OK I admit it! I am a roadie! I am not Rad or Gnarley, or even Cool. But I Loved Riding This Bike! I own a low end Cannondale dirt bike and I enjoy it tremendously. I take to the trails with it often. So, I actually have a decent basis of comparison. I have even ridden several other older hard tails on these same trails. The Ibex Alpine 550 was by far the best handling of all the dirt bikes I have ridden!
The pair of Ibex Mountain bikes for this review arrived while I was out of town. They languished in the garage crated away for several days until Dan and I could unveil them in brutal photographic detail (see the article elsewhere on the site). But. once we opened them and did the remarkably easy final assembly, we immediately took them for a spin. I liked the comfort, and easy riding of the little Alpine immediately. I also decided that the toe cages had to go just as immediately.
The front fork of this bike was relatively "Bob Free" on the pavement, yet very compliant on the trails. The Bike jumped curbs and roots effortlessly with very little sag upon loading before the jump. In other words, the front end was very, very acceptable. Handling and agility on the street and the trail were excellent. I found the cockpit very comfortable and I was at home immediately.
We took these bikes out to The Bethpage Park Mountain Bike Trails for a decent, design specific, workout. We had intended this to be a serious and intellectual review. We had also intended to get the input of other trail riders and share the experience. But, as luck would have it, it rained the night before and, well, we are early risers. So, instead, we wound up with the trails to ourselves for a couple of hours and by the time other riders showed up we were having so much fun that we just never stopped pedaling long enough to think about giving anybody else a turn.
This little hard tail rolls very easily, and it gathers speed and momentum quickly. It is not a light bike, but it is effortless to pedal. It was very easy to load on a little too much speed an suddenly find yourself a little fast into a turn, but the disc brakes worked beautifully and bled off the excess speed positively and in control. I don't think I ever locked them up on any surface.
We literally rode these bikes out of the box, with no adjustment to the running gear whatsoever. So it would be unfair to be critical of shifting anomalies. I will say that my rear derailleur did have upper gear issues, and would occasionally downshift on its own, but I have to stress that this is a completely unadjusted out of the box and on the trail situation. Frankly I am amazed that they worked as well as they did. When in the middle gears, the shifting was smart and positive.
Long Island is one huge sand pile! Dig deep enough and you will find the sand and gravel heaped here by ancient ice sheets. We are one huge terminal moraine. But that is also how the island got its hills! And Bethpage actually has some decent ones. The rain from the night before had exposed wonderful stretches of sand and gravel just sitting loose and waiting to swallow up the tires of our trusty steeds. For the most part, we prevailed, but there were those stretches where the hills won. I found that the rear tire on my bike was prone to breaking loose. Personally I fault the tires. They appeared to have a more than adequately deep tread and they were virtually new, if not new! But the rear did spin out readily. Dan suggested that I sit slightly farther back and move my center of gravity more over the rear wheel. I tried it, but this merely brought the front wheel off the ground when I mashed the pedals. Wheelies are to be avoided while climbing as they are inclined to make steering more difficult!
I did finally manage to find a very small "sweet spot" that gave a degree greater rear wheel traction and still kept the front on the ground (mostly) but I still have to say I would like to see a stickier situation.
In conclusion, the bike is sharp looking, apparently sturdy, it has a good fork, it rolls very well, it handles great, the running gear is adequate, and I had a great time riding it! It is a very good entry level mountain bike that I would recommend heartily. Ok maybe the welds could be smoothed out a bit, but they are strong and in a way they look cool all buttery. I would like to see this bike ship with clipless pedals, but that would drive the price point a bit higher, so we'll just have to put our own on if we want them (I do).
Now all I need to do is to figure out how I can get to keep this thing!