Photos by Justin Steiner
Anyone who followed the saga of the Ripley knows this bike wasn’t easy to birth. Between a completely new dw-link system that uses eccentrics rather than links and a switch to a different factory in the middle of development, to say this was a difficult labor would be an understatement.
Ibis stuck it out, and this bike is an impressive heir to the Ripley name, first used on a John Castellano–designed aluminum softail with 1.25 inches of travel. That bike was part of the pivotless craze driven largely by Ibis 1.0 and bikes like the pivotless 5-inch-travel Bow-Ti. Now executed in modern carbon fiber, the form factor of the Ripley has changed, but the ride remains the most important design criteria.
Ibis is no longer afraid of pivots, and the Ripley pushes the envelope again with the tiny eccentrics standing in for the links in the Dave Weagle–designed suspension. With the bike originally conceived as a 100 mm travel race-ready 29er, the eccentrics seemed like a perfect solution to the desired geometry, weight and performance goals. But after spending enough time on longer-travel trail bikes, Ibis deemed more travel was better and the whole system was rethought for this current 120 mm rear end.
The swingarm of the Ripley covers up most of the interesting bits of the suspension, but keeps with the Roxy Lo aesthetic shared by all modern Ibises: organic and flowing, yet purposeful and distinct. Hiding the pivots from sight also shelters them from much of the muck that ends up on the bike, which should help to extend bearing life. The bearings are off-the-shelf units, so no worries about replacement when the time comes.
The eccentrics do require extra attention when servicing, including using a thread-locking compound and lowering the torque on the bolts. There have been some running changes to the hardware and fastening torque over the first few years, but everything seems squared away now and my tester was click- and squeak-free.
Ibis has a big selection of build kits with 1x and 2x options from Shimano and SRAM and forks from RockShox and Fox. I rode the Shimano XT option with an upgrade to the Cane Creek Inline rear shock and Thomson dropper post. The 120 mm Fox Float 32 CTD fork can be swapped for a longer-travel 140 mm RockShox Pike or Fox 34—something I would recommend for bigger or harder-charging riders.
The geometry is an interesting balance between old school and new school. The head angle with a 120 mm fork is an even 70 degrees, chainstays come in at 17.4 inches and the bottom bracket hangs out at 12.8 inches. These numbers are pretty standard these days, but the 23.8-inch top tube and 16.3-inch reach are substantially shorter than many similar trail bikes, forcing me to use a 90 mm stem and 740 mm wide bars to create a proper-sized cockpit. The shorter top tube means the wheelbase, at 44.1 inches, is quite short for a bike of this size.
All that geometry adds up to a 27.2 pound bike that feels nimble and likes to be steered. Small inputs go a long way, giving the bike the feeling of a confident cross-country machine. The longer stem keeps some weight on the front wheel, and combined with a rear suspension that stays up in its travel, this bike climbs steeps with poise and confidence. On the flats, that same suspension is efficient enough to race cross-country, should the mood strike, and with a lightweight build kit it wouldn’t be at much of a disadvantage against a pure XC race bike.
While nimble in the tight and twisties, there is some confidence lost in the steep and treacherous. This is mostly due to the longer stem and shorter front center compared to other 29er trail bikes, but it is mitigated in large part with a dropper post.
On less steep, choppy terrain, the dw-link suspension works its magic, handling multiple hits in a controlled manner and using full travel with no harsh bottoming-out sensations. The fancy Inline rear shock allows tuning for more or less small-bump compliance, but compared to the most supple suspension designs out there, this one feels slightly harsh on smaller hits. This is a minor quibble, and the suspension character is very well matched to the nimble feel of this bike.
With most recently introduced 29er trail bikes taking their cues from the enduro-cation of geometry, the Ripley stands out as appealing to a rider who cut his or her teeth on bikes in the days of longer stems and steeper angles. A longer-travel fork would definitely make it a more aggressive descender without losing any of the snappy pedaling behavior that makes it such a joy to ride for hours at a time. If your shopping list includes choices like the Kona Process 111 and Transition Smuggler, this might not be the bike for you. But if you are considering the Scott Genius 29er or Trek Fuel EX 29, add the Ripley to your wish list.
My somewhat odd-sounding takeaway from my time on this bike: It reminds me of a hardtail. Once I got the suspension dialed to where I wanted it, I rarely thought about it anymore and flipped lockout levers only when I was on pavement. With complete bikes ranging from $3,950 to up in the $10K range (our test bike as shown retails for $5,580), the Ripley is in no way cheap, but it is very competitive.
- Price: $5,850
- Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
- Wheelbase: 44.1 inches
- Top Tube: 23.8 inches
- Head tube angle: 70 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 73 degrees
- Bottom bracket height: 12.8 inches
- Rear center 17.4 inches
- Weight: 27.2 pounds
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