VA’s Ibis Ripley AF
Launched last year, the Ibis Ripley AF is a more affordable alloy version of the brand’s beloved short-travel carbon 29er, the Ripley. With a few intriguing updates, Virginia built up a frame and has been tearing around Pisgah with it ever since. Find the build and an extensive photo gallery here, alongside a few of her thoughts about it…
We’ve been cheering on the versatile Ibis Ripley for several years now. Back in 2019, the fourth-generation Ripley got a ground-up redesign that included clearance for 29 x 2.6″ tires, a more progressive geometry, and improved suspension linkage and kinematics with their fabled DW-Link platform. All of those updates secured this bike’s top-shelf spot in the short-travel 29er cabinet. Even after riding and reviewing over a half dozen bikes in that category that year, I liked it enough to buy one, and I still ride it regularly.
Needless to say, I was happy to see Ibis release a more affordable aluminum version, the Ripley AF. I talked Virginia into trying one and ultimately she decided to snag a frame while she could and build it up as her own. I guess it was then that we became an Ibis family, so to speak. Thankfully, we don’t wear matching jerseys and our bikes aren’t the same color. Read on for build details, a full gallery, and a brief interview with Virginia about the bike.
Generally speaking, the Ibis Ripley AF has the same DNA as the carbon V4 Ripley. It has the same stack and reach, steep (76°) seat tube angle, nice and low bottom bracket, and all the same geometry numbers, except for two. Ibis slackened the head tube angle by a full degree, from 66.5 to 65.5°, effectively lengthening the wheelbase by 10mm. Otherwise, it’s a very similar beast, which is even backed by the same seven-year warranty as the carbon Ripley.
Virginia’s build kit features a mix of budget parts, higher-end parts for contact areas, and a couple of components from other builds.
- Frame Ibis Ripley AF, Size Small
- Fork Fox 34, 130mm
- Wheels WTB Proterra Tough i30
- Tires WTB Trail Boss 29 x 2.4, TCS Light
- Crankset Shimano SLX
- Derailleur Shimano SLX, 12-speed
- Shifter Shimano SLX, 12-speed
- Cassette Shimano SLX, 12-speed, 10-51T
- Bottom Bracket Shimano SLX
- Brakes Shimano SLX, 4-piston
- Handlebar SQ Labs 30×16 Carbon
- Stem PAUL Boxcar, 50mm
- Grips ESI Foam grips
- Headset Cane Creek 40
- Saddle Specialized Power Expert With Mimic
- Seatpost Fox Transfer 150mm
All the parts used on this build have been pretty impressive. The Transfer Seatpost and SLX drivetrain are great, and the WTB Proterra Tough i30 wheelset has been surprisingly good, especially considering the $650 price tag. The rims feature a perfect 30mm internal width, and the rear hub offers 60 points of engagement, so they’re super quick when ratcheting through techy terrain. And at 2107 grams for the pair, they’re not too heavy, either.
For this quasi-review of the Ripley AF, we asked Virginia a few questions about it.
You went from a 27.5+ tire bike to the Ibis Ripley AF with relatively standard 29 x 2.4” tires. What was your initial impression of that switch? And how do you feel about it now?
By the time I’d pedaled out of our neighborhood, I knew this setup was a far better fit for me. I just feel more confident on 29” wheels. We have so many rooty and rocky trails here, and 29ers simply sail over them. But the thing that really had me hooked was the tire size. Plus tires serve a purpose, I suppose, but I just don’t think they provide any advantage on the trails I most often ride. The 2.4“ tires provide more than ample surface contact, but they don’t weigh me down. Cornering feels a lot more fun, and I generally just feel like I can move more efficiently and responsively. I have no regrets about changing up my wheel/tire setup, with the only exception being that I should have done it sooner.
The Ripley AF also has a significantly more “modern” geometry than your old bike. How do you like it, by comparison, and has it changed how you ride?
