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Hands-on Gear Review
Ibis Ripley LS NX 2018 Review
Cons: Requires an experienced rider to unlock full potential, poor build specification
Bottom line: Sharp handling trail bike with a quick-witted attitude.
The Ibis Ripley offers a nimble and playful ride with razor-sharp handling. Downhill skills are precise allowing riders to change direction in a hurry. Playful antics are highly encouraged and riders are inspired to slice and dice their way through technical sections. Cornering this fluorescent fun-wagon provides the overused, but extremely relevant, doesn't feel like a 29er sensation. Climbing abilities are respectable, but we expected a little more efficiency from a 120mm bike. This zippy bicycle features a dialed frame and suspension design but is outfitted with a few sub-par components. Regardless of the lack of braking power and drivetrain quality, the Ripley provides an undeniably high-end ride.
We recommend this bike for a pure, grin-inducing trail bike experience. Intermediate to advanced riders with the skills to finesse through technical sections of trail will especially appreciate the Ripley. The 2.6-inch tires also make it an excellent choice for loose or sandy conditions. The Santa Cruz Tallboy is nearly as fun and a little more stable when straight-lining through chunky sections of trail, but it's not as flat-out playful and is harder to work through tight turns. If you want to attack steep and rowdy terrain regularly, look to the hard-nosed Santa Cruz Hightower. Interested in the same nimble handling as the Ripley in a bigger riding bike with an eye-popping value, check out the dialed 27.5-inch wheeled Commencal Meta TR.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Trail Mountain Bikes of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Four testers pitted the Ripley against three of today's top trail bikes, the 2018 Santa Cruz Hightower, 2018 Specialized Stumpjumper 29, and 2018 Yeti SB4.5. We raced these bikes head-to-head, and then we compared them to every trail bike we've ever tested. Here's what we found out.
The Ibis Ripley has an extremely fun and agreeable personality. The attitude with which this bicycle attacks the trail is truly unique. Quick steering and a lively personality inspire riders to bounce over rocks and roots. Mix in copious amounts of traction? Sounds fun to us.
For those who haven't thrown a leg over a 29er in recent years, the thought of a 120mm wagon wheeled bike might conjure up adjectives like boring and sluggish. Ibis was way ahead of the curve when fun and snappy short travel bikes came into fashion in recent years. The Ripley LS is indisputable evidence that short travel bikes can be far more fun than their squishier compatriots on the majority of terrain. The short, 1137mm wheelbase and wide rubber make steering this vessel both quick and confident, allowing riders to drop aggressively into berms. The ability to change directions in a hurry and carve up the trail is extremely fun.
Terms like poppy and zippy are hurled at far too many bikes in 2017. That said, both terms describe the Ibis Ripley LS extraordinarily well. Pumping through berms and rolls in the trail is effective and thrilling. Given the shorter feel of this bicycle, getting it airborne is particularly easy. One tester noted that the Ripley can easily hop in and out of a line. Side-hits and shenanigans are highly encouraged aboard this happymobile.
We tested the 2017, second generation, Ripley last year. The previous iteration suffered from an unusually high number of pedal strikes. Nothing harshes a ferociously fun time more than an organ-rattling pedal strike. Although it has a nearly identical bottom bracket height and the same crank arm length, the 2018 version, has seemingly remedied this problem. We will dive into the lack of pedal smashes in the climbing section, but the important takeaway is that fewer pedal strikes equal more fun.
We scored the Ibis Ripley LS at the top of the test for its ultra-amusing properties. Yes, its that fun. The hard-charging Yeti SB5.5 and Santa Cruz Hightower LT both scored highly as well for their aggressive attitude. The Commencal Meta TR 4.2 approaches the Ripley's live-wire personality with smaller wheels and slightly more travel. The Santa Cruz Tallboy offers similar grin-inducing short-travel fun levels.
When it is time to point this bike downhill, the sporty and nimble theme persists. While this phrase has been uttered continuously over the past few years, the Ripley LS truly does not feel like a 29er. This bike slays corners with ease, assuming you fit on this ultra-short bike. The quick-witted attitude of the Ripley turns the trail into a playground.
