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!
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.