Back in 2006, the Ibis Mojo was our most wanted trail bike of the year. Ibis knew it could make its low-mass trail weapon even lighter, and the SL is the proof. You’ll have to spend time setting up this 140mm travel stunner but it's more than capable of blasting through the kind of technical ground that breaks other lightweights in half. The only downside is the stratospheric cost.
Ride & handling: comes alive at speed and turns climbs into killing fields
Hauling the Mojo up onto the moors at dawn, even cold, car-stiff legs can’t disguise the fact this is a supremely light and rapid bike that makes gaining height as effortless as possible.
There’s a slight softness and ﬂex throughout the frame under power – or cornering – when compared to the stiffest alloy frames, but it makes up for this by spinning gears when climbing that feel like pedalling through treacle on most 140mm bikes.
The DW linkage suspension does a great job under power, keeping the bike level and locked into traction. However, there’s more bob from the DT shock at low revs than a Fox and it feels less controlled overall. A decent stroke length and the DW Link correct for it well, but it’s hardly outstanding. Thankfully, the lockout lever is great – perfect for turning smooth climbs into killing ﬁelds.
Due to its low weight, the SL picks up the pace quickly. It leaps away from slow-speed sections or out of corners so quickly that we had to start looking further down the trail to compensate.
This is good, because feeding speed into the SL brings it alive. Sharp brakes and skinny tyres mean the SL can be bullied by rocks if you ride it slowly, but get some rolling speed behind it and you’re dealing with a totally different beast.
The well balanced suspension allows you to take a cavalier attitude to all those lines you’d never normally go near on a light bike, hitting them as if you’re on a hefty trail machine.
Frame: prettiness doesn't detract from practicality, but misaligned back end is disappointing
Ibis is one the few bike makers to openly admit that cosmetics are an important part of its process. Designer Roxy Lo’s three-year-old organic-looking Mojo frame still seems fresh today, but it’s not a case of prettiness over practicality.
For a start, the SL uses a higher modulus carbon ﬁbre than the standard Mojo. The oversized and band-reinforced head tube with mid-frame cross brace and the deep ﬂared junctions at the seat tube, bottom bracket and drop-outs mean that all of the material on the SL is used to maximum structural effect.
Carbon ﬁbre is also used for the headset cups, seatpost sheath, the core of the stainless steel encased drop-outs and the body of the DT shock. Titanium fasteners and shock pin, and a special rubberized polyurethane paint also contribute to 350g of weight loss.
All the detailing of the original Mojo carries over to the SL well. The twin links for the DW suspension swing in carefully sculpted scoops on the main frame, and the cartridge bearings are ﬁxed into the linkages, not the frame, so you can change the whole piece when they’re worn. Aesthetically, if you want to indulge your inner pimp, you can even swap between different anodized colours for the cartridges and seat collar.
To avoid interference with the front mech and chain, the rear subframe is only triangulated on the non-drive side, which also leaves decent mud room and makes cleaning easier. The only disappointment we had with our model was that the back end was noticeably misaligned, with the offside stay only just clearing the seat tube.
Equipment: lightning-fast wheels, XTR and powerful stoppers
To capitalise on the ultralight potential, our SL came with the detailed ‘WTF’ kit package. Last-minute production difﬁculties meant our Manitou Minute fork was replaced by a Fox 32 TALAS, but even though it’s nearly 0.5lb heavier we didn’t mind.
Outstanding damping and impact control are characteristic of the TALAS and, given that it can take hours of tweaking to get the Manitou’s damping controlled, we’ll happily take on the weight to gain in real trail speed.
However, where mass really matters is in the wheels, and few are lighter than this Stans set. You’ll want to change the tyres for anything other than the driest conditions, but this set is lightning-fast to accelerate and stiff enough not to squander your power or steering accuracy.
We’ve no complaints about the XTR transmission either, and the Magura Marta SL brakes are one of the few lightweight systems to give real authority when you’re on the anchors.
The cockpit, with its long stem and narrow bar, is great if you want to hammer up climbs or blitz straight XC miles, but it restricted our descending and technical conﬁdence, so we switched them for a 27in Easton bar and 90mm stem. After this change the SL felt like a totally different bike.