First Ride Review: 2021 Ibis Ripley AF

WAY, Way, way more fun than it has any right to be!

It wasn't that long ago that Ibis shook up the world of high-end mountain bikes with their release of their Ripmo AF; an aluminum version of their wildly popular Ripmo frame with a bit more attitude and ultra smart-budget build. This bike was ready to rumble and you didn't have to break your bank to get onboard a rig that was extremely composed on the trail and very worthy of future upgrades.

Well, they've done it again but this time with the Ripmo's little sibling, the Ibis Ripley. Ibis is offering a more aggressive alloy version of their more svelte and nimble 29er 120mm XC/trail bike. With this new AF iteration, the Ripley is no longer a slightly aggressive cross country/lightweight trail bike. Now the Ripmo and the Ripley are opposite ends of the same rowdy spectrum. The new Ripley AF, despite it’s size, is an extremely capable and playful trail bike. So, we headed out to the trail, threw a leg over this new rig and checked out some of the changes and improvements Ibis has made to the new Alloy Ripley. 

The Frame You Know & Love...

It seems that more and more boutique manufactures are letting their alloy frames go out to pasture, retiring them, and only offering carbon variants. So, it’s quite refreshing to see a brand like Ibis to continue to develop and release aluminum versions of their popular frames that put your hard earned dollars to good work. 

Now, at first glance this may seem just like an alloy version of the current Ripley that was released way back in 2019 and truthfully not a whole lot has changed. But, this is by no means a negative thing. The Ripley V4 was genuinely one of my personal favorite bikes released in the past few years and everything that made that bike great carries over into this new version.

...Just a bit more METAL!!!

It’s still a 29inch frame with a 120mm of travel in the rear (we hear it has some tweaking to the leverage curve) and a 130mm up front. It still uses a DW-Link Suspension platform that, combined with a 76 degree seat tube angle, makes for one of the best pedaling trail bikes around. Plus, the bike will even allow the rider to fit up to a 2.6inch tire to give you that extra grip and cushion. 

The most notable change, however, is the slackened headtube angle. This aluminum Ripley is now at a much more playful and capable 65.5 degrees vs the carbon 66.5. Making one of the most playful bikes even more fun! In the world of downcountry bikes (Thanks, Mike Levy!) this is isn't the most rowdy geometry but the whole package culminates in a ride that is hard to beat.

FRAME COLORS AND BUILDS

Our test bike was a pre-production bike, so some of our parts spec doesn't match the builds Ibis is shipping. The Ripley AF will come in 2 frame colors; Monolith Silver and Pond Scum Green, and you'll be able to purchase the frame-only option (eventually) and the complete build options. Despite have a less-than-lovely name, the Pond Scum Green tugs at my heart strings and I found it even more beautiful when we headed out to the trails to put this bike to test.

At launch, Ibis is releasing an NGX build that mixes the NX and GX lines from SRAM paired Fox Performance suspension and finished off with Ibis branded cockpit components and wheels. The Ibis components aren't the fanciest options out there but they do perform admirably and I wouldn't be in a hurry to upgrade their in-house components. At $3299, this is a whole lot of value for a nimble and rowdy whip.

A bit later down the road, Ibis will be delivering a very similar build with Shimano's Deore 12-speed group. After all the praise that Shimano's groups have gotten in the last year and our own impressions of how well Deore shifts, this just might be one of the best bike deals out there at $2999. Plus, these frames are such high-quality frames that it means upgrading over time isn't like smearing lipstick on a pig.

SHOP: RIPLEY AF NGX | THE FULL RIPLEY LINEUP

SRAM N/GX SPECIFICATIONS
Frame Ripley AF Aluminum 
Fork Fox Performance Series, Float 34, 130mm, 29", 110mmx15mm
Rear Shock Fox Performance Series, Float DPS with EVOL, 190mm x 45mm
Headset Cane Creek 40: ZS44/ZS56
Shifters SRAM NX Eagle
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX Eagle
Crankset SRAM NX Eagle, DUB, 30T, (170 or 175mm)
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB, BSA
Chain SRAM NX Eagle
Cassette SRAM GX, XG 1275, 10-52T
Brakes SRAM G2, 2-Piston with SRAM Centerline, 180mm
Wheelset Ibis S35, 29” Aluminum Rims Laced to Ibis Logo Hubs
Tires F/R Maxxis Aggressor, Dual Compound EXO, TR, WT, 29” x 2.5”
Handlebar Ibis Aluminum, 780mm, 31.8mm
Stem Ibis, 31.8mm (40, 50, 60, 70, 80, or 90mm)
Grips Lizard Skin Charger
Seatpost KS Rage-i Dropper (125, 150, or 170mm)
Seatclamp Included
Saddle WTB Silverado, 142mm
Intended Use Trail, Downcountry
Price $3,299

