IBIS OSO: THE NEW E-BIKE ON THE BLOCK
Saying that Ibis has a loyal following is true, but it’s a simplification. It misses the greater point. People follow the Ibis cycle brand because of the understanding that they “don’t follow the pack.” Ibis is dedicated to performance & let’s that dedication guide them. This has resulted in a product line that is often the bar by which other manufacturers are judged. Their line-up features a cycle for nearly every dirt sport. The one obvious gap was that they did not have an entry into the burgeoning e-bike market. That all changed with the release of Ibis’ new Oso e-bike.
Ibis states that the all-carbon Oso was crafted from “the ground up” to give riders “a new level of smooth, fast and durable performance.” To accomplish these lofty goals, the Oso incorporates a first-ever upper-link DW suspension which provides a bottomless-feeling 155mm of rear travel. A 170mm travel Fox 38 is up front. The bike helps riders along the trail with a Bosch Performance Line CX motor. The Oso’s geometry features a 64 degree head angle & the effective seat angle is size-specific, ranging from 77 degrees on small bikes, up to 79 degrees on an extra large. The bike is also designed for up to 190mm front suspension, via a triple-clamp DH fork & 170mm rear travel via a shock swap. Rear coil shock conversions are even encouraged by Ibis.
That’s a lot of techy information… The reality of a bike is often lost with the fascination of such numbers. What's really important is how this melange comes together to perform on the trail. At first glance, the Oso looks like a beastly 90s-era DH bike (remember the old Mountain Cycle bikes?). I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. I love how the DW link feels very lively & pedals with ease. But, I like blasting over rocks & a down-side of the traditional DW rear linkage (with its upward arc) is that it feels like it hangs on square-edged rocks. Would this be a deal breaker for me? The only way to tell is with some trail time.
From the beginning, I’ve not been gentle with the Oso. It begs for you to plow through & over everything in its path. I try new lines. I hit rocks & jumps that I’ve previously avoided. I’ve had several crashes. When I’m loading & unloading it, the Oso’s 52lbs feels heavy. Maybe even a bit more than my Orbea Wild. But as soon as I start to pedal, it no longer feels that way. It’s smooth & oh-so-fast. The rear suspension is NOT the problem that I feared. The wheel path of the high DW link moves slightly backwards, providing a stable rear end that simply destroys troublesome gnar. SERIOUSLY. It tracks marvelously during high-speed descents, lending confidence & grit.
I’ve only been on the bike for a few weeks, so I’ve not completely dialed the rear suspension. More time in the saddle will really tell the tale about its performance “style.” I usually like a bit more of a poppy feel to the rear end of my bikes. Poppiness lets me “play” the trail: snapping from rock to log to hump. As it stands now, the Oso doesn’t provide this type of ride. Rather, it’s what we call a “sled.” That is, it feels similar to the “point & shoot” performance that I’ve experienced riding Intense bikes. With a “sled,” you ride the trail & take the long view, pointing the bike where you want to go & it goes there…over anything & everything in your way. Don’t get me wrong. This type of ride is fun, especially when going at eye-watering speeds. Ibis claims the Oso is “playful.” So I believe more saddle time is needed on the bike to test it for its capabilities. But, hucks are not a problem. I hit the drop on the Mad Hatter trail & was impressed by how balanced & level the bike feels in the air. It lands smoothly & inspires trust. This bike is a must for riders who seek a confidence-inspiring big hitting bike.
Night rides are also a must on the Oso. The bike comes with a 900 lumen headlight & bright tail light. I’ve usually relied solely on a helmet light for night riding. However, the Oso’s bar-mounted light truly adds more useful illumination. This can only help you as you blast rocks or jumps in the dark. The tail light lets those that you leave behind on the descents know where you are.
The Oso carries on Ibis’ tradition of going their own way & leading the pack. It's packed full of incredible features & incredible componentry. Its single rear swing arm suspension creates a fast bike that sticks to trails like glue, helping your rail trail at speeds that will truly surprise you. As I get to know the bike, I’ll report on the character of its rear suspension. Finally, if you are the rare rider who has issues with an Ibis bike, their service is second to none. It’s one of the many aspects of Ibis’ corporate culture that makes them a leader in the industry.