2021 Pinkbike Awards: Value Bike of the Year Winner

Dec 28, 2021
by Mike Levy  

Value Mountain Bike of the Year Winner

The finalists for the 2021 Value Mountain bike of the Year were the Devinci Marshal, Ibis Ripley AF, BMC Twostroke AL One, and the Polygon Siskiu T8 were all at the 2021 Value Bike Field Trip series, while Kazimer spend time on Vitus' Escarpe earlier in 2021, and all five are our nominees for Value Mountain Bike of the Year.

Ibis Ripley AF

Riders who have efficiency and nimbleness at the top of their list of wants have long been fan of Ibis' 120mm-travel Ripley for exactly those reasons. Thanks to its dw-link suspesnion layout, which delivers relatively high anti-squat percentages, all four previous generations of the Ripley have been able to cover ground in a way that bloated trail bikes can only dream of. Unfortunately for those who can't or don't want to spend big bucks, the Ripley had always been made of carbon and not exactly inexpensive.

Ibis Ripley. 2021 Field Trip. Photo Tom Richards

Ibis Ripley. Field Trip 2021. Photo by Tom Richards
Ibis Ripley. Field Trip 2021. Photo by Tom Richards

That is, until this year. For 2021, Ibis released the fifth-generation Ripley in aluminum and with revised geometry that makes it more capable on challenging terrain. Okay, $3,199 USD isn't exactly a small amount of money, but you're getting a Deore drivetrain and dw-link suspension with important bits from Fox, whereas the carbon Ripley starts at $5,099 USD with Deore and a Fox Factory fork and shock. If you want just a frame, the carbon version will set you back $3,199 USD, which is the same price as the entire aluminum bike. Not only that, the aluminum Ripley is a degree slacker up front, sitting at 65.5 degrees with a 130mm fork instead of the carbon bike’s 66.5 front end, which definitely isn't a bad thing.

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mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 82 9
 I have to say, this is a well deserved award! Awesome job Ibis!
  • 3 0
 Ibis does seem like a good bike. Has anyone ever ridden this and the alloy stumpjumper and can tell their impressions?
  • 7 1
 Indeed deserved to Ibis, but for me the best value bike is the Cube Stereo 150 C:62 SL29. Full Fox factory including dropper, carbon frame and deore XT for €3699 and 66°front end. That was for the 2021 model. Same bike in 2022 is €4159 according to the site...
The base Race model still comes with the carbon frame a RS Lyrik and GX for €3329. Not bad either...
  • 2 3
 An unlikely winner, but I guess props to Ibis for doing alloy frames. Looked at the Ripmo AF for a second. Creaking bushings still an issue with the alloy frames?
  • 1 0
 @aug7hallak: Both are nice. The Stumpjumper alloy feels a bit smoother and the Ripley AF feels a bit more efficient. Not good enough to give you much more detail there. Get whatever is in stock.
  • 9 1
 @dancingwithmyself: as an ibis dealer we have never had creaking bushings in any of the bikes we have sold or serviced since the AF was released.
  • 1 2
 @jason114: Good to hear. Know I read about it a few places, but must be very isolated. Lots to like about those bikes.
  • 1 0
 Genuine question here. Does anyone know why Ibis decided to have different head tube angles for the carbon vs aluminum frames? It seems odd to me. Thanks for listening Smile
  • 2 0
 @Endurahbrah: the AF is supposed to be a little more descend focused.
  • 5 0
 @Endurahbrah: I would confidently assume it's because they committed to the moulds for the carbon version before the metal one was finalised.
  • 1 0
 @Endurahbrah: it was the same with the Ripmo AF. It was slacker than the carbon Ripmo out the gates. But the carbon one was already out for like a year.

Ibis then updated the carbon one to match when the Ripmo V2 came out later on. I would expect the same for the Ripley.
  • 6 0
 "Awesome job Ibis!"
Ibis are world renowned for doing the job.
  • 62 12
 still say it looks better with a straight top tube www.pinkbike.com/photo/20600723
  • 11 5
 Absolutely!! Ibis bikes are flowy fir the sake of being flowy...
  • 26 4
 that picture just makes me sad at how cool that bike could look...
  • 23 11
 Honestly I don’t think that looks any better. Ripely is a great looking bike as it is, IMO.
  • 4 4
 Need to up their color game
  • 41 4
 All bikes would look better with straight tubes, simpler shapes, and no obnoxious muscle lines.
  • 9 23
flag mrosie (Dec 28, 2021 at 9:55) (Below Threshold)
 @brianpark: Yeti SB6 and 5.5, possibly the best looking bikes ever made, take issue with this comment.
  • 9 0
 And bike designer of the year for 2021 goes to hamncheez. Congratulations hamncheez! Somewhere an ibis employee is looking at that photo and feeling bad about themselves.
  • 4 2

