Competive Cyclist - Ripmo First Impressions

Nov 06, 2018

Competitive Cyclist review intro

Gar­son at com​pet​i​tive​cy​clist​.com recent­ly post­ed a nice­ly con­sid­ered review of the Rip­mo on com​pet​i​tive​cy​clist​.com. Appar­ent­ly it’s not pos­si­ble for peo­ple in the EU to vis­it com​pet​i​tive​cy​clist​.com any­more due to some weird new inter­net laws. So if you’d like to read the review, and can’t because you keep being redi­rect­ed to alpine​trek​.co​.uk, we thought we’d make things easy for you and just post the full write up below ↓↓↓

Rip­mo: First Impressions

With the release of the Rip­mo, Ibis placed itself at the sharp end of one of the most com­pet­i­tive spaces in moun­tain bik­ing, name­ly the long trav­el, enduro-focused 29’er mar­ket. And while the Ripmo’s aggres­sive intent makes it an easy choice for enduro rac­ers, what’s remark­able is how easy it is to ride for every­one else.

The author chas­ing Ibis ambas­sador and cer­ti­fied leg­end Bri­an Lopes. At 6’ tall, the author felt that the large was a per­fect fit. Lopes, at 510”, had test­ed mul­ti­ple sizes, and pre­ferred the medi­um Ripmo.

The Ori­gin

Even if Ibis hadn’t spelled it out, it wouldn’t take a great leap to real­ize that the Rip­mo name is a mashup of the two fam­i­lies that have pre­vi­ous­ly com­prised the brand’s moun­tain bike offer­ings- Rip­ley and Mojo. By pair­ing the 2017 EWS team over­all win­ning spir­it of the Mojo HD4 with the big­ger wheels and wel­com­ing nature of the Rip­ley, Ibis set out to build a long trav­el, big wheeled trail bike to com­pete in what has become one of moun­tain biking’s most hot­ly con­test­ed spaces.

The Geom­e­try

Although Ibis has devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for bikes whose han­dling is fair­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, the Ripmo’s geom­e­try is so new school it could be con­sid­ered futur­is­tic. The shift start­ed with the seat tube angle, which was pushed sev­er­al degrees for­ward of Ibis’s oth­er offer­ings. The rea­sons for this are twofold- it shifts the rider’s seat­ed neu­tral weight bal­ance for­ward, which makes the steer­ing quick­er, and coun­ter­acts the ten­den­cy of the bike to sag under climb­ing, which dra­mat­i­cal­ly enhances its ascend­ing abil­i­ties. At the same time, the seat tube was short­ened dra­mat­i­cal­ly, allow­ing rid­ers on a size small to run a 150mm drop­per, and taller rid­ers to run drop­pers 170mm or longer.

Of course, each aspect of frame geom­e­try impacts the over­all han­dling, and a change of sev­er­al degrees at the seat tube has a cas­cad­ing effect mov­ing for­ward. In order to main­tain a com­fort­able tip to cen­ter mea­sure­ment (tip of sad­dle to cen­ter of han­dle­bar), the reach mea­sure­ment was length­ened rough­ly a full inch as com­pared to the already roomy Mojo 4.

The final piece of the puz­zle was the move to a short­er off­set fork, which is a trend that’s rapid­ly being adopt­ed indus­try wide. Geom­e­try nerds will rec­og­nize that the ben­e­fit of this change is to increase the trail mea­sure­ment, which enhances the sta­bil­i­ty of the front wheel by, at the risk of over­sim­pli­fy­ing, pro­vid­ing a more pro­nounced cast­er effect (as in cast­er wheel). Basi­cal­ly, with a short­er fork off­set, Ibis is able to achieve a trail mea­sure­ment that would oth­er­wise only be pos­si­ble by relax­ing the head angle almost two degrees. And despite the trend towards ever slack­er head angles, rak­ing the fork out fur­ther would stretch the already mas­sive wheel­base and com­pro­mise the Ripmo’s cor­ner­ing in tight turns. For Ibis, the goal was not to cre­ate an enduro spe­cif­ic freight train but a ver­sa­tile trail bike that’s also com­fort­able when pushed flat out in wild ter­rain. And at the risk of skip­ping ahead, the Rip­mo most cer­tain­ly deliv­ers on that promise.

