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In 1981, a young Scot Nicol built the first steel frame to bear the Ibis name after having apprenticed with a couple of Marin, CA bike geeks by the name of Joe Breeze and Charlie Cunningham. Their different approaches to off-road bike frame building were absorbed by Nicol and instilled in him the idea that it was more than OK to experiment with this new thing called mountain biking. Demand for Nicol’s frames grew quickly, and with it the reputation of the Ibis brand. Throughout the first 20 years of Ibis Bicycles, Scot Nicol and his crew showed their dedication to expanding the world of cycling by producing high quality frames of every kind—road, mountain, ‘cross, trials, tandem—using every material possible—steel, aluminum, titanium and even carbon fiber.
Then came the dark ages. In 2000, Nicol sold Ibis Bicycles and retired from the industry. After only twenty months without him, the company filed for bankruptcy. Ibis was no more.
Episode IV: A New Hope. Scot Nicol received a call from Hans Heim in 2003. Heim, an industry acquaintance and veteran of such companies as Specialized, Bontrager, and Santa Cruz, wanted to know what the status of the Ibis brand was. According to Nicol, “One thing led to another, and Ibis is back.” The new Ibis family consists of Nicol, Heim, Tom Morgan (running things), and Roxy Lo (making them look good). These four, like the original crew, are dedicated to bringing the best to the world of cycling.
The latest incarnation of Ibis Bicycles is all about looking forward. Don’t expect to see steel hardtails from these guys anytime soon. For 2011, Ibis offers nothing but black gold. Tom Morgan explains, “The tensile strength of the fibers used in most composite bikes are ten times stronger than 4130 chrome-moly steel, and twenty times stronger than the high strength aluminums used in bicycle frames. Add to it that the density of carbon fiber is about 30% less than aluminum and you’ve got some really strong, light stuff.” Even though Ibis is a company whose reputation is based on top quality steel, aluminum and titanium frames, that they are concentrating on carbon fiber as their primary material should come as no surprise. Writing for VeloNews back in the early ‘90s, Scot Nicol declared, “The future of composite bikes . . . (is) that the material advances will be a lot less significant than our process and execution of making these promising materials work to their best advantage.”
Employing the latest in carbon fiber materials and manufacturing, Ibis is offering one road, one cross and two mountain frames this year. While a full carbon road frame is nothing earth shattering in 2011, Ibis’ attention to detail, value and respectable weight make the Silk SL worth a look. As for the dirty side of things, Ibis turned to suspension genius Dave Weagle for help.