Last week Ibis invited me their Mojo 3 launch in Santa Cruz. I have been annoying anyone who will listen to me about how Ibis has re-invented the wheel since. So, I thought I should put my obsessed rantings into words and share them with the world.
We boarded a flight to northern California knowing two things: 1. The following day we were going to be introduced to a new Ibis model that would slot between the Ripley and the Mojo HD3. 2. We were going to ride said bike on some of the best trails in the Santa Cruz area. Interest level: High. Those who are familiar with Ibis realize that a new bike launch is not something they do every day—this is not a company that tries to be all things to all people; they are 19 passionate individuals who take their time in perfecting bikes that they personally want to ride. There will be no glitzy marketing presentation, no highly-paid sponsored athletes will be making an appearance, and this event will not be at the Ritz-Carlton—instead a fortunate group of Ibis fans are getting welcomed into the family for a day; hanging out in a corner of their warehouse surrounded by four decades of Ibis nostalgia, listening to the owners and engineers tell the story of how they got it right. In other words, the perfect bike launch.
From something so raw comes something so refined.
Disclaimer: I have owned a few Ibis bikes over the years—and I still have two in my garage. One original Ripley softtail that has long been forsaken–left in that purgatory state of missing parts that a bike with older technology eventually succumbs to. The other is a 2016 Mojo HD3, shiny and new, 150mm of endless travel that somehow pedals well enough to take it anywhere. I am fortunate to have a few bikes in my quiver, but that obnoxious green HD3 is the one I grab almost every time. I share this because I was skeptical that this new 130mm bike could possibly be a step forward. But sometimes less is more… sometimes you get too much of a good thing, and the right answer requires taking a step back.
Fun never looked so good.
The bike industry and the riding community have become increasingly adventurous with wheel and tire sizes. The current trend of 27.5+ has gotten traction (pun intended) extremely fast, but brands and riders are still not sure who it’s for and how much tire is a good thing. Fortunately, I didn’t get marketing speak, I got to hear one of the owners at Ibis tell a story about their answer to the question. Most manufacturers will be converting 29er bikes to 27.5×3.0, in order to offer 27.5+ bikes to the market. Ibis started down this road using the Ripley 29er platform, and then they began testing tires. What they found was that the 3” tires would fold over in turns, and felt too un-damped, and they really felt the extra mass. They quickly learned that all the tires they liked fell in the 2.8” range. And then, the epiphany. While measuring the tires they found that the casing height on the 2.8’s was only 4mm taller than the 2.3’s they were planning on spec’ing on their upcoming 130mm 27.5” trail bike, the Mojo 3. At this point they realized that they could refine the Mojo 3 to offer better tire clearance, and allow the rider the option to transform the ride by simply changing tires.
We were not loading up bikes with a chartered shuttle company; we were pedaling through town and up into the forest above Santa Cruz. It allowed us to form some impressions before we ever hit the dirt. For the next 2 ½ hours, my date would be a large gloss red X01-equipped Mojo 3 with 27.5×2.8 Schwalbe Knobby Nics loaded onto Ibis 741 carbon wheels. First of all, DW-Link suspension has evolved from extreme efficiency to outright ninja magic—there was zero pedal feedback, and the pedaling platform was really efficient, even in the open damping setting. The next thing that I noticed was that I didn’t notice a difference in rolling resistance—one of the Ibis employees was on 2.3’s and we were coasting downhill on pavement at nearly the same speed. When we hit the dirt we started climbing immediately—the plus-tired Mojo 3 felt like an efficient trail bike except that everything got smoother and the traction was limitless (in or out of the saddle). I found that I was not making as many corrections to roots or rocks bouncing me off line, and that the steep stuff required very little finesse.
Full Disclaimer: We were having way too much fun to stop and take photos. These riding shots are from Dennis Stratmann thank to Ibis. Click this image to see more of his work.
As the trail levelled out things got interesting. It took a few turns to re-program my brain, to stay off the brakes and use the extra momentum this thing could provide. It took a little while to actually exceed the traction threshold, but when those big meats finally did begin to drift they would hook up again before I could shift my weight and correct it. I was sold before we even hit a downhill, but the locals called this one “Sweetness”. It is the right grade—you can spin out a good sized gear, but not so steep to have erosion issues. The dirt is perfect, there are berms-a-plenty, and it is loaded with drops and booters. At the bottom everyone was laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of how good that trail really is, and how much fun the modern mountain bike has become. I commented that I didn’t miss the extra 20mm of travel my HD3 had, and someone pointed out that I was getting 130mm from the Mojo3 and 20mm from the 2.8 tires. I won’t dispute that because this was a rowdy trail bike ready for anything.
I believe that rim and tire technology will continue to evolve. Bikes keep becoming more capable, and its changing where and how we ride. I am sold on the concept of wider rims supporting wider tires, and I think that many riders will make the switch to 27.5+. Whatever your current skill level is, a plus bike will raise your game by a letter grade. I anticipate that most of these bikes will be a lot of fun, but I am concerned about the handling on models that are converted 29ers. Of all the design features on the new Mojo 3, the 425mm (16.7”) chainstay length is the part of the recipe that makes it work so well. With the rear wheel tucked under the rider’s weight, it feels more nimble and lighter than it should. I never felt like I was riding a “plus bike”, but moreso a ripper trail bike that just happened to have amazing traction.