SHIMANO DEORE BUILD SPECIFICATIONS
Frame Ripley AF Aluminum 
Fork Fox Performance Series, Float 34, 130mm, 29", 110mmx15mm
Rear Shock Fox Performance Series, Float DPS with EVOL, 190mm x 45mm
Headset Cane Creek 40: ZS44/ZS56
Shifters Shimano Deore M6100
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore M6100, Shadow Plus
Crankset Shimano Deore M6100, 24mm Spindle, 30T, (170 or 175mm)
Bottom Bracket Shimano SM BB52
Chain Shimano Deore M6100
Cassette Shimano Deore M6100, 11-51
Brakes Shimano Deore M6100, 2-Piston with Shimano SM-RT66, 180mm Rotors
Wheelset Ibis S35, 29” Aluminum Rims Laced to Ibis Logo Hubs
Tires F/R Maxxis Aggressor, Dual Compound EXO, TR, WT, 29” x 2.5”
Handlebar Ibis Aluminum, 780mm, 31.8mm
Stem Ibis, 31.8mm (40, 50, 60, 70, 80, or 90mm)
Grips Lizard Skin Charger
Seatpost KS Rage-i Dropper (125, 150, or 170mm)
Seatclamp Included
Saddle WTB Silverado, 142mm
Intended Use Trail, Downcountry
Price $2,999

Geometry and Size Guide

Suggested Rider Height
Frame Size Small Medium Large Extra Large
Rider Height 5'0" - 5'5"
152 - 165 cm
5'4" - 5'9"
163 - 175 cm
5'8" - 6'1"
173 - 185 cm
6'0" - 6'6"
183 - 198 cm

2021 Ibis Ripley AF
Size Small Medium Large Extra Large
A: Seat Tube Length 368.3 381 419.1 482.6
B: Effective Top Tube 574 603 630 658
C: Stack 599 613 622 631
D: Reach 425 450 475 500
E: BB Height - - - -
F: BB Drop - - - -
G: Head Tube Length 90 105 115 125
H: Head Tube Angle 65.5 ° 65.5 ° 65.5 ° 65.5 °
I: Seat Tube Angle 76 ° 76 ° 76 ° 76 °
J: Standover Height 676 703 722 759
K: Chainstay Length 432 432 432 432
L: Wheelbase 1157 1188 1217 1246
2021 Ibis Ripley AF
Size Small Medium Large Extra Large
A: Seat Tube Length 14.5 15.0 16.5 19.0
B: Effective Top Tube 22.6 23.7 24.8 25.9
C: Stack 23.6 24.1 24.5 24.8
D: Reach 16.7 17.7 18.7 19.7
E: BB Height - - - -
F: BB Drop - - - -
G: Head Tube Length 3.5 4.1 4.5 4.9
H: Head Tube Angle 65.5 ° 65.5 ° 65.5 ° 65.5 °
I: Seat Tube Angle 76.0 ° 76.0 ° 76.0 ° 76.0 °
J: Standover Height 26.6 27.7 28.4 29.9
K: Chainstay Length 17.0 17.0 17.0 17.0
L: Wheelbase 45.6 46.8 47.9 49.1

THE COCKPIT

Both builds will be finished off with Ibis branded cockpit components and wheels. The Ibis components aren't the fanciest options out there but they do perform admirably and I wouldn't be in a hurry to upgrade their in-house components. In fact, many of us at Jenson USA have found that the sweep and rise of their bars are some of the more comfortable bars we've ridden and at 780mm wide, these bars will span the needs of most riders of the Ripley AF. Smaller riders can easily cut these down to match their preferred bar width. Also, we quite like the Lizard Skin Charger grips. Ultimately, that's a personal preference for each rider, but they've done well by many of us.

Both bikes are spec'd with 2-piston brakes and while this worked well enough for us, there may be some riders looking to push this bike to the edge who would benefit from a 4-piston setup. If you find yourself on the XC/trail end of things, the stock brakes will be great. 

