Ibis Ripley AF NGX review

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The Ripley AF (aluminium frame) is Ibis’s short-travel trail mountain bike. It’s virtually identical to its more expensive carbon fibre stablemate but has been given a geometry makeover, making it slacker and longer. Touted as a “category-defying” bike, Ibis promises the Ripley packs a much bigger punch than its 120mm rear wheel-travel figure suggests.

Ibis Ripley AF frame and suspension details

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The shock yoke bridges the seatstay. Thanks to the Ripley AF’s aluminium construction, Ibis has managed to slash its price despite offering all the same features as the carbon version. You get internally routed cables through the front and rear triangle for the gear outer, it has inbuilt chainslap protection on the chainstay and runs a threaded 73mm bottom bracket.

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The cables are internally routed. Ibis says the Ripley AF has enough clearance for a 2.6in wide rear tyre. There are ISCG05 chain device tabs and a post-mount rear brake with compatibility for 203mm rotors. Ibis has partnered with renowned suspension engineer Dave Weagle for over 15 years, and the Ripley uses the dw-link design for its 120mm of rear squish. The two co-rotating links connect the rear and front triangles together and a yoke drives the metric-sized 45mm stroke rear shock.

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Despite the Float rear shock being simplistic, it was well matched to the bike’s kinematics. Ibis claims this design has “unparalleled climbing efficiency and tractability” with plenty of plush bump-eating travel for the downhills. Reading between the lines, this means the Ripley should have plenty of anti-squat to resist pedalling forces while benefitting from plenty of ramp-up so that 120mm of travel can absorb bumps efficiently without bottoming out too quickly.

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The pivot bushes have a lifetime warranty. The lower linkage runs on IGUS bushings, rather than bearings seen elsewhere on the frame. The bushings have a lifetime replacement guarantee, so Ibis is confident about their longevity. The rest of the frame has a seven-year warranty, too.

Ibis Ripley AF geometry details

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AF stands for ‘Aluminium Frame’. As well as switching frame materials from carbon to aluminium, Ibis has slackened the Ripley’s head angle by 1-degree, taking it to 65.5 degrees, which also increases the bike’s front centre (the distance between the front axle and bottom bracket) and wheelbase, which is now a snappy 1,217mm. Elsewhere, the frame’s numbers have remained unchanged between the two versions, but standout figures for the size large include a generous 475mm reach, 432mm chainstay figures, 76-degree seat tube angle and 630mm top tube. All in, the Ripley AF’s figures unite coherently for a 120mm travel bike that’s clearly aimed at going harder than you’d normally imagine would be possible. The geometry figures pit it against bikes with closer to 140 to 150mm of rear travel, so Ibis is clearly going all-in on the hardcore trail bike theme.

Ibis Ripley AF NGX specifications

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The branded grips are a nice touch. The NGX build of the Ripley AF is the more expensive of the two build options, with Shimano’s 12-speed Deore mountain bike groupset getting fitted to the cheaper bike. Up front is Fox’s Performance Float 34 fork with 130mm of travel and GRIP damper, while at the back is Fox’s Performance Float DPS EVOL rear shock with rebound adjustment and a climb lever.

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The Fox 34 forks are well-suited to the frame’s 120mm of travel. Due to supply and stock restrictions, my test bike was fitted with a full SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, despite the official spec using a mix of NX Eagle and GX Eagle. However, the standard spec also gets the all-important 52-tooth GX cassette, to make climbing that little bit easier.

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The BikeYoke dropper is a good spec choice. Elsewhere it’s fitted with BikeYoke’s Revive dropper post with 160mm of travel and 1x style remote. It has Shimano SLX M7100 brakes with two-piston calipers front and rear, which are mated to 180mm discs. These also differed from the listed spec on Ibis’s website. It’s fitted with an Ibis stem, bar and 35mm wide wheels, but has a WTB Silverado saddle and Salsa grips. The test bike I rode was fitted, front and rear, with Maxxis 2.4in wide Minion DHR II EXO-casing dual-compound tyres.

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Wide rims give the tyres a solid profile. Ibis told me that these spec upgrades and swaps would be free of charge to the consumer of the bike. On my scales without pedals, the size large test bike weighed 14.17kg.

Ibis Ripley AF NGX ride impressions

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This is a true modern short-travel trail bike. I tested the Ripley AF on my local trails in Scotland’s Tweed Valley, home to the jewel in the 7Stanes trail centre’s crown, Glentress. To really see how far it could be pushed, I rode the bike on a host of different trails, from pumpy and fun blue routes to more technical red- and black-graded runs and off-piste enduro-style tracks.

Ibis Ripley AF NGX set-up

The Ripley AF was quick and easy to set up. The rear shock came delivered with a 0.6in-cubed yellow volume reducer spacer – that I left in there for the duration of the test – which, when inflated to 207psi, gave me 22.2 per cent sag. I unwound all the rebound adjustment to fully open and left the shock in the open mode for testing. When the bike was delivered, the fork was fitted with three volume reducer tokens. I left those in and started with 95psi in the air chamber for roughly 15.4 per cent sag. After the initial ride, I decreased that pressure to 92psi to increase sag marginally and improve off-the-top comfort. I then inflated the EXO-casing tyres to 24psi front and 27psi rear in a bid to balance grip, smoothness and puncture resistance.

