Carbon 29er Comparison: Ibis Ripley and Pivot Mach 429

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At the recent Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival we had a chance to ride back-to-back the two hottest new carbon 29ers, the Ibis Ripley and Pivot’s Mach 429. We’re attaching our unique “On The Bike Review” videos here but also wanted to elaborate a bit now that we’ve had a chance to think the rides over.

At first glance, you’d assume these bikes are pretty much “carbon” copies of one another. They both spring from boutique backgrounds, they’re produced by two of mountain biking’s leading designers (Scot Nicol and Chris Cocalis), they both feature Dave Weagle’s DW-link suspension and they both aim at the top tier of quality, workmanship, esthetics and, of course, pricing.

What impressed us most about our rides, however, was how different these bikes are.

In a nutshell, the Ripley rides more like a really fast cross-country racer, while the 429 feels more like a ripping trail bike. Both can cross over into other disciplines, of course. But rider orientation is a big deal in choosing which of these bikes to go with.

What we noticed first about the Ripley was its flabbergasting climb prowess. Riding up forest trails, we easily were scaling step-ups, switchbacks and loose stuff that would have stopped us on a standard 26er, no matter how light and stiff. The bike tracked amazingly well, going right where we pointed it and offering effortless control, even when the front end was unweighted on the steeps.

At first we figured we were drunk on adrenaline, riding the cool new Ripley. And feeling really strong that day. Something we had for breakfast, perhaps.

Nope. The bike itself was the difference.

Hands-down, the Ripley is the best climbing bike we’ve ever ridden. There isn’t much more to say.

Part of this is the Ripley’s short chainstay (17.5 inches) and wheelbase (44.1 inches for a Large). Part of it is the DW-link configuration — built right into the frame rather than external. And part of it lies in Ripley’s fairly steep geometry — 70 degree head and 73 degree seat angles. The bike we rode was also pretty light, in the 26-pound range.

The Ripley’s climbing chops wrought an inevitable tradeoff, however.

On the downhill side, the bike felt less secure. It was a bit too upright to really settle down into. Although it cornered well and responded snappily on tight sections, there seemed to be a slight latency on drops, jumps and technical sections. We never were completely comfortable and never felt truly “centered” on the Ripley.

The caveat here, of course, is that we only had an hour on the bike and in no way could say it was completely dialed for our riding. But it’s also true that the climbing DNA of the Ripley may exert a tax on its downhill capability.

Note in the Ripley video that our take was shared by another rider testing out the Ripley whom we ran into heading back to the festival.

Our Ripley impressions also were confirmed by the ride on the Mach 429. While the 429 climbed better than our 26 and was certainly no slouch, it couldn’t touch the Ripley on the ups. A quick look at geometry gives a clue: The 429 has longer chainstays (17.65) and wheelbase (44.96), and slacker geometry (69.3 head, 71.9 seat). Also, as we note in the video, the Pivot’s front end sits noticeably higher, the head tube being 4.7 inches long v. 3.9 for the Ripley.

(All comparisons are for Large size, 120mm of travel and 2.1-inch tires, with similar Fox forks.)

Pointed down, though, the dynamic flipped. The 429 just railed. The cockpit felt immediately comfortable, the bike ate up berms, drops and jumps, and the suspension was supple and responsive. The bike felt more stable at speed and flickable on sketchy sections. Sitting on the 429, you really sink into the suspension, like the feeling you get when you manual a long-travel 26er.

The simplest way of putting it: The 429 was the first 29er we’ve ridden that really “disappeared” under us. We weren’t constantly reminded we were on a 29er. We were just out riding and having a blast.

You can’t go wrong with either of these bikes. But choosing which one may ultimately lie in your riding style and orientation as well as the trails you prefer. There was a time — when we were more racer boy and loved climbing better than anything — that the Ripley would have suited us better. But for all-around trail riding and just plain fun, we’d have to go with the 429. Beyond those two admittedly broad categorizations, the choice is up to you.

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19 thoughts on “Carbon 29er Comparison: Ibis Ripley and Pivot Mach 429”

  1. Wonder how the Ripley compares with a 140 fork. The geometry is very close to 429c with the longer fork, head angles etc. Cant decide between the 2.

  2. Run a 140 on the Riplet like the 429 has and it solves all the isses with that kind of riding. The ripley with a 140 is awesome.

  3. Thanks for the post, I ordered a med Ripley a few weeks ago. I had a Mojo for 5 years and currently ride a Superfly 100 pro. Anyway, I assume you rode the 120 based on the head angle in the article. I went with the 140 shock with the 34, that will slacked it out t about 68.5 which should help with the descending and hopefully keep most of the uphill ability.

