This year, Ibis Cycles reintroduced their DV9 hardtail and just as I was thinking “Oh it’s just another hardtail,” I found that the updated DV9 has actually carved itself out a unique niche in this moment among a seemingly crowded field. With a value-focused build package prioritizing speed and weight savings, riders can find a capable down-country hardtail at a great price.
What’s New for 2023
By the numbers, we are once again adjusting for yearly geometry inflation compared to the previous DV9:
- 66.5-degree head tube angle (-1 degree)
- 425mm chainstays (14mm shorter)
- Steeper seat tube angle which is size specific from 74-76 degrees (+2 to +3 degrees)
- Longer reach (+50mm on size large)
- 29 x 2.6″ tire clearance*
Other Notable Changes:
- Room for two bottles across all sizes
- Lifetime warranty (up from 7 years)
- Universal derailleur hanger compatible
All of these changes bring the DV9 into the modern era of hardtail profiles without pushing it off the deep end of progressive geometry. I’ve found a 66-67 degree head angle to be a personal sweet spot that allows for enough progression to push a bike without the steering feeling sluggish. The moderate change in the HTA corresponded with a slightly forward-shift in the pedaling position (76-degree STA for size large) without causing the STA to swing into overly steep terrain, that is often seen to compensate for very slack HT angles. Longer reach is always welcome for a lanky human like myself, and I appreciated this update on the DV9. The shorter chainstays were likewise a great addition, imo, making the bike feel very snappy and playful.
The DV9’s ability to fit two bottles across sizes is thanks to the much-maligned (comment sections be damned!) kinked top tube. For people who need lower standover and want double bottle capacity, I’m sure it will be a welcome change even if the aesthetics aren’t for everyone. And, the bike is covered under a lifetime warranty, which is pretty damned sweet any way you cut it. We know that Sram’s UDH was a bit of a trojan horse for the new Transmission system, but it’s still a new standard that can be beneficial when you wreck your hanger out in the world. I hope the standard catches on for us non-Transmission owners so we don’t have to scour the web for replacement hangers. This also means if you wanna go big money bucks on a DV9 it can utilize the new AXS Transmission system.
It was hard to see in the photos, but I have to shout out the paint job on this bike, which is affectionately called Purple Crush. The glossy purple clear coat over the carbon makes for a wonderful gleam in the sun. I love a good clear coat to show off material and the purple just hits the spot. The frame is truly beautiful, the paint alone wins me over.
For this review, I had the Sram GX build which sits at the low end their range of groupsets and shares the same price as the Shimano Deore complete build for $3499. Most of the value in the DV9 is concentrated in the carbon frame and Fox 34 Step Cast fork. The rest of the parts are a mix of value and entry-level components.
Fox 34 Step Cast Fork
I want to take a minute to talk about the new Fox 34 Step Cast fork since it seems like an integral part of the DV9 and the frame feels truly tailored to its release. The new Step Cast uses shorter internal lowers with a hollow step in them to reduce material and weight. Originally offered in their 32mm stanchioned line for XC racing, it has now been expanded to the 34mm stanchion line. With the larger stanchions comes longer travel at 120mm and more rigidity. For this iteration of the Step Cast, Fox has moved the steps to the inboard side of the lowers allowing them to make the fork narrower and thus a tiny bit lighter. Note: the narrower profile does reduce the max tire clearance to a 2.4” tire.
The steps also reduce the maximum rotor size to 180mm. Both of these limitations are totally justifiable on a bike like the DV9. While the 34 SC fork inherited its new lighter and stiffer chassis from the 32 SC line, it also inherited the new oil bypass channels from the 36-40mm line that allows for better oil movement in the lowers. Pulling the best features from their whole range of forks, the 34 Step Cast fork is a perfect complement to lighter builds looking to push what is possible on shorter travel bikes.
While the build is labeled GX spec it actually incorporates a few elements of the cheaper NX group as well. The cassette and derailleur are both from the GX line while the shifter, chain, and crankset are NX. While I see no reason that the NX crankset or chain would be an issue, I don’t much care for the NX shifter pod. It has an all-in-one mount that is not hinged or replaceable and after having a similar SX-level shifter sheer in the past, I’d wager it’s a clear weak point. That being said, the shifting was consistent and worked as well as the Eagle line has proven itself over the past few years.
Across all the build specs, Ibis pairs Shimano Hydraulic brakes regardless of drivetrain. I personally prefer the feel and maintenance of Shimano Hydraulic brakes, so this is a plus for me on Ibis builds. The Deore 2-piston brakes are on the lower end of the Shimano line, but they felt capable of controlling a bike of this weight and capability. They have less modulation than their more expensive counterparts, but that is to be expected.
The KS Rage-I dropper worked great even if the dropper lever feels cheap and clunky. I’m partial to having a dropper on just about any bike I ride and I believe that a bike that is pushing past the traditional capabilities of an XC bike should have one. If there was one thing I would upgrade on this bike it would be the dropper lever.