Ibis Ripley AF NGX climbing performance

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It was a snappy climber. The Ripley AF’s pedalling platform was impressively robust and taut, especially when out of the saddle and cranking on the pedals. The lack of suspension movement when pedalling made the Ripley feel like an efficient and rewarding climber, more akin to a hardtail than a full-suspension bike, with almost every watt of power being transferred directly into forward motion. The hardening of the rear end’s suspension under power felt almost uncanny, but it meant the Ripley AF could shift along trail centre climbs like a bike that weighed considerably less. There was loads of snap out of turns, where a quick jab at the pedals produced hilariously rapid increases in speed.

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Ibis is a brand with a long history. However, you still need to work hard to keep the Ripley AF rolling quickly, its high anti-squat suspension isn’t a golden bullet for bettering all of your Strava PRs without putting in the effort. And that’s because of the fairly draggy Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres that have a chunky tread pattern better suited to outright grip than speedy trail centre ascents. Of course, the firm feeling and responsive ride meant I never found myself searching for the climb lever to lock out the shock. This also meant that grip and general bump absorption was pretty good given the amount of travel on tap. It wasn’t long-travel supple or coil-shock responsive, but there was enough to take the sting out of the trails’ tails. On steeper, looser climbs there was enough suspension action to improve grip and avoid being deflected off-line by larger bumps, but a lot of the Ripley’s ability to ascend was down to that chunky Maxxis rubber and, more importantly, its geometry.

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I would like to have seen grippier and tougher rubber, given the bike’s capabilities. When hitting climbs standing up, the reach figure provided plenty of room to move about on the bike and meant it remained well behaved when I made accidental weight shifts. The seated position was comfortable, providing a balanced ride that was neither too stretched forward towards the bar or overly upright and relaxed.

This meant I felt like I was able to attack climbs with gusto and power without undue fatigue through the hands – which overly short, handlebar-on-the-knees-feeling short top tubes can create. The seat tube angle also felt spot-on for a bike of this ilk. Although I did still have to angle the seat slightly nose down and forward in the post’s rails, it wasn’t to such extremes as other bikes I’ve ridden with slack seat tubes.

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The Ripley’s suspension makes the bike feel punchy on the pedals. This meant climbing felt comfortable and efficient – where my hips were positioned over the bottom bracket rather than rearwards of it – and the bike was easy to control when the climbs got especially steep because my weight wasn’t massively far back over the rear wheel causing the front wheel to lift or wander. To top it off, the 52t cassette was matched with a 30t chainring. This combination of gearing works well for SRAM setups because it makes the 42t cassette sprocket more usable and the 52t bailout gear even lower. To top it off, I found the Silverado saddle especially comfortable.

Ibis Ripley AF NGX descending performance

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With plenty of support in the suspension and good geometry, the Ripley AF was easy to push hard. The taut-feeling suspension worked wonders on the descents where the Ripley had an enormous amount of pop and zest to its on-trail behaviour. This made it masses of fun to ride and criss-cross the trail from one line to the next. The suspension was brilliantly supportive in its mid-stroke and had plenty of bottom-out resistance, too, so it was easy to push hard through turns and generate speed in holes on trail centre-style descents. This created a playful character to how the bike rode, turning usually mundane descents into new high-speed challenges.

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I enjoyed riding the Ripley AF. Although the 65.5-degree head angle isn’t the slackest or most extreme, it’s well suited to the bike’s intended purpose and when blended with the rest of the bike’s geometry, provided an impressively stable platform to ride. This is helped by the supportive suspension that maintains the bike’s dynamic geometry. While the Ripley AF is taut, it’s not harsh. I didn’t experience any unwanted vibrations transmitted into my hands or feet, and the general ride-feel was smooth given the amount of travel available – certainly helped by the Maxxis tyres. It also performed well on steeper, gnarlier terrain, such as off-piste enduro-style trails.

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The suspension was easy to set up. Although the suspension wasn’t hyperactive and didn’t absorb all of the smaller bumps, it did well to dampen bigger hits and rarely became overwhelmed. Arguably, the Ripley is most suited to charging with intent than cruising along. On flatter, bumpier trails where speed was hard to generate and it was too rough to pedal, I did find myself wanting a more supple rear end with more travel to help with maintaining speed. The dual-compound Maxxis tyres also felt a bit pingy on wet, greasy natural trails littered with roots and rocks, so swapping the tyres out for a tackier compound rubber would help massively.

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One of a number of tyre repairs. This was just a minor niggle though, and could be mitigated against with a spec change or a more supple setup. But in its stock setup, the Ripley is better suited to trail centre surfaces or harder-charging off-piste tracks. If you do decide to swap tyres, make sure you check there’s enough clearance in the frame. Even with the stock 2.4in rubber, there was little room between the top of the tyre and the swingarm’s lower pivot mount and between the upper linkage’s mounting points.

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There isn’t a massive amount of mud clearance. While this wasn’t an issue in very sloppy, wet conditions or dry and dusty ones, in claggier terrain, mud built up quickly and didn’t clear from the frame.

Ibis Ripley AF NGX bottom line

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It cornered well, too. Not only is the Ripley AF NGX good value for money, but it’s also impressively capable given the amount of travel on tap. It feels nippy in the turns, yet stable enough at speed to hammer downhill. If you’re a true trail centre warrior looking for a short-travel terrain slaying companion, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find better than the Ripley AF.


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