The Fea­tures

Rather than slap­ping big­ger wheels onto the Mojo HD4, the design team at Ibis effec­tive­ly start­ed with a blank slate when design­ing the Rip­mo. That free­dom in the design phase has result­ed in a sleek, beau­ti­ful machine. With frame weights start­ing at rough­ly five pounds with­out a shock, the Rip­mo is aston­ish­ing­ly light­weight. At the same time, Ibis’s no-non­sense 7 year war­ran­ty sug­gests a great deal of con­fi­dence in its rugged­ness as well. From design ele­ments like the inter­nal cable tun­nels, which do away with near­ly all of the headaches often asso­ci­at­ed with inter­nal cable rout­ing, to the choice to stick with a proven BSA thread­ed bot­tom brack­et, it’s clear that every design fea­ture was dri­ven by the desire to build a reli­able bike that’s easy to live with.

The sig­na­ture DW Link sus­pen­sion is sim­i­lar to that found on the Mojo 4 and makes 145mm of trav­el at the rear wheel. The biggest dif­fer­ence is the low­er link, which employs Igus bush­ings rather than bear­ings. Although it enhances stiff­ness and saves rough­ly 80g over the pre­vi­ous link, Ibis claims that the pri­ma­ry dri­ver for this shift was improved reli­a­bil­i­ty. After all, bush­ings are designed for high load, low rota­tion appli­ca­tions, which is pre­cise­ly the sit­u­a­tion faced by the low­er link on a DW Link bike. And while many peo­ple, the author includ­ed, have had issues with bush­ing-based designs in the past, the typ­i­cal design flaws that cause bush­ing fail­ures, name­ly con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, poor tol­er­ances, and exces­sive side load­ing have all been addressed by a clever link design that ensures pre­cise fit, an air and water­tight seal, and instal­la­tion that’s essen­tial­ly impos­si­ble to get wrong. There are sure to be some skep­tics, but those rid­ing Turn­ers or Knollys will glad­ly vouch for the dura­bil­i­ty of bush­ings when employed correctly.

Mojo HD4 link (left) com­pared with the much lighter Rip­mo link (right)

The Ride

With the wheel­base of a size large Rip­mo mea­sur­ing in at a sprawl­ing 48.3 inch­es, it’s easy to imag­ine that this bike is a sled. But in real­i­ty, that assump­tion is dead wrong.

Although the Rip­mo ini­tial­ly felt very roomy, it was a mat­ter of min­utes before the cock­pit just felt right. The first on trail impres­sion came in the form of some quick, tricky cor­ners that, accord­ing to con­ven­tion­al wis­dom, should have tripped up the enor­mous Rip­mo. Instead, it intu­itive­ly bobbed and weaved through the flat and occa­sion­al­ly rooty cor­ners that made up the begin­ning of the test ride. There’s no deny­ing that it’s long, but it’ll dice turns with bikes that are inch­es short­er and be over­all eas­i­er to ride in the process.

For a big bike, it’s a pep­py and grace­ful climber. The DW Link suspension’s firm­ness at the ped­als and the open chest posi­tion allowed by the Ripmo’s fit make it very easy to gain ele­va­tion. In tricky tech­ni­cal sec­tions, the steep­er seat tube angle and sta­ble steer­ing geom­e­try make it unbe­liev­ably sim­ple to keep motor­ing up sec­tions that I’ve strug­gled with on oth­er bikes. Although its climb­ing abil­i­ties aren’t its pri­ma­ry sell­ing fea­ture, they very well could be.

Get­ting it point­ed down­hill was gen­uine­ly eye open­ing. Although the length affords it a great degree of fore/​aft sta­bil­i­ty, it requires very lit­tle effort to set up for cor­ners. Once laid over, its com­po­sure inspires imme­di­ate con­fi­dence. Unlike some slack­er bikes, the steer­ing geom­e­try dis­plays the sig­na­ture light touch at the bars that has become a call­ing card for Ibis.

Even when the front end pushed in the slight­ly greasy con­di­tions, it did so pre­dictably. This trait encour­aged the rid­er to stay com­mit­ted and wait for the side­knobs to regain trac­tion, which they man­aged to do every sin­gle time. As com­pared to my per­son­al High­tow­er LT, for exam­ple, the seem­ing­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry blend of light touch and enhanced sta­bil­i­ty was unde­ni­able. While I could see some rid­ers need­ing time to adjust, I per­son­al­ly felt imme­di­ate­ly at home.

San­ta Cruz’s trails skew loamy and rooty, so I didn’t have a chance to real­ly put the Rip­mo through its paces in the rough, but the ini­tial impres­sion was that this exam­ple of DW Link sus­pen­sion is as good as it has ever been. It’s firm at the ped­als, even under shifts in body mass, and the nature of the sus­pen­sion design means that very lit­tle com­pres­sion damp­ing is required to pro­vide sta­bil­i­ty, which allows for excel­lent com­pli­ance over minute trail chat­ter. To that end, I was noti­fied that after much test­ing, most of Ibis’s team rid­ers pre­ferred the Fox DPX2 rear shock over the FLOAT X2 because the for­mer offers a lighter com­pres­sion tune. Those opt­ing for the X2 upgrade would be wise to start with the low speed com­pres­sion adjuster backed all the way out as they begin their quest for the ide­al setup.

