The Ripley LS is a 29" wheel trail bike with 120mm of rear wheel travel, mated to a 130mm travel front fork.
The talented Mr. Ripley, our first 29er trail bike, has been in production for 4 years. During that time it's grown a little burlier, a little longer, and become slacker. With the Generation 3 release, we've added clearance for the new generation of not quite plus sized, wide rim specific tyres. It will come stock with pretty much perfect-for-a-29er Schwalbe 2.6" rubber. If you're an enduro bro, and like to point it downhill through rock gardens without using your brakes very much, this new Ripley also has clearance for burly Maxxis 2.5 WT tyres. Both the Schwalbe 2.6 and the Maxxis WT are designed specifically for the wider rims that we've been producing for the last few years. And just like that, the Ripley became even more versatile.
The 3rd Generation Ripley has an all new swingarm and clevis, and a wider upper eccentric. Oh, and new paint and graphics. The swingarm will accommodate 29" tyres like the Schwalbe 2.6" Nobby Nic.
Even with the new wider eccentrics, the new swingarm accommodates the 2X Shimano side swing front derailleurs including Di2 (and of course 1X, which you already knew, right?). The front derailleur mount also makes a nice upper chain guide mount.
WHAT’S NEW IN THE 3RD GENERATION RIPLEY
We have increased the tyre clearance to accept up to 29 x 2.6" Schwalbe or Maxxis 2.5 WT tires
The upper eccentric is wider, resulting in a stiffer swingarm connection
Two new colors (we're calling them "Vitamin P" and "Ti-Ho Silver")
120mm rear wheel dw-link travel
Carbon fiber monocoque frame and swingarm
5.9 Pound frame* with Fox FLOAT DPS EVOL
Approved for 130-140mm forks
Tapered head tube (suitable for various Cane Creeks & Chris King InSet 3)
Shock Specs: Fox Factory FLOAT DPS 3pos w/Adj and EVOL Sleeve with Kashima Coat
Provision for internal cable-actuated or hydraulic adjustable seat posts
Post mount rear brake mounts
Shimano 2X side swing or 2x Di2 front derailleur compatible and of course, 1X
* Frame weight is for a medium frame with shock and without seat collar, rear axle, rock guard, or water bottle bolts
The Gen 3 Ripley inherits the more aggressive Ripley LS geometry, and in fact will continue to be called the Ripley LS.
When we first conceived of the Ripley in 2007, it was actually going to be a 100mm travel 26” XC bike. That morphed to a 120mm bike and then to a 120mm travel 29er. Because of the phenomenal dw-link suspension and superior 29er speed and traction, racers found they were faster than on more traditional enduro bikes on just about any terrain short of a ski slope. Then there’s the confidence-inspiring Ibis wide rims and wheels that we introduced in 2014, a game changer as far as traction and control go. That combined with huge improvements to mid travel forks and shocks that allowed people to go much faster required some addressing. We started by introducing the longer and slacker LS geometry. Here are the further refinements we did with Generation 3.
EVEN MORE tyre CLEARANCE
Since we originally designed the Ripley, 29er wheel and tyre technology has continually and dramatically improved. A 2.1" tyre on a 21mm rim was common when we were designing the Ripley. The ride of the bike improved with a little more volume and 2.2"–2.35" tyres became popular. Then we made our mark on rim design with the wide carbon 941’s, followed by the 942. We updated our clearances in 2015 with the 2nd Generation Ripley. Now tyre manufacturers have caught up to our rims with tyres specifically designed for our prefered 35mm inner width. What they came up with ranged from 2.5-2.6" so we’ve decided to up the ante once again. The swingarm will accommodate 29" tyres from 2.0 all the way up to the 2.6" Nobby Nic. The 2.6” Schwalbe Nobby Nic delivers a nice balance of traction, durability and low rotating weight. They look like what mountain bike tyres probably should have been all along. If your tyre preferences skew towards ultimate traction and control, that’s where the Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT comes in.
We are extremely happy with the performance of dual eccentric suspension on the Ripley. On the Generation 1 and 2 Ripley, we maintained compatibility with the increasingly rare 3X chainrings. Maintaining that clearance meant we had to use a slightly narrower upper eccentric. Now that we have ultra wide ratio cassettes from Shimano and SRAM, we decided that sacrificing 3X compatibility was a good trade off for increased stiffness of the rear end of the bike. So we’ve made the upper eccentric the same as the lower, getting more stiffness in the process.
