Road Test: Ibis Ripley AF

Mar 1st, 2022

This article first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine. 

Ibis has long been a boutique brand in the mountain bike world, with its premium carbon frames demanding a premium price. So it came as a happy surprise when, in late 2019, Ibis released the Ripmo AF, an aluminum-framed version of the long-travel Ripmo. It was the first aluminum bike in 20 years for the Santa Cruz, California, brand.

In January 2021, Ibis released a follow-up in the alloy line: the Ripley AF, an aluminum-framed version of the stalwart short-travel 29er rig. Like its carbon counterpart, the Ripley AF features the same DW-Link rear suspension system, the same 120mm of rear travel and 130mm front, and 29-inch wheels with room for big rubber.

We love a good value here at Adventure Cyclist, so of course I spent months pestering Ibis for a review model. One finally arrived late in the season with a bit of a mishmash of componentry — a result of the pandemic shortages still wreaking havoc on the industry. My review bike was a blend of the Deore and NGX models that Ibis offers, with Shimano Deore brakes and cassette mated to SRAM GX Eagle derailer and shifter. The rest of the build was standard fare for the Ripley AF, including a Float DPS Evol shock and Float 34 Performance fork, both from Fox, and Schwalbe tires mounted to Ibis’s S35 wheels. The dropper post was an upgrade model, the incredibly smooth BikeYolk Revive with a whopping 185mm of drop.

It wasn’t that long ago that you could either have a bike that would climb really well or descend really well, but never both. Lucky for us, bikes like the Ripley AF are breaking that mold. Ibis’s DW-Link is a very efficient suspension system, which allows the Ripley to climb with an alacrity that belies its downhill performance. Other than on pavement or when I had the bike loaded up, I rode with the shock and fork fully open; on dirt, there simply is no need to use the pedal platform on the Float DPS shock. Whether I was seated and spinning a low gear or standing up and hammering on the pedals, the Ripley AF fairly scooted uphill. Make no mistake, this is no flyweight XC race machine, but it still rewards your pedaling effort with immediate forward momentum. I did find that the rear wheel would get hung up on rocks and ledges a bit more than I would like, but it’s possible that I could have found a better balance with some more fine tuning of the shock.

Aiding the Ripley AF’s climbing performance was its 76° seat tube angle, which is on the steeper side of things. In effect, a steep seat tube angle places your hips farther forward in relation to the crank, giving you the feeling of pushing down on the pedals as opposed to pushing the pedals forward. Living where I do in Salt Lake City, that pedaling position was often a boon — when the road or trail pitched up into near-vertical territory, I wasn’t forced to shift my weight forward on the saddle to keep the front wheel down because I was already there. If you live in an area with flatter terrain, you might not realize the benefits of such a design; in fact, you might find it counterproductive. On flat roads or trails, like riding across town to another trail system, I noticed that the forward position of the saddle put more of my body weight on the handlebar and my hands would get sore.

Speaking of angles, the Ripley AF’s head tube angle is … wait for it … 65.5°, a degree slacker than the carbon model. A slack head tube angle essentially puts your front wheel farther out in front of you, which leads to more confidence and stability when riding downhill at speed. This makes the Ripley one of the most capable mountain bikes I’ve ever ridden. I took this bike on some seriously rough and rowdy terrain, and it handled everything with aplomb. It was also a wicked fun rig on smoother, tighter trails, including flow trails and jump lines. It’s truly a bike for the full spectrum of mountain biking.

To test its potential for bikepacking, I loaded up the Ripley AF for a local overnight in the middle of November. The route included way too many pavement miles, some dirt roads, and plenty of steep singletrack. And that was just getting to the campsite. With a little more air in the suspension and tires, the bike handled the extra weight just fine, though I did take advantage of the climb switch on the rear shock for most of the way up.

The next morning, I set off in a light drizzle to take the “fun” way down. This very quickly morphed into Type 2 fun as I strained to push my loaded rig up near-vertical hills and careened down scraggly goat paths on the other side, making full use of the Ibis’s suspension travel and its aggressive geometry. Even loaded down, the Ripley AF felt comfortable, stable, and confidence-inspiring on what was maybe the sketchiest bikepacking descent I’ve ever done.

Rides like this one, that are on the extreme end of the bikepacking spectrum, do an excellent job of highlighting potential faults in a bike. For the Ibis, a couple of things came to light. While climbing the steep trail to the campsite, I decided that the 32T chainring was too big. For bikepacking, I would throw a 30T or 28T ring on it. Luckily, that’s easily done thanks to the direct-mount Descendent crank. (The stock NGX build comes with a SRAM NX crank, which also has a direct-mount chainring.) On the descent, I found the limit of the two-piston Deore brakes pretty quickly. I like those brakes a lot, especially for the price, but they were simply outmatched trying to slow a heavy, loaded bike on very steep trails. A larger front rotor would help. (The stock NGX build comes with four-piston SRAM G2 brakes, which I’ve had middling success with in the past.)