The Ripley is a sporty and capable descender. Still, it is best suited to attack flowier trails or ones with few lengthy rock gardens. It can get rattled under sustained impacts. Our testers are drinking the Kool-Aid when it comes to wide tires on a short travel bike. The Ripley is fantastic through the corners and provides an exceptional amount of grip in most conditions. Pumping through berms is confident and stable no matter how sandy. This grip provides an exceptional amount of confidence to carry more and more speed. This bike handles speed well and does not get flustered when the throttle is cranked to 11 on moderate trails.
Relatively low amounts of body language are required to get this bike into party mode. As soon as even consider making a move, the bike reacts instantly. The Ibis wants to rally, seeking out fun features in the trail to bounce off and jump over. We cleaned our favorite flowy jump trail was cleaned with ease due to the ability to carry enormous amounts of speed through the berms.
When aimed down rowdy terrain, the Ripley LS remains composed. However, Our enduro-minded testers agreed that the Ripley provides harsh feedback when pushed out of its comfort zone. While it is capable of getting aggressive, riders are very aware they are riding a 120mm travel bike as the experience can be described as harsh at times. It seems obvious, but a short travel trail bike is an inherently rougher ride when driven hard. Running the 2.6-inch tires at a lower pressure, say 18-20 PSI, helps to reduce or soften the chatter.
The best approach for tackling rough sections of trail is to use the nimble handling to find clever or sneaky lines. Sharp handling corrects poor line choices with relative ease and the chunky rubber holds on to off camber sections nicely. Slice and dice your way through the chunk and you'll come out smelling like a rose.
Our 5' 9"+ testers felt the tight, 600mm top tube on the medium Ripley had a negative effect on downhill performance. This was especially the case with cornering. The short reach put more weight over the front of the bike, forcing the rider's weight deep into Fox Float 34 fork's smooth travel. Not ideal. One tester noted that it felt like his nose was hanging over the front axle. This creates an element feeling of instability, especially when carrying speed.
The Ibis Ripley scored more modestly for its downhill skills. Obviously, the relatively moderate score doesn't mean we don't love riding this bike down a hill. We do, it just lacks travel and confidence on rough terrain. It ties withSanta Cruz Tallboy, and the two bikes are our favorite descenders within their short-travel range. The fun-loving Rocky Mountain Altitude and Commencal Meta TR 4.2 are both more competent on challenging black diamond terrain. Top honors go to the Santa Cruz Hightower LT and Yeti SB5.5 which both top out the test.
We raced the 2018 Ibis Ripley against the 2018 Hightower, Specialized Stumpjumper 29, and Yeti SB4.5. The Ripley finished second, approximately 1.5 seconds off the winning pace of the Hightower. Our DH course took an average of 3 minutes 38 seconds to complete.
Ascending sinuous singletrack is a spectacular experience aboard the 3rd generation Ripley. The short and nimble feel works in your favor when navigating up switchbacks and making tight maneuvers. Riders are in a very neutral position thanks to a semi-slack 67.8-degree head angle middle of the road 73.2-degree seat tube angle.
Two of our testers who straddle the line between medium and large frame sizes find the medium frame to be very tight in the cockpit. We measured the reach to be 412mm. These riders stated confidently that they would need the extra space of a large frame to feel comfortable on the climbs. Smashing your knees on the bar when steering through an uphill corner is less than ideal. Our small to medium frame testers are on the opposite end of the spectrum, with this cockpit feeling all-day comfortable.
Motoring through wide uphill corners requires minimal effort and the gigantic 2.6-inch tires keep you glued to the dirt. The plus-size tire craze came in full force and seem to be falling out of favor on full suspension bikes. The 2.6-inch Nobby Nics are a nice compromise between normal width and mid-fat rubber. Schwalbe tires are notorious for burning, or wearing, faster than the competition. The new Addix Speedgrip compound spec'd on our test bike was designed to increase durability while still offering the same grip as the old Pacestar and Trailstar rubber compounds. Our test period showed substantial tire wear on the Ripley's Addix Speedgrip tires. That said, it is an undeniable improvement over the old rubber.
The climbing motion remains reasonably efficient while seat or standing, though there is minor pedal bob in the shock's open position. The tires feel glued at all times to the ground and that is critical. Seated climbing on this short travel rig can be jarring on rougher terrain no matter which shock position you use.
