Carbon fiber might be the it material at the moment but if the latest crop of aluminum bikes are any indication, then you can say aluminum is so not dead.
In fact, with standouts such as the Specialized Allez and the Cannondale Topstone, I would argue there’s no better time to get an aluminum-framed bike than now from a best bang for your buck point of view. And now Ibis is joining in with the all-new Ripmo AF. AF for Aluminum Frame, not the standard AF abbreviation.
Though Ibis is no stranger to aluminum, the Ripmo AF is the company’s first aluminum frame since its 2001 Ripley softail, and first since Ibis came back to life as a company in 2005.
So what is the Ripmo AF? You can think of it as a more affordable version of the popular Ripmo plus a few minor updates. And how affordable is the Ripmo AF? The complete bike starts at $2,999, which is the same price as the Ripmo carbon frameset…
The Ripmo features:
160mm front travel
147mm dw-link rear travel (2mm more than the carbon version)
8.25lb for size medium with DVO Topaz (6.1lb for medium carbon with Fox DPX2)
Clearance for 2.6″ tires
Four sizes (S-XL) that fit riders between 5′ and 6’6”
Compatibility with select coil shocks, DVO JADE X coil shock available as an upgrade option
Slack 64.9 head angle (compared to 65.9 on the carbon version)
Same 44mm fork offset
Steep 76 degree seat tube angle
Threaded BB (73mm BSA)
ISCG 05 compatible with removable adapter
Port style internal cable routing
22oz bottles fit inside front triangle
Size M-XL compatible with 170mm+ droppers, 125-150mm for smalls
Molded rubber swing arm protectors
IGUS bushings in lower link, bearings in upper link
203mm max rotor size
1x specific design
Tapered headtube: ZS44 upper, ZS56 lower
$1,799 for the frame with DVO Topaz Inline shock, or $1,899 with DVO Jade X coil shock.
The Ripmo AF is backed with a seven year frame warranty and lifetime replacement on bushings. It is available worldwide starting today. More about it here, plus of course, a fun launch video.
eTap-equipped MKI road at NAHBS. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Frame holding jig in the finishing booth. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
A few of Andrew's origin frames. The steel one in the middle was the one he build while attending UBI in 2009. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Andrew prefers to operate the foot switch bare-footed for better feel and control. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Mise en place. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Pre-weld markings. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Spent welding rods. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Head tube on the welding jig. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
A bunch of triangles made while practicing welds.. and finishes. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
A JET horizontal mitering bandsaw plus the must-have, multi-use gallon bucket. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Rear triangle alignment jig. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Custom frame oven designed by none other than Andrew himself. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Frames. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Welding time. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Andrew seen through the yellow curtain. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Andrew, with a MkI road, and Manny. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
A custom aluminum frame is somewhat of a unicorn these days. Stroll down the aisles at NAHBS and it’s obvious that the dominant materials for frames are titanium, carbon, and steel. And those are all wonderful materials in their own right, but I have a soft spot for aluminum.
Well, Klein’s gone now (RIP), but my hope of finding a good aluminum bike is not.
The Low Down
Sure, you could go with a big name factory option like Cannondale’s CAAD 12 and Specialized’s Allez, but if you want custom aluminum hand-crafted by an expert, Andrew Low of LOW Bicycles is your guy.
Growing up with interests in model airplanes, guitars and cars, Andrew started building roll cages for off-road vehicles while pursuing his degree in fine arts in Colorado. After moving back to his native San Francisco in 2005, he got really into bikes, and eventually got the idea to make his own frame.
Years of researching tools, saving money, and welding practice finally yielded two frames by the summer of 2010. From there, Andrew “started to take those around town where bike messengers were hanging out.” The LOW frames were an instant hit, and that was the origin of LOW Bicycles.
Today, besides offering four different track models, LOW is dipping into the resurgent aluminum road and cross market with their new MkI road and cross frames—all made in their 500 square foot shop so tidy you would think you just walked into a boutique car shop. Here’s what he has to say for himself.
Why aluminum? I like the look of oversized tubing as opposed to steel frames but I also wanted to make racing bikes and aluminum is a great material for that, dollar per dollar it’s the most effective material for racing. It’s really versatile in that you can make a really stiff bike and you can make really comfortable bike contrary to popular belief.
It’s just how you shape the tubes.
Aluminum is softer than steel and it’s not as rigid and brittle as epoxy which you find in carbon fiber.
How many frames do you make now? 12 frames every four weeks, and we stop 4 weeks out of the year. So that’s about 120 bikes a year.
Describe your bikes in five words: Beautiful, aggressive, well-designed, well-made, fast.
Why #thismachinekillscarbon? Because if you get on our bikes you won’t feel any disadvantage because you’re on an aluminum bike. I came up with that hashtag myself. The full quote is “this machine kills carbon and your preconceived notion of superiority.”
That’s what we’re setting out to do with our road bike. It started happening now in the industry where big brands are investing into high-end aluminum bikes. Specialized with their Allez which is a beautiful bike in my opinion. Some people are starting to realize that barring from buying the highest end carbon frame you can get just as good if not better performance out of aluminum. One of my bikes will ride much better than a similar-priced carbon bike. You’ll feel the difference.
Uphill or downhill: Downhill.
Favorite riding place: Riding in Marin is awesome, riding through traffic is fun. I used to love riding the city loop
One thing people don’t know about you: I am working on getting my pilot license.
Favorite music: Bands that I grown up loving: the Ramones. Jonathan Richmond, jimmy Hendrix, Lou reed, a lot of stuff from late 70s, early 80s. I play the guitar.
What are you most proud of? That I’ve able to keep this going for five years. Most businesses fail within the first year. I am proud that it took off to begin with. We have a shit ton of struggle keeping the business going. But I am just really proud that I did something people like. For me that’s awesome. It’s validating.
How long does it take to produce one frame: About 30 hours per bike.
Morning or night person: Both. I don’t sleep that much. I go to bed late and wake up early.