Ibis' HD3 was an instant favorite of mine when I reviewed it back in 2014, and one of the main reasons for my positive take was due to its real-world geometry; it wasn't a too long, too slack enduro race bike that was a burden anywhere that didn't look like a World Cup DH track. But that was three years ago now, and Ibis thought it was time to revisit their all-mountain / enduro platform and, more specifically, its geometry.
The new, 27.5'' wheeled HD4 that's tested below has essentially the same amount of rear wheel travel, 153mm, but it's longer and slacker than its predecessor, a change that brings Ibis' heavy hitting mid-travel bike more in-line with the competition. Pricing ranges from $4,199 - $8,099 USD depending on the build, and bikes will be available by the middle of June.
• Intended use: all-mountain / enduro
• Rear wheel travel: 153mm
• Wheel size: 27.5''
• dw link v5 suspension
• Longer, slacker geometry
• 64.9-degree head angle
• 455mm reach (large, +24mm over the HD3)
• Color options: Fireball Red, Añejo Silver & Lime
• Weight: 28lb 12oz
• Availability: June 15th
• MSRP: $4,199 - $8,099 USD
But the question is: do the updated geometry numbers turn what was one of the best all around mid-travel bikes on the market into something that's less, er, all around? Let's find out.
Due to time constraints and parts availability, my black (which is not a production color) HD4 test bike is a bit of a bastard when it comes to its build kit; there's a Fox Performance 36 fork with a GRIP damper and Float X2 shock, an XX1 Eagle drivetrain, XT brakes, and a mix of other parts that aren't entirely representative of the build kits that Ibis will offer. If you did want to pick up a complete HD4, they start at $4,199 USD (NX drivetrain, 738 alloy wheelset) and go up to $9,399 USD (XX1 Eagle drivetrain, 742 carbon wheelset), with three models in between those two. If you pick an HD4 with alloy wheels, another $800 USD will get you a set of Ibis' own carbon hoops. Frame-only pricing starts at $2,999 USD (with a yet to be released shock), or $3,269 USD with a Float X2.HD3 vs. HD4
Ibis' new and old all-mountain bikes sure look similar, but like twins with opposite personalities, the HD3 and HD4 are actually quite different once you take the time to get to know them. ''On the Mojo HD4, we really wanted to enhance the bike's handling capabilities over rough and steep terrain,'' Andy Jacques-Maynes, Ibis' lead engineer on the HD4 project, said of the new bike. To do that, Ibis added length and subtracted head angle, making for a large-sized HD4 with a reach that's 24mm longer than a large HD3 (455mm vs. 431mm) and 1.7-degrees slacker (64.6 vs. 66.6-degrees). The wheelbase grew as a result, of course, with a large now sitting at 1,219mm vs. 1,168mm on the old, large-sized HD3. The rear-end remains the same at 430mm.
Ibis has been known to be a touch conservative with their geometry, preferring numbers that, while longer and slacker than the norm of four or five years ago, are still not on that longer-is-always-better bandwagon. The new HD4, however, sports geo that is close to a few of the better mid-travel bikes out there right now: Transition's Patrol and the latest Trek Remedy. But it wasn't a matter of copying what's already been done.
Jacques-Maynes says, ''Instead of choosing a geometry by committee or based on other companies' bikes, we chose our geo based on what worked best when we rode the steepest and gnarliest trails we could find. In our testing, we were able to see what each geometry dimension actually did to help the rider. For example, by trying a number of head angles back to back to back, with all other geometry dimensions held constant, we were able to pinpoint that changing the head angle slacker will allow the bike to achieve higher lean angles before slipping out. Conversely, this change also makes the bike more stable as the trail transitions to off-camber (less likely to slip or get pushed down-camber by the trail). On the Mojo HD4, we set the head angle at 64.9 degrees to maximize the stability in off-camber sections and increase our maximum lean angle.''
