Since I severely sprained my wrist in an (admittedly stupid) crash in December, I had been looking for ways to kill time while in recovery. To that end, research began on the bike that would eventually replace my beloved 2016 Santa Cruz Bronson CC (medium). I was looking to buy a top-level bike in the next few months, and I wanted my purchase to be an informed one. I purchased a new Ibis Ripmo v2.
This all started in 2018 when I embarked on a three week road trip with three items; my Bronson, a load of camera gear, and a cooler (to bring interesting beers home with me). My intention was to ride trails in seven states and to shoot as much landscape as I could in between stops. The trip was an overwhelming success – I got to experience places in the USA that I didn’t know existed – and I found what will likely be the location of my next home in Durango, Colorado.
But one part of the trip stood out more than any other; Winter Park. That’s where I rode my very first bike park, and I fell in love.
Trestle Bike Park is an amazing place. Located just a couple of hours west of Denver it sports some beautiful and challenging runs in a wide variety of types and difficulties. I followed the advice of a friend who used to live locally and ventured to Trestle on a whim. I was not disappointed. As a traditional mountain biker who grew up riding in Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and all points in between, I was used to riding to the top of some big hills. The idea of riding a lift was intoxicating!
Riding with Chet, a great guy from Chicago who spent the day with me, I learned the ins and outs of park riding. He led me through many intermediate and difficult trails and gave me the confidence to ride them by providing a solid line to follow down the hills. The day was beautiful and the trails were perfect. We earned and enjoyed our pints after the day was done. I’m still in touch with Cheston.
Since that day, I have visited a few other (more local) parks with friends and family. Assuming I can travel, I plan to take two more major multi-week trips this year to parks all over the USA. One will venture north, and one will head east. I’ll visit Salt Lake, Angelfire, Spider Mountain, Bentonville, Big Bear, and a variety of others. Also, there will be many stops in amazing towns that don’t have bike parks parks like Bend, Tiger Mountain, Durango, Moab, St. George, Pisgah/Dupont, and Charleston Peak. I may even hit Mt. Lemon in Tucson if time allows.
Making a Choice
The bike I need for this trip is not my Bronson. Don’t get me wrong – the Bronson has served me extremely well and has done everything I have asked it to do. It is still my first love on local trails and it will remain with me as a very capable arrow in my quiver. But I need a bike with more slack, longer reach, a steep seat tube, a longer wheelbase, and bigger wheels if I want to roll down some of these big hills and also climb up a few of them. To that end and with those specifications my search took shape.
The obvious first choice was to look at the Santa Cruz Hightower. I already had great experiences on Santa Cruz bikes and the Hightower looks like, in a general way, a 29″ version of my Bronson. Its angles are similar and it gets fantastic reviews. People love it.
The other major contender was the Ibis Ripmo. With its similar reach, seat tube/head tube angles and standover height I didn’t see much of a reason to consider one over the other. What the Ripmo sacrificed in slack, it made up for in climbing ability. It was attracting a lot of attention in reviews as a more-then-worthy competitor to the Hightower. On top of that, I have always loved the Ibis designs; some of the most beautiful frame designs ever made have originated inside Ibis’ designer’s minds. In my humble opinion, the 2016 Mojo HD is a work of art and belongs in a museum.
This was a virtual tie. Wanting the decision to be based on real-world application, I made arrangements with Ibis and Santa Cruz to demo both bikes on the same trails over the same weekend. I could get a room in Santa Cruz for the weekend and compare them head-to-head. I would make my decision based on empirical results. It was also a great opportunity to write an article on the experience for my blog/channel. Unfortunately, Covid 19 set in. As a result of the shelter-in-place orders which were being enacted across the country and around the world, both reservations were cancelled and the Spring rains started. Social distancing was the topic in all the headlines and I wasn’t getting out on the bike anytime soon.
I passed my time by trying to find interesting subjects to use as blog content and by ingesting online mountain biking videos. Escapism kept me sane as I relived some of the videos of my past adventures, learned new skills, and enjoyed the escapades of Youtube personalities like Seth Alvo (Seth’s Bike Hacks) and Brian Kennedy (BKXC).
At about the same time, Ibis announced the release of the carbon Ripmo v2. It carried many of the characteristics of their winning Ripmo AF design into a carbon frame offering and was being hailed as a #1 advancement by virtually ever rider who could lay their hands on one. The online build videos were enchanting.
Curious about the new v2, I asked around and was told by BKXC and a few others that it really is a great bike that climbs well, descends like an animal, and caters to a wide variety of applications. I was able to test ride a v2 thanks to a friend. They were a brand-new design and were not widely available. Virtually all of the v2 frames that had been released to retail outlets as frame-only or pre-built bikes had been snatched up by eager riders as soon as they hit the scene. The only other people who could get them were online reviewers or sponsored riders. I didn’t know where to start, so I started calling bike shops.
I started with my local shops. Spokesman in Santa Cruz, Family Cycling, Trailhead (they don’t carry Ibis anymore, but they are on the website listed as a reseller), and Bike Works. I called several others, and no one had a large bike or large frame in stock. All told me I would need to wait until September at the earliest to see one. So I doubled down and got busy. I called Fresh Bikes and OutSpokin in Atlanta, Fanatik, Mojo, Fat Tire, Sonoran, Over The Edge, Elephant’s Perch, and a huge list of others had no idea when to accurately tell me when a bike might be in stock. It seemed hopeless.
As a last-ditch measure before I threw in the towel, I called Sports Basement. They are a local retailer who carries Ibis, but I didn’t hold out much confidence that they would have my desired bike based on the news I got from the other shops. I looked at the website and, sure enough, they were out. But wait! If I clicked on the sizing button, there was ONE large Ripmo v2 left in stock! Was this real?
I called, but there was no answer, as they were closed for Covid-related reasons. Their voicemail directed me towards the website where I found an email address to use to contact their workers and check stock. According to them, they had one in stock, and I bought it that same day. It was a SRAM NX stock build. Not my desired setup, but a good start.
Sports Basement opened their bike shop operations to the public the following Wednesday and I was able to talk to a worker on the phone about my order. Apparently, the guys in the shop were referring to it as a unicorn; not another one existed in the wild as far as they knew. He told me the bike was located at the Presidio location and that I could pick it up if I wanted to. I was in the car an hour later driving to San Francisco.
Upon arrival, they told me that the bike was still in stock because it had been erroneously added to the website by someone who didn’t know that it was a custom build. It had the standard NX components, but the wheels were upgraded to Ibis carbon S35 rims with Ibis hubs and a new dropper post. If I wanted the bike, it would cost me an additional $900. I paid it and took the bike to the park across the street to take a few pictures before I loaded it on the 1up USA rack for the drive home.
The bike sits in my garage five days after my purchase, virtually unridden. I took it for an inaugural ride up a local road with my Son the day I got it, but I have stayed off it since then as I wait for the eventual tear-down to add my frame protection and to replace many of the parts with my custom build list. This bike is gonna be a killer ride when I’m done with it.
I may not be taking any more road trips this year, but I’ll be ready if I do. The new bike is an amazing piece of engineering and art. I appreciate all that Soren and Ibis did for me to help me obtain the unobtainable. I am a proud Ibis customer. In fact, I have already referred two friends to Ibis purchases in the last 2 weeks; both are happy owners of Ripmo AF bikes. We will all go out together when the fog lifts from the pandemic and we can enjoy the trails the way we were meant to – as happy Ibis owners.
NOTE: I added a how-to segment at the end of the video at 4:30.