In 2005, as Gwen Steffani’s Hollaback Girl topped the American Billboards, Ibis produced their first ever carbon Mojo. Note the key word there- carbon. The first Mojo was steel and came out in 1991. This was eventually followed in 1994 up by the best bike of all time, the titanium version, fittingly called the Mojo Ti. To this very day, I still LOVE my Mojo Ti!
Sometime around Y2K, the original Ibis founder, Scot Nicol, sold the company and the new owners promptly ran it into the ground, effectively ‘losing their mojo’. (warning: Dad joke). Ibis would be nothing more than memories and rumors for nearly five years. Then, shortly after Lance Armstrong “won” his final Tour de France victory, Ibis returned to life at Interbike in September 2005. Show goers would sneak their first glimpse at the new Ibis Cycles. While the brand was still well remembered, despite a 5 year hiatus after Nicol’s departure, the Mojo Carbon ended up being a highlight of the whole trade show.
That first Mojo Carbon did what very few bikes are ever able to- it legitimized an entire new category of mountain bikes. This category was the 140 travel trail bike. Back in 2005, 140mm of travel was an outlier- not enough for a downhill bike, but way too much for cross country. The Mojo was one of the first widely accepted bikes that defined the “trail bike” category. A category that’s still accepted to this day! Erm, never mind the fact that the bike now has 130mm of travel… Details, sheesh!
The Mojo line was further legitimized by pro racer Brian Lopes, who signed to ride for Ibis in 2008, and Lopes even had a link named in his honor- you guessed it, the Lopes Link.
In 2008, Ibis updated the Mojo line by offering a slightly more expensive, slightly lighter model called the Mojo SL. Using integrated carbon headset cups, seat tube insert, dropouts, and a slightly higher modulus carbon, the SL version was not only lighter, but both stiffer and less prone to any carbon-aluminum bond issues.
During a rainy week preceding the Sea Otter Classic, and as the rest of the industry was busy celebrating the first mainstream 29ers, Ibis showed the new update to the Mojo line, the Mojo SLR. Still rolling on 26” wheels, and using the same geometry as that first 2005 Mojo Carbon, the SLR featured some BIG updates. For the first time, the Mojo had a tapered head tube and a through axle rear end. The use of a Press Fit 92 bottom bracket meant a MUCH better bladder could be used in the downtube of the bike, and along with the other improvements, the SLR rode significantly better than the SL and Carbon. Unfortunately, the SLR was dogged by manufacturing delays and darn near gave me a heart attack while I was selling them during my time as an inside sales rep at ibis.
I do think the SLR sets an interesting precedent. The SLR was often referred to as the “only 26″ wheeled bike that shops can sell.” This was in mid-2011, when “29er fever” first took over the industry. In no small part thanks to Santa Cruz’s Tallboy, the demand for wagon wheelers was astounding. 27.5″ wasn’t yet taken seriously, and 26″ was quickly forgotten. But the 26″ SLR was hot! Folks would demo it back-to-back against the first 29ers, which were slow to handle with their long chainstays and terrible, steep head angles. Yes- these 29″ wheeled bikes were not fun through corners, yet would still throw their unsuspecting riders to the ground at the slightest frontal impact.
Despite being victorious against 26″, 29ers would lose the next battle to 27.5″ in 2014. The HD3 was a smash hit (as was Santa Cruz’s Bronson), and the Mojo 3 rode the coat tails of the HD3. But then 29″ found it’s way- bikes like the Ripmo (and the Transition Sentinel, for example) coupled 29″ wheels with surprisingly short chainstays and even slacker head angles. Thanks to the demise of the front derailleur (remember those?) manufacturers had a lot more clearance to work with when laying out the big bikes. Steep seat angles became a thing, allowing for long wheelbase bikes that climbed comfortably, even with slack head angles. By 2019, the 27.5 wheeled bikes were quickly fading from glory, with long travel, aggressively laid out 29″ enduro bikes sweeping the market. Again, here in 2020, the Mojo line will be compared primarily to the larger wheeled 29″ brethren. What will happen? No one knows.
The line wouldn’t see its next update until 2016, when the Mojo 3 was released. Now rolling on 27.5 wheels, the new version used a clevis design to actuate the rear shock, along with a new link design. Gone was the press fit bottom bracket, and travel was actually reduced by 10mm to 130mm. The Mojo 3 then saw a color update in late 2018, but otherwise went a full 4 years without any big changes.
True story- one night I was trying to deal with the original, unguided internal cable routing of the Mojo 3, and I got so frustrated at it that my neighbor was worried that I was secretly an MMA fighter or recently escaped violent criminal. Neither is the case, I just hate unguided internal routing. As Mike Ferrentino once said, “Internal cable routing, we have only ourselves to blame.”
Well, today we have the Mojo 4. The smaller brother (or sister) to the HD5, the Mojo 4 is the all-around trail bike that will make you smiles. Thank goodness, one of my personal favorite updates to the Mojo 4 are the molded tubes to guide the internal routing. Finally, internal routing is easier than external! Not a single zip tie is necessary when building a Mojo 4 (unless you don’t have a bolt-on fender, as I had to zip tie the Mud Hugger guard into place).
So who did Ibis make this bike for? You want fast handling, a short wheelbase that scoots through tight turns without requiring big effort. You want to be able to leave the ground easily, with good airborne manners. A bike that’s light, efficient, and fun. You’d rather pop than plow. Yes, the Mojo 4 is for the trail rider who wants a bike that will respond to the slightest of rider input. For tighter, more natural trails that aren’t crazy steep, the Mojo 4 is a great option.
But why shouldn’t I buy the HD5 instead of the Mojo 4? It depends on your preference and riding style. My own riding style (former pro enduro / downhill racer, constantly hitting the biggest jumps and gaps I can find) really enjoys that extra suspension progressivity of the HD5, and the extra 23mm of rear travel/30mm front travel is really nice when landings somehow are always placed well before the wheels will finally hit the ground. The HD5 pedals really well, and doesn’t weigh much more. However, the HD5 also needs steep, gnarly trails, and lots of jumps, to keep entertained. I can certainly get bored on my local trails if I’m solely riding the HD5. The Mojo 4 will keep trails feeling more challenging. There’s something very real about it being much more fun to be underbiked than overbiked.
A more apt comparison is the Ripley versus the Mojo 4. The Ripley has the benefits of the 29” wheels, which means it’ll hold speed better on the rough stuff. In the corners, I much prefer the slacker head angle of the Mojo 4. My own style is to lean the bike through corners, and slacker head angles, like on the Mojo 4, respond well to this. The steep head angle of the Ripley requires a more upright riding style that turns with the bars rather than by leaning. That’s not my mojo, baby.
A big thanks to Ibis for supporting me with the Mojo 4, and for the chance to make the above video! And a HUGE thanks to all of you for lending me your ears! I couldn’t do this without you!
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Hi Jeff – big fan of yours here. I moved out of Cali and have no option to demo before buying. Can you go into some more of the key differences between the MOJO 4 and the Ripley? Love your review and build. Thanks!
Hey Tony, thanks for the note! Ripley feels lighter and shorter travel. Mojo 4 feels a little bit more burly. Folks with a “wheels on the ground” riding style will prefer the Ripley, and folks who like to jump and hop and pop will prefer the Mojo 4. The Ripley will be noticeable smoother in the rough climbs with the bigger wheels, too. I honestly don’t ride either bike much, I’ve been more of a long travel rider lately, preferring the Ripmo and the Altitude.