Originally a niche sport relegated to the European Alps, enduro mountain bike racing has gained worldwide popularity in the last ten years, pushing the limits of both riders and their equipment. Ibis Cycles, one of the first brands to focus almost exclusively on the off-road side of cycling, has finally released a bike aimed directly at the demands of enduro mountain bike racing: the HD6. Their longest-travel bike ever, and their first dedicated mullet bike, it was developed with massive input from Ibis’s extremely successful race team, including from their long-time racer and team manager, Robin Wallner. In this review, we delve into the performance of the Ibis HD6; we take a look at its climbing abilities, how capable it is on the descent, and how it compares to the fan-favorite Ripmo 29’er.
What is an “Enduro Bike?”
Enduro is a type of mountain bike racing that features multiple independent timed downhill stages that are linked together via un-timed “liaison,” or transfer stages. The descents feature technical, high-speed terrain that is similar to traditional downhill stages, and the transfer stages are often long, arduous climbs. Enduro bikes need to excel in both aspects, providing exceptional climbing efficiency without compromising downhill capability. The Ibis HD6 aims to conquer these contradictory challenges in ways that Ibis has previously not.
Has the HD6 lost its Mojo?
It is immediately clear that the new HD6 is not an Ibis Mojo of yesteryear. Gone is the cross-member in the front triangle; gone are the swoopy curves that defined multiple generations of bikes. In their stead is a clean, mean-looking machine that bucks the aesthetic trends of any of Ibis’s previous bikes. As such, the new HD drops the “Mojo” moniker of previous generations and becomes its own animal: a speed-seeking, high-octane machine made specifically for pedaling to the tops of mountains and charging down them as fast as you dare. It comes in three eye-catching colorways that you can customize and build out to your heart's desire (it’s already loaded up in the Custom Bike Builder): Lavender Haze, Traffic Cone, and Emerald Forest. And designed in are refinements that befit a high-end mountain bike like this, from fully-guided cable routing (no fishing around for brake hoses and seatpost housing, just push it through!) to tweaks that make checking your pivots a breeze (the lower suspension link is flipped over so you can easily access it with a tool; no more removing your crankset like on the Ripmo).
As any good enduro bike of today should, the HD6’s new DW-link rear suspension effectively isolates pedaling forces, minimizing energy-sucking pedal-bob and ensuring that power is transferred directly to your rear tire. The new suspension design stays active to inputs from the ground, so the rear wheel can still move up and over undulations in the trail; basically, your body movement doesn’t activate the suspension, but bumps still do. This means that your rear tire maintains contact with the ground even over rock-and-root-ridden terrain, and keeps you moving forward.
The HD6’s 180mm travel fork pushes the headtube angle to 64 degrees which, while not as aggressive as some enduro bikes, is not a number you’d find on a bike built purely for climbing. The trend toward smaller (slacker) headtube angles and the vague steering they can result in while climbing has led manufacturers to increase (steepen) seat tube angles to push the rider’s body weight forward. This keeps that front wheel on the ground so you can push up steeper climbs without the front wheel popping up into a wheelie. The problem is exacerbated for taller riders because they have to extend their post higher, following the angle of the seat-tube back and further towards the rear of the bike (resulting in more wheelies). Ibis tackles that problem by increasing the seat tube angles as you go up in frame size, starting at 76 degrees and increasing all the way to 77.5 degrees on the XXL bike. Although this seems like it should be standard procedure for all brands, it is not; Ibis’s choice to implement it helps create a slack, aggressive bike that climbs comfortably.
A medium HD6 weighs only 5.5 lbs without the shock, making it lighter than most bikes in its travel category. That’s not to say this frame is weak - it was made for the highest levels of gravity racing, and we’ve seen it excel there this entire Enduro World Cup season. Despite being the longest travel bike Ibis has ever made (165mm, or 6.5”), the frame weight and refined pedaling traits add up to make the HD6 a formidable climber. This makes sense; Ibis has long had clear predilections towards making bikes that are exceptionally fun on the uphill, a characteristic that still comes through in spades.
