First Impressions: Ibis Mojo 3
If there is one bike that perfectly encapsulates the ethos of the Ibis brand, that bike is the Mojo.
When Ibis returned from a hiatus in 2005 it reintroduced itself with the Mojo, and turned quite a few heads in the process. Its organic lines looked futuristic and it quickly earned a following for its balanced handling and outstanding DW Link suspension. In recent years, the Mojo’s popularity has largely been eclipsed by the Ripley and Mojo HD3, but there’s good reason to believe that this trend is about to change in a big way. Enter the Mojo 3.
The Bleeding Edge
The big story around the Mojo 3 is that for the first time in many years, it appears that Ibis is well and truly ahead of the curve. The Ripley, while rightly beloved, entered the party well after the 29er craze had hit full swing. Likewise, the trail-focused HD3 arrived in a moment when long-travel bikes were taking on an enduro-driven flavor, making it seem conservative in comparison to longer, slacker options in its travel bracket. Presently, a great deal of excitement is developing around the next generation of trail bikes, and with 130mm of DW Link travel out back paired to a 140mm fork, the Mojo 3 is right on-trend. And while features like Di2 compatibility and Boost 148mm rear hub spacing are unabashedly modern, the massive tire clearance is the final detail that places the newest Mojo firmly at the front of the pack.
“Plus-size” tires have been a divisive topic lately: curmudgeonly forum jockeys are decrying the rise of yet another new standard, while bike brands and media outlets are selling the idea that bigger tires are the future—even if nobody has been able to make a convincing argument as to why. My initial impression of the platform was that it’s an interesting novelty with potential benefits to some riders, but the approach that Ibis has taken with the “plus compatible” Mojo 3 actually breaks the original plus-size mold, and that’s meant in the best possible way. Accordingly, it begs some interesting questions about what exactly constitutes a plus-size platform.
Plus-size bikes typically use rims with an internal width over 40mm, wrapped in nominally three-inch wide tires. What Ibis realized after some experimentation was that—as many of us with time on the platform have opined—the three-inch rubber’s added tire height results in “bounce” at high speed, which makes it difficult to hold a line in exactly the types of situations where predictability is paramount. However, the current crop of 2.8in tires actually have an outer diameter that’s only a few millimeters larger than a 2.3in tire, and when one accounts for tire deformation under the rider’s weight, it results in an identical bottom bracket height with tires ranging from 2.3in to 2.8in. The lower tire height mitigates the aforementioned bounce, while adding width to the contact patch, which increases grip.
The upshot is that, when paired with a narrower 35mm rim, riders can alternate between traditional tires and smaller plus-size rubber without having to change wheels, alter fork height, or suffer compromised geometry. And with a handful of very interesting trail-oriented tires in the 2.5in to 2.8in range slated to hit the market over the next few months, the Mojo 3 is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of next generation of 27.5 tires—plus-size or otherwise.
Ibis was quick to point out that while the Mojo 3 is technically the HD3’s smaller sibling, it’s built to handle equally aggressive riding. It took seven revisions to the carbon layup to shed roughly 200g over a comparably sized HD3, while exhibiting upwards of 90% of the front-end stiffness, equal strength, and a rear end that’s actually stiffer under load. From the notch cut in the lower link to accommodate a front derailleur, to the replicable cable ports that lend it forward compatibility with electronic drivetrains, it’s obvious that every detail has been scrutinized within an inch of its life—making this arguably the most refined bike to date to spring from the fertile minds of the Ibis design team.
While it would have been nice to have more time to test the Mojo 3, two days was all that was available, and we spent that time riding Ibis’s backyard trails in Santa Cruz, California. The extended road climb to the trailhead provided the first indication that the fifth-generation DW link suspension platform provides an incredibly firm feel at the pedals. The closest comparison would probably be a Yeti SB5, which I would argue is the current benchmark for trail bike pedaling efficiency. However, the Mojo 3 feels more supportive through the midstroke. In addition to aiding pedaling, the support also makes it highly responsive to rider input. Ibis aficionados will notice that despite the shared suspension platform, the HD3 feels plusher, while the Mojo 3 offers a sportier feel that wouldn’t be out of place at your local XC race series, while remaining unflappable in the face of rough, high-speed descents.
Geometrically speaking, the Mojo 3 has roughly the same head angle as an HD3, with a steeper seat angle, and slightly longer reach measurements per size. The result is a fit scheme that accommodates shorter stems, bringing it in line with current trends, but it maintains the balance and poise that the Mojo series is known for. Despite the generous tire clearance, the chainstays are a tight 16.7 inches, helping it slice through turns quickly, which it does with just a touch of oversteer as it steps out. This makes for remarkably predictable handling, and practically begs the rider to push just a little bit harder.
Both on the road and on the trail, the massive 2.8 Schwalbe Nobby Nics rolled with surprisingly little drag. I was originally skeptical, but I struggled to discern a difference in rolling resistance as compared to the same tire in the 2.3in size. The increase in grip, however, was massive, encouraging late braking into corners and allowing the rider to spin up technical climbs with minimal fuss.
The short version is that the Mojo 3 feels like a glimpse into the future. It’s not revolutionary per se, but the feature list that seems so cutting edge will likely come to represent the new normal over the next few seasons. Looking beyond the details, what you’re left with is a bike that’s responsive, fast, and highly intuitive to ride. Better yet, it feels more capable than the numbers would lead you to believe—both as a partner for all-day rides and an enabler that begs you to cut loose at every opportunity. This is easily and by far my favorite Ibis to date, and I suspect that it will end up being one of the year’s most coveted trail bikes.