Review: The Ibis Ripley Delivers Fun in Spades

Review: The Ibis Ripley Delivers Fun in Spades

It’s hard to believe that the Ibis Ripley never lost its luster — even after years of delays. Most products that languish in endless R&D end up dead in the water. But why, in a fast-moving industry, did the Ripley remain relevant and even surprise people when it was finally released in early 2013? I know and many others know as well — Ibis takes their time and does things right. The end result has been well worth the wait.

Ibis Ripley Features — 2014 X01 Build Kit:

  • 120mm travel via DW-Link suspension design
  • Utilizes dual eccentric pivots for a sleek, clean look
  • Fox Float 32 CTD 120mm Kashima fork
  • SRAM X01 drivetrain with E*Thirteen TRS+ crankset
  • Stan’s ZTR Arch 29er wheelset
  • Shimano Deore XT brakes
  • Schwalbe Nobby Nic and Racing Ralph tire combo
  • Truvativ Jerome Clementz BlackBox bar (custom)
  • Specialized Command Post BlackLite (custom)
  • Weight: 26.3 lbs w/Fox Float, 26.6 lbs w/PIKE (with pedals, dropper post & bottle cage)
  • MSRP: $5599

Ibis Ripley X01 Review

The Ripley Sets a Very High Bar

Perhaps I should cut right to the chase on the long-awaited Ibis Ripley: this bike is good. No, this bike is flat-out fantastic. After years of anticipation, the miles aboard the Ripley have made old trails feel new and reminded me of just why I love mountain biking. If you read nothing else, that about sums it up. 

As spec’d, the SRAM X01 model leaves little to be desired. Granted, you could go full-on XX1, but the X01 kit delivers the best value — unless you have a wads of cash to spend. At $5600, the X01 kit is certainly not cheap either, but if 1×11 is what you seek, this is the easiest path.

Originally, I was going to build it up piece-by-piece, but getting the proper offset fork (51mm) just wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. I did end up swapping out a couple of key parts to make it a little more custom. I swapped the Lo-Fi bars with a set of Truvativ Jerome Clementz BlackBox bars and added a Specialized Command Post BlackLite dropper. The wide, low-rise bars are the perfect match and this bike just begs for a dropper post, so plan on budgeting for one.

Ibis Ripley Eccentric DW-Link Suspension

The heart of the Ripley is the unique eccentric pivots that deliver the smoothest DW-Link suspension I’ve ever ridden. The DW is arguably the pinnacle of current suspension designs and executing it the way Ibis did with the Ripley makes it even better. Both uphill and down, the suspension is like butter, yet was still efficient.

The Ripley features 17.4 in. chainstays, which puts it shorter than any other 120 mm travel 29er and even makes them shorter than most 29ers with less travel. Ibis worked hard to maintain these short stays to deliver the playful handling characteristics they sought.

Ibis Ripley Review - Jason Mitchell riding in Corner Canyon, UT

Old Trails Become Playgrounds

I like to climb — I hover consistently in or near the top 10% of all local riders on Strava. While I’m pretty fast, there are many local dudes who can put the hurt on me on any given day (like Fat Cyclist). That said, I expect my bikes to keep up with my ability and not slow me down in any way because to me,  climbing is all business. I expect traction both in and out of the saddle and I expect efficiency while grinding out long climbs.

The Ripley satisfies all those requirements as well as any 120mm trail bike can. Its ability to maintain traction is top-tier, with excellent grip both in and out of the saddle (with an extra-wide sweet spot out of the saddle). The natural anti-squat keeps the suspension in a neutral position with just the right amount of positive and negative travel to ensure a planted rear tire. So, climbs are efficient and the Ripley can spank just about anything you’ll encounter. I’ve beat some old PR’s on the Ripley, but have come up short of others — like those set on the Niner Jet 9 RDO (a lighter, more decidedly XC bike).

At one point, I loaned it out to a friend of mine who wanted to see just what all the fuss was about. He was amazed at how well it descended and how fun it was on the local flow trails. So, here I am… another witness to the downhill prowess of the Ripley. Ibis spent years refining the geometry and suspension design of the Ripley to successfully make it feel as much like a fine-handling 26er as possible.