I don’t know a lot about geometry (just ask Mr. Hobgood, my high school geometry teacher), but I really like the overall fit of the Ibis. I have always preferred an upright riding position. It just feels better to my body. I’m not 100% sure why, but I think it has something to do with my less-than-awesome back flexibility. On the Ibis, I feel like I can stay as upright as I want to on the climbs, but I also have plenty of room to stretch out on descents. What’s more, I generally feel like I have a lot more room to play with my positioning. On the Pivot, I had my saddle pushed as far forward as the rails would allow, but on the Ibis, it’s in a more neutral position.
The aluminum Ripley AF is a little heavier than your old carbon Pivot Mach 429. However, you seem to be riding faster and stronger. Did you notice the weight difference?
The only time I may have ever felt the 2.28-pound difference was the first time I loaded it into the back of the truck. Other than that, the difference is indiscernible. The Pivot was a good climber, and the Ibis is too, surprisingly. If I were splitting hairs, maybe the XC-oriented carbon Pivot is a little better going up, but it’s hard to tell. That’s pretty impressive because the Ibis feels so much nimbler than the Pivot did on the descents. My basic instincts would tell me that the lighter bike should feel more playful, but that’s obviously not the case. So, in short, the minimal weight difference seems to have very little effect on the overall ride.
You started seeing a physical therapist this spring for some issues that have been bothering you for years. Can you tell us about those issues and share some of what you’ve learned in PT? Have you made any adjustments to the fit of your Ibis?
I’ve battled hand numbness and pain for what seems like forever. The problem progressed to the point that I had carpal tunnel surgery with an additional median nerve release in the fall of 2019. I’ve only had surgery on the right wrist and hand, but I do have moderate carpal tunnel syndrome in the left as well. I’ve had several bike fits over the years and was planning on getting yet another one when I realized that my problems were likely more about me than they were about my bike. I’d heard great things about a local physical therapist, so I decided to give her a call.
Primarily, what we’ve worked on so far is increasing my core strength as well as some stretching and glute conditioning. Learning how to isolate my abdominal muscles was a pretty eye-opening experience for me. Now that I have a stronger core, I can take a lot of the weight off of my hands, which has helped tremendously in terms of the numbness. Liz and I also discussed bike fit and made some adjustments that have been really great. I swapped out my handlebar for one with more backsweep, and I shortened my stem. I’m no longer reaching for the bars, which, again, has helped with the numbness but also released tension from my neck and shoulders. I still have work to do to increase my strength and flexibility, but I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made.
What’s your favorite trail for the Ripley AF? And your favorite type of trail?
That’s a tough question. Thanks to Covid, I haven’t had the opportunity to take the Ibis too far from home just yet. We’ve been sticking to our local trails, and it really is a fabulous bike for almost anything that Pisgah has to offer. A “bigger” bike might be more fitting for our rowdiest trails, but I’m not an adrenaline junkie and would rather avoid injury than try to hit big jumps. My favorite everyday trails for the Ibis are North Slope and Upper Sycamore (climbing). I’m anxious to take the Ibis back out on another one of my favorite trails, but I’ve been a little spooked since spraining my knee on that one.
In short, my favorite trails are a combination of pretty technical singletrack with some faster flow lines thrown in for good measure. Rocks and roots are what I know.
Is there anything you’d change about the components that you have on it now?
There really isn’t much I’d change. After making those handlebar and stem changes, the fit feels pretty great. I love my saddle and the larger platform pedals are a nice recent addition. The bike could use a tune-up at this point, I’m sure, but all-in-all everything is pretty dialed. I’d consider carbon wheels to lighten it up a little, although I’ve been sufficiently happy with the Proterras. The only thing I have considered is lengthening the fork. The 130mm Fox 34 works well for what I typically ride, but I am a bit curious how it would handle with 140mm of travel. Who knows, I might take on a few of those burlier trails if I had a little more squish.
Anything else you want to add about the bike?
The Ripley AF is a great bike. It climbs and corners well. It’s playful and it’s perfectly suited for my style of riding. I think it would be really hard to find a more capable and fun bike, especially at this price point.
- Model/Size Tested: Ibis Ripley AF, Small
- Actual Weight (frame/shock): 3.47kg (7.65 pounds)
- Actual Weight (as built): 13.92kg (30.68 pounds)
- Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
- Price (frame/fork): $1,799
- Manufacturer’s Details: IbisCycles.com
Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.