You could just go buy a 90’s mtb…
  • 2 0
 @brianpark: So u don't like a circa 2011 Kona Operator?
  • 12 0
 @kcy4130: In my spare time in 2020 (had shoulder surgery, couldn't ride) I did design a full suspension titanium enduro bike, in both matte sandblasted (www.pinkbike.com/photo/20805694) and polished (www.pinkbike.com/photo/20805697) . I think they hold up visually to mainstream brands.
  • 8 10
 Some of the ugliest bikes out there. I'm sure they are sweet rides, but as bike folks, we'd be lying to ourselves if we were to say that aesthetics don't count for something
  • 4 0
 @hamncheez: Amazing.

PB commentary: No water bottle holder. Fail.
  • 8 8
 @brianpark: nope. Straight tube and sharp angles make everything look like it was made in your garage.

There are more than enough straight tubed bikes.

I love Ibis' curves, and wish Transition had stayed that way.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: oh come on you didn't like the gastank look on the old Santa Cruz bikes or the cobra hood on the downtube of the Flatline lol
  • 4 0
 @Ktron: for metal frames, big swoopy curves means lots of hydroforming, which gets nearly as expensive as carbon. Plus you get lots of weak spots, and isn't as structurally sound as straight tubes with minimal shaping/curves. For the most part, our brains intuitively know good geometry for strength, and see those things as more aesthetically pleasing. This is why bikes like the latest Evil and Forbidden look so dang hot.

Look at 2011 Kona Operators- I suspect every single one ever ridden aggressively eventually broke. The severe curves and hydroforming not only is not as strong of a shape, it makes thin sidewalls on the outside of curves that buckle and break.
  • 7 0
 @stiingya: While I agree the look isn't great I think it is done, at least partially, for increased standover clearance. Low seat tube and top tube height are key parts of the Ibis design. Being average height I wish it weren't so, but my wife who rides a medium Ripley AF sure appreciates it.
  • 4 1
 @brianpark: wish it was all function over form in the MTB world.

Until Minons showed that tire design mattered, MTB tires were made to “look good”. Geometry was steep because slack bikes “looked like grandma/grandpa’s cruiser”. Bars were narrow and stems were long because that made bikes “look fast”.

My personal favorite-chainstay mounted u-brakes that “looked sleek”.
  • 2 1
 Generic, nope.
  • 3 0
 @hamncheez: dang. No high pivot = fail I guess?

In all seriousness, great bike. It'd make an awesome bike check article on here.
  • 7 0
 @wyorider: I believe the main influence on earlyish MTB design, steep angles, long stems and narrow bars was because of the road riders crossing over to compete in XC races, they wanted to be in a more familiar 'road' position. XC was the growth area and as we know, for some strange reason, bikes riden uphill, by the fittest and most skilled riders are obviously going to be the best bike for worse than average me who enjoys going down, so everything, including bike geo, was put into winning races. It's probably true to say the race aesthetic influenced the whole era of bike design, but the I think the reason was the roadies.
  • 2 0
 @Acourtney: Maybe, but the tube curves UP from the headtube to mid way and only dips down and S curves lower closer to the seat. Yes that gives you a low TT "'measurement". BUT... if you come off your bike in front of your seat your going to be standing where that tube arc's up or where it only starts to curve down. In that instance a straight tube would give you a lower TT where your likely to need it low...
  • 4 0
 It does look much better with straight top tube. Pivot moved from swoopy tubes to straight tubes and saw instance spike in interest. Too swoopy of tubes make bikes look like VW Beetle. Blah.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: #steelisreal ;-)
  • 40 1
 Can we pause and ponder on this for a second- a freaking IBIS wins value bike of the year (and justifiably so). Crazy times, seriously!
  • 7 0
 I think this point is being overlooked by some folks here. Ibis doesn't make budget bikes. They took two very widely respected carbon trail bikes, the Ripley and Ripmo, and made aluminum versions to "democratize the awesome" as Bicycling put it. The AFs aren't cheap, but they're a great value (hence this award) considering they perform nearly as well as the carbon versions for roughly $1,000 less for similar spec. If you haven't ridden both a carbon Ripley and a Ripley AF it's hard to appreciate this, but I think the comparison between those two bikes is a primary reason for this award. If you're only comparing the parts and overall cost of the Ripley AF to other branded bikes in the market, you're missing a big part of why this bike is a great value.
  • 31 0
 Let my Ibis do the job.
  • 16 3
 Good choice. Only fly in this ointment?

