After riding a used 2012 Santa Cruz Blur LT2 frame that I built up from spare parts for years, I was finally given the opportunity to get my dream bike. I had a healthy budget of around $7500 to play with. This at first seems like a huge amount of money (and it is), but as with most things you can always figure out a way to push the limits. I've wanted an Ibis Ripmo since I knew what a Ripmo was. After obsessively researching and finally demoing a size L Ripmo at the best testing ground I know of, the Barton Creek Greenbelt, I decided to pull the trigger and build up a one of a kind Ripmo. The Ripmo promised everything I was looking for in a bike. I wanted something that I could take to places like Spider Mountain here locally, and other destinations like the Whole Enchilada and Angelfire New Mexico without feeling totally outgunned. But I also wanted to be able to ride to my standard weekly ride at Walnut Creek here in Austin without having to push around some heavy enduro sled.
So, now I have my size L Ripmo. It's the beginning of a wonderful relationship. I love it but I can tell that I still have much to learn in how to get the most out of it.
I chose the HELM for the front fork because I like to tinker. The HELM allows you to tweak the high and low speed damping, rebound, and independent positive and negative spring pressures. This opens up a lot of possibilities in how I can make the fork feel. It also helps that I love the gunmetal finish and that it's American made, yet somehow cheaper than Fox Factory 36.
Likewise, I like the Fox X2 rear shock for many of the same reasons. LOTS of tunability.
After the suspension, I had to consider the drivetrain. I've long believed that the brains of the drivetrain are the shifters and the derailer just follows orders. So I chose to combine an XO rear shifter with a GX rear derailleur and cassette. To me, this blends together some of the cost savings of the GX line with the weight savings of the XO line. Having the XO cranks saves a decent amount of weight and they're rock solid.
Then I chose Hope Tech 3 E4 brakes. I've had a set of Tech X2's for around 8 years and I've loved their consistency and modulation. I've ridden many other brakes and nothing compares to the feel of Hope brakes in my opinion. The new Tech 3 levers are a significant improvement over the Tech 2's in that they fit much better on the bar with other components. The E4 calipers with 180mm rotors will be plenty of power to control the big wheels on those bigger destination rides or park days.
As for those bigger wheels, I think one of the best values in mountain bike wheels today is the Industry Nine Hydra Enduro S set. It seems silly to have I9 and the word "value" in the same sentence, but for under a grand you get their straight pull hubs with the amazing Hydra free hub laced to the same rim as the Enduro 305's. You give up the lighter weight aluminum proprietary spokes and the color options, but on the flip side (and I9 doesn't advertise this) you end up with an awesome straighpull hubset that can be re-laced later to any rim you want. You can also easily find replacement spokes.
I decided to break away from the Maxxis bandwagon for this build and go with some WTB tires. The Vigilante and the TrailBoss both have solid reviews and look great for taking on Austin's limestone chunkiness. I also love the look of tan walls on black bikes, so these tires check all the boxes for me. As you can see in the parts list, I also got a WTB Ranger because I wanted to be able to try a faster rolling tire in the back. I bought separately two Vigilantes actually because they were impossible to find in the tan walls.
The cockpit is a mix of Raceface and PNW Components. I love the Turbine-R stem. The machining is a work of art on par with I9, Hope, and Thomson but for a much better price. The Next R is super light yet burly and I wanted a bar with subtle graphics. For the seat post, I went with PNW's Bachelor in the 170 length. I chose the PNW post because I like the company. I have PNW's Cascade on my Blur and the guys at PNW gave me outstanding customer service with a small issue I had on the install. They earned my repeat business and the Bachelor is great value dropper post. Their Loam lever is the best dropper lever on the market too.
As for the build process, I had a few problems. First, although the Cane Creek HELM user manual actually uses a Hope E4 caliper in their brake install illustration, the caliper contacts the fork leg before the mounting bolts can fully tighten. The post mounts are a native 180mm, so I shouldn't have needed any adapters. I contacted Cane Creek and they admitted that it is a problem. I was able to mount the caliper with some washers to give it the clearance it needed, but it's not a super clean install even though it works great. Also, it turns out that the bolt holes on the rear brake post mounts were drilled off center towards the wheel. This meant that I could not install the rear caliper far enough away from the wheel (and therefore the rotor) to keep the rotor from rubbing the hope brake mount adapter and I was not able to center the caliper on the rotor. I ended up machining the Hope brake adapter to give more clearance and I slotted the bolt holes slightly so that I could get it to fit. Right now everything works. The caliper is centered on the rotor, and the rotor clears the brake adapter. The caliper is mounted as far out as it can be though. Other than those things, the build went well. Everything else fit perfectly and bolted up without a hitch.
This bike is not done though. Custom decals are on their way to further tie everything together!