Ibis Ripley Review - Jason Mitchell enjoying South Fork Deer Creek Trail

When carving through twisty, turny singletrack, you’ll immediately notice the rocket-like acceleration the Ripley exhibits out of corners. Charge the corner with gusto and then step on it and you’ll exit with a ton of momentum and a hefty dose of acceleration. I really love how nicely the Ripley corners and particularly how much speed it carries throughout.

With relatively short chainstays and a responsive chassis, the Ripley feels nimble and fun at every turn. The rear end simply smooths out everything from large, square-edged hits to trail chatter. My only wish is that the Fox Float 32 matched the smoothness provided by the rear suspension — it’s a little unbalanced. In the end, it’s a good complement to the Ripley’s suspension, but not perfect. Luckily, I had a RockShox PIKE 140 at my disposal with a 51mm offset — on it went.

I knew that the PIKE 140 would increase the height of the cockpit and rake out the front wheel just a bit, so I wasn’t all that surprised that I had to consciously place more weight on the front end while climbing. For pure climbing, I’d give the nod to the Fox Float 120 (not much of a surprise). When it comes to downhill, the PIKE turns the Ripley into a force to be reckoned with. The bike loses a little playfulness, but gains a monster truck-like attitude that plows through anything at speeds I wouldn’t dare match on the shorter travel fork.

Without question, the PIKE is smoother, stiffer and more responsive than the Float, but is it more fun? That all depends on your definition of fun. If you’re like me and put a huge emphasis on the climb, then I’d stick with a 120. But, if you are OK with a little more body english on the climbs in favor of downhill dominance, go with a 140mm fork. What might be a nice compromise would be to drop the PIKE down to 120mm travel and get the best of both worlds — hmmm.

While it is a little more work to keep the front end planted with the longer-travel fork, it doesn’t adversely affect climbing speed. On one local climb (3.5 undulating miles with over 800 ft. of vert), I was a few seconds faster overall than on a Niner Jet 9 Al 100 mm travel XC bike — impressive.

Ibis Ripley Review - RockShox PIKE 140

Sorting Out the Ripley’s Bits and Pieces

As mentioned, my X01 kit has just about all you’d need for a lightweight trail bike. The house-brand parts are well-executed and the SRAM X01 drivetrain has performed very well. Shifting remains predictable and smooth. The 32T ring on the E-Thirteen cranks held the chain just as well as any SRAM chainring and the cranks are stiff and strong.

Notably, Ibis chose to spec this kit with Shimano XT brakes. These no-fuss stoppers have been fantastic. They have remained quiet throughout my testing and yield excellent stopping power and modulation. The pads do have a little play in them when troubleshooting in the garage and the width of the bar clamps do make shifter and dropper post placement less-ideal.

The cable routing is external with a thru-routed head tube. It’s pretty straightforward, but due to the routing, I’ve noticed a lot of cable movement back-and-forth, lots of friction points and some cable tapping on rough terrain. I’ve fiddled, but can’t completely eliminate the noisy cables and have had to deploy lots of frame protection where cables rub the finish. Even with the Ibis Cable Dice, I’m still having cable movement/clicking. I may just have to re-do the whole cable routing to remedy.

While I applaud Ibis for building the front triangle such that a water bottle fits inside there, its placement is a bit challenging to access on-the-fly. You have to time access perfectly between pedal strokes or you may very well play “punt the water bottle” like I did a couple of times. A side-entry cage is required and I could only fit a standard-sized 21 oz bottle.

The Good

  • DW-Link is the pinnacle of smooth suspension
  • Climbs very well with excellent traction in/out of the saddle
  • Built-in pedaling platform all but eliminates the need for lockouts
  • Accelerates out of corners like a rocket
  • Handling is superb… not at all 29er-like
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a bike this fun in the category
  • Fun and playful with a 120mm fork
  • Trail-gobbling performer with a 140mm fork
  • The XT brakes have been no-fuss stoppers
  • Excellent tubeless wheelset and tires

The Bad

  • Cable routing has lots of friction points
  • Clicking cables distract from the otherwise smooth ride
  • Accessing the water bottle on-the-fly is really difficult
  • Gotta get the right offset fork

The Bottom Line

After a long wait… the Ripley arrived and all the fanfare is deserved. This is one fantastic trailbike that really does make old trails feel new. Whipping it around corners and accelerating into the next turn is grin-inducing and the unique execution of the DW-Link has paid off in spades.

Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist.com

Written By

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground. Follow Jason Mitchell on Google+.