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Our goal was to bring the advantages of a 29” wheel to a lightweight, nimble and fun trailbike. We think 120 mm of travel is the sweet spot for a snappy bike that isn’t cumbersome or heavy. We also wanted the Ripley to be configurable for a wide range of terrain and riding styles, so we made it compatible with 120–140 mm travel forks. We asked Dave Weagle (Mr. dw-link) to give the Ripley pedaling efficiency, XC-like acceleration and optimization for 29er specific gearing in addition to the usual dw-attributes such as excellent small bump compliance, predictable travel through the range with no wallowing or harsh bottom out. This version of the dw-link, like the ones he’s done for us in the past, delivers on the promise.
Below you will find an explanation of some of the technology found in the Ripley, along with the reasoning behind our choices. This is a very detailed section, and we think it will answer many of your questions about this bike.
The next tab over to the right, Story, gives a little lot of history of how the Ripley came about.
Bullet points and a quick explanation of the Ripley are to the left, in Overview.
Designing around 29" wheels presented a new set of engineering challenges. Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves as we started the design process:
How do you make the geometry feel snappy, but maintain toe clearance in the front and an ample tire clearance in the back?
How do you keep the front derailleur from hitting the rear wheel?
Where do you fit the suspension linkages and shock (while maintaining a short wheelbase, low weight and high frame stiffness)?
Can you design the frame to be both light and stiff, and withstand the higher forces of the 29” wheel?
Can we have a super low standover height but still accommodate water bottles?
What is the optimal amount of travel for a 29" bike that will be as versatile as the Mojo SL-R?
How do you accommodate the different gearing needs of a 29er whether using a 1X, 2X or 3X drivetrain?
Where do you put the head tube with a fork that tall and keep the bars in the same place?
Here’s how we tackled those questions:
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."
― Albert Einstein
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 tire 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 in Santa Cruz, combined with Brian Lopes and Evan Plews putting in tons of hard miles on the system over the last year and a half 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.
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 are going to stock the bearings in our online store should you need to replace them. Additionally, we will have a special bearing press tool for installation of the bearings in both the frame and swingarm. We will also have a bearing extraction tool available. You can remove and reinstall the bearings without these tools, but we highly recommend using our tools, it will make your life a lot easier, and you’ll have a lower probability of messing something up. The bearing press tool isn't done yet, but here's a Chris McNally artist's rendition of what it will look like.
The suspension kinematics that we asked Dave Weagle to create for the Ripley are optimized for a 32–34 tooth chainring. The Ripley has a high amount of anti squat for a very responsive feel, even sprinting out of the saddle. Although the suspension works best in the 32–34t range, it is fine with the larger sizes found on many triples and doubles.
We are shipping all of our kits except SLX with a 34–24 e-thirteen 2X crank, which gives excellent pedaling performance and a gearing range appropriate for the large wheels. Even on a fast downhill fire road, it’s difficult to spin out the 34t on the Ripley.
We feel we built a better bike by designing the suspension to work best with the smaller chainring sizes that 29” wheels enable. This was unique at the time we made the decision, but has become more widespread over the time we’ve spent in development.
We’ve owned, ridden and tested a lot of 29ers over the last few years. Some of them we liked, some of them we really disliked. We found that geometry was all over the map with the different bikes and that none of them delivered the snappy handling we all love with our current bikes. So we set out to make them fun to ride, as similar to our current bikes as we could.
During the development process we made frames with different headtube angles and used forks with different rakes. Our testers unanimously and independently agreed on the geometry we finalized and are now using. You can read more about this process in the story section, one tab to the right.
The eccentrics allowed us to tighten up the rear end, making it shorter than a lot of comparable bikes.
A swingarm mounted derailleur allowed us to build a stiffer rear end of the bike.
The new short taper forks allowed us to keep the headtubes short, lowering the often too-high position of the bars. We even developed two sets of extremely strong carbon bars for the bike, a flat bar with a very generous 740mm width and a slight riser bar at the same width. They’re called Hi-Fi and Low-Fi. As in Fi-Bar. Or Carbon Fi-Bar if you please. The X0, XT and XTR Ripley kits come standard with these bars (it's a $70 upcharge in the SLX and X9 kits).
We designed the Ripley to work with either a 120mm or 140mm fork. We offer a 140mm Fox 34 stanchion fork as an option. If you tend to ride the rockier terrain, you might want to consider this. Substituting the 140 fork puts the head angle at 68.5º.
It is essential that you mount a 51mm offset fork on the Ripley. For an explanation of why, please read the Geometry section on the Story tab. The forks we ship both have this offset. See below for a list of forks you can mount on the Ripley.
