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Hands-on Gear Review
Ibis Ripley LS Review
Cons: Slower on the climbs, pedal strike city on rocky uphills
Bottom line: Amazing downhill skills and cheeky attitude are worth it if you don't climb technical trails everyday
Blasting out of the race gates hot on the Yeti SB5.5's heels, the Ibis Ripley LS earned our respect for slaying downhill performance metrics without sacrificing a sporty trail feel and mad side-feature-hitting style. It climbs well too, with easy and energizing pedal strokes. Until you get into the rocks, where a silly low bottom bracket forces jarring pedal strikes. Aside from sustained technical uphills, the Ibis is a fun-tastic trail bike, with a descending bent. We're okay with that. Tying the Yeti SB5.5 with a score of 78, the Ibis Ripley LS wins our Editors' Choice Award for Best Trail Bike. These two champs have wildly different personalities. While the Ibis Ripley LS is nimble and fast, begging to hit every side feature in sight, the Yeti is a charging bull, awesome in its proficiency and speed. That brutish nature wins the Yeti our Editors' Choice Award for Best Aggressive Trail Bike.
RELATED REVIEW: Best Trail Mountain Bikes of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Analysis and Test Results
Six professional bike testers used a relentless testing protocol two years in the making to put the Ibis through its paces against the Yeti SB5.5, Santa Cruz Bronson, Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie, Pivot Mach 429 Trail, and Intense Recluse. Read more in our How We Tested article.
"That thing is a race rocket," said our lead tester, "I'm impressed." It's certainly a speedy descender, coming in second place on The Scorpion downhill test, but the Ripley LS just can't keep up on the climbs. Still, it doesn't get blown away. If we look at how the bikes perform on the time trail courses in seconds per minute (as in what would happen if each course took exactly one minute), we get a good sense of their relative performances.
Its lack of uphill speed drops the Ibis's overall race ranking back to a fifth place finish, coming in 1.2 seconds per minute behind the Yeti SB5.5. Still, it comes in 7.3 seconds per minute ahead of the Intense Recluse. The Ripley LS takes its biggest hit on the technical climb (The Soul Grinder), hangs in there on the smooth uphill (The Crank) and takes second place in the descents. Overall it's a pretty well-rounded ride as long as you're okay getting to the top a little slower to before bombing back down, beating everyone but the Yeti back to the car.
The Ibis Ripley LS came out swinging, impressing testers with its solid descending skills and playful nature. It held up throughout downhill testing, earning the second highest rating with an 8 of 10. The enduro ready Yeti SB5.5 earned a 9 for out-pacing the Ripley LS and taking on the big hits on in a big way. Both bikes rolled fast, but the Ibis shudders when landing large drops, persuading us to dial back our gravity borne bashing. The Ripley LS rolls over more mundane obstacles with panache. The Pivot Mach 429 Trail takes the opposite approach, rattling us free of confidence on the descents early and often but standing up to bigger drops just fine. It's never that fun. In contrast, if you can pick a line and pay attention on the Ibis, it's a blast.
The Ripley rages. Despite getting knocked around more than some of the bigger bikes, the Ibis's excellent geometry, great handling and sticky rubber gave us the confidence to let 'er, well, rip. The Ibis's speed is evidenced by its 8.5-second lead, on average, over the slowest bike in the test on our downhill race course, The Scorpion. The Ibis also has 4.6 seconds on the Pivot Mach 429 Trail and the 2 seconds over the third place Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie. Only 0.9 seconds faster on average, the Yeti just holds onto the downhill speed advantage it enjoyed over the enduro mountain bikes in our 2016 test.
The Ibis's acceleration is snappy, neck-and-neck with the Mach 429 Trail for the best in the test, which is doubly impressive for two 29ers. Not just easy to get up to speed, the Ripley LS maintains it through choppy sections and big hits. It does this far better than the Pivot. This tendency, along with the Pivot's less confidence inspiring handling and cornering, accounts for their average time differences. The tables turn on the smoothest of singletrack, where the Ibis demands more input and the Pivot is more liable to keep rolling right along. Both feel good to pedal, livening up the big feature linking straightaways. But neither can keep pace with the slower to accelerate but perpetually momentum gaining Yeti.
