Ibis Ripmo AF Review
In 2018 Ibis shook up the mountain bike game by releasing the carbon Ripmo. This bike was hailed for it great descending as well as remarkable climbing ability. For 2020 Ibis again shocked the mtb game by releasing the Ripmo AF. Not only did they make the AF longer, slacker, and a bit more rowdy.....they retailed for $3k! They were able to bring down the cost by making the frame out of aluminum.
So yes $3k is a lot of money but when you look at the build kit as well as the great reputation Ibis has in making great bikes you will quickly agree on the exceptional value of this bike. Some of the highlights of our NX build kit is the NX Eagle drive train which is up to the task. The aluminum frame is beautifully done and is very burly. The standout of this build is the DVO Diamond fork and Topaz T3 rear shock. The suspension package alone retails for over $1500 which is almost unheard of at this price point....more about this later.
I ran the recommended pressure for the front fork and softened up the compression settings just a bit as well as slowed the rebound a couple clicks from Ibis' setup guide. Rear shock I set at recommended pressure and slowed the rebound down 2-3 clicks depending on terain. Our bike came with a KS 170mm dropper and feel like I could have gone with a 200mm as the seat tube is super short.
On my first couple rides on the AF I was not liking this bike....at all. I felt like it was a lot of work getting up the hill. Coming in at 36.3 lbs ready to ride the bike showed its weight getting up the dirt. The weight coupled with the heavy and draggy Assegai 3C tires helped contribute to that feeling. I soon swapped the rubber for a DHF on the front and an Aggressor DD on the rear and things started looking up. As I continued to ride the AF I began to "feel" the bike more and I was having less strain. The AF is a steady climber with enough maneuverability to guide it where you need it on the climbs. It also had no issue with traction nor did I feel and excessive front end wonder from that 64.9° head tube angle. The seat tube angle at 76° felt ok but I have been spoiled after riding the 2020 Occam with a 77° seat tube. Grinding away on smooth or paved climbs I did notice rear end bob in all the positions of the rear shock. While not the slow efficiency sucking bobs like I experienced on the 2020 Rift Zone 3, the movement was noticeable. I found that sitting and grinding was the best course on my climbs which is really my style anyway and I got along well with the Ripmo AF on the accents.
So if your looking at a bike in this travel category climbing isn't your first priority. While the Ripmo AF's climbing ability is a plus, it's downhill performance is it's bread and butter. This bike is up to just about any task you can handle. On fast flowy trails with jumps and berms the AF corners fast, sails through the air and handles the drops without issue. The surprise was how much pop this bike had for being on the hefty side. Not quite as poppy as the 2020 Occam the AF has more playfulness in it than it should.
Going into steep sections with tight turns and abrupt chunk, the AF says "no problem". The wheelbase is on the medium/long side of things but I found it able to flow through tighter turns easily enough. In the steep fast sections it again feels very confident and carries speed. And once you hit that small patch of chunk at speed it again is there to gobble up most of the hazard keeping you safe.
Dropping into that janky, chunky, garbage of a trail is where I really love to test a bikes abilities. While the 2020 Nukeproof Mega 290c is the current king in our testing grounds this year, the AF isn't too far off. Where the 2020 Occam and Rift Zone struggled a bit is where the AF runs down the chunk with it's middle finger up laughing all the way. It's ability to eat up chunk yet still be able to be maneuverable is pretty remarkable. Now it is not a big enduro bike so the fast rock gardens will show a bit of weakness, the AF will hide the riders short comings well enough to get you through a lot of situations.
The DVO Diamond fork has been a solid performer and is worthy of top shelf placement. The suspension movement is consistent throughout the travel and I never felt any out of character harshness. The king of plush has been our Manitou Mezzer Pro but the Diamond felt very supportive and the adjustments on the fork felt usable. The DVO Topaz was also a welcomed edition to this bike. It provided smooth and just enough plushness and support to handle all the chunk we threw at it. While the middle and closed positions offer less feedback on the climbs I experienced pedal bob in all positions.
The drive train was solid aside from the NX derailleur. We have soild history with this derailleur and it's inability to not flop on the chatter peeked its head out again. I recommend upgrading to either a GX, SLX or XT rear derailleur to keep things quiet.
SRAM Guide T Brakes
The brakes were really the low light of this bike. I've had bad luck with Guide R and seems like the Guide T had gone even further down hill. I swapped out for Magura MT5 and regained confidence on the downs with solid performing brakes.
That brings me to answer the question of who this bike is for. I would say this bike could be for just about anyone. Whether your new to mountain biking looking for a bike that you can grow with or if you're a seasoned rider looking for a fun all rounder. It blurs the line between trail and enduro and does a lot of things well. That and being $3k is really the cherry on top as you will be hard pressed to find a better value.
Ibis really has been killing it with their 29er mountain bikes and the Ripmo AF continues this trend. For 2021 the AF has switched to Shimano for brakes and drive train which will address the issues I had with the entry spec. This bike is more fun, maneuverable, and capable than it should be and I am finding very hard to move on to another bike.