Ibis strongly recommended sticking with the Fox 34 fork. It is bit lighter than the Rockshox Pike alternative and Fox has updated the damping tune from FIT 3 to FIT 4 which increases suppleness. So far I’ve been happy with the choice and feel the cost and weight savings were worth it.
The drivetrain is a combination of SRAM’s X1 and XO1 and it works flawlessly – as expected.
I opted for the upgrade to the Race Face NEXT SL cranks because I find the Race Face Turbine cranks that come stock to have several sharp, prominent edges at the axle that contact my ankle uncomfortably from time to time, and I was excited to save a third of pound of rotating weight.
Contrary to the spec listed, I received Shimano XT brakes with the build (instead of SRAM / Avid Guide RSC brakes). Both are great options, that have been written about numerous times on Blister.
The wheels are interesting. They feature Ibis’ 938, 32-hole aluminum rim. It offers a wide 34 mm internal width, giving any tire a squarer profile and lots of sidewall support. Additionally, the rim has very asymmetric drilling. This means that most of the rim is offset to one side of the spokes, allowing the spoke angle from the drive side of the bike to closely match the spoke angle from the non-drive side. This results in a stiffer, stronger wheel.
The hubs are a house brand item with 36 points of engagement. Not bad for a house brand hub, but I have been getting some weird and worrying popping from the freehub. I’ll explore that more before the full review.
The one downside to the wide rims is their weight; my wheelset comes in at a portly 2000 g, while a narrower wheelset for a bike like this could be expected to come in closer to 1700 g. The wider rim takes a 2.35” wide Maxxis Ikon tire, and creates the perception of significantly stiffer sidewalls.
On a 23mm-wide rim, I have to choose between grip and casing flex. On the 35mm-wide rim, I can get grip without casing flex, but the less rounded profile it gives the tire results in more rolling resistance. However, the additional sidewall support is enough that I have ended up running only ~20 psi in the front tire and 22 psi in the rear tire.
Ibis offers the Ripley with a Thomson X4 stem in a range of lengths, from 40 mm to 110. I like that they offer this simple, but important customization, saving the purchaser from having to swap out a perfectly good stem that is the wrong length. I chose a 60 mm stem to offset the shortish top-tube. This is the long version of the Ripley, but it still isn’t all that long.
The KS Lev integra post is one of my favorites, I wish they had gone with the Southpaw remote though, as it is a significant performance upgrade from the standard remote, and is much easier to reach and actuate. The less expensive KS remote is also almost entirely plastic and feels like it will snap off in the first crash.
Ibis takes the “set it and forget it” approach to geometry on the Ripley LS. There are no flip-chips to be found here, no multiple shock mounting options, no angled headsets. Fortunately, the stock geometry is pretty dialed.
The 67.5 degree head tube angle strikes a really nice balance between nimble handling and stability at speed and on steeper trails. The bottom bracket height is low at 325 mm (12.8”) down from 331 mm (13”) on the regular Ripley. This offers great stability and increases the carvy feeling the 29” wheels provide. I’m running 170 mm cranks because my short legs like spinning small circles and they keep me from needing to be particularly conscious of pedal position to avoid strikes.
The 441 mm (17.4”) chainstays are on the longer side. They make it a bit harder to bring the front end up, but not as hard as I had expected, coming a Canfield Yelli Screamy with short 424 mm (16.7”) chainstays. They also have the effect of pushing my weight forward onto the front wheel, this helps keep that tire gripping hard and responding to subtle body inputs. However, they do make me feel a bit pitched forward when I hit rough sections of trail.
The front of the bike is definitely on the short end of Medium. The reach is 411 mm (16.2”), while the top tube is 600 mm (23.6”) I know, this is the long and slack version, but I still wouldn’t call it a long bike by any means, especially not in this world of ever-growing top tubes we are currently living in. I’m running a 60 mm stem and I have some desire for more reach, but I don’t like how bikes handle with longer stems, so I’m sticking to 60 mm.