Ripmo is nearly as good on flat and uphill terrain and better on the downs.
  • 15 0
 but didnt come out in 2021?
  • 14 0
 Having both in carbon, the Ripley is waaay more efficient IME.
  • 3 2
 Can confirm, as we have both in our garage and have spent many hours on each. Ripmo AF is the GOAT. Full stop.
; )
  • 9 0
 I wonder how close this was for the judges. Polygon and Vitus definitely won in terms of parts specced for the money. I guess braking performance and suspension system efficiency punch more weight compared to groupsets value according to the judges.
  • 10 0
 I would be happy on any of the bikes that were candidates, but I imagine the decision is partially because while it’s pretty trivial to swap out drivetrain components, a bike’s geometry and kinematics basically are what they are.
  • 2 0
 @adamstraus: yeah, for sure. Under normal circumstances, they will wear out and eventually need to be replaced. On the other hand, a well maintained frame will outlast its originally equipped groupset.
  • 1 0
 I don't buy it. Polygon is only 1 second behind the Dwlink AF in terms of the efficiency test. It's nearly $700 cheaper with more travel.

The T8 should have won for value.
  • 1 0
 @addisonchen: as a Polygon #fanboi, I'd love to see Siskiu won, too.

From my experience (I own a 2021 T7), Siskiu performance on a smooth gradual climb is quite good. As long as I can just sit-and-spin, that is. Technical climbing is a different story though.
  • 10 2
 $3399 now. That's for the Deore version. Looks like when it was reviewed it was $2999 for the SLX. Got to love the recent inflation. :headsmash: Still this is a perfect bike for many, many riders. It's on the short list for my wife who needs a good mountain bike for when she can't ride her Spectral:on
  • 7 0
 Not sure where you’re seeing $3399. Ibis still has the Deore version at $3199. www.ibiscycles.com/bikes/ripley-af
  • 1 1
 The Deore version was originally $2999 so they’ve raised the price only $200. Either way it’s a great deal and the bike rips.

  • 2 0
 @generictrailrider: My bad. Was looking at the Ripmo AF as that is what had in mind for my wife. Ripley AF would be good for me as a good, durable do it all trail/xc bike. Also the PB review linked above, the photos showed SLX stuff and the price listed was $2999...
  • 1 0
 @heatproofgenie: no worries. Both bikes climb great with the DW Link!
  • 2 3
 It’s not hateful, but I cannot see how this got value of the year. The Giant Trance, Norco Fluid etc beats this thing easily. And they don’t weigh a ton, come in better colors, and don’t have an unnecessary bend in the top tube.

Y’all on something
  • 3 0
 It's £3,599 for the Deore version in the UK. That's $4,835 of your US dollars.

I'm not being a pedantic wanker, but it does make it a bit irrelevant for us. I wonder if any EU based PB users see the bike as good value?
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: I think it is good value for a brand with a unique look that you rarely see in mainland Europe. Any cube will be better value and ride well, but you won't have something that is "special". It's on my shortlist, where the alternative is Carbon bikes from a more mainstream brand. Maybe if propain did a downcountry bike I'd prefer that, for now it's the Ibis on top of my wish list
  • 7 0
 I my mind the value category is not about the parts you get, its about the bike you get. The sum of the parts if you will. For example: Great components and mediocre suspension design.. what’s the point?

It’s clear from the comments that not many have ridden the Ripley AF. Right now it’s a unicorn, very hard to find one to ride or buy.

I was lucky to find a Ripley AF frame and build it up using components from my old bike. This award is well deserved. The AF is as good as any newer shorter travel carbon 29er I have tested, rented or owned (Tallboy, SB115, carbon Ripley and Top Fuel)
  • 5 0
 I'm guessing this rode quite a bit better than the Polygon because the Siskiu definitely has better value on paper. Also, for the record... this still costs more than the elusive Status..... that comes with a dpx2 and code brakes.
  • 9 0
 Good bike or not, it makes me sad that 3199 USD is now considered 'value'.
  • 9 0
 Value AF of the year.
  • 5 1
 Hm. I guess they didn't want Vitus to win a repeat and Polygon to get a dub just on value alone. I know the brakes are kinda soft but I don't think they are 'paying 1000 more is a better deal' soft. It's getting to the point I need to try this linkage with its cult-like following. Even if it is the best thing since sliced bread, I'm not sure if 3k+ for Deore drivetrain and 2 pot brakes is "the best value in 2021". I guess if you view it as a long term upgrade platform? But out the box the value is good, not great. Or maybe great, not award winning.

