles has deep mountain biking roots that can be traced back to Scot Nicol’s garage circa 1981.

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Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #153, published in November 2010. Words and photos by Jeff Archer.


Many riders are familiar with the current carbon fiber offerings from Ibis Cycles but may not realize the company has deep mountain biking roots that can be traced back to Scot Nicol’s garage circa 1981. The disconnect is likely made even stronger by the three-year hiatus Ibis took from 2002-2005. Scot sold Ibis to an investment group in 2000 and by 2002 Ibis was bankrupt. Scot resumed control in 2005 to become one of the few mountain bike pioneers still affiliated with their original company.

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In the early days, Scot collaborated with Charlie Cunningham, who later co-founded Wilderness Trail Bikes, on projects such as the Speedmaster roller cam brake and modified Hi-E hubs. The brakes used specific mounts that were not compatible with traditional cantilever brakes but afforded increased stopping power and better modulation. When this bike was new, suggested retail for a complete Ibis bicycle was $1,000. The Speedmaster brakes were an additional $100 each over the stock MAFAC or Shimano Deore XT brakes. A pair of brakes would increase the price of the bike by nearly 20 percent! Suntour later licensed the brake design and produced more affordable versions. The Speedmaster brakes are still highly sought-after by collectors, with a few even designing new frames around the brakes.

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The hubs started out as standard Hi-E hubs and were strengthened by riveting the center section to the flanges. The rear hub uses a “high-low” configuration with the drive side flange being larger in diameter, which helps even out the spoke tension from side to side. Once again, this was an expensive option which added $95 per pair over the stock Shimano, Suntour or Specialized hubs.

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The final custom Ibis touch is the stem. The traditional threaded fork uses a brazed-in stub to provide a mount for the stem. The stem is similar to the current Aheadset system, except the fork still uses a traditional threaded headset. The rest of the components are fairly typical of the era.

According to the 1984 Ibis catalog, “The perfect all terrain bicycle hasn’t been made yet.” It is good to see Scot is still trying 30 years later.

This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at www.mombat.org.

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Frame and fork: Chromoly
Hubs: Hi-E, modified
Rims: Saturne X-22
Stem: Ibis
Saddle: Brooks B-17
Brakes: Cunningham/Ibis Speedmaster
Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT “deer head”
Serial number: 46

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