As we mentioned above, the 2nd generation 2017 Ripley forced a high number of pedal strikes when climbing rocky terrain. There were significantly fewer pedal strikes aboard the new version during our short test period. A phone call placed to Ibis revealed that the 2018 or 3rd generation Ripley does not use a stiffer shock tune than previous versions. We measured the bottom bracket to be 1mm higher on the 3rd generation Ripley when compared to the 2nd generation bike. This 1mm difference could be due to the meatier tires. At this point, we can't nail down exactly why we didn't smash our pedals with the same frequency as our 2nd generation Ripley. We do know that this is a very good thing.
Climbing abilities didn't blow us out of the water, but we are not complaining too loudly. The Ripley LS is more than capable of getting you to the top of multi-hour slogs with minimal amounts of pain. We still expect a more efficient experience out of a short-travel 29er. Looking for an all-day climber? The Yeti SB4.5 was light-footed and more effective on smooth uphills with sporadic rocks. The Yeti suffers enough in the sustained chop that we heavily prefer the Ripley.
The Ibis Ripley scores very well for its grippy climbing abilities. It's very good, but not outright efficient enough to justify a 10. The Santa Cruz Tallboy ties the Ripley with comfortable and efficient pedaling. The Tallboy is our first choice for long uphills. The harsh, but swift Yeti SB4.5 also posted a solid score for its ultra-efficient feel. Several bikes that earn a high score on the uphill, the Rocky Mountain Altitude, Commencal Meta TR, and Santa Cruz Hightower have longer travel and, as such, are much more capable on demanding downhills compared to the Ripley.
We ran the Hightower and Yeti SB4.5 through time trails on our extremely technical uphill course against the Ripley. The Ripley won, coming in 4 seconds ahead of the cross-country style Yeti SB4.5. Still, we scored the SB4.5 above the Ripley with a 9 of 10. The rocky climb favored the Ripley's insane traction levels while it rattled the SB4.5, which is an incredibly efficient climber on smoother trails. On the majority of trails, we'd rather hop on the Yeti for a long climb. The Hightower is an impressive climber, especially given its excellent descending skills, and came in third in the time trails. Our climbing course took an average of 2 minutes 43 seconds to complete.
Ease of Maintenance
It's important to consider the cost of maintaining your bike. Suspension, dropper posts, drivetrain, frame pivots and brakes all require maintenance. Having a shop that is familiar with your bike's manufacturer is helpful. The Ibis Ripley LS uses the DW Link suspension design. This design requires average levels of service with minimal quirks, though the cable routing can be challenging.
Fox recommends servicing its suspension less frequently than other brands, so it ranks higher. Many mechanics find that they have to service Fox products more often than their intervals suggest, however. Pay attention to the sounds your bike is making as they are the best indication that a component needs love. The Ripley's SRAM brakes are harder to bleed and use more corrosive fluid than Shimano, which uses simple mineral oil.
Find out more about our rating methods in the maintenance section of our Trail Mountain Bike Review.
Frame Design and Measurements
This is the 3rd generation of the popular Ibis Ripley LS. What's different from previous iterations? The newest version features a wider rear triangle that can accept 2.6-inch tires and also improves stiffness.
The Ripley uses the DW-Link suspension design. This design features an upper and a lower link that rotates in the same direction. This system boasts excellent anti-squat properties which firms the suspension up under pedaling loads. DW-Link bikes also react well to braking forces but sacrifice some small bump compliance. The Ripley LS avoids pedal bob and works to partially reduce small bump harshness lower air pressures in the 2.6-inch tires.
We measured the Ripley to have a 67.3-degree head angle, 601mm top tube, and 442mm chainstays to create a 1137mm wheelbase. The bottom bracket sits at a reasonable 332mm and the seat tube angle measures 73.6-degrees. This medium bike hit the scale and came in at 29 lbs 6 ounces without pedals. The overall geometry creates an upright cockpit feel and lively personality that begs to be tossed around. It is the most nimble 29er we've ridden. If you are near the taller end of a particular frame size, we highly recommend sizing up as this bike fits very tight.
The NX build kit is the most affordable model in the Ripley LS lineup. While this build kit certainly allows you to get out and start ripping trail, it does leave a lot to be desired.
Fork and Shock — Our test bike came equipped with a Fox 34 Performance fork with 130mm of travel. This fork uses Fox's affordable GRIP damper as opposed to the higher-end Fit4 damper. Some of the heavier testers had a hard time finding an air pressure that balanced a supportive mid-stroke and a smooth feel. In addition, the GRIP lever didn't seem to provide any adjustment until it is turned 70+% of the way towards the closed position.
