Ibis Ripley AF SLX: An Extremely Capable Descender and an Excellent Value

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What’s better than a trail bike that’s fun to ride almost everywhere, has excellent suspension, and is easy for anyone to get along with? Well if you took that bike, and cut thousands of dollars off the price tag, that would certainly make it better, right? That seems to be the thinking behind the aluminum counterpart to the Ibis Ripley trail bike, but yes, it’s a little more nuanced than that.

Our testers for this bike are Matt Miller (rider profile below) and Chris Schieffer.

Test pilot profile height: 173cm (5’8″) weight: 75kg (165lb) testing zone: Colorado Front Range

Ibis introduced the Ripley AF in January of this year, and like they did with the Ripmo AF, the folks at Ibis made an alloy frame instead of carbon, adding some weight, slacking and stretching it out just slightly, and reducing the price tag by almost two grand on some builds. Frame sets for the Ripley AF are $1,300 less than a carbon Ripley — Believe it or Not. (Sorry, had to). Travel is still 120mm rear, and 130mm front.

Our Ripley AF Shimano SLX build came with a 12-speed, please-don’t-make-me say-it again-drivetrain, Shimano 2-piston SLX brakes, Ibis S35 wheels, Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires, and Fox Performance Series suspension 34 fork and DPS shock. The cockpit is all Ibis OEM gear, and the bars are 780mm wide. Usually, Ibis would spec the SLX build with a Bike Yoke Revive dropper post. Our test bike came with a 150mm Kind Shock dropper. The price on this build is $4,100, but the Deore build can be had for $3,000.

Geometry on the Ripley AF is nearly identical to the carbon fiber frame. The head tube was slackened by one degree to 65.5°, and the wheelbase was elongated by 10mm, and the standover height gets even lower. Reach remains the same; 450mm on our size medium, and the chainstays are still 432mm across all sizes.

Climbing

The DW-link suspension is well-regarded and the implementation on the Ripley AF feels spot on. The AF, heavier than the regular Ripley at 32.3lbs without pedals, feels light as can be through its pedal stroke. The bike firms up under power, but stays quite active through the first 30-40% of its travel. Transitioning from smooth dirt road to chunky trail is seamless and the rear end of the bike doesn’t skip a beat, whether it’s carrying a rider over buff or blown-out trail.

Traction uphill on the Ripley AF is excellent, whether meandering up steep roots or clawing up a slab of rock. Some bikes feel like you hit a wall dipping past 35% of the travel, but the Ibis balances sensitivity and support, and keeps the rider and wheels planted.

The seat tube angle at 76° could be considered steep for a 120mm travel bike but the Ripley’s climbing position feels more relaxed. We never felt shoved into the handlebars, and were still draped over the top tube for a cross-country feel that makes it easy to spin for miles. Handling is still sharp enough to spin and put some power down through narrow, tight, and rocky singletrack.

Descending

When you attach AF to the end of a name, it’s sort of an ultimate: How hungry are you? Hungry AF. Is there anyone hungrier than you? Don’t know. Don’t Care. Doesn’t matter.

The Ripley AF hits above its weight class on the descent. That extra weight you were concerned about when you spent $2,000 less on the aluminum version? Didn’t matter much on the climbs, and still doesn’t matter. The added weight, and balanced suspension feel creates an uber stable, short travel bike over loose and chunky terrain, which makes it easier to carry speed through trails where it might have been unnerving otherwise.

The rear suspension soaks up small and mid-sized trail chatter, and it feels like it ramps up more quickly close to the end of the stroke, but again support and sensitivity blend right into each other.

Handling remains sharp enough at speed to make snap decisions, but the Ripley AF can still feel surfy and stable on steep and loose trails.

Component check

There are some interesting specs on the Ripley AF that give the bike a bit of added character, especially around the wheels. Usually, bikes that are under the $5,000ish mark carry stutteringly slow hub engagement, but the OEM Ibis hubs are surprisingly quick. The S35 rims are mounted up to 2.6″ wide Schwalbes front and rear, and the Hans Dampfs have a nice round profile and the added width makes the Ibis even more fun around loose corners.

Two-piston brakes are never ideal either, but since this bike hovers just over $4,000 and carries a quality spec otherwise, it’s hard to get hung up on them.

We would have preferred the Bike Yoke dropper that the SLX build typically comes with but the KS worked fine, and hopefully buyers will get the former if stock is low.

Cable routing on the Ripley AF can be a little messy where the down and seat tubes meet, and buyers might find it hard to clear a water bottle mount. Since the routing is done through the main tubes, the cables do bounce around inside and make some extra noise.

Closing thoughts

The Ibis Ripley AF is one of the bikes in our roundup that we had a harder time sending home. From the first ride on, the trail bike was a blast on almost any type of singletrack we rode. The suspension is excellent and the added weight of the aluminum frame is more than worth the cost-savings. We’d be pleased to see more brands lowering the barrier to entry and providing excellent bikes like this in aluminum.

The Ripley AF isn’t perfect, but it’s hard finding a whole lot to complain about. Trail riders who are brand new to the sport, and those who have been riding a decade or more, will have a great time on the Ripley AF.

Pros

  • Excellent value
  • DW link suspension feels great uphill and down
  • Fun, playful, and confident bike

Pros and cons of the Ibis Ripley AF

Cons

  • Brakes could be better
  • Dropper post routing can be tricky to deal with

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