And I won't even mention hardtails because Vitus specs some awesome stuff when you forego the rear shock. 2200 for XT/SLX drivetrain and SLX brakes (4 pot metallic out the box? yes plz). All with that same Fox 34 fork. Maybe it didn't have a review and they only chose from reviews? Anybody wanna let me test their Ibis? I'm just in north orange county Smile
  • 3 0
 Probably worth saying that, as every bike is priced differently depending on location, this award is only valid for US. A Trance X in Alberta (in Oct 2020) costs 3,200 CAD, or 1,859 GBP. In the UK the same bike costs £2,699. That's a diffence of a Fox float factory 150mm fork even before you sell the stock one.
  • 5 0
 Congratulations to Ibis for doing the job!
  • 4 0
 Levy's suit was on sale, 50% off. I'll see myself out.
  • 2 1
 Just seems an odd award to me.
If it means exceptional value for the price why are all the short list sort of similarly priced.
Where are the higher and much lower priced candidates?
  • 1 0
 The higher end bikes are ending up in the best bike of the year awards (unless they suck then they weren't going to be nominated for anything).

And for lower things you typically end up with less value per dollar. Also I THINK they try to keep it within bikes they've reviewed/tested/ridden AND it has to be a new release or at least a redesign/rerelease. I'm not sure if they'll just take a newer model year with a different color and higher price and let it be nominated for this.

But basically, these are the lower priced candidates. T8 is one of the best values in the industry for parts. Ibis being probably the best value for frame design (which is probably why they picked it, since its the most expensive thing to 'upgrade')
  • 1 0
 @lepigpen: many thanks for your reply.
I understand, but in the UK this bike sells for just under 4000 pounds, that sort of number is way above my budget.
  • 2 0
 @Wyndbrook: yeh, I'd be looking at Calibre and Vitus/Nukeproof/Ragley in the UK.
  • 1 1
 Isn't 120mm of travel the new XC??? Is this Ripley AF a Downcoutry bike, trail or XC? Whats the difference? The new Trek Top Fuel plus a 130mm fork would be pretty much the same as this right??? Whats going on???? Is Nino Schurer racing XC on a trail bike? Too many questions these days!
  • 3 0
 I’m going with short travel trail bike.
  • 2 0
 Passive trail bike
  • 3 0
 Aggressive downcountry
  • 5 1
 Thank god it wasnt canyon
  • 3 2
 My Ripmo AF which is very similar to this and cost me the same in £ as it does in $, is completely trashed after just over a year and Ibis customer care in the UK is a absolute joke, will never be buying from them again.
  • 1 0
 What do you mean by trashed? Mine has held up well in the mountains for almost a year?
  • 1 0
 Is the frame broken or worn parts?
Time for a full service after a hard year…
  • 1 0
 2.5 seasons on my Ripmo Ad and running perfectly. What’s wrong with yours?
  • 1 0
 Seems like a pretty big yoke driving a small DPS. Not very good for long term durability at all. I’m surprised to see companies still making this, but I guess they designed it 3 years ago.
  • 7 4
 It even looks quite cheap.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy There is a piece of dust or paper, I don't know what, on your jacket in the upper right. I kept staring at it.
  • 2 0
 No pants and a can of Monster. Going to be a great video.
  • 1 3
 For years I hated the flat bill hat look. Maybe I've been looking at too many YooToob BMXers, but they're strarting to grow on me. The same is true for the Salvador Dali lines of Ibis. Already love the bikes, already love the company, and the looks are growing on me. BTW, I'll never budge on the STLB haircut.
  • 3 0
 What a cat-ass-trophy...
  • 1 1
 I can't put my finger on it, but something about the design of this bike is very odd. Reminds me of those low-quality department store bikes.
  • 1 0
 How you going to disrespect polygon!! After that T8!!! 2500 for a fully fox spec bike…
  • 1 0
 Isn't that the tattoo that chicks get?
  • 2 0
 Feed us a Vitus
  • 1 0
 Stanhope, and nobody else, would be jealous of your outfit, Henry.
  • 1 0
 I anticipated this before even seeing it.
  • 1 0
 Meanwhile in Australia, these things are not cheap.
  • 1 0
 now if only ripley would build full sized bikes...
  • 1 0
 haha nice
  • 1 0
 seems good
  • 1 1
 I can say it climbs like a goat and goes down hill like sled
  • 1 0
 No love for the RZ3?
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