Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Testing Expensive Bikes: Ibis Mojo HD Review

Sometimes I think it's a really bad idea to go out and test ride mountain bikes when you have no intention of buying.


Because you then try to justify why your current bike (or bikes) just aren't good enough and why you need to invest $5k in a new rig.

Of course, since I don't have a spare 5 G's lying around, my recent test ride on a tricked-out Ibis Mojo HD only made me long for something that I know I can't afford... for now.

Ibis Demo

Nevertheless, I've been trying to get my hands on as many high-end mountain bikes as I can over the last several months to see if there are actually very real differences between how higher-end bikes handle. So often I read reviews in magazines such as Bike and wonder how these testers can pinpoint minute differences between bikes.

I've decided that part of it is probably commercialized BS, but that the rest of it is probably that these bike reviewers have ridden dozens of different mountain bikes, and that some of them have been riding bikes for longer than I've been alive. I well understand the first half of the equation from all of the pointless essays I have written for English classes over the years, but in order to address the second half of the formula I'm trying to ride as many bikes as I can.

And you know what I've found? There actually are differences between these bikes. They may not be as profound as some writers want you to believe, but they are definitely there.

Ibis Mojo HD
I demoed a Mojo HD complete with a full XT build kit, Fox Talas fork with an insane amount of options, Joplin seat post with infinite adjustability, and a pair of Crank Bros wheels, set up tubeless. The frame complete with XT build kit rings up at $4999.99, and the Crank Bros wheels are an upgrade on what normally comes stock at that price.

The HD ups the ante that the original Mojo SL set by increasing the suspension from 5.5" up to a much more aggressive 6.3"

According to my research, this build tips the scales at an attractive 26.5 lbs, but with the Crank Bros wheels and tubeless setup it may even be less.

I've been spending most of my trail time over the past couple of weeks on an aluminum hardtail 29er, and crazy as it sounds, the Mojo HD boasting a full 6.3 inches of suspension weighs over a full pound less than my hardtail! Of course, these bikes aren't on the same playing field whatsoever: the 29er retails for only $1200 -- that's a full $3,800 less than the HD.

On the Trail
While those two bikes aren't even close to being comparable, it just amazes me what money can buy. After riding this bike, I could conceivably see myself only ever wanting to own just one bike.

It's obvious that you're riding an expensive fork when you flip the lockout lever and the fork actually locks out without even a hint of compression or lateral flex. The Talas does just that, almost turning the extended climbs that would normally be such a chore into a pleasure. The pro pedal on the Fox shock also felt firm under out-of-the-saddle efforts while still boosting traction over that of a hardtail.

The HD really does climb with the legs of a cross country bike!

And when the trail turns downhill, a few lever flicks and the suspension is all the way open, the seat is down, and the Mojo is ready to soar! The suspension was super plush and forgiving, yet firm and snappy coming out of the berms.

There was one rock garden that I chose to session a couple of times in a row. At first, I was plowing through at a reasonable speed, but still feathering the brakes to make sure that everything stayed in control. The second time through, I forced myself to absolutely pin it and aim for the biggest rocks and the nastiest line I could find! The HD blasted through that boulder field without so much as a backward glance to see what it had just accomplished! The suspension performed perfectly, the bike tracked predictably, and the brakes were there in an instant when I needed to avoid the tree at the bottom.

Props for the Infinitely Adjustable Seatpost
This was my first time on a dropper post with what the marketing types are referring to as "infinitely adjustable." The basic idea is that instead of just having an up and a down position, you can adjust the seatpost to either of those spots, as well as anywhere in between. I found this to have real practical applications out on the trail.

Obviously, the "up" position is great for climbing, and the fully down position is perfect for blasting through rock gardens, railing big berms, and catching air off of every lip and roller in the trail. But when would you need a middle position?

Seatpost lever

On one of the downhills I rode during my test, the upper section is pretty gnarly with jump opportunities, rocks, roots, and a series of fast back-to-back berms. The lower section, however, transitions into a smooth, pedally downhill filled with flat switchbacks and s-turns. Through this section I set the seatpost at a mid-level which allowed me to still pedal with ease while still having my weight supported by the saddle. At the same time, it also lowered my center of gravity, allowing me to carve better and rail the turns harder than I normally could with a normal-height seatpost.

While there are definitely some marketing gimmicks bandied around whenever these new posts are discussed, they actually do have some real cool benefits that turn into tangible advantages out on the trail.

Tubeless Wheels
Believe it or not, I think this may have been my first experience riding on tubeless wheels. I immediately noticed the increased traction from the low tire pressure. Cornering on a flat trail almost felt like I was riding a low berm on one of my other bikes. Of course, the suspension and frame design could have something to do with it, but the tubeless advantage was still so evident!

This may be my next upgrade....

Carbon Fiber Frame
After only one test ride, I don't think I've had nearly enough time on the bike to fully understand the benefits of a carbon fiber frame on a 6.3" travel mountain bike. Obviously, there is the weight factor: at 26 pounds, this bike is mind-bending.

In every situation that I put the Mojo HD through on my ride, it felt stiff as a bone and immediately responsive. However, I can't say that an aluminium bike wouldn't have... someday I'll get more time on a carbon fiber dually; maybe then I'll be able to write authoritatively on the topic.

Specialized Enduro Comparison
The only other bike that I have ridden near this price-point is the Specialized Enduro. Naturally, I have to compare them.

The biggest difference that I can pin down with the limited testing I've done is in the cockpit. Both of these bikes have similar suspension and component choices and fall into the same category, yet their cockpits feel completely different. The Enduro had a relatively short top tube with an upright body position very reminiscent of a freeride bike while the Mojo HD's was much longer and lower. Despite the differences in position, both test bikes had a pretty wide set of bars installed.

I appreciated the HD's longer cockpit during the long stints in the saddle while climbing, and I didn't feel like it hindered my handling on the way back down.

Finally, consider the fact that the Enduro Pro with an aluminum frame costs $800 more than the Mojo HD sporting a carbon fiber frame, and Ibis comes out as a clear winner in this head-to-head matchup!

I would love to kit up for a long XC ride on the Mojo HD, and I'd also feel comfortable donning the full face helmet and riding the lifts with it all day. There aren't very many bikes you can truly say that for!

Thanks to Ibis and Dahlonega Wheelworks for sponsoring this demo day!

Posing with the bike in front of the Ibis van
PS This is your last chance to vote for Greg Rides Trails in the Cranklisted blog honors


j June 1, 2011 at 12:21 PM  

So sick, but also points out the obvious fact that cyclists buy into marketing campaigns moreso than jr. high girls. Dunno, for that same amount can get a motorcycle, with an engine, that I'm certain has had more R&D done than a MTB - though granted it won't add 2 watts to your climbs!

I missed the local demo here, sadly, because that's the only way I ever get to swing a leg over a bike that much.

Greg Heil June 1, 2011 at 3:16 PM  

@j, Yeah none of my personal bikes cost nearly that much!

The only problems with a motorcycle are that maintenance costs more, and gasoline prices just continue to rise... but point well taken!

J.B.,  June 2, 2011 at 8:12 AM  

I bought an entry level mt bike, then purchased a Specialized 29er, and now Im eye balling a road bike. The addiction never stops!

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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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