  4. PS I am also hoping that some “real” tires will help it out a bit also, something a bit fatter and more aggressive, especially for around this area. Seems a bit of an odd spec to me but it’s perhaps to save weight or target more xc race riding.

  5. I had the exact Opposite experience. I ride 429c at dirt demo in Vegas. Hands down fastest bike I had ridden. Easily pedaled out but was harsh on the descent. I rode the Ripley this weekend at sea otter (admittedly I was tired form riding all day) at the bike worked better downhill. The 32 for was overwhelmed however. Input more air in fork and the stout rear end of the Ripley just crushed that Lil 32. Maybe it’s the fox mid stroke issue they are fixing. All told I had the exact opposite experience.

  6. As a Mojo rider I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Ibis’ Ripley, and now that it is out, also for reviews.
    I enjoyed your illuminating comparison with Pivot’s Mach 429, but I am puzzled by the term “latency” when referring to the Ripley’s performance on drops, jumps and technical sections …can you explain what it means in this context, please?

    Best regards,
    Joe.

  7. Latency is just a way of saying there’s a slight delay in the suspension response, in this case the rear shock. This can be traced to several things but in the case of the Ripley it felt like a geometry issue. If you’re too far upright or forward, the bike is going to take a split second to catch up to you on a jump or drop. Does this make sense? In any case, I was simply reinforcing the impressions I and the other rider at the end of the video were getting… Thanks for writing!

  8. Thanks Jeremy, I’d be interested in your experience once you’ve had a few weeks on that Ripley setup. Lots of others would too… are you on the Ibis forum over at mtbr.com? Lots of buzz there…

  9. Yeah Mike! Let me know how it goes with the 140. I’ve tried that on bikes in the past with mixed success. The front end can sit up too high and throw off the overall suspension, but YMMV… are you on the Ibis forum at mtbr.com? Lots of buzz there on this very topic…

  10. Seems like the ticket would be to use a Talas fork so you can ascend at 110MM and descend at 140MM. Would this affect a steeper headangle for climbing and a slacker one for descending for the best of both worlds? Or is my logic flawed?

  11. Really good way to distinguish two seemingly similar bikes. Nice juxtaposition on wheelbase and head tube length. Great review.

  12. Oh, I think I get it now, Paul …by latency you mean the suspension is fractionally “late” to respond?
    I was puzzled because the word already exists, but with quite a different meaning to that.

    Best regards,
    Joe.

  13. So I have had the Ripley for a few weeks went with XT build size medium and specialized roval control carbon wheels, oh yeah its a 140/34 up front with some 2.3 ground control and purgatory tires. It took a few rides to get everything dialed.

    In a word, epic. Just slack enough, smooth, playful, and climbs like mad. The wheels and fork make it a do everything xc/trail charger. Full reviews posted on mtbr. It’s a worthy bike.

  14. I’ve been looking at both these bikes so I really appreciate the review. But in looking closely at the frame specs, I’m wondering if the experience you had isn’t also related to the fact that you say you rode both bikes in size Large, but in terms of the recommended height (of person), top tube length and wheel base, the 429 carbon Large is more equivalent to a Ripley XL, not a Large.

    Rec Height Medium 429C=5’9″-6’1″
    Rec Height Large Ripley=5’9″-6’2″
    Rec Height XL Ripley=6′-6’6″
    Rec Height Large 429C=6’1″-6’4″

    Medium 429C TT=24″
    Large Ripley TT= 23.8″
    XL Ripley TT=24.6″
    Large 429C TT=24.75″

    Medium 429C WB=44.17″
    Large Ripley WB=44.1″
    XL Ripley WB=44.9″
    Large 429C WB=44.96″

    Obviously there are other important measurements you mention, like head/seat tube angle and front end height, but seems like the Ripley runs small, which would explain in part why it felt better going up and worse going down. Wondering what you would have thought of the Ripley in an XL or the 429C in a medium. Thoughts?

  15. Curious your size (6′?) and which size frame of the 429 you rode and your impressions on how it fit you? I know Pivot recommends people put 6’1″ ride a M…. can’t get my head around that.

  16. I’m 6-1 in bike shoes and ride a large. The fit kit says I should be on a medium but I have a long torso and arms. You may want to actually test ride before ordering, because sizing on the 429 is something of a black art. See mtbr.com Pivot forum for further discussion, thanks!

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