Combined with the long rear end, the short front of the bike has me feeling like most of my weight is on the front wheel. This makes the bike extremely nimble. I can’t really imagine wanting a regular Ripley after riding the LS. In fact, I sometimes wish that I had gotten a Large LS instead of a Medium. If you are at all on the edge of sizing and are riding somewhere that you routinely get over 15 mph or so, I’d suggest sizing up. In New England, I wouldn’t have that concern, but on the more open trails in Utah, I do.
The closest geometry comparison I’ve been on recently is the Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie. The geometry numbers are very similar, the 6fattie has a 5mm shorter rear end, an almost identical reach, but a slightly slacker head angle, meaning the front axle sits farther in front of the rider by approximately 14mm. While the reach feels similar, I find that the Specialized feels bigger (bigger, not big) and my weight is more evenly distributed between the wheels due to the slacker 67 degree head angle putting the wheel farther in front of the bars.
The DW-Link suspension feels quite taut when pedaling. I rarely have a need for the climb modes on the shock. If I stand up and start sprinting the bike accelerates about as well as any full-suspension 29er I’ve been on.
On descents, the rear of the bike doesn’t feel plush, but it takes the edge off of any impact and resists bottom-out well. Trails feel smoother and I’m not aware of the rear end doing much, it just feels fast. I think that is a high compliment.
The Fox forks have a longer break-in period than RockShox and I’m still in that period with the 34 on the Ripley LS. I haven’t started experimenting with spacers in either the fork or the shock, but I don’t feel any strong desire to increase or decrease the progressivity on either end of the bike.
The 130 mm fork does offer just a bit more travel than the 120 mm rear end, but they balance each other well.
So far, the Ripley LS is just what I was hoping for. I’m finding it to be efficient, nimble, and playful. It definitely occupies the lighter, climbing-oriented end of the 120 mm 29er spectrum, but I don’t find myself running out of capability on descents either. It crushes rolling twisty singletrack, accelerating quickly on the climbs and asking to be piloted off any lip I can find.
In Park City there is a lot of fun, flowy, sometimes very fast singletrack, some tight twisty singletrack, and some steep singletrack. On anything other than the steepest descents, I reach for this bike right away. It is fun on the twisty singletrack where a longer travel bike can be cumbersome, and its efficiency makes long rides a lot more fun. It just wants to crush miles.
I’m thinking about lighter wheels, to help improve pedaling efficiency even further. I’d also end up on a slightly narrower rim. The wide rims do lend the tires a planted feel, but I think going to 25-28 mm rim would give much of the same effect while reducing rolling resistance by giving the tire a rounder shape.
Additionally, a narrower rim would improve tire clearance in the back. I’m fitting a 2.35” Maxxis Ikon, but I put stickers on the frame so I don’t rub through the swingarm. There isn’t a prayer of fitting a Plus tire in there.
The improvements Ibis made to the eccentric cores and the Boost hubs with very offset spoke beds on the rims results in a wonderfully stiff bike. It doesn’t twist or squirm on hard bottom out landings. This stiffness and shorter sizing make the Ripley LS feel less like a 29er than any other big wheeled bike I’ve been on. It is so responsive and turny that it is easy to forget the wheel size. At the same time, you’ve got that great rollover performance, smooth ride, traction, and momentum carrying ability the big wheels offer.
The seat tube angle at 73 degrees is steep enough to keep the front end from wandering on climbs. I’ve actually pushed the saddle back a bit to stretch myself out on the bike, without an ill effects as far as front wheel flop.
Bottom Line (For Now)
The Ripley LS is the epitome of a trail bike, and I would recommend it over the non-“LS” Ripley for everyone, in all conditions. It loves the ups, the downs, and it shines on twisting trails. The sizing runs a bit small (don’t be fooled by the “Long & Slack” title), so consider sizing up if you’re on the edge of a larger size. I could see taking this to an XC race from time to time, and on anything short of hard descents, it is enough bike for everyday riding.