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As XC race courses get rowdier, the constant pursuit of lighter, harsher rigs may be meeting its limit. Quite frankly, recent XC bikes can feel scarily insubstantial when you’ve got to huck off a big drop at race pace. It’s no coincidence that we’re seeing racers running 120mm forks and bigger tires than they may have in the past—it’s simply faster—and safer—on modern courses.
The Ibis Exie, while impressively light, is built for today’s XC racer with a magically sturdy-feeling 2000-gram frame, long wheelbase, and modern geometry. And famously, the Exie was manufactured in Ibis’ new, solar-powered California factory, and takes the methods they learned in their lab to the real world. The quest for efficiency lead to a more essential, refined approach to laying up the Exie’s carbon. And as you’d expect from the boutique California brand, it has a refined price tag as well, but for the right rider, it could be the perfect rig.
The Exie, like many well-loved XC bikes, is built around the DW-link platform, which is known for giving riders an exceptionally efficient pedaling platform without sacrificing small-bump sensitivity. On climbs, it felt wonderfully intuitive and fast, powering over roots and ledges with little effort. Power transfer, as you’d expect, is instantaneous and satisfying.
In fact, it climbed so well that most of us were a little scared to take it back down—we figured there was simply no way a bike so clearly built to thrive on XC courses could be anything but terrifying to descend on our decidedly trail-bike oriented test loop. But we were unanimously surprised: the Exie rips. In fact, one of our testers got his best segment time aboard the Exie. On a downhill.
You will have to muscle it a bit more than a longer-travel bike, of course, but the Exie quickly begins to feel like a small monster truck when you point it down. It tracks superbly through loose sections with none of the deflection you sometimes get on really stiff, light frames. Cornering, it whips around at a touch, and in the air it takes on the character of a dirt jumper. The frame is silent and nicely buttoned up, giving you a sense of total confidence to try whatever the trail throws at you.
It’s notable that, unlike almost every XC bike we’ve tried this year, the Exie does not utilize super-thin flexible seatstays to supplement the rear travel. This more substantial rear triangle combined with the DW-link linkage gives you nice, predictable suspension behavior that lets you really push the limits of the bike. That’s just one of the places where Ibis could have cut weight but didn’t. Their attention to detail and artful balancing of ride-quality with weight is really on display with this bike.
Is the Exie a “downcountry” bike? No, if anything it fits into another, tiny, category between Traditional XC and downcountry—maybe call it “modern” XC? This is a bike with racing and training in its future; not an adventure bike that might toe a line now and then. But it’s made for a concept of racing we’re still seeing evolve—as road and double track get whittled out of XC courses in favor of rock gardens, doubles, and drops, the Exie will thrive.
Action photos: Paris Gore
Studio photos: Ryan Palmer