Written/photographed by Justin Eagleton
A coworker and I were fortunate enough to attend a pre-release dealer event to see and ride the new Ibis Mojo 3.
We got the lowdown straight from the designers, and a chance to ride the new bike near Ibis HQ in Santa Cruz. I thought I’d share some thoughts on this new bike that’s sure to cause a stir.
I only managed to sneak in one ride on the bike (at least at the time of writing) so goes without saying you should take everything that follows with a grain of salt. But, for those of you interested, read on, as I did get some clear impressions.
It’s pretty clear the new Mojo 3 takes its design cues from the longer travel Ibis Mojo HD3, but this bike is not just a new rear triangle and shorter shock slapped onto an existing frame. The Mojo 3 features a different carbon layup, link placement and frame angles that result in an impressively stiff 130mm travel 27.5” do everything trail bike.
Numbers wise it ticks a lot of boxes with a slightly longer 140mm fork up front, a slack but not ultra slack 66.8° head angle, short (especially with plus tires) 425mm chainstays all with very similar stack and reach measurements to the HD3. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another big difference from the HD3 is a steepened 74° seat tube angle that puts the rider in a more forward, pedal friendly position (hinting at the Mojo 3's intended use) plus a light 5.4 lb frame (with shock), almost a pound lighter than the HD3.
Probably the most interesting yet contentious features are the Boost 110/148mm wide hub spacing and optional “plus” tire width capability - up to a semi-fat 2.8” wide tire. This move is no doubt going to draw some critics and stoke the fire of Internet haters.
If you’ve made it this far I’m going to assume you probably:
- know Ibis knows how to make a pretty damn good bike
- don’t have any problems and/or are interested in new tech, or
- don’t care one way or the other
...so I’m going to do my best to lay out the facts plus my own opinion on the ride. If you're looking for industry conspiracy theories about making your bike obsolete, I’d recommend checking the comment section on Pinkbike. ;)
While on the topic of “plus” tires, I should mention that this is a 27.5” bike that can take up to a 2.8” width tire, not a 29er that can be run as 27.5+. As Ibis put it, they scaled up, not down. This makes things quite a bit simpler if one wants to switch between plus and standard tires as you don’t need to have a second wheel set (especially a boost spaced one that probably would not work with any other bike one is likely to have). You don’t need to swap or have a second cassette and rotors, nor do you need to flip a frame chip or change fork travel like a competitor's recently released bike.
So, why a 2.8” tire and not a full 3.0” plus tire? According to Ibis, 2.8’s (especially the Schwalbe Nobby Nic they spec) are the current sweet spot between weight, trail performance and durability while keeping the benefits of a fatter tire. Another interesting point they make is related to the effective tire height, claiming a plus tire in the 2.8” range set at an equivalent optimal pressure as a normal 2.2”-2.4” tire, ends up at around the same sagged height and has a minimal effect on bottom bracket. In other words a tire with a person's weight on the bike, aired to 12-17 psi (a range Ibis was recommending for the test ride) ends up pretty close to the same height as a 2.4” tire aired up to 20-25 psi, and in turn keeps the bottom bracket low and balanced as intended. I’ll take Ibis at their word on this and for now will just say the bottom bracket height on the bike I rode felt plenty low enough for cornering and the bikes balance didn’t seem off at all.
Ok, enough tech, on to riding bikes. For starters, the bike I was on was a large, so a touch smaller than my personal bike which is an XL Ibis Mojo HD3 (I’m 6’3”). Even being on the small side the angles and stance of the bike felt very similar to the HD3 and it’s pretty clear the updated Mojo is on the contemporary end of the geometry spectrum.
The bike I was riding was kitted out with a X01 Werx build with a tried and true RockShox Pike fork and Fox DPS EVOL rear shock set at a bit over 25% sag. The tires were 2.8” Schwalbe Nobby Nics, and while I didn’t have a chance to ride the bike with non-plus tires, I don’t think my impressions of the bike would be too drastically different.
The ride loop consisted of some road burn (with a couple of steep hills thrown in), followed by a good mix of trail and single track that provided a perfect sampling for this bike.
If there’s any doubt that this bike is different than the HD3, one climb should be all it takes for anyone to make a distinction. Climbing on smoother fire roads and trails the Mojo feels lighter and snappier than its longer legged brother, and when you stand on the pedals the bike wants to rocket forward, no questions asked.
I left the climb switch on the rear shock open the entire ride, and even on the pavement I never thought about reaching down and flipping the blue lever. On more technical sections the bike still felt quick and efficient but the rear suspension was certainly doing its job and soaked up all the roots and logs I could find. This is one area where plus tires seem to offer a definite benefit as they seemed dampen a touch more trail chatter and noticeably improved traction on uphill technical bits of trail. Most of the technical bits involved roots, not rocks, but I would be really interested to see how the bike performs in someplace like Graeagle/Lakes Basin area where rock crawling is the name of the game.
I should also add on the tire front that it was pretty impressive how well those big 2.8’s rolled; I didn’t notice any excess drag or crazy rolling resistance. In fact they even had better rolling characteristics then some other big and blocky 2.3-2.4” tires I’ve been running on my personal bike as late.
When it comes to descending, all I can really say is this bike is fun. Like, really fun. Like, I kind of have a tough time trying to describe details and characteristics because I was just riding the bike and not having to think about it kind of fun. It felt planted and stable on faster sections of trail and hitting big swoopy corners, small to moderate drops with braking bumps and normal trail chatter, the suspension did its job and took it all in stride.
The bike’s composure and trail manners felt not far off at all from my HD3 and at least for the trails we rode, it was probably even a bit better tool for the job (no terrifyingly steep and technical wet-your-pants sections of trail where the extra suspension of the HD3 might make up for a shortage of rider skill).
Cornering was incredible, and the bike felt just a touch more nimble and willing to get around tree branches and tight turns than my current bike. Even with the big tires the bike was quick to respond to direction changes and begged to be pumped and pushed around on the trail.
Also, traction! Did I mention traction? With those big tires I felt could lean the bike over a silly amount trying to get them to break loose and the knobs would just grip. Admittedly, conditions were pretty great and would have been pretty primo with any tire, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to lean a bike over as much on a flat turn and not crash or have a tire want to fold over onto itself. It seemed like Ibis made the right call at least having the option to go with these tires.
The only minor issue I could find is one that, perhaps a bit counter intuitively, relates to those same grippy tires; I never noticed any weird bouncing or other issues that are sometimes talked about with proper fat bike tires, but I did have two moments where what I can only describe as a very subtle self steering took hold and I couldn’t quite make some micro adjustments/line corrections I was used to making. Both times it was very minor but they were in a couple of slightly more technical sections. It is pretty tough to say though if it was just part of being on a new bike on trails I’ve only ridden once before, or something that with more time on the bike, and maybe some more playing with tire pressure I’d get used to.
Despite my small ghost steering moments the bike was a blast to ride. For anyone looking for a versatile, do anything trail bike they should seriously have the Mojo 3 on their short list. The pedaling performance and light weight, combined with a stiff, slack and low stance really made for a bike that feels like it would be at home on most trails that I’d wager most people in our area ride on a regular basis.
Some people might be a bit hesitant on the tires and frame spacing, but unlike their competitors Ibis really seems to have put the time and thought into making those features work with instead of against the bike.
In all, the Mojo 3 is a bold but brilliant addition to its namesake line and is a bike that’s sure to make quite a lot of riders get their own mojo workin’.
Shopmate Emile tests the Mojo 3 by Ibis at the pre-release event in Santa Cruz