MRP Ribbon SL 2019 Mountain Bike Review

MRP Ribbon SL 2019

Reviews / Forks

MRP 22,055

At A Glance

Described by MRP as an Endurance XC/Trail fork, the Ribbon SL expands on their successful Ribbon fork and takes the fight to the world of short travel trail bikes. MRPs lighter weight short travel fork, up till now, has been the Loop which offers suspension in a weight-conscious package.

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The Ribbon, by contrast with its 35mm stanchions, was previously reserved for more burly riding and longer travel bikes but was still internally adjustable to lower travel. Much like Fox and their Step-Cast 34 fork, for the SL model they've dropped the travel on their more burly fork and shed a bunch of weight to offer a modern XC/Trail fork.

Weight saving is achieved simply through shorter stanchions and damper/air rods combined with a lower oil volume and a bolt through rather than quick-release axle. A simple but effective process to get the weight down but then limits the travel to a maximum of 130mm.

The Ribbon (standard version) claimed weight is 1.90kg whilst the Ribbon SL weighed in with us at 1.835kg (uncut steerer) and the MRP website claims 1.79kg. Essentially we're shaving about 100g from the Ribbon.

Available in travel from 120 or 130mm it's also internally adjustable to 110mm if you need to. Its 29er only, features 35mm stanchions and is Boost only and comes in two offset options. It also has a long list of decal colour options to match your eyes/bike.

Aesthetically the most striking thing is the 'Outcast' arch, which points the mud collecting arch towards the front and gives them a unique look. Internally, the air spring features independently adjustable positive and negative air which is used to fine-tune the feel of the travel. There are also Huck Pucks available to adjust the air volume. Further to this there are PSST™ pressure-relief valves, which bleed off any excess air in the lowers. On the damper side, MRP uses their bladder-free damper and use a low-pressure IFP (internal floating piston). Travel adjust is a simple affair which requires the lowers to be removed and a spacer to be added or removed from the airshaft.

Disc size is a minimum of 180mm which suggests it may not be for the XC racers out there, axle to crown height is 532mm (120mm) and it hits the shops at £800/$899.95.

Set Up

Set up is straightforward with regards to mounting the fork onto your bike, however, getting the fork dialled in takes a little more time. With separate positive and negative air chambers for the air spring, it's important to get this right. Both are pressurised independently but need to relate to each other carefully. Once the positive has been set the negative needs to match this pressure, or even better, be slightly higher than the positive pressure up to a difference of 10psi. Due to a smaller surface area that the negative air is working against, it can be at a higher pressure to balance the spring forces. In theory, this means you can get a suppleness in the initial stroke that can only be achieved with this system.

With no marking on stanchions and no pressure sticker on the lowers you need to check the website and get a tape measure out to make sure things are accurate. For me, 100psi and 100psi (positive and negative) felt good, but I played around with extra in the negative to get a supple initial stroke.

On The Trail

Strapped to the front of my Pivot Mach4SL, it certainly felt that I had just bolted a serious set of forks to this pocket rocket of a trail/XC bike. The application of the Ribbon SL is not entirely clear and choosing the right bike is tricky, especially as short-travel bikes are evolving so quickly and have vastly different applications.

Matched with 100mm out back the Ribbon SL in 120mm felt good and gave instant confidence to the front end of the bike. I was initially expecting super, buttery smooth, frictionless initial stroke but never really got it, perhaps I was expecting too much. It was good but felt like there was still a little noticeable friction in the seals but the balance of the positive and negative air spring did a great job of keeping things moving. It's good, really good, but just moved a little slower than I had hoped.

Hitting trails at speed prove the Ribbon SL to retain all of its hard-hitting prowess and quickly shows up anything lacking in the back end of the bike. On a 100mm XC bike, it feels a little like you're riding two different bikes, the front capable of handling far more than the rear. One of the challenges with a fork like this is finding a bike that can match it! It's entirely appropriate on a short travel bike, but it can just tempt you into some inappropriate lines.

With bigger hits, it ramps up pretty well and won't give full travel too quickly, but I did add a little compression damping, just support the fork a little. The low-speed compression gives a good range of support through 8 clicks to give a near lockout when fully closed.

The travel is well delivered and provides a good mix of ground-hugging traction and maintaining it's height through the rough ground without getting bogged down. The supple initial stroke really helps to eke out every last millimetre of travel without wasting any.

Essentially a short travel enduro fork, the Ribbon SL really brings the performance of a big fork to a more compact system. I struggle to see where it might be used in 110mm mode, but as a 130mm fork, there are now a plethora of burly short-travel bikes that would welcome a fork like this.

The Ribbon SL will go anywhere you point it and stay absolutely composed throughout. It's easy to draw comparisons with a Pike and it happily stacks up against it with competitive performance and lower weight. The Ribbon SL sits in a unique position between the new beefed-up XC forks and enduro/trail forks.

Overall

A seriously hard-hitting short travel fork in a lightweight package, the only challenge is finding a bike that can keep up with it! Well delivered travel, with plenty of adjustment to get it feeling perfect and give options for tinkering.

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This review was in Issue 61 of IMB.

For more information visit MRP

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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