It should come as no surprise that the HD6 really shines while going down hill. With a significantly more progressive suspension rate than the Ripmo (and a good 17mm more travel), it is built to smash through the funky, chunky trails that enduro races are held on. Historically, many of these were not purpose-built bike trails, starting as hiking trails. As such, they frequently contain sharp, steep switchbacks, where a really long wheelbase and big wheels can be more of a hindrance than an advantage. That is where the mullet design and not-so-extreme reach and chainstay numbers really shine. For world-class racers like Ibis’s Zakarias Johansen, it means a bike that can be maneuvered through tight turns and around unexpected obstacles. For recreational riders like you and me, it means a bike that is comfortable when you’re pushing your speed but is still playful and fairly easy to move around.
The combination of its 180mm front travel and 165mm rear travel creates a stable and planted platform that instills confidence at high speeds and through challenging terrain. Previously, single crown forks of that length were noodly things that would flex and sometimes bind, but with the release of options like the Fox 38 and RockShox ZEB, they perform phenomenally and pair perfectly with a bike like the HD6. Combined with a Fox X2, RockShox Super Deluxe Coil, or Vivid Air, the bike becomes a highly tunable bump-eating machine that comes as close to mirroring the ride experience of a full downhill bike as you can without having a whole extra crown to stiffen up your fork.
The mullet configuration, with a larger 29-inch front wheel and a nimble 27.5-inch rear wheel, caters to the innate strengths our physiology provides. The large wheel up front rolls over holes and bumps more easily than a smaller wheel, making things easy for a rider’s arms and hands. The 27.5” rear wheel gives you more space to get over the back of the bike in steep terrain, and makes cornering easier. The difference in rollover resistance is less of an issue on the back wheel because a rider’s legs, much stronger than your arms, provide considerable suspension action on a mountain bike.
If you’re choosing to ride this bike on the type of terrain it was built for, a thick-casing tire is a must, at least in the back. Maxxis calls their almost-but-not-quite DH casing the Double Down (or “DD”) casing, and Schwalbe calls theirs Super Gravity. Many other brands have similar designs; a casing that is more supple and lighter than DH casings, but much more durable than even an EXO+ casing. These tires will not only help with reducing the chance of poking a hole in them, but will also improve the ride-feel and inspire confidence when you pull for an unexpected gap in the trail. Although they do weigh more, the added stiffness and vibration-damping they provide is worth it on a bike made to go fast down trail.
The DW-Link suspension system employed by Ibis Cycles has always offered an exceptional balance of support and sensitivity. The new iteration on the HD6 is significantly more progressive than that of the Ripmo. As such, it still feels supple and responsive at the top and middle stroke, easily absorbing small bumps, but maintains composure through larger hits. This translates to phenomenal traction at the top and middle of your travel, but offers the support necessary to hit trail chunder at full speed and push your limits with confidence. The bike feels lively and efficient when you throw in the odd pedal stroke, without compromising on traction.
When pushing the bike as hard as I could, I experienced a supple feel as I skipped over the park’s infinite sea of rocks and roots. This turned into a supportive platform later in the stroke that let me push out of the many g-outs and compressions I encountered; never once did I bottom the bike out, despite the many unexpected holes I encountered at high speeds.
A significant change worth mentioning in this design is that the yolk attaching the rear swingarm to the shock is now much smaller than it used to be. Along with a leverage curve that was not progressive enough for coil shocks, the large yolk on the Ripmo made running a coil shock unsuitable. The yolk allowed for side-loading forces that would compromise several brands of coil shock, and the more linear spring-rate of a metal spring rendered it unusable regardless of durability issues. The new design changes this entirely, and riders can now choose the reduced maintenance and increased small bump sensitivity that a coil-sprung shock provides.
HD6 vs Ripmo:
The Ripmo is a much-loved bike, a crossover that successfully incorporated aspects of aggressive, long-travel bikes with measured geometry numbers and suspension characteristics. It is a bike that proved to be exceptionally fun for those of us not competing on the world stage. Even so, it was never the ideal solution for Robin Wallner and his team of enduro athletes, and with this new model, they got exactly what they were looking for. Does that translate into a bike that is fun for the rest of us?
