Niner is updating their popular RLT 9 line of gravel bikes, adding features like wider tire clearance and routing for a dropper post, and in the process, is narrowing the gap between gravel and full-on mountain bikes.
The new RLT 9 frames, available in carbon, steel, or aluminum, can fit tires up to 50c which is roughly a 2.0-inch tire, in MTB-speak. The frame will work with either 650b (27.5-inch) or 700c (29er) wheel diameters.
With internal routing for just about any type of hose or cable imaginable, the Niner RLT seems to be ready for whatever. Mountain bikers who dabble in gravel will be relieved to know the new frames have routing for a dropper post, and the updated RDO carbon fork (included on all models) has internal routing for a front brake hose and dynamo hub wiring. That last bit will be welcome news for bikepackers especially.
Speaking of bikepacking, the updated RLT 9 frame and RDO fork — with a 12x100mm thru axle — feature even more mounting points than before (26 total), for bottles, bags, racks, and fenders. The carbon frame in particular has been tuned for a comfortable ride, while still offering plenty of torsional stiffness for maximum power transfer.
Unlike the latest mountain bike frames, the RLT 9 is compatible with a front derailleur for those who choose to run one. Niner says the frame is also singlespeed-ready.
Pricing information is not yet published, but look for bikes to be available this month.
All I can say is, thankfully I have my current model RLT 9 RDO…
Almost everything changed in this model is kind of pointless, or backwards…
I guess the dropper routing is a good idea.
Adding more mounting points that won’t get used by 99% of people?
I laugh about the mounts on the fork already! Look at nearly ANY picture of an RLT 9 RDO right now and NOBODY is using them!
I’m very confused by the switch to 12×100 front axle. If you’re making it more “mountain bike” why go backwards to a 12mm axle?
I can already get flex (brake rub) with my 15mm axle when I stand up and get on the pedals. 12mm is only going to make it worse.
Long story short, this is a step backwards. The current RLT makes a legitimate road bike that can blast up almost any surface. This version just leaves the road behind it and that’s a huge mistake, especially when you have the MCR coming out and THAT is what should be handling this segment of riders!
Too much overlap that will confuse buyers. With the original RLT 9 RDO, Niner took direct aim at the road market, that was smart. This is backwards thinking.
The divergence of gravel and cyclocross bikes is a disaster for most consumers. For a long time cyclocross bikes were the swiss-army knife of bikes. Most came with bottle cage bosses, rack and fender mounts, and for years they trended towards clearance for larger and larger tires. With the reluctant acknowledgement of the demise of toe clips and the increased american interest in cyclocross, bottom brackets got lower and head tubes slacker to make ever better performing bikes.
It IS difficult to design a bike with wide rear wheel tire clearance, short chainstays, and clearance for “road” size chainrings. In the last few years we’ve had a renaissance of design with hydraulic discs and 1X drivetrains. Cyclocross bikes were better than ever, with most bikes clearing 40mm tires for trail duty.
Now come gravel bikes and hyper-specialization. Suddenly, we are being offered overpriced cyclocross bikes with feature creep like 2X drivetrains, dropper posts, suspension, and excessively low and slack geometry. Well, fine, but now product managers feel like they need to make cyclocross bikes hyper-specialized for racing. The latest year or two of cross bikes have all the trail-worthy advantages of hydraulic discs and thru axles, yet only clear 33mm tires.
That’s a step in the wrong direction. For example the 2018-2019 Trek Crocketts all had super-wide seat stays and adjustable rear axles to allow for singlespeed use or to gain extra tire clearance for 40mm+ tires. Now that the Trek Checkpoint gravel bikes have come out, these features have been eliminated and now 35mm is the maximum tire diameter for the 2020 Crockett.
Product managers would be better served to streamline their product offerings: Make your bikes work well with 700x40mm and 650x50mm, stick to thru axles that work on both CX and MTB, keep everything 1X. And Shimano, I love your mountain bike components, and the performance of your road hydraulic brakes, but for the love of God eliminate the chrome baubles from your hydraulic brake/shift levers and figure out the ergonomics.