THE BACK STORY
The story of the Ripley 3 is one about tyres. Our original idea for a Plus tyre bike was to make a new Ripley swingarm to accommodate the upcoming 27.5 Plus tyres. When the tyre manufacturers actually made these tyres, we measured them and found out that the Plus tyres we enjoyed riding were much smaller than 29er tyres. So we shelved that swingarm redesign and made a purpose build 27.5" Plus bike instead and called it the Mojo 3 (the Ripley is still a purpose built 29er, and it's not 27.5" Plus compatible).
After a while, the tyre manufacturers started showing us designs for new tyres that were smaller than plus but still designed for our prefered 35mm inner rim width. Maxxis lead the way with their burly 2.5WT line and now Schwalbe is making excellent trail tyres in a 29 x 2.6". The new crop of 29 x 2.6" tyres are a happy medium that provide most of the traction of plus tyres but without the bounce and vagueness. The result is is a volume and profile that just look and feel just right. We revived the half drawn Plus swingarm design and optimized it for the 29 x 2.6" tires. The resulting bike, even more versatile, is called the New Ripley LS.
Let’s look at some of the other features found on the bike, these are shared with the original Ripley LS.
LONGER AND SLACKER GEOMETRY
Compared to the original geometry (“OG”) Ripley, the “LS” features a 15mm longer top tube and a slacker 67.5 degree head angle. This allows for shorter stems and adds stability at speed.
Our versatile port system is adaptable to just about any configuration of derailleurs and droppers you might have, just look at our cable port line up.
You can run internally routed droppers, mechanical or hydraulic. Additionally, the new Ripley is optimized for Shimano side pull 2X front derailleurs, including Di2.
You can now run internally routed droppers, mechanical or hydraulic. Additionally, the Ripley is optimized for the new Shimano side pull front derailleur.
EXCEPTIONAL NEW FOX SUSPENSION
While we've done a lot of work on the frame itself we actually think that one of the most noticeable changes is the latest Fox suspension. We have worked closely with Fox to develop a tune for the excellent 2017 (and soon 2018) Float DPS shock with EVOL sleeve. It provides more supple small bump sensitivity in the initial part of the stroke and then ramps up to provide better support in the mid to end stroke. The result is a plush ride that doesn't wallow and pops off of jumps in a very controlled way. Translation: it's super fun.
The fork makeover that happened with the 2016 model year was equally impactful. The new Float 34 weighs the same as the prior year's 32, has greater stiffness and plushness, and doesn't dive under braking. The Ripley LS ships with a 130mm travel version of this fork.
148 Boost rear dropout spacing helps build a stiffer rear swingarm and the boost hubs with their wider flange spacing helps to build a stronger wheel.
There is a threaded (73mm BSA) bottom bracket on the Ripley.
ECCENTRICS-THE REST OF THE STORY
The heart of the Ripley is its dual-eccentric dw-link suspension. Instead of using external linkages like we do on our longer travel bikes, we were able to construct the Ripley with two small eccentrics, hidden inside the seat tube, which act as the suspension linkages. This clever system was conceived by Dave Weagle (he’s the dw in dw-link) in 2005, and we started development of the system in 2007. Since then, we have been building, testing refining, racing and simplifying the eccentric system. We had been developing a system with angular contact bushings, and at the same time we were developing a more traditional bearing version. In the end, the traditional bearing system was chosen for production for a variety of reasons.
The system that we finalized has fewer parts and uses readily available bearings. Along the way we kept reminding ourselves about one of our favorite quotes:
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
We feel that we succeeded.
There are many benefits to an eccentric linkage system. Because the bearings are located inside the seat tube, they are shielded from wheel spray and contamination. The look is very clean, as everything is hidden inside the frame. Additionally, the eccentric system is lighter than our external linkage systems.
A great benefit, particularly on the 29” platform is that the eccentrics let us build the bike with shorter chainstays, giving more room in the tight area around the rear tyre and front derailleur.
Though the linkages are small and close together, the eccentrics allowed us to make a right side upright between the front of the chain and seat stay, resulting in added stiffness, critical for the larger loads of the big wheels. Not only that but we could mount the front derailleur to it so that it would move with the swingarm. This meant the chainstay didn’t have to be dropped to provide front derailleur clearance at bottom out. This is particularly important with the smaller gears that 29er’s typically use because you don’t want the chain dragging on the bottom of the chainstay.
All in all, the eccentrics were a huge challenge that resulted in many nice benefits. Here’s an exploded view.