After all the experimenting and tweaking, the production HD4 has bumped up a touch more than one whole frame size, which makes sense, given that Ibis was seeing customers who would normally be on a medium-sized HD3 choose a large instead.
The one place where this increase wasn't done is the seat tube length - that's actually been shortened by about one whole frame size and has been reamed deeper internally to allow for longer-stroke dropper posts. ''On the medium, large, and x-large sizes, almost everyone should be able to use 170mm dropper seat posts, while 150mm droppers should work for almost all small size owners,'' Jacques-Maynes explained.
The HD4's suspension remains largely the same as its predecessor - you can read more about that below - but Ibis did re-work both the upper and lower links in a search for more lateral rigidity. Word is that the upper link is 30-percent stiffer and the lower is 40-percent stiffer, although those numbers surely don't translate directly to the same massive rigidity gains in the frame as a whole. That said, a new carbon layup was also put to use for the same reason, so while the HD4's lines look very similar to the HD3, the frame is said to be more torsionally rigid all around. Suspension Design
The older HD3, released in 2014, saw Ibis give the bike's dw-link suspension a makeover, with the most notable change being that the shock was now driven by the clevis rather than the swingarm itself. That 2014 HD3 had some impressive suspension traits, including great pedaling performance and, thankfully, Ibis hasn't really changed too much when it comes to the HD4's rear end. ''From a suspension side, we absolutely love how the current Mojo HD3 pedals,'' Jacques-Maynes said. ''We didn't want to mess with such a nice suspension design, so we left the kinematics the same for the Mojo HD4.''
So, hopefully the same great on-power feel is present, but Jacques-Maynes did actually change a few things: the travel is bumped up ever so slightly, from 150mm to 153mm, and there's more progression built into the leverage curve to keep those clangs to a minimum.
My HD4 test bike came with the new X2 Float from Fox, and there's just enough room for a properly sized bottle to squeeze in under the shock's piggyback thanks to it being flipped relative to how a piggyback shock fit on the HD3. To do this, a small opening in the frame provides just enough clearance for the shock's blue low-speed compression lever. The new Ibis is an air-only bike, however, ''due to the clevis shock yoke extending the eye-to-eye too far to give a good bushing overlap ratio,'' Jacques-Maynes explained.
This bike's predecessor, the HD3, is an impressive climber in all regards, with efficiency that would scare a bike with 30mm less suspension travel and much quicker handling. No, the HD3 wasn't a true EWS-ready machine, but its real strength was its versatility: it could scramble up all sort of technical pitches that would trouble a bike with more enduro-friendly geometry, but it was still capable enough on the descents to be more bike than the large majority of riders would ever require.
But the HD4 is longer and slacker - nearly two degrees slacker and a fair bit longer. Predictably, this means that it doesn't have the same poise as the HD3 on properly technical climbs. Some foresight is required to snake the black bike through tight switchbacks, and especially if said switchback is home to all sorts of roots and rocks. The HD4 will get up anything if the rider has the skills - isn't that always the case? - but no, it's not the technical climbing whiz that the HD3 was (relatively speaking, of course). Ibis' new mid-travel all-mountain bike is on par handling-wise with other machines in the same class, and while that's not a terrible thing, I'll admit that I miss the HD3's brilliant technical climbing prowess.
One thing that the HD4 and its predecessor still have in common is efficiency. My test bike came with a Fox Float X2 shock that has a low-speed compression lever to pile on a bunch of pedal-assist. The bike does not need this crutch, with it having more enthusiasm when the rider is on the gas than Alex Jones on speed and Red Bull. Ibis' dw-link bikes have a great on-power feel, and the HD4 is, not surprisingly, no different. I did flip the blue switch a few times when faced with a long fire road grind, but even then I think it was more of a mental aid than anything.
