My ride review of the new Ripley AF

If you’re keenly aware of the nuances of new product cycles in the bike industry, you probably saw this one coming from a mile (or 1.6 kilometers) away.  That’s right, just as your 11th grade history teacher would say, we are reliving a pattern that we’ve already seen, and I don’t think you’ll complain about this lesson one bit! 

Like a shining beacon of affordability and shredworthiness, the Ripley AF is here to make short travel great again. All while pedaling like a dream.

Yeowwww!  It’s here- the 2021 Ibis Cycles Ripley AF.  You read that right- Ripley AF, not Ripmo!  120mm travel, 65.5° head angle, and a metal frame.

In 2019, while I was busy breaking my pelvis for the third time, Ibis presented the Ripmo AF.  Not only was it the brand’s first foray into aluminum since the old v-brake equipped Alibi in 199-something, but it also made the venerable Ripmo just, well, a little more rad.  A slacker head angle was well received, and the progression in the rear shock was increased via tweaking the linkage system.  Actually, it might have been increased by lowering the forward shock mount on the beefy downtube, but regardless of the means, the result was less bottoming on steep jump faces or massive hucks to flat. 

My own Ripley AF build:

The Ripley AF’s adornment of the “AF” acronym means it gets an aluminum frame and slacker head angle.

The result of last year’s Ripmo AF?  A legitimizing of the Ripmo platform among a massive demographic within the MTB world.  Seriously.  If someone tells me they are thinking about mountain biking, there’s a 50/50 chance that when I see them again, they are indeed aboard the Ripmo AF.  Being dealer based, rather than website based, and with a target rider who is more of your average rider- rather than just 20-something rippers who live for speed- the Ripmo is a very sensible choice for many, and when you factor in the very fair pricing of the AF, it’s clear why the bike is so popular.  Heck, I know I can recommend that bike to almost anyone, and that they’ll most likely be over-the-moon stoked with it.  Like my neighbor- she is smiling ear to ear every day that I see her pedal by on her new AF.  Now those 20-something rippers?  Well, many of them can easily adapt to the Ripmo, and with the help of a 170mm fork, some volume reducers, and a few part spec changes, the Ripmo can serve them well too. 

The silver is indeed stunning. And yes, the fenders are pretty too.

Today, we have something that’s “different but the same”. An aluminum version of the Ripley is something we all immediately expected once we heard of the AF Ripmo.  Welp, it’s here- and it’s better than I was expecting!  Ibis indeed went with a 65.5° head angle, which is a bit slacker than the stock Ripley Carbon.  Pricing is similar to the Ripmo AF- and very competitive within the scope of the market. 

Enough about all that.  How’s the Ripley AF feel, how’s it compare to an enduro bike?

 Well, I’ve been most recently spending my ride time aboard a Rocky Mountain Altitude enduro bike, a Chromag Stylus hardtail, some e-bikes, and the Ripmo AF.  The Ripley AF was particularly great in Sedona.  It was easy to ride, especially on the non-hareball blue and black level trails.  It kept all this stuff fun, too.  I wouldn’t want to charge down the double black diamond rated HiLine trail on the Ripley, or for that matter, any bike with a little 34 fork.  But on the single black rated trails, once I adapted to how the Ripley needed to be ridden, it was a hoot!  The shorter front end was the most noticeable difference when compared to my other bikes.  While reach isn’t that different, the wheelbase is about 30mm shorter on the Ripley than the Ripmo.  I noticed this difference in a ton of places.  The shorter bike is easier to place in tight sections of trail, making it easier to be more precise and smooth, as landings could be shorter and smaller, and therefore, more prevalent.  It also meant that tighter corners required less effort.  And finally, it makes it easier to get the bike in the air.  A shorter bike is almost always a snappier bike when it comes to bunny hops and jumps.  

Fox 34 Grip2 140 fork- thanks Fox!

The shorter wheelbase is a little less controlled when the speeds pick up, something I really noticed when going from the tight, slow, flat trails of Sedona to the fast, flow trails of Bellingham.  The bike does well with a more upright, “turn the bars while leaning” cornering technique, which is great on more traditional trails. 

Speaking of bars, I’m running the PNW Components KW bars cut down to 760mm, as well as the PNW Loam grips and Loam lever and PNW Range stem. I also use an Incredibell Brass Duet to be as friendly as possible to other trail users.

The efficiency of the shorter wheelbase is something I didn’t expect to be as noticeable as it was- but it was a tad less efficient than the longer bikes.  On the Altitude and Chromag, the longer front center would keep the bike more composed through bumpy climbs, where as the short Ripley would travel up and down over each and every bump, creating a lot more pitch.  I noticed that it was really hard to make it up my “tech climb challenges” on this bike versus both the Stylus and the Altitude.  I attribute this to both the short wheelbase and the steeper headangle.  The other bikes were able to blast through sharp obstacles, but the Ripley’s front wheel would get stuck behind stuff and bring my forward progress to an abrupt halt.  Now, this is NOT something most riders would ever notice, as the “tech climb challenges” are hike-a-bikes for most folks anyways, and heck, most of the time they can easily end up being hike-a-bikes for myself as well.  On more normal climbs, the Ripley is a dream.  The steep seat angle and adequate reach keep the bike well composed on the grinding climbs. 

Speaking of climbing, the seatpost here is a 200mm drop PNW Components Loam dropper. I’m running a WTB Rocket 150 saddle.

The rear shock I rode was the stock Ibis “Light Tune”, which I believe is a re-branding of last year’s “Traction Tune”.  Compression damping is minimal, and I never once even considered turning the adjusting lever to the open mode.  I also never once turned the knob to the “lock out” mode, as the suspension doesn’t have any wasted energy due to bob whatsoever.  The stock .6 (yellow) volume reducer was a tad soft for Sedona, but still very rideable.  Once I got to Bellingham though, I quickly had to swap a .8 (red) reducer in there, and am considering going to a .9 (green).  

The Fox Float DPS Evol shock is valved very lightly, and comes with a .6 volume reducer stock. I swapped that out for a .8.

The stock fork is the 34mm 130mm travel Fox Performance unit, which uses the old Fit 4 damper.  Thanks to support from Fox, I was the lucky recipient of a Fox Factory 34 Grip2 fork, which was at 140mm of travel.  This fork was MUCH better than the last 34 fork I rode, but still, it is not nearly as stiff as the 36 chassis.  

The newest 34 generation is a nice upgrade over the prior years. I’m planning on getting a 36 on here at some point to be a proper A-B test, as well as the DVO fork.  Also, these tires have been really making me happy!  Big ‘ol 2.6 tires from WTB- the front is a Vigilante Tough High Grip, and the rear is a Trailboss Tough Fast Rolling.  

Ibis did line up some DVO suspension to test, however it didn’t arrive until just the other day, and I’m still waiting on some shock hardware from Ibis.  Once that all arrives, I look forward to doing some back-to-back tests between the two brands.  

SEND IT! The Ripley likes to jump, thanks in no small part to the shorter front center measurement. Being a little bit shorter than my other bikes, it made it easier to find landings. This was nice.

My personal build was very similar to what I’ve used on most of my bikes this year, which is awesome as it acts as a bit of a control within all this.  I built my Ripley AF up with an XTR groupset, with the exception of some 165mm XT cranks.

If you want to learn more about the new Ripley AF, head over to Jenson USA via my affiliate link here:

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