The Fox Float DPS rear shock is predictable and reliable. The rear end of the Ripley is calm and composed over rapid-fire small hits. The rear of this bike only runs into trouble when pushing it in terrain above the 120mm pay grade.
Wheels and Tires — Ibis 938 Very Wide Aluminum wheels are pleasant. The 34mm rims provide an excellent footprint for the wide tires. The Ibis hubs are reliable. The engagement is reasonable and makes use of the quick downhill pedal strokes that this bike encourages.
Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.6-inch tires are a delightful specification. This rubber seems extra wide when stacked up against the 2.3 and 2.4-inch Maxxis and Specialized tires on other test bikes. The monstrous contact patch allows riders to corner with confidence and run a lower tire pressure, which increases traction. The common knock on Schwalbe tires is that they wear far more quickly than the competition. The new Addix Speedgrip compound was designed to increase durability and life expectancy of Schwalbe tires. It did make a substantial difference, but the Maxxis and Specialized tires still had significantly more life left after our testing period.
Groupset — The SRAM NX 1x11 drivetrain went relatively unnoticed during testing. Shifting remained fairly crisp over the six week test period and the 30:42 gearing is reasonable. One tester noted that he ran out of gears a few times on high-speed downhills. The derailleur came out of adjustment a few times during our short test period.
SRAM Level brakes perform the stopping duties on this build. These binders lack power. We have tested the higher end Level brakes and found them to be serviceable, but the entry-level version are weak and require a hefty squeeze.
Handlebars, Seat, and Seatpost — The 780mm bars found on our test bike are solid. They are comfortable for all testers and are an appropriate width.
Our bike came stock with a 125mm KS LEV Si dropper post. Given the small size of our medium test frame, our taller testers are above the minimum insert point on the post. We swapped it out for a 150mm RockShox Reverb Stealth that we had sitting around.
We have ridden the KS Lev Si dropper post on previous test bikes and found it operated well.
The $4,699 GX build kit is the next step up from our test model. An extra $700 buys you a GX Eagle 1x12 drivetrain to improve climbing comfort. Braking duties switch to Shimano Deore, which are a definite improvement over the SRAM Level brakes on our test bike. The fork and shock remain unchanged. This could be worth it if you have some extra cash to spend and live in a mountainous area with long or steep climbs.
The high-end builds get pretty spendy. The XT build goes for $6,099. We think this is somewhat of a sweet spot with Fox Factory suspension, an XT 1x11 drivetrain, Shimano XT brakes and carbon Ibis bars. This seems to best balance quality components without crossing into the totally absurd price range.
The top of the line SRAM XX1 build carries a $9,299 price tag. This features a SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain, carbon Ibis rims with Industry Nine hubs with some ENVE components smattered in.
At first glance, it is difficult to call a $4,000 bike with SRAM NX and Level brakes a good value. That said, after putting hundreds of miles on this bike, it is clear the Ibis Ripley LS provides ultra high-end performance. The fun-factor is through the roof on this precision weapon. This bike is a good value for the rider who wants to invest in a top-notch frame and suspension design to grow with.
While this bike is ready for the trail from day one, there are a few tweaks that would only improve the performance.
A relatively inexpensive upgrade would be to switch out the brakes. Shimano XT or SRAM Guide R brakes would be a massive upgrade. Mid-level brakes can cost around $130-150 per brake. Online retailers often have good prices on Shimano products and brakes are easy to find on the secondhand market as brand-new take-offs.
If you plan on owning this bike for the long run, a fork upgrade would be a good idea. A RockShox Pike would provide more support and stiffness.
The Ibis Ripley LS is an absolute trail ninja. While this bike is spendy for the quality of its build specifications, the frame design is a 10 out of 10. Riders seeking a pure light to mid-duty trail bike with a frolicsome and quick-witted attitude will love the Ripley. This is the sort of bike that transcends riding styles and traditional classifications. Nearly anyone with any riding background can have a blast aboard this brilliant bright bicycle. More experienced single-trackers will have a greater appreciation for the nuances.
— Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens, Clark Tate, Cat Keenan, Mike Thomas
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