When I received the Niner RIP 9 RDO for review, the stock tires just weren’t cutting it: they didn’t want to hook up in the slightly-sandy loose-over-hardpack high desert trail conditions around my hometown of Salida. Since I wanted to give the bike a fair shake, I got on the horn with Aaron from Maxxis to get his recommendation for a good tire setup for this bike in these conditions. Based on his feedback and what I was looking for in the handling department, we settled on running a High Roller II 2.3” up front and an Ardent 2.25” in the rear.
Both of these tires came with the tubeless-ready casing, so I set them up tubeless from the get-go. The High Roller II weighs in at a claimed 910 grams or less, and the Ardent at about 800 grams or less (depending on the exact models you choose). In this review, I’ll consider these tires as a team, how they function together, and in their individual positions on the bike.
My main beef with the stock tires that came on the RIP 9 were their cornering capabilities in the conditions found on my home trails—or lack thereof. Straight line traction was fine with the stock tires, but I love to drive my bike hard into corners. Many of our turns are flat or even out-sloped, making cornering traction of paramount importance.
Aaron’s selection of the High Roller II up front was an excellent one. While I initially requested 2.4” Ardents front and back (which weren’t available at the time), the High Roller II is a knobby tire that hooks up great in a wide variety of conditions. The tall lugs grip supremely well when laid over, and yet the tire rolls reasonably well in a straight line thanks to the closely-spaced center knobs.
I’m a big fan of maximum traction on my bikes, at times even at the sacrifice of speed, so I was instantly a fan of the High Roller II. This tire feels like the lugs ooze a constant stream of superglue that binds to the soil, ripping out as the front end gets shoved around. But since the Rip 9 RDO was such a speedy bike on the uphills as well as the descents, slowing it down unduly with overly heavy of tires would have been a travesty. That’s where the Ardent comes in.
Running an Ardent on the rear is a great compromise, as this lighter tire accelerates quickly and keeps overall weight down. The knobs are much lower profile on the Ardent than they are on the High Roller II, again making for a faster tire. Despite the relatively low profile, the 2.25″ Ardent was the perfect resolution to my cornering problem, with the side knobs hooking up very well in the loose-over-hardpack conditions, especially considering the 2.25” width.
The one thing I was personally surprised about was the accelerating and braking traction: in a straight line, I found that in looser conditions the Ardents wanted to break free and skid in moderate braking, or would spin out under hard acceleration. Again, these results happened in loose-over-hardpack conditions, which admittedly might be some of the toughest conditions for maintaining traction. However, despite seeming to lack in acceleration and braking traction at first, after riding the Ardent for a while I found myself getting used to the balance. I personally found that as long as I made sure my weight was distributed properly in each situation (accelerating hard uphill or braking on the descents), the tire did its job and hooked up—it’s just not very forgiving of sloppy body position.
Yes, accelerating and braking traction on the Ardent wasn’t ideal in these conditions. However, my initial gripe with the stock tires was more than satisfied by installing the High Roller II + Ardent combination! The RIP 9 cornered like it was on rails, even in the most challenging conditions. A set of tires can make or break how your bike rides, so if you want to get the most out of your steed, and you tend to ride like I do and in similar conditions, consider this awesome combination of rubber from Maxxis.
High Roller II Price: ~$79, depending on the model.
Ardent Price: ~$79, depending on the model.
Thanks to Maxxis for providing the High Roller II and Ardent for review.