Saturday, June 12, 2010


I’ll be the first to admit that I know little about mountain bikes. I speak road bike, but mountain bike is a language that I have just started to learn.
You would think that there would be a natural affinity between mountain bikes and a gearhead such as myself. What’s not to like, after all? They’re full of struts, shock absorbers, and disk brakes; their tyres are huge; they typically have three chain rings; their handlebars are impossibly wide; and they are fun to ride up and down break-neck trails. At least, this is what I can tell from watching energy-bar commercials. They seem to be built like tanks and next to them, road bikes are minimal. I like especially that mountain bikes are surprisingly light, all of the equipment notwithstanding.

At least, this is the experience I had by lifting an Ibis Mojo SL, on display in our showroom. I expected to strain a back muscle, but I could pick it up with a finger. Amazing! It used to be true that mountain bikes were heavy, when the frames were made of steel or aluminum, but now, with carbon fiber, some have even broken the 20 lbs. barrier.
Ibis, the company, has been around northern California for decades, since the dawn of mountain biking. They quickly earned a reputation for quality construction, but it is in recent years that it developed bikes with carbon-fiber frames. They have the reputation for being one of the most efficient long-travel frames around and one of the stiffest. Stiff is good.

This particular bike comes with a SRAM 2X10 drivetrain, SRAM’s own idiosyncratic contribution to the sport of mountain biking. Typically, mountain bikes are equipped with three chainrings and a 9-cog cassette. SRAM developed a new system, with only two chainrings and a 10-speed cassette—the equivalent of a compact set up in road bikes.

SRAM have also translated their well known disposition for very quick and smooth shifting into this system. The shifters perform as technology in general should perform: I just use them, I don’t have to think about them. They’re simple and intuitive to use, they come without an operating manual, they just work—and well.

The brakes are awesome: first of all, they’re hard to miss. I just want to look at them. Beyond that, they perform. They’re supposed to survive the toughest ride and help the rider in the process. Third, they are light! Hard to believe, but they weigh less than 300 grams. 

To make them even lighter, the only modification we made to the system is the pair of after-market carbon-fiber levers.

Finally, the tyres are Hutchinson Tubeless-Ready Cobra XC. Doesn’t this sound like a mouthful? Well, labels aside, we care mostly about how they operate on very rugged terrain, without being destroyed by razor-sharp rock, helping to get a grip. Yep, get a grip.