From the cockpit to the wheelset, the bike comes with a host of Ibis-branded parts to round out the build. My review bike came with Ibis’ carbon handlebar instead of an alloy bar in the stock spec. Interestingly, the carbon bar features a cool threaded insert to convert the bar from 750 to 800. As this bike straddles the line between the XC and Trail categories, it seems a great upgrade to add a lighter handlebar that doesn’t ask you to choose your realm—thread in the inserts for a big trail day, and take them off for race day.
Ibis specs their own 933 wheelset with a plump 29mm internal diameter that pairs well with the 2.4” tires on the bike. I had no issues with the wheels during my review and I also have a personal pair on another bike, but these seem like another area ripe for an upgrade. The 933 wheelset comes stock on all build levels and it seems like an obvious upsell for Ibis to offer the carbon options on an upper tier stock build. It was really nice to get to review a bike with something other than Maxxis DHF/R tires specced for a change, the Rekon Race tires rolled well with the rest of the build.
One note that feels a bit incongruent on the build is the fact that the frame is made to clear 2.6” tires and can be adapted to run a 203mm rotor while the fork only allows for a 2.4” tire/180mm rotor. Even so, running a 203mm rotor on a bike like this doesn’t make much sense to me. And, I don’t know if I would even try to push a 2.6” tire into the rear triangle as the clearances would be quite tight and mud rubbing on carbon is never advisable. Setup as seen here, the bike functionally clears a 2.4” but a simple upgrade of the fork would allow for the full width of front clearance—the legitimacy of the rear 2.6″ tolerance claim remains questionable.
While it seems like a good value for a carbon bike, $3499 is not cheap by any means. I like that Ibis does not have lower-priced builds with steel-stanchioned forks, the spec is consistently reasonable and serviceable.
As soon as you throw your leg over the DV9 it feels fast. In the downcountry world, it definitely pulls more DNA from the XC side. The saddle-to-bar drop feels aggressive and the carbon frame begs you to pedal harder. The bike is optimized to be lightweight and rigid for pedaling fast and it does that quite well. On my first ride with the DV9, I totally dropped my dog who was running the trail with me, after backtracking a bit we reconnected, but this is not normal for my trail rides with her. The short chainstay invites you to wheelie and pop the bike around. While the moderately steep—by today’s standards—seat tube angle keeps your weight over the pedals, what it lacked in progressive geometry prowess the DV9 more than made up for in being so light you could get up anything.
The carbon frame was stiff and responsive as to be expected which lead me to find the overall ride uninspiring. It does the carbon thing which is stiff and light and that produces a fun ride if you value speed. It is refreshing to pedal something that feels so effortless after years of heavier steel and aluminum bikes. Since the frame does not lean too far into the progressive hardtail world and limits itself to 120mm of travel, it dodges the problem of the front end writing checks the rigid rear end can’t cash. The DV9 will be clearly more capable and well-rounded than a dedicated XC bike while maintaining some of the valued attributes of the latter like their speed and weight.
Though it is outside its purview, (though, this has never stopped me before) I did take the DV9 out on a bikepacking trip. Even with the kinked top tube, a stock Oveja Negra bag fit nicely in the front triangle with enough room to fit a seat tube bottle as well. Though a bit limited on tire sizing for chunkier trails, the DV9 could definitely double as a bikepacking bike if you can run all rackless bags.
When I went to research other bikes to compare the DV9 to I found it much harder to find another bike that ticked all the same boxes: carbon, hardtail, 120mm travel. If you venture into steel or aluminum there are a multitude of options, but almost all of the carbon bikes were all limited to 100m of travel in a more purely XC realm. The Yeti Arc that John reviewed was the closest that I could find with 130mm of travel, slightly more progressive geo, but a similar price point at the SLX level ($4200 vs $4000). I believe with the introduction of the new Fox 34 SC fork we will see more bikes enter this realm. The DV9 really finds itself in a small niche at the moment.
When talking about capability on a hardtail, it’s hard to quantify solely by geometry and travel spec. You can ride a hardtail on a large swathe of trail difficulties if you are a skilled rider and this bike is no different. Adept bike handlers will be able to take the inch the modern geo affords and make it a mile. Being ever the tinkerer, I’ve found that playing with travel and head tube angle is a great way to dial in a hardtail and can potentially make it more future-proof as geometry fads come and go. 9point8 makes a headset to allow you to adjust your headtube angle on an integrated headset.
“Overforking” can have a similar effect, to a limit, if you don’t mind comprising the geometry. Ibis has designed the DV9 to accept a 100-140mm fork, but beyond that is outside the rating of the frame. In the past, I found a sweet spot at 140mm of travel with my Orbea hardtail. The stock fork does not have any options to adjust its travel longer than 120mm, so if you decide you want more travel it would involve purchasing a separate fork. Honestly, the DV9 and 34 Step Cast fork seem so made for each other that they should stay together.
I would stop short of calling the DV9 a quiver killer, but if you are a rider who values lightweight and speed in a bike that can gently transcend the world of strictly XC racing, then the new Ibis DV9 might just be for you.
- Fills the down-country carbon hardtail niche
- Value where it’s needed in part selection
- Very light and fast
- Fair price for a carbon frame
- The feel of the ride quality isn’t at the forefront of the experience.
- Spec and geometry feel conservative in a new age of progressive hardtails
See more at Ibis.