People who have ridden the Ripley describe it as stiff, snappy, nimble, light and plush. Those words are music to our ears because that is exactly what we were trying to accomplish.
Although the Ripley will still ride well with a shorter rake fork, the best handling is achieved with a 51 mm offset (rake) fork.
The 51 mm offset is available from Fox, X-Fusion and RockShox.
Note that the 51mm rake is stock on the Fox Float 140 fork with 34mm stanchions. It's optional on the 32mm stanchion forks with 120 mm travel, so you need to specify the right fork if you're ordering.
The forks we provide all have the proper offset and have decals that match the color of the bike.
If you are purchasing your own fork, here is the information you need:
Fox aftermarket part numbers for the 34 140:
910-01-415 2013, 34-K, FLOAT 29in F-S, 140, CTD-Adj, FIT, Wht, Gold Logo, 15QR, 1.5 T, Disc, 51mm Rake, DE
910-90-402 2013, 34-K, FLOAT 29in F-S, 140, CTD-Adj, FIT, Wht, Gold Logo, 15QR, 1.5 T, Disc, 51mm Rake, DI
There is currently no aftermarket part number for the 32 120 mm. Fox is working on it and this and we will get it updated when we get new information.
Also available from X-Fusion are the following forks, all are the correct 51mm offset:
Trace Taper 120mm 15mm White
Trace Taper 120mm 15mm Black
Trace Taper 140mm 15mm White
Trace Taper 140mm 15mm Black
RockShox makes 46 and 51 mm offset in 29r 120 and 140 travel forks, but the 51 is not generally stocked by shops and distributors. This one will likely be hard to find for a while.
The Ripley 29 uses similar molding technology to the Mojo SL-R. We start by molding a sacrificial mandrel in exactly the shape that we want the inside of the frame to be. That becomes the 3D template for the bladder that holds all the carbon preform before it's laid into the mold. This allows the lay-up to be done in one piece, with no joints anywhere. The result is a more precise lay-up that eliminates the need for additional foam or filler to mold the complex shapes. What that means for you is a lighter and stronger frame, critical factors in hitting our targets for weight and stiffness.
Another new technology we are introducing in the Ripley is found in the clevis and the swingarm uprights. We are using very lightweight syntactic foam glass microsphere cores in these locations. They 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.
We like the tapered headset found on the Mojo HD and Mojo SL-R, so we're using it on the Ripley 29 as well. It helps build a bike that is light and very stiff. The 1.5" lower portion of the steerer provides an exceptionally rigid front-end platform. Combined with the through-axle fork, you'll be amazed at the precision steering feedback you get, particularly when pushing hard.
You may use several different Cane Creek headsets or the Chris King InSet 3 headset.
We've made a provision on the Ripley 29 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
Internal cable routing is provided for derailleurs through the top tube, and for brakes and a dropper along side the top tube. It’s a super clean, quiet, no-fuss system.
The 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 provides increased compatibility with 2x10 drivetrains and less 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.
If you want to run a 1X system, we've got great news. SRAM XX1 is fully compatible with the Ripley. The Ripley builds up around 23 pounds with an XX1 group. We’ve tried it and we like it.
If Shimano is more your style, you have a good solution there. Shimano began shipping a new style rear derailleur call the Shadow Plus In June 2011. It uses heavier chain tension plus a friction stabilizer to dampen the cage and thus chain movement (dramatically reducing chain slap). It also reduces derailing of chains. Combined with either an e*thirteen XCX-ST D-Type or an MRP 1X, the Shadow Plus virtually eliminates the need for the lower half of your chain guide, plus makes your bike nearly silent. The Ripley comes with an outer bash ring on the e thirteen crank (all groups except SLX).
The 142mm Maxle rear through axle provides gobs of extra rear wheel stiffness in an extremely lightweight package, and compatibility across most wheelsets.
The bottom bracket is the new press fit integrated style called the BB92, also known as PressGXP. Once again, it provides you with a lighter, stiffer bike, and is compatible with most popular cranksets.
We started working on the eccentric dw-link design in 2007, so it’s been 6 years to get to this point!
The Mojo and Mojo SL were already in production and well received, we were ripping around on our Tranny prototypes, and the Mojo HD was designed and getting readied for production. In other words, it was finally time for us to get our first 29er project moving in earnest.
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.
We were going to make the smaller frames with 26” inch wheels and the larger ones with 29” so we could get the cockpit properly proportioned for shorter riders. At that time, most small 29” frames made it hard or impossible to get the rider in a good balanced position as the bars often end up too high, even with inverted stems. Using a tapered steerer fork wasn’t allowing the upper headset parts to slide down onto the steerer far enough, hence the need for taller headtubes. Once the fork suppliers reduced the length of the taper on the steerer tube, we solved the fit issues and were able to make all of the sizes with 29” wheels.
