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Ibis Ripley Mountain Bike Frame - 2014 Review

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Ibis Ripley Mountain Bike Frame - 2014

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Detail On : Ibis Ripley Mountain Bike Frame - 2014

In 2005, when Ibis' modern Mojo first touched dirt, its pedigree wasn't what caused a stir in an industry dominated by beer-can frames. An organic shape, progressive material choice, and extensive development -- which undoubtedly pointed to the future -- caused a period of high consumer demand and sent competitors scrambling. Like that Mojo, the 120mm-travel Ripley Mountain Bike Frame's six-years of development has kept the big-wheel club on their toes with anticipation for what this team of Californians are capable of.

And, given the successful re-launch of Ibis and intelligent evolution of the Mojo into the SL/SL-R/HD line, 29er enthusiasts have just reason to be excited for an Ibis twist on the 29er FS platform. For starters, Scot Nicol's engineers set their sights on applying the advantages of larger wheels to a playful trail bike -- where they felt 29er merits are best applied. In order to achieve this, they needed a lightweight and nimble chassis that took advantage of all modern standards.

With monocoque carbon fiber already mastered, the lightweight-chassis box was an easy one to check. But in order to achieve nimbleness -- a mystical trait for sprung 29ers that's easily lost to wheelbase-stretching linkages and front derailleur placement -- the team had to push boundaries. And to do that, they enlisted the help of a suspension specialist that goes by the name of Dave Weagle.

Yes, the same Dave that brought DW-Link magic to the Mojo. This time around, though, suspension linkages were the focus of scrutiny as they are a main contributor to elongated chainstays. Mr. DW had his work cut out for him if he was going to retain the lauded characteristics of his original design in a compact package. What he came up with is a twin-eccentric system, optimized around 32 -34t front chainrings. This provided the same anti-squat pedaling efficiency and active motion that initially crowned Weagle suspension guru.

One cause of the Ripley's extended development period was due to fine tuning the eccentric bearing system. In fact, Ibis concurrently designed two systems -- one exploring long-life, lightweight, and adjustable bushings, while the other using proven, but heavier angular contact bearings. In the end, steel balls triumphed over the bushings, and Ibis focused on refining the interface to reduce weight and complexity.

The result is a durable system that uses standard bearings for serviceability. It's simple to disassemble and reassemble with a minute weight penalty. While this is the first 29er Ibis and the first Ibis to receive an eccentric suspension design, those are not the only firsts for the Ripley. Its carbon structure is also the first Ibis to use a micro balloon foam core.

Forming monocoque carbon fiber structures without voids requires molds, both internal and external -- and like the Mojo SL-R, the Ripley uses an internal bladder to create a smooth, joint-free lay-up. But certain areas -- in tighter places where complex shapes are required -- it's impossible to use bladders. This was the case for the Ripley's swingarm uprights and clevis (the component connecting the swing arm to the shock).

To solve this problem, most manufacturers will use foam or aluminum for structure to layer the carbon over. This adds significant weight to a frame, and extra weight was not within the Ripley's design parameters. Ibis' solution to this problem, the micro-balloon or microsphere core, not only added strength and rigidity to the Ripley, it also tipped the scale to half what traditional foam cores would. This undoubtedly contributed to the Ripley's feathery five-pound weight, but, as stated before, Ibis also wanted a nimble 29er. And, while DW's eccentric design opened up the door to this goal, geometry would be an essential part to the Ripley's objective.

The Mojo is praised and loved for its handling and set the bar for what the Ripley had to achieve -- after all, Ibis athletes will hop on an HD for a day at the park, or throw a leg over the SL-R for a little XC action. What this led to was Ibis exploring multiple current-29er geometries to try to find the holy grail, but everything fell short of expectations.

Ibis set out to produce a bike that handled how they felt a 29er should handle by placing riders on multiple bikes with Anglesets, and exploring trail options. Not trail in the sense of singletrack, but the relationship of steering axis, offset, and tire contact patch. It's a measurement used frequently within competitive suspension design in motorsports, but has seen little publicity among mountain bikes.

After quantifying the independent observations of the riders, what they found is the Ripley rode best with a 70-degree angle from 120mm travel forks and 68.5-degree angle from 140mm ones. This is where the rake measurement mentioned before comes into play. With a 140mm fork, the Ripley displayed traits within the realm that riders preferred for more aggressive terrain.

The 120mm fork, on the other hand, ended up feeling best with longer rake -- unfortunately that was a competitor's exclusive. Luckily, the exclusivity recently ended, and now the FOX Racing Shox 32 FLOAT 120 G2 CTD is available to anyone. Ibis felt the Ripley was ready to, for lack of a better term, rip. This combination, along with the stubby 17.5-inch chainstays, a bottom bracket height that hovers slightly above or below 13-inches depending on which fork you use, and a 73-degree seat angle offered all the ride characteristics Ibis desired from the Ripley.

Completing the picture is a mixed tapered (ZS44/EC49) head tube that permits a comfortable fit for small frames, a direct mount, swing-arm located front derailleur, a 12x142mm rear thru-axle, and a BB92/PressFit bottom bracket interface. We can confidently say the Ripley checks all the right boxes. And if that's not enough feature packing, the Ripley uses internal cable routing for the derailleurs to keep lines clean, while a top tube mounted guide permits remote seat-dropper operation.

The Ibis Ripley Mountain Bike Frame - 2014 uses a 160mm post-mount rear disc brake and a 31.6mm seatpost. It comes in Sizes Small through X-Large, and two colors: Blue and Matte Black.

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