The Ibis is quietly confidence inspiring. With solid geometry, killer traction and a low slung chassis, it leaves little room for doubt: The Ripley LS gets the job done. And it's fun work, assuming you like the challenge of picking a line and the lively feel of the trail beneath you. It doesn't grind down the rough edges and open up options like the Yeti SB5.5 or Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie, but it will handle your line. We love its smooth but sporty response to trail chunder and affinity for speed. The faster you go, the more confident it gets. The build's wide rims and tacky Nobby Nics deserve a shout out here. The 2.35"/2.25" front and rear tires mounted on 34mm rims felt awesome descending on the Ibis, reminiscent of the ride-softening Stumpjumper 6Fattie without the vague feel of its 3" tires.
A comfortable ride, the Ibis allows our testers to maintain optimal body positions on the descents, corners, and flats. It's easy to find the balance point, but not as automatic as the Santa Cruz Bronson and feels less confident on steep rock rollers. While the Bronson sets you up off the back — in typical Santa Cruzian long top tube, slack head tube, steep seat tube style — the Ibis requires a more conscious shift into the backseat in preparation for big features. While the cockpit is more upright than some of the other bikes, its low bottom bracket and the Lo-Fi carbon bars we ran during testing kept us feeling low and in control. The flip side? That bottom bracket sets you up for pedal strikes. We didn't notice them on the downhill but they happened with maddening frequency on rocky climbs.
The Ripley LS is a blaze-orange hot rod, sporty, precise and made for high speeds. The steering is nimble, playful and light. One tester even called it flickable, reminiscent of the 2016 Ibis Mojo HD3 we tested in the Enduro Review. Its momentum is the only characteristic that consistently reminds us that it's a 29er. It's an easy bike to turn, so it'll go wherever you want. This is handy because you need to pick lines more on the Ripley LS than you do on the Santa Cruz Bronson, Yeti SB5.5 or Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie.
In a devil's trade for top notch maneuvering, the Ibis is less stable through chunky rock lines than those bigger suspension beasts, with one tester calling it skittish. It doesn't twitch up on the steeper and rougher terrain as much as the Pivot Mach 429 Trail. Pay attention though. It rolls fast and takes big hits hard, requiring quick responses. There's no way around it on a 120mm travel bike. But the bike never feels out of control and its excellent small bump compliance keeps you feeling like the true captain of your cockpit without diminishing natural trail features.
At slower speeds it's, well, slower. Like the Yeti, its bigger wheels require more input. Still, for the most part, it handles like a 27.5 with the power and rollover capabilities of a 29er. The other two 29ers in the test, the Yeti and the Pivot, don't manage this magic. The tradeoff for its low standover height (we measured 797mm seven inches in front of the bottom bracket) and lack of 29er-tall feel is that too-low bottom bracket (measured at 321mm).
Suspension and Traction
Our heaviest, most aggressive rider loved the Ripley LS, but he bottomed the rear shock out on nearly every run, and one of those hits was harsh. Our other three downhill testers definitely felt the limits of the shorter travel, but mostly played inside the shock's boundaries. The Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie, Yeti SB5.5 and Santa Cruz Bronson are all smoother when rolling over chop or through sharp transitions. It doesn't magically defy the limits of its shorter travel and the extra volume in the Fox Factory Float DPS EVOL rear shock had us running really high pressures. Once it was holding up on the rougher trail sections, we started really having fun, but those high pressures stiffened up the response early in the stroke as well.
The situation seemed to call for a volume spacer to ramp up the suspension curve on the bigger hits. So, after finishing our standard as is testing, we installed one, a large, and switched from a Lo-Fi to a Hi-Fi handlebar for kicks. Then we sent our lead tester back out on the trail. He returned with tales of wonder: The spacer let him run reasonable pressures without bottoming out and increased the small bump compliance. The Hi-Fi handlebar felt more trail appropriate. Simple fixes.
While the bike is harsh and can bounce you around on the bigger hits, small bump compliance is tops, arising from a partnership between the suspension and the 2.35"/2.25" tires mounted on 34mm rims. Those wide tires start compressing at the slightest hint of a hit, and the suspension jumps in just as the sidewall is overpowered. You never feel the suspension's initial engagement. Initial strikes are much more apparent on the Santa Cruz Bronson and Pivot Mach 429 Trail.
The 130mm Fox Float 34 fork works well but we'd like a stiffer one, perhaps a 36. We bottom it out on occasion but like its feel. In fact, we like the feel of the suspension overall, and it maintains plenty of traction. The tires are grounded without feeling lethargic like the Specialized. It makes it feel as good, on occasion, as the 6" travel Santa Cruz Bronson. That's a big part of why the bike shines.
