I enjoy all types of mountain biking, from downhill runs at the ski resort to ultra endurance suffer fests. But out of that entire range of MTB fun, I love exploring the most. And when I’m exploring, on a trail that I’ve never ridden–and often isn’t even listed in the Singletracks trail database yet–I have no idea what I’ll encounter.
When exploring, the difficulty is choosing a bike that will do a superb job at everything. Because, despite what some marketing people will tell you, there’s no one bike that’s phenomenal at everything. Shoot, if I could ride my hardtail 29er to the top of the mountain and then swap it out for my dual-crown downhill rig before I come back down, I would totally do that! But I can’t.
That’s where the Niner RIP 9 RDO comes in.
Weighing in at about 26lbs, this carbon fiber wonder bike is just about as close to perfect for an exploring-the-unknown rig as you’re going to find. Fitting 125mm of rear travel and 120-140mm of front travel (130mm tested) into a 26-pound package is no small feat!
Click here full tech specs and build information.
After about 300 miles of riding on the RIP 9, here’s how I’ve seen it work on big-mountain rides.
Generally, the ride begins with a climb. On the RIP 9, I usually dial down the travel on the Fox CTD shock to either “Trail” mode for climbing on singletrack, or the locked out “Climb” mode for super-smooth trails or fire road climbing. The RockShox Revelation fork also has three easy-to-adjust compression settings, but I found myself rarely locking out the fork and often leaving it full-open for seated climbs. With a 70-degree head tube angle and a 73-degree seat tube angle, the geometry on this rig is very climbing-friendly. Relatively steep geo + low weight carbon + easily-adjustable suspension = fantastic climber and plenty of PRs and KOMs. ‘Nuff said.
The question really is: how does a bike with climb-friendly geometry plus 130mm of travel tackle gnarly, high-speed descents when the time comes? The answer: shockingly well!
Yes, this bike only sports a 125mm rear end, but remember: this is a 29er we’re talking about. While maybe a 27.5 would be carvier in the corners, the wagon wheels add enough rollover benefit and vertical forgiveness that I often thought I was riding a longer-travel bike. But that’s just how the RIP 9 handles.
Thanks to the big wheels, just-slack-enough geometry, and supple suspension, nothing could hang this bike up. Even when I pinned it through absurdly-rocky sections where I didn’t even see a visible line, the 29-inch wheels plowed right on through.
I spent a week punishing this rig in Moab, including descending Captain Ahab and Amasa Back in the same ride. Boy, some of those square-edged hits and ledge drops to flat slickrock were brutal! I used up every bit of the suspension on a few drops, and while I was able to bottom this bike out completely, once the suspension was set with optimal air pressure the bottom-outs weren’t unduly harsh, and the RIP 9 rode out of them smoothly and in control every single time.
Now, to be honest, this has me a bit confused: did I push this bike to its limits and beyond? Or is that kind of beating par for the course for the RIP 9? One thing is sure: if you’re exploring in big mountain terrain, the odds of bottoming out a 130mm bike on a drop or a poorly-timed jump are pretty good. So, in my opinion, the fact that the RIP 9 can tackle drops over its pay grade and ride out of them like nothing happened is an awesome point in the plus column. When I bottom out some shorter-travel XC/trail bikes doing things XC bikes aren’t really meant to do, the bike will often wallow out or bounce back harshly and buck from the hit. The RIP 9 does neither of those things, and doesn’t even seem phased.
Finally, I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again if Niner sends me another bike to review: there are quite a few bikes out there that ride really well… but the number of bikes that ride superbly well and look like a piece of art are very few. The RIP 9 RDO is a jaw-dropper, with its shiny, sparkling paint job under clearcoat, the red accents, the tasteful decals, and the swoops and bends of the tubing. While at first you might have trouble throwing this rare beauty into a bed of sharp-edged rocks, after you do the first time and see the bike come out the other side unscathed, you won’t hesitate again!
Many thanks to Niner Bikes for sending this beautiful RIP 9 RDO over for review.
Excellent write up. This is my primary bike and it constantly amazes me. I started out with a similar build, but swapped my fork out for the Fox TALAS 34 140mm and the bigger fork made a HUGE difference in DH capability. I run a DH stem, carbon wheels, and Hans Damphs in both front/rear, so my build is a bit burlier at about 27.7 lbs.
After riding this bike for about a year in Colorado and Utah I have similar impressions. This bike can handle almost anything you throw at it. In my opinion, the 125mm keeps things snappy up/down but limits jumps to about 4 1/2 feet if you huck to flat…but why do that anyway unless you get surprised? It handles rollers very well despite the relatively steep 70 degree head angle, but has very responsive steering as a result. I have noticed that my butt scrapes the back tire on near-vertical rollers, which is unsettling, and I’ve surmised that I probably lean further back than I need to to compensate for the steeper feel of the head angle.
It handles flow trails like no other 29er I’ve tried. Tight switchbacks require a lot of body english–not uncommon–but the wheelbase is short enough to comfortably handle anything. The Nobby Nics are not a good choice for this bike–the Hans Ds are far better–because you can push it so hard in corners that the Nics break loose too early and you lose traction.
Overall it compromises very well between Trail, All-Mountain, and Enduro…unless you’re thing is jumping off the biggest features you can everytime you go out.
My only real complaints:
1. Niner has weird sizing for a lot of folks. I am between the Small/Medium sizes so I ride a Small frame (although I ride a Medium from every other bike manufacturer). I’d love to have a Medium RIP.9.RDO for the stability, but the standover height is too tall. So try before you buy.
2. It would be REALLY nice to run a double barreled shock on this bike, but no one makes one that will fit. Niner says there is enough room, but I called every manufacturer and they disagree. Maybe a slight bump in rear travel would help amp this bike a bit.
3. The bottle cage is also mounted on the bottom of the downtube, also because of the lack of room in the triangle. Not a huge deal, but forget about using a bottle for enduro events…you’ll destroy it.
Great addition. Thanks for the detailed analysis, Paul!
Re: Enduro events: while yes you could race enduro on this bike–and I’ve spotted a few people doing it–I’d personally recommend a bigger bike like the WFO 9 I reviewed back in the fall: http://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-reviews/final-review-niner-wfo-9/
Fantastic addition. Thanks.
I’d like to note that you have the bottle cage mounts under the downtube because of the small frame. They mention this at Niner. The Med, LG and XL all have top and bottom mounts for bottle cages.
How would you compare this to the Jet 9? While I love high speed downhills and railing corners, my bmx and dirt bike background just can’t keep me out of the air. I’m no downhiller but I do like to launch off of every obstacle that may appear on the trail. Mostly singletrack rider in Charlotte and western NC.
Let’s just say I would like a bike that is perfect for riding Dupont State Forest in NC, which model would you recommend?
I’d view the Jet 9 as a died-in-the-wool XC/trail bike. The RIP 9 is definitely more playful and more forgiving, but still plenty light and pedally. I’d love to rip the RIP 9 at Dupont!
The WFO 9 is definitely burly and great for thrashing trails and hitting jumps and drops, but could maybe be a bit too much for an every-day bike in NC? Ultimately depends on how you ride 🙂