-120mm rear travel, 130 front
-Magical mix of traction and efficiency on the climbs
-Supportive, shred-friendly suspension
-Capable but moderate geometry.
-All that for $3,200? Damn!
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When Ibis brands one of its bikes with “AF,” it does two things. Three if you count cleverly hiding some benign profanity in its name. It makes a previously carbon-only frame available in aluminum, and it makes that frame slightly more aggressive. That means that the steering angle gets a little more relaxed, lengthening the wheelbase and making it more high-speed friendly. And it also makes the rear suspension more supportive and with more resistance to bottom-out.
For at least one of our testers, this is exactly what the carbon Ripley needed. Riders are able to do more than ever with short-travel 29ers thanks to advancements in suspension and geometry. This new take on the Ripley leans into that more-than-ever approach. We did have to be careful, especially given the several far bigger, longer-travel bikes we let loose on our test course. The Ripley AF does not exactly feel bottomless. But it does feel ready. Ready to do everything it can to absorb impacts that should be over its head. We never felt like we were being bounced around. The sharp, initial impacts that might otherwise have forced us to lose a line or break traction were admirably managed by the Ripley AF. It’s the sort of bike that, in the right hands, could tackle absolutely anything. And in absolutely any hands, it’ll be a really good time.
One ace in the hole Ibis has long had is its DW-Link suspension. Especially when Ibis applies it, DW-Link bikes have the supernatural ability to float over obstacles whether the rider is soft-pedaling up a bumpy fire road or mashing through a root section. But then, when you combine that with the Ripley AF’s newly supportive suspension and moderate travel, it offers nearly cross-country-level efficiency. For a bike bordering on 35 pounds, this bike felt like it was encouraging us to pedal harder up our quite unrelenting 1,000-foot climb. It’s got a not-bad-for-a-120mm-bike seat tube angle at 76 degrees that made it feel like the sort of bike you could sit and spin for hours at a time. And that’s what bikes in this category are best at. It’s calm and comfortable for when you just want to cover ground, but won’t waste your energy when the time comes to ramp up the watts.
And it’s this versatility that got us so excited to see a bike like this at $3,200. This bike has a huge audience, and, for the huge number of folks just now falling in love with the sport, it can grow as you grow. If you just want to go out and explore now, but in two years you find your inner shredder and want to start getting in the air, this bike can do it. Or if you’re a young huckster who just wants to pop off roots, but eventually you fall into a crowd of people doing epic overnighters, this bike can do that too.
Part of that is thanks to what Shimano has done with the current Deore components. When they trickled their approach to the 1×12 drivetrain down to its middle-of-the-road offering, they truly democratized pro-level shifting. Testers who were used to more expensive stuff noticed a little hesitation when pushing the torque and timing to less-than-optimal levels while shifting, but those were only in extreme moments. As long as you’re changing gears like a normal human, Deore does fine. And the matching brakes truly lived up to this bike’s potential, despite not being the enduro-ready 4-piston designs our testers are used to.
Most importantly, though, the suspension components are about as good as you’ll ever want them to be. Drivetrains wear out, as do tires and dropper posts. But if you take care of your suspension, it’ll take care of you. And the Performance-level Fox stuff Ibis specced is worth taking care of. And that’s the thing. This bike should be seen as an investment. It is not a gateway bike or a placeholder. This bike can get you in the door and keep you at the party for years and years. If it’s more than what you want to spend, that’s all the more reason to go for it. If you spring for a Ripley AF, you will not regret it.
Studio photos: Ryan Palmer
Action photos: Paris Gore