Wheels and Tires

Ibis ships these bikes with their Logo hubs and S35 hoops. The S35's have long been a solid contender for rims with a wide profile that let's your tires shape up nicely. Meanwhile the Logo hubs work reliably, but are lacking when it comes to engagement. We'd love to see an option that allows for a quicker pickup. It doesn't have to be Industry Nine quick, but maybe closer to DT Swiss on a 36t or 54t setup.

Out of the box, these wheels come wrapped in Maxxis Aggressor tires in a dual compound EXO Wide Trail casing in 2.5" size. The Aggressor is one of our best selling tires, and for good reason. But, we would probably choose to swap out the front for something with just a bit more bite in the corners. Our pre-production test bike came with Minion DHR's front and rear, but we've tried the Aggressor up front and preferred other tires with more cornering knobs and traction.

HOW DOES IT RIDE?

I got the chance to ride the Ripley v4 when it was released on it’s home turf in Santa Cruz back in 2019 and it’s still one the few bikes that allowed me to fall in love with 29inch bikes. This new Ripley AF checks all of those same boxes. It’s light, fast, and when you want it, it sure can get after it! This bike is so playful and so planted! Even with its shorter travel, it feels right at home among some of the even bigger features here in our steep, rocky and loose terrain of SoCal. 

We got the opportunity to take this out to ride the Palm Canyon epic and our first impression of this new rig was just how fast it felt! Everything from punchy climbs, techy downhill and tight corners this thing just felt insanely fast. The pedaling position is comfortable and efficient thanks to that steep seat tube. This thing really climbs like a billy goat. That DW-Link really provides a nice stable platform with very little pedal kick back. 

Climbing & Pedaling

We got the opportunity to take this out to ride the Palm Canyon Epic and our first impression of this new rig was just how fast it felt! Everything from punchy climbs, techy downhill and tight corners this thing just felt insanely fast. The pedaling position is comfortable and efficient thanks to that steep seat tube. This thing really climbs like a billy goat. That DW-Link provides a nice stable platform with very little pedal kick back and is supportive even on out-of-the-saddle efforts. I know it shouldn't come as a surprise, but the DW-Link continues to impress us on each new iteration of bikes. 

With builds starting at ~30.5lbs, the Ripley AF is no feather weight but it's well within the weights of many competitors and the extra bit of mass inspired more all-around confidence than a short travel bike would normally have with minimal affect on pedaling performance or climbing. 

Descending & Sending

While descending the suspension is so active and spritely. It may ‘only’ have 120mm of travel but the Ripley AF makes damn sure to use every last bit of it. Even on some very chunky terrain the bike is planted, confident and stupid fast. The travel has a really progreesive ramp up that really makes the bike feel like it has more travel than it does and it provides a nice pop when you want to take this bike into the air. If you want to get real sendy, you can find the end of your suspension but we were all impressed just how hard you could push this little bike.

HOW DOES IT STACK UP TO THE COMPETITION?

The Ripley AF and the Ripmo are two very different bikes on opposite ends of the same rowdy spectrum. They are both extremely fun and capable trail bikes. The Ripley is no longer this sort of kind of burly cross country bike. This rig is really more of a lightweight trail monster while the Ripmo is tip toeing into the enduro realm.

The geometry is confidence inspiring and there’s enough travel here to bail the rider out of trouble and allow for some “creative” line choices. That DW-Link suspension provides a great pedaling platform combined with that steep seat tube angle really just makes this bike a blast to pedal. I love the slacker HT angle and it’s really hard to imagine how Ibis could’ve designed this bike any better, especially at this price. We think this gives some of the more serious downcountry options from other brands a real run for your money.

COMPARE: RIPLEY | RIPMO

Conclusion

For a lot of riders this may be the perfect bike for them. The geometry is extremely well-rounded and truthfully does a little bit of everything pretty dang well. This is the perfect bike for your local laps, your all day epics and for those crazy days you just want to go out and pedal. The bike on the descents really does feel great and the DW-Link’s kinematics really keep that rear tire glued to the ground. Most of all I’m excited to see Ibis continue to develop rad bikes on Aluminum frames. Because of this you can get into a Ripley AF for just $2,999! That’s a great price point for an extremely well rounded, boutique bike like this. 

But, we're curious about what you folks think about this bike? Is this the perfect trail bike? As always, if you have any questions or comments about this bike or any other bike we carry please reach out to one of our Gear Advisors. We geek out on everything bike and are happy to help you find which would be best for you. Thanks for watching and of course, Keep Pedaling!