Efficient, confident, and crazy fun!
A great bike and a great trail makes for a great experience. On my return flight, I was considering which bike(s) or body parts I was going to sell off to fund a Mojo 3 purchase. But, I was also reflecting on Ibis as a company. It has been two years since they launched a new bike. They have only five bike models, and they have far fewer resources than a company down the road with a big red “S” above their door; yet they are one of the most innovative brands in the business. Maybe the trails they ride every day inspire bikes that make you smile–maybe the motivation is to make bikes that put smiles on their own faces as well. It is companies like Ibis that make this sport special. Its safe to say I’m looking forward to making another investment in the near future…
So what is the Mojo 3? I think that is the question that pops into people’s head when they first see it. Is it a plus bike? Is it a trail bike? Have they gone mad? Well…the simple answer to these questions is, “yes and no.”
When Ibis was toying with the idea of a plus bike, they first looked to the Ripley. At first they were going to make a 29er that was 27.5+ compatible, but when they started looking at what this meant for the bike’s geometry, they saw too many compromises. So they went a different route and built up a 27.5” bike to plus compatibility. The Mojo 3 was born.
The 130mm travel, 5.5lb Mojo 3 frame is compatible with tire sizes ranging from 2.2” all the way up to 2.8”. The advent of boost 148mm hub spacing has allowed for added tire clearance, reducing weight, while maintaining stiffness. Ibis was also able to keep the chainstays nice and tidy at 425mm. While the front triangle looks similar to the Mojo HD3, there are a few differences. It keeps the water bottle compatibility, threaded bottom bracket, and internal cable routing. The top tube’s about 7mm longer though, and the seat angle bumped up 1 degree to 74 degrees. The head angle remains about the same at 66.8 degrees. All of this translates to a bike with a more trail oriented feel than the HD3.
As previously mentioned, Ibis decided to max out tire width at 2.8”, as opposed to going to a 3.0”. According to Ibis, the 3.0” tires were too heavy, caused too much tire feedback, and created a bit of a sluggish ride. The 2.8” on the other hand allowed the bike’s suspension to perform properly, and the weight penalty was something most riders can live with. Ibis also discovered that there was no difference in geometry when the bike was set up with a 2.35” or 2.8” tires. What’s also great is that the current crop of wide rims are able to handle all these tire sizes. Complete kits will either be coming with Easton’s alloy ARC 30 rims or Ibis’ carbon 741 rims, depending on build choice.
Chances are if you’re reading this, Ibis built the Mojo 3 for you. It’s an all around trail bike that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Featuring the most current version of the DW link, the bike is a fantastic climber, even with 2.8” tires mounted up. In the rooty, loamy redwood forest, it seemed to float up technical climbs and I never lost traction. The handling was snappy and responsive to my efforts. When the trail pointed down, the Mojo 3 was very capable, and seemed to have more travel than it really does. While cornering, the 2.8” tires allowed me to go faster into turns and lean into near bar scraping territory. This bike really does make you feel like a better rider.
Sure, this plus sized tire thing may not be for everyone, and Ibis realizes this. That is what makes the versatility of this bike so great. With a minimal investment on the rider’s part, riders can try out different tire widths to decide what’s best for them. They can even keep a quiver of tires for a variety of riding conditions. In the amount of time I was able to log on the Mojo 3, I’m not sure if the big tires made for a faster ride, but it sure made the ride a lot more fun.
The Final Say
On Wednesday I rode the Mojo 3, on Thursday I rode a Ripley LS… Now I am a 29er guy—I have a Yeti ASR, before that I had Santa Cruz Tallboys, Cannondale Scalpel 29’s, etc. I expected to love the Ripley LS, it is right in my wheelhouse—but… I just wanted to get back on the Mojo 3. The Ripley was awesome, and I would give it the nod when climbing and on buff pedaling sections, but everywhere else I would take the Mojo 3. I don’t know if the Mojo was always faster, but it was always “funner”. You will push it harder in turns, you will brake later, you will never hesitate to send it—I felt like a hero on the thing. Because of the short stays you can manual it and flick it around. It doesn’t look like it would be so nimble, but it really is—with 2.3’s or 2.4’s it would be a rocket ship. There are more 27.5×2.8 tires coming. I want to ride it with the new Maxxis Ikon 2.8’s—I bet that would be a ridiculous combo.
|C-to-T Size||366mm (14.4″)||430mm (16.9″)||476mm (18.7″)||520mm (20.5″)|
|EFF Top Tube||580mm||600mm||620mm||640mm|
|Head Tube Length||85mm||105mm||117mm||132mm|
|Seat Tube Angle||74.6º||73.6º||73.6º||73.6º|
|Head Tube Angle||66.8º||66.8º||66.8º||66.8º|
|Sizing Guide (rider height)||152–165 (5’0″–5′ 5″)||163–175 (5’4″–5′ 9″)||175–188 (5’9″–6’2″)||183–198 (6’–6’6″)|
- 130mm rear wheel travel
- DW-Link version 5
- Standard or Plus tire compatible with one wheel set
- 27.5 B+ compatible with Schwalbe or Maxxis 2.8”
- Boost 148 rear/Boost 110 front
- Frame weight 5.5 lbs with shock
- 66.8º head angle with 140mm Pike Boost fork
- BB height at sag is the same with either tire
- 1x or 2x drivetrain compatibility