The Ripley LS is a fair weather climber. On smooth, flowing trails with the occasional rocky stretch, it hikes right up the hill, rivaling the excellent feel of the Pivot Mach 429 Trail. But we also tested the bike's technical climbing limits on The Soul Grinder, and we found them. When the going gets rough, the pedals start throwing sparks, the back tire can slip, and the front tire can deflect when not perfectly lined up to impact rocks. It's not awesome.
Dial the trail difficulty back, and we'd hop on this bike for an uphill any day. Thus, the Ripley LS's uphill score ties with the burly Yeti's combination of tenacious technical climbing but heavy feel on mellower trails. They both earned a 7 of 10. The quick and capable climbing Mach 429 and easily maneuvered Bronson top the list with a 9 and 8, respectively. Despite crushing the technical climb, the Stumpjumper 6Fattie only rates a 5 of 10 on the climbs, cause none of us would pick its laboring feel over these other four bikes for an uphill oriented day.
You've got to earn those downhill grins. The Ripley LS is the second slowest climber in the test.
The Soul Grinder, Technical Uphill Benchmarking Performance — While the Ibis climbs nicely it doesn't climb that quickly. It felt like the slowest of the 29ers on our technical climbing benchmarking course, The Soul Grinder, and it was. The two others in the test, the Yeti and the Pivot beat it by 2.1 and 2 seconds, respectively. Coming in 5.8 seconds ahead of the Intense Recluse, the Ibis was 5.2 seconds behind the Stumpjumper 6Fattie.
The Crank, Smooth Uphill Benchmarking Performance — With a 7.9-second advantage over the Intense, the Ibis steps up to a third place finish on the nearly featureless climbing course, The Crank. Its efficient pedaling fares better here, but it still comes in 3 seconds behind the Santa Cruz Bronson and 2.7 behind the Pivot. On this track, we're guessing those wide and tacky tires slowed the Ripley LS down somewhat, though not as much as the Yeti and Specialized.
Again, combining the seconds gained per minutes ridden on both uphill courses gives us a good idea of their overall climbing abilities. Here, the Ibis comes in fifth, 4.8 seconds per minute ahead of the Intense and 1.7 seconds per minute behind the first place Pivot. The Ibis accelerates quickly and holds speed, but not as well as the Mach 429 Trail. And, cough, pedal strikes. The Ripley LS, Bronson and Mach 429 Trail have the most balanced skills on both techy and breeze-on-by trails. The Yeti and Specialized showcase their talents best on rough terrain.
Efficient and light, the Ripley LS is a really good climbing bike, whether the suspension is locked out, in trail mode or fully open.You can feel the direct transition of pedal power thanks to a solid bottom bracket and lower linkage combination. It's one of the better pedaling designs we've tested, relying very little on the shock and feeling more akin to a hardtail than a 120mm travel trail bike. It also maintains the seat tube angle nicely, even when winching up the steepest rock slab rollovers.
The Ripley LS also accelerates quickly, making it a cinch to pick up speed after topping out technical stretches, and those Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires put so much rubber on the ground you can crank through the corners without worrying about skidding out. The Ibis holds momentum well but doesn't have the never-ending linear ramp up of the Yeti SB5.5. The Ripley LS has a plateau and rolls to a stop earlier than the Pivot Mach 429 Trail with its 116mm of suspension. As such, the Pivot is more of a race rocket, especially for smoother tracks, where it has an explosive cross-country feel. After climbing on these 29ers it's hard to hop on a 27.5, putting the Santa Cruz Bronson at a disadvantage. Those big wheels make it feel like you're going somewhere, maintaining your momentum, even uphill.
If only that bottom bracket, measured at a height of 321mm, didn't ram those 175mm cranks into every rock and root in the way. On a trail with consistent rock gardens of even moderate size the pedal strikes just don't stop.
While the medium size fits our testers, Ibis bikes tend towards the small side, recommending a medium for 5'4" to 5'9" riders. Though the fit is great for descents, the top tube feels a little short when cranking in the saddle. The LoFi handlebar didn't help. In contrast, the taller Pivot and Yeti give us more leverage when cranking up out of the saddle. The upright cockpit also tends to bias your weight forward on the climb, setting you up for a rear tire slip/spin.