The main bearings are shielded from contamination and are hidden in the frame and behind hardware designed to protect them from the elements. The load ratings on the main bearings are higher than those used on the Mojo HD, a bike which has proved to be durable in the field, so we expect a long service life. Our real-world testing, putting in tons of hard miles on the system over the last few years has given us confidence that it works well in all conditions. Well, at least all conditions you’re likely to find here on earth.
The bearings we spec are black oxide (to resist corrosion but maintain the high load rating of steel), full complement (there is no retainer so they have extra balls and a higher load rating), 100% fill (completely filled with grease means less room for moisture), and the seals are contact seals. The seals actually contact the groove on the race. This specification would not be ideal for a part like a hub where the friction needs to be as low as possible, but in a suspension application where the forces are high and the small amount of seal drag is acceptable, it provides better sealing of the bearing without any noticeable change to the suspension.
We have replacement bearings available in our webstore, here's the link. If you're not near a computer and you need to replace the bearings, procurement is easy. The size of the bearings in the frame are standard BB30 bearings, which can be found in just about any decent bike shop on the planet. The bearings in the swingarm are identical to very common skateboard and rollerblade wheel bearings, so all you need to do is put on your hoody and head to the closest skate shop where you’ll be able to find the bearings.
We have a special bearing press tool for installation of the bearings in both the frame and swingarm. Here's the webtore link. You can remove and reinstall the bearings without this tool, but we highly recommend using our tool, it will make your life a lot easier, and you’ll have a lower probability of messing something up. Here's a Chris McNally artist's rendition of what it looks like.
We asked Dave Weagle to create suspension kinematics that would provide a very responsive feel, even sprinting out of the saddle in the big chainring. However we realized that there was no need for a 42 tooth big ring on a 29er so we are optimized for a 32–34 tooth big ring. This was unique at the time we made the decision but turned out to be perfect for the smaller doubles available now and all the 1X systems that use 28 to 36 rings.
SIDE SWING FRONT DERAILLEUR (IF YOU LIKE TO SWING THAT WAY)
The Shimano side swing front derailleur moves all the pivots and cable anchors forward away from the tyre and the cable path off of the seat tube. This allowed us to rework the right upright to give more tyre clearance. A swingarm mounted front derailleur is always in the right place in relation to the chain and chainrings so front shifting is more consistent throughout the travel.
This mounting system also reduces chain slap since the chainstay can be located further from the chain. Also since the derailleur is moving with the chain there will be no chain rub at the extreme ends of the travel, particularly problematic with lower chainstay bikes and the smaller chainrings found on many 29ers.
We've made a provision on the Ripley for 2 water bottles, one inside the triangle and one below the down tube. It’s best to use a side-loading cage if using a large bottle inside the triangle, such as this one from Arundel
The Ripley development story has reached almost mythic status and it seems every review of the bike adds another year to the development. Yes, it took 6 years, but in that time we went through two wheel sizes, two travel lengths, two types of bearings, and two factories. It was a long road but also a rewarding result.
Originally we approached Dave Weagle (suspension guru, inventor of the dw-link who has never let us down on a suspension design) and told him we wanted to build a super fast and lightweight suspension bike and that it needed to be efficient for racing but not so focused on it that it wasn’t good at anything else. We asked for 100mm of travel and told him we wanted to be able to build the bike to be the lightest and stiffest in class. What he came back with surprised us: He had figured out how to shrink the whole dw-link system down to two tiny eccentric links.
During the same time we were riding other 29ers and realized how we were spoiled by the 140mm of front and rear travel found on the Mojo. The big wheels certainly help mitigate the shorter travel, but 100mm forks to us felt like we were going back in time (not in a good way). We're were sure a 100mm bike would make a World Cup fire road racer happy but it wouldn't make us happy. Back to Dave. Can you make the eccentric bike have 120mm of travel and still be just as efficient? No problem he said, so we both got to work.
“It takes a long time to learn how to do something simple.”
― Marty Rubin
The eccentric suspension mechanism started out with angular contact bushings that were adjustable to remove lash for adjusting preload and to compensate for wear over the life of the bushings.
Here's a picture of the original eccentrics, next to the linkage that it replaced.
The bushings we spec’d came with a promise of a virtually infinite lifespan. They’d been used in automobiles for years, predominantly in doors and hoods.