The Com­peti­tors

The Ripmo’s blend of fea­tures make a head-on com­par­i­son some­what tricky. It’s not a trail flat­ten­ing tro­phy truck like the Evil Wreck­on­ing or the Trek Slash, and while the Wreck­on­ing may have an edge in terms of straight line smash­ing, I sus­pect that the dif­fer­ence is one of per­cep­tion more so than mea­sur­able advan­tage. Under­stand­ing that lim­i­ta­tion would allow a thought­ful rid­er to make up the deficit by exploit­ing the Ripmo’s supe­ri­or quick­ness in cor­ners and mel­low­er sec­tions of trail. In spir­it, the Rip­mo is very sim­i­lar to San­ta Cruz’s High­tow­er LT, which is my per­son­al ride at the time of writ­ing this. As some­one who fre­quent­ly finds myself between sizes in San­ta Cruz’s offer­ings, I appre­ci­at­ed the drop­per post clear­ance afford­ed by the short­er seat tube. The same goes for the longer reach, which enabled me to adopt a rid­ing posi­tion marked by a straighter spine and more open chest, reduc­ing the amount of core engage­ment required to keep the bike on a line. As com­pared to Yeti’s SB5.5, the Rip­mo sim­ply feels quick­er and lighter, with trac­tion, effi­cien­cy, and aggres­sive­ness to match the biggest SuperBike.

I’ve yet to ride Transition’s Sen­tinel, which is prob­a­bly the Ripmo’s clos­est com­pe­ti­tion due to its near­ly iden­ti­cal trav­el, steep seat tube angle and short off­set fork. By all accounts, it’s a gen­uine­ly impres­sive machine. That said, the Sen­tinel is rough­ly two degrees slack­er and a pound heav­ier, which should push it fur­ther in the direc­tion of the Wreck­on­ing or Slash, hand­ing the Rip­mo a deci­sive edge in terms of ver­sa­til­i­ty. The oth­er option that squares up nice­ly with the Rip­mo is Pivot’s Switch­blade, which despite hav­ing 10mm less trav­el at both ends offers up very sim­i­lar fit and han­dling. How­ev­er, the Ripmo’s short off­set fork and slight­ly more pro­gres­sive geom­e­try put it a step ahead, espe­cial­ly as the entire indus­try seems to be shift­ing towards a sim­i­lar geo­met­ric con­cept for long trav­el trail bikes. Frankly, it appears that the Ripmo’s clos­est com­pe­ti­tion will come from future chal­lengers, rather than the cur­rent crop.

In Con­clu­sion

I strug­gled to find any­thing I didn’t like about the Rip­mo. It’s long, sta­ble, for­giv­ing, and aggres­sive, just like you want from an enduro race bike. At the same time, it’s com­fort­able, light, effi­cient, and refined, as a great trail bike should be. Fur­ther­more, its fea­ture set checks essen­tial­ly every box on my per­son­al wish list. Grant­ed, I’d pre­fer to have the option to run it with a coil shock, as the lack of end stroke pro­gres­sion makes such a set­up unad­vis­able. But that’s my only real gripe, and the rest of the pack­age makes that par­tic­u­lar short­com­ing eas­i­ly for­giv­able. And lest any­one assume that these are emp­ty plat­i­tudes, I should note that imme­di­ate­ly after hand­ing back my demo bike, I walked into the Ibis sales office to order one for myself.

In the com­pet­i­tive class of long trav­el 29’ers, the Rip­mo strikes a remark­able bal­ance between the char­ac­ter of a trail steed and the for­give­ness of an enduro rac­er. If that sounds like the for­mu­la for your next trail bike, the Rip­mo absolute­ly deserves a top spot on your list.

ABOUT GAR­SON

I grew up in West­ern Mass, then spent a few years in Ver­mont before relo­cat­ing to Utah. Between fam­i­ly, swim­ming holes, and the moun­tain bik­ing, my heart will for­ev­er be in New Eng­land. I love to ped­al, despite grow­ing up rac­ing Down­hill. When I’m not writ­ing copy for Com­pet­i­tive Cyclist, I’m usu­al­ly rid­ing bikes, snow­board­ing, drink­ing cof­fee, or some com­bi­na­tion thereof.”