Its respectable downhill stability gets tossed over the bars on technical climbs. The Ibis bucks, knocks, and bounces through the technical lines, with the front tire often flopping or deflecting on square stairs, making it a bit of a bummer on The Soul Grinder. You've got to work hard to recover when climbing up rock steps. Add in the 175mm cranks and low bottom bracket, and the Ibis is more of a foothill climber than a rocky mountain top summiter.
Still, the uphill handling is responsive, it goes where you point it with a crisp responsiveness similar to that of the Pivot, and it never wanders. The Yeti and Bronson feel vague by comparison. It's enjoyable on smooth uphill climbs where you don't have to be as precise with your weight to combat the bike's harsh reaction to adversity. There the Ripley LS does a lot of the work for you and the tires amp up the traction substantially, feeling more predictable than the racier Pivot.
Suspension and Traction
On the climbs, the suspension is smooth and planted without paying the sluggish penalty required by the 3" tires on the Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie. The bigger hits, however, can bounce the Ibis offline on the uphill as well. It recovers quickly, but we ended up manualing over the rock steps to avoid the need. It's easy to move around, but if you miss your line and hit a rock, you're gonna get bucked. The Yeti, Santa Cruz and Specialized offer smoother rides. On the flip side, the lockout gives you an outstanding platform to work the climb with, but we'd like a stiffer fork.
The Ripley LS is an exceptional cornering bike on the descents. It's aggressive, engages well and is ridiculously fast, laying right over to those nobby nic side knobs to rail around. The 2.35" Schwalbe Nobby Nic, is dialed in the front with the same tire in a 2.25" tracking behind. They offer up as much traction as the 3" Purgatory GRID on the Specialized. They were hard pressed to break loose even when the trail was sandy enough to toss most of the other bikes around. Cornering champ of the test, the Ibis ranked an 8 of 10. The low bottom bracket does make for the occasional scraped pedal but that's our one complaint.
Flat or bermed, it doesn't matter, the Ibis rips through. It's not the best on the sharpest of corners, but it's doable to whip around or slow down to steer through. On swooping downhill turns, all we had to do was drop the seat, get back and swing around. It doesn't want to stand up on the longer, sweeping corners like the Pivot or Yeti. You don't feel like you're on stilts and you don't get the correlating gyroscopic feel. The Yeti requires a more aggressive approach, you really have to push the bike over and lean it around. The Ripley LS feels much more precise.
Yes, on the descents it's fast and confidence inspiring (though not to the extent of the Yeti), but its deft handling, active suspension, and sporting feel demand a good time. The other 29ers we tested, the SB5.5 and the Mach 429 Trail are mostly fun because they're fast. (Also because they're mountain bikes.) The impish Ibis Ripley LS is something else. It practically dances down the trail, seeking out side hops and mini-drops, popping off the fork and floating in the air, adding automatic style points to your ride. Some of the landings will be jarring, but all of them will be worth it. The Ibis tied the Stumpjumper 6Fattie at a 9 for inspiring pure childish joy on the regs.
That's the downhill. The uphills are an anoxic good time when there aren't many rocks, and it's a strange variety of amusing to beatbox along with the pedal strikes when there are.
The Ibis ranks a 6 of 10 for its componentry, putting it in fourth place for build, behind the Bronson, SB5.5 and Mach 429 Trail. We love the wheelset and tire choice but were underwhelmed by the fork, saddle, handlebar and brakes. The performance of the rear shock was our biggest problem with the bike. The bike's score sure didn't suffer much — but we'd like to beef it up a bit to increase value.
Ibis Sizing Guide: M (5'4" — 5'9"), L (5'9" — 6'2"), XL (6' — 6'6")
Frame and Suspension — We love this frame. The angles are perfect. Ibis did a great job with the geometry. The only issue is the bottom bracket, which is only 321mm off the ground according to our measurements. That's 8mm beneath the next lowest Stumpjumper 6Fattie and 27mm closer to the ground than the tallest bike, the Yeti SB5.5. This is a tradeoff for the nice and low standover height (measured at 797mm). It let the bike feel like a 27.5" bike and corner without a hint of gyroscopic effect, but made pedal strikes a major problem when climbing.