Otherwise, the spec was solid. The Fox fork and shock were smooth, supportive, and took repeated hits with consistent performance. The Ibis S35 wheels are inexpensive but dependable, with 35mm wide rims to better support the big 2.6in. rubber. My only gripe with the wheels was the 10° rear hub engagement, which I found to be a little slow in technical terrain. The Hans Dampf tires also impressed: they didn’t have the most outright grip, but they rolled nicely on pavement and had very predictable breakaway in loose terrain. Most importantly, the tires never lost air, burped, or punctured. And for what it’s worth, I mostly ran them in the high teens for air pressure, adding only a couple PSI for the overnight. Oddly, the funky pairing of the GX Eagle derailer to the Deore 12-speed cassette worked pretty well. I have Eagle on one of my own bikes, and Deore on another, and both are great 1x drivetrains.

The cable routing situation on the Ripley AF is, admittedly, a bit of a mess. The rear brake, shift cable, and dropper cable all exit the down tube at the same port, so you have three lines in the way when trying to mount a bottle cage (heaven forbid you also try to mount a tire pump). It’s workable, but frustrating. On the other hand, I never heard any rattles from the housing inside the frame, so that’s a plus.

When the bike arrived, the BikeYoke dropper post was already installed. I needed to lower it for my saddle height, but the thing wouldn’t budge. To be clear, the dropper functioned just fine, but the post itself was stuck in the frame. I had to yank it out with ratchet straps. I ended up using one of my own dropper posts, which was shorter than the BikeYoke, in order to ride the Ripley AF, but even my own post could only go so far into the seat tube before getting stuck. After I returned the bike, Ibis determined that the frame was a pre-production model in which the seat tube hadn’t been properly reamed at the factory after welding. They assured me that it isn’t an issue on production models.

I was left deeply impressed by the Ripley AF, so much so that I’m already recommending it to friends who are in the market. At nearly 33 pounds without pedals, it’s on the hefty side but I never felt like the weight held me back. This small-brand bike has a sophisticated suspension system, solid componentry, and modern geometry that is just as good on the ups as it is on the downs, and all for $3,500. That’s still a big chunk of money, but considering everything the Ripley AF can do — and the fact that there’s nothing in the spec that needs immediate upgrading, which I can’t say for a lot of bikes — it’s about as good a value as you’re going to find in the mountain bike world. And who doesn’t love a bargain?  

Ibis Ripley AF NGX

Price: $3499

Sizes available: S, M, L, XL

Size tested: L

Weight: 32.8 lbs. (without pedals)


Stack: 622mm

Reach: 475mm

Head tube length: 115mm

Head tube angle: 65.5°

Seat tube length: 418mm

Seat tube angle: 76°

Top tube: 630mm (effective)

Chainstays: 432mm  

Bottom bracket height: 335mm

Fork offset: 44mm

Wheelbase: 1217mm

Standover height: 722mm

Specifications as tested

Frame: Ripley AF

Fork: Fox Float 34 Performance, Fit Grip damper, 130mm travel

Shock: Fox Float DPS Evol, 120mm travel

Handlebar: Ibis alloy, 780mm

Stem: Ibis alloy, 31.8mm clamp, 50mm length

Rear derailer: SRAM GX Eagle

Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle

Brakes: Shimano M6100 Deore two-piston, hydraulic

Rotors: Shimano RT66, 180mm front and rear

Bottom bracket: SRAM Dub, threaded

Crankset: SRAM Descendent, 175mm, 32T chainring

Cassette: Shimano M6100 Deore, 10–51T, 12spd

Headset: Cane Creek 40

Seatpost: BikeYoke Revive dropper, 185mm

Saddle: WTB Silverado

Hubs: Ibis, 110 x 15mm front, 148 x 12mm rear, thru-axles

Rims: Ibis S35 alloy, 32h, tubeless

Tires: Schwalbe Hans Dampf Super Trail Evo 29 x 2.6in., tubeless

Gearing Range


10    95.0

12    79.3

14    68.0

16    59.4

18    52.8

21    45.1

24    39.5

28    33.8

33    28.8

39    24.3

45    21.1

51    18.7

Contact: Ibis Cycles, 2240 Delaware Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 866.424.7635,,

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