The HD3 was one of the best climbing 150mm-travel bikes when it came to tricky, technical ascents and, with slacker and longer geometry, there's no way that the HD4 can match its predecessor on this front. Instead, it handles a lot like most other mid-travel all-mountain bikes in that type of setting - it'll get up the same stuff, but more thinking ahead and skill is required than the HD3 asks for. Descending
I reviewed the HD3 back in 2014 and said that ''it's more fun to ride in roughly 95% of the places where you'd ride a mountain bike,'' when comparing it to longer, slacker enduro-inspired machines. When I rode that bike, I loved how agile and playful the HD3 was, but the HD4 is
a longer, slacker enduro-inspired machine. Does that mean that it's less fun than its predecessor? Well, yes and no; it depends on how you get your giggles.
The HD4 is a very different bike; it's more stable and easier to ride quickly when traction is low, be it too dry or too wet, and it feels like far more of a true enduro race rig than the HD3 could ever have been. That said, it hasn't lost all (just some) of the HD3's playful eagerness, a trait that Ibis bikes are well known for. Some of these new mid-travel bikes seem happy to trade away their liveliness for comfort at all-out speeds, which is fine and dandy if you're buying a bike for racing, but less so if you think like me and just want every ride to be a bike party. The HD4 is still a bit of a party bike, though, and it's easier to move around on the trail, to manual, and to put it in interesting places than something like a Trek Slash or Devinci Spartan.
In other words, while the HD4 is certainly less nimble than the HD3, it still has more beans than other bikes in its class.
Much of my time on the new HD4 was spent in Pemberton, B.C. - a small town in the Whistler corridor known for rocks that want to see what your insides look like and extremely dry and dusty conditions that openly mock your tire choice. If a bike is going to be sketchy at speed, it'll be sketchier than a Craiglist personals ad when ridden on Pemberton's rowdier trails, but the HD4 held its own. I have zero doubts that it's a much faster bike than the HD3 is such settings, and especially on fast, loose corners - the HD4's handling only asks for directions rather than corrections when it's on the edge, whereas the HD3 would feel nervous by comparison. And because there are fewer questions as to what's about to happen, a rider is surely less likely to hesitate on the HD4 than they might be on the HD3. Simply put, the HD4 is easier to ride faster.
When the speeds drop and the corners tighten up, the HD4 feels like more bike than its forerunner, but you can still get around the tightest of switchbacks without too much fuss. It's at these times, however, that I'm reminded of the new bike's added length and slackened head angle. The black Ibis feels a lot like other new-school all-mountain rigs when the speeds drop, which is to say that it's a bit ho-hum if you're not actively trying to wring its neck. So it goes with today's modern "enduro" bikes, I guess.
Suspension-wise, the back of the HD4 and its Fox Float X2 shock were largely invisible, which is a good sign. At about 160lbs, Ibis recommended 175 psi to get the ideal sag number, which they say is 25-percent. That's a bit less than the 30-percent (or more) that a lot of bikes are best suited to these days, but the HD4 never felt harsh or like it was sitting up too high in its travel. I bumped the sag up to 30-percent and still never had a hard bottoming moment, so there's something to the progression that Ibis says they've added over the HD3. The 5-percent difference may not sound like much, but keeping it at the 25-percent number went a long way to preserving the remnants of the fun-loving, poppy personality that carried over from the HD3. Recommended damper settings are still relatively open, which is typical of Ibis' bikes, but the dw-link and Float X2 combo always felt controlled, but far from dead. Pinkbike's Take
About the Reviewer Stats:
Age: 36 • Height: 5'10” • Inseam: 33" • Weight: 165lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None • Instagram: killed_by_death Mike Levy spent most of the 90s and early 2000s racing downhill bikes and building ill-considered jumps in the woods of British Columbia before realizing that bikes could also be pedaled for hours on end to get to some pretty cool places. These days he spends most of his time doing exactly that, preferring to ride test bikes way out in the local hills rather than any bike park. Over ten years as a professional mechanic before making the move to Pinkbike means that his enthusiasm for two wheels extends beyond simply riding on them, and his appreciation for all things technical is an attribute that meshes nicely with his role of Technical Editor at Pinkbike.