Get in the Zone, the Ibex Zone. 15 bills buys you a lot of bike.
A Freerider Free For All
In case you havenít been brushing up on your economics theory, allow us to offer you a brief refresher as to the concept of profit margins. It is profit, or monies earned after all operation deductions, that drives business. What does this have to do with the Ibex Zone FR-1 you ask? Simply that after two months of saddle time, we are unable to figure how Ibex can sell such a work of engineering art for so little and yet still make a profit.
Whatís it For?
Make no mistake; the Zone FR-1 is not an all mountain cruiser in need of a slight diet. The bike is marketed as a Freeride model and is ultra-beefy accordingly. Weighing in at 39 pounds, the FR-1 is a bit chunkier than a true all mountain contender but several pounds lighter than most dedicated downhill rigs. Its purpose is immediately clear: To soak up big hits, to flow over rocks, and to run like a cheetah once gravity takes hold.
Lets Talk Specs
Our FR-1 arrived in stunningly deep metal flake Carribean Blue paint hugging an over built 6061 aluminum frame. The front end is graced with 7 long inches of progressive travel in the form of Manitouís Sherman Slider (dual crown). Rear squish duties are handled by a beefed up swingarm/ massive single pivot system that feeds through Manitouís coil over Metel RP with piggyback reservoir. Braking comes in the form of Hayes HFX-9 HD hydraulic discs on both ends. Shimano Deore and XT derailleurs were selected for front and rear respectively to slide the KMC Z9200 chain across Shimanoís HG50-9 cassette which results in a selection of 18 gear combinations. Rounding out the package are goodies from the likes of TruVative Hussefelt oversized riser bar, stem, post, and cranks, a WTB Power V saddle and Weirwolf grips. Finally, beefy Kenda Kenetics are wrapped around Sunís impressively tough Singletrack rims.
All of this and a price tag of $1499, and it becomes clear how we could wonder if Ibex isnít just about breaking even here.
Whatís It Feel Like?
The quick answer is rugged. Climbing into the saddle is an immediate reminder of the nature of Freeride bikes; itís a long way down the beefy Manitou Sherman Sliders toward the shimmering 8 inch rotor below. The handlebars are thick and wide, the saddle high and supportive. The initial impression of the Zoneís cockpit is certainly enough to send weight weenies running for cover, but alas so is the very intention of the Freeride discipline. The bike is confidence inspiring in only the way a fifteen foot drop on the horizon or endless miles of North Shore ladders can provoke.
Where Did We Take It?
Our test sessions were basically split nearly 50/50 between slow technical trails (with wooden stunts) and fast downhill runs littered with roots and rocks.
So How Does It Ride?
Like a bike costing three times as much. The frame is not only gorgeous, but distributes a natural balance between the long travel suspension components on each end of the bike. There is an immediate feeling of rigidity in the chassis that is welcome in the rough and tumble realm of genuine down hill abuse. The suspension itself is awe inspiring, very active over small clutter with plenty in reserve for hard landings or big drops while the frame transmits zero flex to the rider. Rocky chutes, dense leaf cover, and slippery planks of wood all vanished beneath the 7 inches of travel without a hint of compliant from the Zone. The rougher the conditions, the more the bike came into its own.
The cockpit is very generous and roomy, with a mediocre reach to the bars and near full leg extension to the pedals. The FR-1 feels beefed up and solid from the moment the rider swings a leg over one and that feeling never goes away even after long days of endless abuse.
Well two but they have more to do with the specific genre of Freeriding than the bike itself. The drive train, though flawless in operation, is a bit of a set back in its mere 18 gear choices. A lower geared cassette would have made pedaling the bike around much more possible. While 39 pounds isnít all that outrageous, a few lower gear combinations would have allowed the bike to squeak into all mountain territory which, in case youíve been living in a cave for the past year, is all the rage.
The second complaint is one that tends to plague most long travel bikes; heavy hammering can be felt through the rear section in the form of pedal bob and terrain sensitivity can be lost to the 7 inches of squish. However, one flat landing without sore wrists is a quick reminder that using the bike for cross country/ trails would be missing the point.
So What Do We Think?
The Ibex Zone FR-1 is an instant confidence booster on wheels. The bike makes no apologies for what it is or what it was designed to do. If aggressive downhill is your scene, wooden stunts, big drops, or anything else that classifies as the Freeride scene, this bike will be love at first pump.
When asked the question we proposed at the beginning of this review, Ibex president Jack Ailion told us that he manages to keep the price so low by cutting out the middle-man, which in this case happens to be the dealership. The only way to get your grubs on a Zone (or any Ibex for that matter) is factory direct at www.ibexbikes.com.