The system was working and we were making progress with each revision, but we also developed a cartridge bearing style system concurrently as a hedge in case we came up against issues that we were not able to resolve in a reasonable amount of time. Back to our testing, we’d been riding the prototypes for a year already without much problem. Several iterations had significant miles on them in fact. During testing, Evan Plews was racing a 100-mile endurance race during a thunderstorm and the bushing system got contaminated with mud. An extreme case, and though Evan was able to finish the race, the contamination destroyed the bushings and so we were alerted to a problem that made us rethink the design. Here's Evan on a Ripley proto in a drier race:
With how small and close together everything is in the eccentrics we realized that there wasn’t enough room for both the required bushing material and adequate seals. We either had to change the bushing and seals and prove them to be durable or switch to the cartridge bearing system. We decided that it would be faster and more of a sure thing to go with cartridge ball bearings and continued refining those parts. As we went through the details of the design and finished the system, we were able to reduce the weight and complexity of the eccentric parts. This happened through many cycles of design and revision, eventually getting lighter and simpler each time. These refinements made it easier to assemble and maintain and also reduced the weight to within 21 grams of the original bushing system. The change to cartridge bearings ended up being a positive thing for the design overall for the following reasons:
1. Easier to assemble and service
2. Better parts available readily worldwide because of common bearing sizes
3. Lower stiction in the suspension resulting in better small bump feel
4. Stronger and stiffer than the bushing system
We’re super happy with the eccentric system. Here’s what it looks like all taken apart.
Getting it made
As lengthy and laborious a process as it is to design a bike like this, it is at least as difficult to actually make them. We’re often reminded of our favorite factory quote, as we ask them to push the technological envelope more and more:
“No one has ever done that before.”
Some of the time spent bringing the Ripley to market was due to having to switch factories. The first factory made the sample shown at the Eurobike show in 2011 but things were not going smoothly. They are a large factory with 2800 employees and only 10 managers, building bikes for a few large customers and Ibis. We are the smallest customer by far and also have the most difficult projects. They weren’t sure they could make it and all of their ideas for manufacturing it involved adding aluminium. It was pretty clear that they didn’t really want to do it. We saw the writing on the wall based on our experience with the SL-R frame delays and moved the Ripley to another factory where Ibis is a more important customer and they are willing and capable to focus on our difficult projects. (We had to “eat” the molds and a lot of development time when we made the switch but we took the opportunity to change the head angle and generally refine the details from the first tools).
Pushing the technological limits with Ibis / Factory Collaboration
The tooling and manufacture of the Ripley frame required extraordinary effort on the part of the factory. We worked together to solve new challenges related to the unique frame design. For example, very lightweight glass microballoon cores for the clevis and swingarm uprights were the offshoot of Ibis R&D transferred to the factory who improved on it and fully implemented it into a new system. These add strength and rigidity at a very low weight in areas where you can’t remove the core from the hollow carbon parts. The new micro balloon cores are roughly half the weight of typical foam cores.
When researching what people liked in 29er geometry we found the more it steered like a 26 inch bike the better they liked it. They just wanted it to ride like their old bike but with the advantages of the larger wheels. In order to do that we made it as close in size to a 26” bike as possible. In every decision we erred on the side of making it smaller: Chainstay length, headtube length, low BB, 73º vs 74º seat angle, etc. The only exception was the front center where we made the TT a little longer and the head angle slacker.
At first we couldn’t make the head angle as slack as we wanted because the increased offset forks that give the trail dimension we wanted were an exclusive and we knew it wouldn’t ride right with the shorter rake forks. When the increased offset finally opened up we were able to have the longer front center provided by the 70º head angle to give downhill confidence, (this is one reason why people like slacker head angles) while the 51mm fork offset give trail numbers in the same range as our other bikes. This gives a responsive feel that most riders prefer. It is important that a 51mm offset fork be used on the Ripley to get the best performance.
With the addition of the Ripley LS we've pushed things out even further adding 15mm to the top tube and relaxing the head angle out to 67.5º. Don't worry, it's still responsive, but now has more stability at speed.
Trail measurement of the Ripley: 85mm
Trail measurement of the Ripley LS : 97mm
Trail might be a bit of an unknown measurement to some, as we in the bike industry haven’t been focused on it lately. In reality, it’s the most important dimension affecting handling of the bike. That’s right, it’s more important than head angle.
Trail is the distance between the contact patch of the tyre and the imaginary point where the steering axis intersects the ground.
Someday, we will write a white paper on trail. We keep putting it off because we don't think anyone will read it.
However, it’s a very important subject and it’s what makes a bike handle good or handle poorly.
That’s the story of the Ripley. At least that’s part of it.