The HD6, with its 165mm/180mm travel and 64 degree headtube angle, offers a more aggressive setup designed to tackle the extremely technical descents and demanding terrain the enduro racing features. The mullet configuration results in a big bike that still has spry handling characteristics. The additional 0.7” of travel more comfortably handles harder hits, helping you maintain composure at higher speeds. On top of that, the suspension is much more progressive than that of the Ripmo, so finding the bottom of it is a very rare occurrence. Even so, the HD6 manages to strike a balance between climbing efficiency and downhill performance, making it an excellent choice for riders who prioritize aggressive descending while still valuing climbing capability.
On the other hand, the Ibis Ripmo, with its 147mm/160mm travel and 64.9 degree headtube angle, takes a slightly more balanced approach. It retains two 29-inch wheels, maximizing the beneficial rollover characteristics a larger wheel provides. This benefits riders out for all-day alpine epics and on trails where rolling terrain is more common than extended descending. The Ripmo's slightly shorter travel is plenty for technical descents, but you may not find yourself pushing quite as hard. It is extremely supple which makes for a very comfortable ride, but when you do really start to get into higher speeds, the bottom of the travel comes up more quickly. All-in-all, the Ripmo's suspension is tuned to deliver a responsive and lively ride that maintains traction and control, and feels great for the vast majority of us on a wide variety of trails.
Ultimately the choice between the HD6 and the Ripmo (or Ripmo AF) depends on individual riding style, terrain preferences, and the specific demands of the rider. The HD6 caters to those who crave aggressive, technical descents, while the Ripmo strikes a more even balance between climbing and descending prowess, making it a versatile option for a broader range of trails. Both bikes embody Ibis Cycles' commitment to high-quality design and performance, so at the end of the day you're going to have a blast on whichever you choose.
Should I buy an HD6?:
The new Ibis HD6, with its more progressive DW-Link suspension system and mullet configuration, is a force to be reckoned with in the world of enduro racing. It checks all the boxes that Robin Wallner and the Ibis enduro team had set in place, and as of the time of publication of this article, has their team sitting in 6th overall, with Raphaela Richter sitting in 6th overall for women and Zakarias Johansen sitting in 15th overall for men. It excels not only on the descents but on the climbs as well, providing an exhilarating and confident ride on technical downhill sections and offering up a comfortable pedaling position and ample efficiency to help you up the hill with plenty left in the tank for another lap. With aesthetic and functional refinements to the frame, the HD6 is not only a sleek, sexy looking bike, but it’s one that is a pleasure to own and maintain.
Is it a bike that’s fun for the rest of us though? By offering this bike in five geo-tuned sizes (small through double XL), Ibis lets you pick and choose how long of a wheelbase you want on your bike. If stability while traveling mach 10 is what you’re after, you can size up and get a bus of a bike that won’t buck you around no matter what you plow through. If you want a quicker, snappier ride, size down and get exactly that. All of them have short seat-tubes that let you run a long-stroke dropper post. And by steering clear of obscenely long reach numbers and sub 64 degree headtube angles, the HD6 doesn’t feel like a floppy chopper motorcycle if you aren’t moving at race pace.
Despite having ditched the looks that previous HD bikes were known for, the HD6 doesn’t stray too far from Ibis’s ethos of making bikes that are fun to pedal uphill . . . even if in this case its main purpose is to go downhill fast. Its upright pedaling position across all sizes, lightweight frame, and efficient pedaling kinematics make it a pleasure on the half of the ride that doesn’t point down, whether you’re climbing up fire roads or technical singletrack.
Although I wouldn’t recommend this bike to anyone whose focus is grinding all day on cross-country trails, if your jam is seeking out fast descents and pushing for the KOM, and if you find yourself getting to the bike park more than once a year, this is a bike worth putting on your list of options. Not only is it gorgeous, but its got all the right numbers and packs a mean punch from one of the most highly-respected suspension designs out there, the DW-Link. To top that all off, it’s got a lifetime warranty from one of the most respected companies in the business, a rider-owned brand that puts its customers (and employees) first. All-in-all, it was enough to convince me to buy one, and I can’t wait for it to get here so I can get out and catch some laps!
If you have any questions about this bike don’t hesitate to shoot us an email at email@example.com, or just head to our Bike Builder and see what type of custom build you come up with! Thanks for reading ya’ll, we'll catch you next time.
- Dan P.