Earlier this year, Shimano gave us the opportunity to build up a bike of our choice with their newest XTR group. These kind of builds always come with an important questions – do you run the group on a bike that you already have, or do you use it as the starting point for an all-new build? That choice was essentially made for me after riding the new Ibis Ripley v4 in Santa Cruz. Of all of the bikes I’ve ridden this year, the new Ripley was one that I had to spend some more time on, and it ended up as one of my dreamiest builds yet…
Ripley v4 Frame Details
Since Shimano would be supplying most of the build kit, this Ripley started off as a frame and fork only. Dating back all the way to ’99, the Ripley name has been used to describe everything from an alloy soft tail to the XC/Trail bike shown here. Over the years, the Ripley has grown in travel and evolved in geometry resulting in what I would consider the best Ripley yet.
One of the biggest changes for the frame is the move to a new more traditional dw-link system over the old eccentric pivot setup. This was done for a few reasons – it’s lighter, likely more durable, and thanks to the seat tube arrangement, allows for longer dropper posts.
Travel is still set at 120mm in the rear, while the frame is designed around 120-140mm travel suspension forks. This gives you the opportunity to build it up as a light and fast XC machine, or a more rowdy trail bike which is the direction I went. Currently, I have it set up with the provided 130mm Fox 34 Factory suspension fork.
Perfect Cable Routing
We’ve come to expect a high level of attention to detail from brands like Ibis, but the Ripley v4 takes it to another level. The internal cable routing is completely tunneled throughout the frame allowing you to simply push it from one end, and out the other. The routing paths are also perfectly placed to avoid any interference with your bottle, legs, etc. Cable routing is something that is easy to overlook, but the Ripley routing is a work of art.
Then there’s the bottle cage mount. Not just a bottle cage mount, but one that will allow you run the biggest bottles on a medium frame like shown above. I’ve been using an Elite Prism side mount cage and have been able to run all my tall bottles – though it did require a spacer on the lower bottle mount (I’ll get into that on the review).
The Ripley uses an external seat post clamp, but it is semi-integrated. The curved shape is designed to fit the frame so while it is completely replaceable and serviceable, you won’t be able to run other clamps.
A 73mm threaded bottom bracket should be good news to most, and the option for an ISCG 05 mount with a removable adapter is there if you need it.
And because you’re sure to get rad on this bike, a replaceable molded downtube protector is there to take the brunt of most impacts.
There’s even a little frame protector added to the upper link area in case any rocks get thrown off the rear tire.
Out back, a bolt on 148 x 12mm thru axle is included which threads into the replaceable derailleur hanger.
Frame and Fork Weight
Ibis claims the Ripley weighs 5lbs without a shock. That’s probably true considering the complete frame weight including a shock and all hardware tipped the scales at 5lb 15 oz (2.69kg). The fork with an uncut steerer came in at 4lbs 02oz (1.87kg).
I needed a ZS44 upper / ZS56 lower headset for the frame so it seemed like a good chance to try out the new headsets from Wolf Tooth Components. Impeccably machined and respectably light, the headset was a perfect fit and has stayed tight since day one.
Impressively, the Ripley still offers clearance for 29 x 2.6″ tires with 432mm chainstays and without moving to a SuperBoost rear spacing. This Ripley sticks with 148 x 12 Boost spacing and still manages to cram in huge tires with relatively short stays. That gives you a wealth of options in terms of tire size, but I’ve been running mostly 29 x 2.35 or 29 x 2.4 so far.
On a modern wide rim, those tire sizes can provide more grip than you would expect. That’ why I went in search of the proper rim to build to the XTR hubs. Properly wide carbon rims in 28h are apparently harder to find than you would expect. Ibis has some awesome rims available, but currently none of them available in 28h. As a result, I ended up going with the Santa Cruz Reserve 30s with a 30mm internal width, 28h option, and 522g weight (490g claimed). These rims include an offset spoke bed and a hookless bead as well as reinforced spoke holes. Built with 2.0/1.8 double butted spokes and alloy nipples, the wheels ended up at 961g and 855g f/r for the complete weights without tape or valves.
XTR Specific Tools
When it comes time to build up the frame with the new XTR group, you’ll need a few special parts that you may or may not already have. If it’s been awhile since you’ve installed a new Shimano group, you may be surprised to find out that there are new bottom brackets that have a different sized fitting on the outside of the cup. No, this wasn’t an attempt to create some proprietary fitting – but it was actually a move by Shimano to create external bottom brackets that spin more freely.
According to Shimano’s Mountain Bike Product Manager, Nick Murdick, when it comes to bearing drag, it’s all about the seals. Apparently, cleanliness is the biggest factor in bearing performance – even if you have the best stainless or ceramic bearing, if it’s dirty, it won’t perform well. Because of this, you’ll find the smallest bottom brackets with a 3 piece labyrinth seal on the XTR and Dura Ace level groups. These supposedly offer the least amount of drag from any Shimano bottom bracket and they’re offered in both press fit and threaded options.
However, since the cup is physically smaller, you’ll need an adapter ring to work with the standard Shimano TL-FC32. There are specific adapter rings for the different bottom bracket cup sizes (there are now three), and in this case you’ll need the TL-FC24. Pop the adapter into the bottom bracket tool and place it on the BB cup and it installs like any other threaded bottom bracket.
If you’re installing a new XTR crankset, you’ll also need the included TL-FC41 in order to tighten the lockring for the direct mount chainring. Both of these tools were provided in the boxes to make the build process go smoothly.
XTR M9100 Group
As mentioned, this is our XTR 1×12 build, so it got built up with the full XTR M9100 group. For the full rundown on the individual component weights, check out the previous post here.
PRO Build Kit
For the few remaining parts, Shimano sent out a PRO build kit including a Tharsis Trail Di2 carbon bar, a Koryak stem (at my request since the other stems are really meant for Di2 builds), a Koryak dropper post, Griffon offroad saddle, and their Ergonomic Race grips.
Some of these might not be the first thing that pops into mind when thinking of a ‘dream’ build, but with the exception of the grips, they’re all really good. The grips were the only thing that didn’t work for me and had to be swapped out quickly. Otherwise, they are all worthy of the build.
WTC Dropper Lever
Somehow I ended up without the necessary hardware to mount the included Shimano SL-MT800-IL dropper post lever which is a well designed lever. Fortunately, I already had a Wolf Tooth ReMote IS-EV lever for the I-Spec EV mount which includes the necessary hardware. The lever mates perfectly to the XTR brake lever and offers a good amount of adjustment to dial in the fit.
Last but not least, a pair of the new XTR Trail pedals caps off the build. What else?
Originally built with the all black Shimano MT-900 crankset, the Ripley was upgraded to the official XTR FC-M9120-1 as soon as it was available. As a refresher, the MT-900 was used as an interim option as the FC-M9120 cranks experienced production delays. Both are excellent options with the MT-900 actually being far less expensive and still offering a direct mount chainring, but the FC-M9120-1 is lighter and uses the new BB preload assembly.
XTR Installation Instructions
Installing the new XTR group was pretty straight forward, though there are some differences in how chain length is calculated. Fortunately, Shimano now has a pretty handy Interactive Manual for the various MTB groups, with the XTR version here.
As pictured, with Continental Mountain King 29 x 2.3″ tires and lots of sealant (but without pedals) the complete Ripley v4 weighs in at 26lbs 15oz (12.22kg). That includes a 150mm travel dropper post and the bars cut to 780mm. For such a capable bike, I’ll take that any day of the week.
You’d probably expect the end result to be a
fun bike an extremely fun bike – and you’d be exactly right. But I’ll get into more of that in the review!