The 130mm boosted Fox Float 34 fork felt good, but we gravitate towards the RockShox Pike, and would like to see an extra 10mm to improve the feel descending and to lift the bottom bracket up a bit. The rear shock, a Fox Factory Float DPS was easily overwhelmed by our testers, bottoming out regularly even with sky high pressures. The small bump compliance was good but suffered at the higher shock pressures. Adding a large volume spacer after formal testing allowed us to put in less pressure and improve the feel on small hits while ramping the compression up more quickly for the big ones.
Wheels and Tires — The Ibis 938 Very Wide Aluminum Asymmetric rims and Ibis Boost hubs make for a great wheelset and the whole team wanted to give Ibis huge high fives on the tire choice until we started heading up technical lines. Between the Schwalbe Nobby Nicks, 2.35" front and 2.25" rear, and the 34mm rims, we have traction for days on the downhills and corners, even the dry ones. But when it comes to climbing stairs, things get a little more complex.
Unless perfectly lined up, the front tire often deflects to the side when ramming a rock we'd like it to rollover, making mistakes costly. It didn't feel like a geometry issue, and the Ibis has one of the steepest head tube angles in the test, in line with the Pivot Mach 429 Trail. We think it's due to the rounded sidewall of the tire pushing the tread away from the rock. The back tire could also slip on the rock stairs, possibly a product of the frame setting us up with our weight pretty far forward.
Groupset — The SRAM Guide RSC brakes with 180/160mm rotors are premium. We could have used an 180mm on the rear wheel though. As for the drivetrain, we appreciated the threaded bottom bracket and the eagle worked seamlessly. We don't need that big cog very often but we love it when we do. But we busted three chains on this drive train during testing, on the Specialized, Pivot and Yeti. It's enough to make us real nervous about owning one. The crank arms are similarly excellent, except for their length. At 175mm they worked against us due to that low bottom bracket. We'd shorten them up or do something to jack up the bike.
Handlebars, Seat, and Seatpost — We rode the 760mm Lo-Fi handlebars throughout benchmarking tests. We aren't huge fans. They feel surprisingly good on the descents and corners, helping us tuck in and stay low once we got past their odd look and settled into performance. On the technical climbs, however, they felt too low, not giving the testers much leverage when pulling the front tire up and over the stairs. They were also about 20mm too narrow. They didn't ruin our experience, though. After testing we switched them out for the Hi-Fi version for a couple of rides and they felt much more trail bike appropriate.
The fat double lock Lizard Skins Logo grips are also annoying. The outer lock hits us right in the meat of our palms, making feels like we're trying to steer the bike open handed. The Ibis saddle was as uncomfortable as the one on the 2016 Mojo HD3, an unnecessary cruelty. The 150mm Fox Transfer Hydraulic seatpost worked fine, better than the reverb, and we liked the lever a lot.
We recommend this bike for mellower trails through rolling singletrack and a few rock gardens, with the option of lapping bigger descents. It's not a rocky mountain town bike so much as it is a foothill rager.
The Ripley LS's $6,599 price tag is the same as the Bronson's. They tie for the third most expensive bikes in the test, with the Yeti SB5.5 taking top prize in price at $7,049. If you compare costs to overall scores — the Ibis at a 78 and the Santa Cruz at a 75 — overall value for both bikes is reasonable. Especially considering that the SB5.5 earned a 78 and costs $450 more. But when you look at the bikes builds, the 2017 SRAM X01 Eagle Ibis Ripley LS spec could have been better, more in line with the excellent componentry on that Santa Cruz build the Bronson with, for the exact same price. We like the fork, rear shock, saddle, seatpost, handlebar, and grips on the Santa Cruz much better. Over, the Ripley LS value is okay, but Santa Cruz does value better here.
Our Editors' Choice as the Best Trail Bike of 2017, the Ibis Ripley LS is simply too fun to deny. A pop and lock bike (i.e. poppy on the downhills, great lockout on the climbs) the Ripley LS is a go to for foothill single track that can also handle the rigors of high mountain or desert riding. Pedaling uphill through the rocks isn't going to be a great time, but you'll get there. The bike's happy place tilts downhill. Taking just enough out of the hits to keep you comfortable and confident without dumbing down the ride, the Ripley LS's has the best trail feel in the test.
— Clark Tate, Curtis Smith, Joshua Hutchens, Paul Tindal, Sean Cronin, Cat Keenan, Otto Trebotich
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Most recent review: January 31, 2017
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