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. This is common practice in ‘real’ companies, like Airbus for example. Check out what they recently did on their lithium ion battery design: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2013/02/airbus-ditches-lithium-ion/ The moral of the Airbus story is that simultaneous development on two competing systems saved them a lot of headache.
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 muddy 100-mile endurance race in Georgia and the bushing system got contaminated with mud and seized up. 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 (common bearing sizes, no custom / proprietary parts)
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 (Click for larger, more luscious pic).
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 aluminum. 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).
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 syntactic foam glass microsphere 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.
The shapes of the carbon parts also make it very challenging to create the tooling. There are multiple sliding elements in the tools that allow the creation of these complex hollow carbon shapes. The guy who designs these tools is at another level from anyone we’ve worked with previously in his ability to figure out complex molds and bring the carbon parts into reality. Our toolmaker has Full Ninja status, and certainly must be one of the best in the world at what he does. Those skills and a willingness to innovate means Ibis can actually get our challenging designs built.
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, in order to test the effects of various head angle and rake combinations, we did testing on a variety of terrain using angle sets and various fork rakes. The riders wrote down their observations independently since we did not want the testers opinions to affect each other. The current configuration was unanimously (and independently) picked as the best performing geometry by our test riders.
We settled on 70º with a 120mm travel fork, and installing the optional 140mm 34 stanchion Fox Float puts the head angle at 68.5º.
The longer front center provided by the 70º head angle gives 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.
Trail measurement, SL and SLR and Ripley: 80mm
Trail measurement Ripley 140: 90mm
Trail measurement Mojo HD 160: 100mm
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 tire 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.
Mounting the front derailleur to the swing arm reduces the clearance needed between the swingarm and the front derailleur since they move together during suspension travel. This allowed us to have a more direct structural connection between the chainstay and seatstay on the drive side of the bike engaging both sides of the eccentrics. In the real world this means a stiffer rear end, something that most of our Ripley test riders have commented about.
|Seattube||A||15” (381mm)||17” (432mm)||19” (483mm)||21” (533mm)|
|Toptube||B||22.2” (564mm)||23” (584mm)||23.8” (605mm)||24.6” (625mm)|
|Headtube||C||3.1” (78mm)||3.7” (94mm)||3.9” (100mm)||4.2” (107mm)|
|Chainstay||D||17.5” (445mm)||17.5” (445mm)||17.5” (445mm)||17.5” (445mm)|
|Wheelbase||G||42“ (1078mm)||43.3” (1100mm)||44.1“ (1120mm)||44.9” (1140mm)|
|Standover Height (mid toptube)||27.6” (700mm)||29.1” (740mm)||29.1” (740mm)||29.1” (740mm)|
|Stack||23.6” (599mm)||24.42” (615mm)||24.4” (620mm)||627mm|
|Reach||14.9” (379mm)||15.6” (397mm)||16.3” (413mm)||17” (432mm)|
|BB Height (2.1" tyres)||12.8” (325mm)||12.8” (325mm)||12.8” (325mm)||12.8” (325mm)|
|Seattube||A||15” (381mm)||17” (432mm)||19” (483mm)||21” (533mm)|
|Toptube||B||22.4" (569mm)||23.2" (589mm)||24" (610mm)||24.8" (630mm)|
|Headtube||C||3.1” (78mm)||3.7” (94mm)||3.9” (100mm)||4.2” (107mm)|
|Chainstay||D||17.5” (445mm)||17.5” (445mm)||17.5” (445mm)||17.5” (445mm)|
|Wheelbase||G||42.9" (1089mm)||43.7" (1111mm)||44.5" (1131mm)||45.3" (1151mm)|
|Standover Height (mid toptube)||28" (710mm)||29.5" (750mm)||29.5" (750mm)||29.9" (760mm)|
|Stack||24" (610mm)||24.6" (626mm)||24.8" (631mm)||25.1" (638mm)|
|Reach||14.3” (363mm)||15.0” (381mm)||15.6” (396mm)||16.3” (415mm)|
|BB Height (2.3" tyres)||13.25” (337mm)||13.25” (337mm)||13.25” (337mm)||13.25” (337mm)|
All measurements are in millimeters unless otherwise noted.
Sorry, no build kit info for the Ripley 29.
Frame and shock. Select a build kit for the Ripley.
If the XT kit were a geyser we'd call it Old Faithful. Not only does it work well, it offers our best performance bang for your buck. Or Pound. Or Euro.
It's not X9 and It's not XX. It's somewhere in between and it's called X0. Crazy light weight and super high-tec stuff from SRAM.
Shimano's flagship group combined with our pick of the best components money can buy. WWJR? Maybe this.