The Niner brand has developed a cult-like following amongst their customers that has made many mountain bikers wary of uttering the simple phrase “I don’t like 29ers” for the potential violent lash back and possible broken friendships. The Niner RIP 9 RDO is the third Niner I’ve ridden and the second that I’ve spent serious time on, and after logging many hundreds of miles aboard Niner bikes, it’s easy to see why 29ers in general, and Niner in particular, has inspired such vicious loyalty.
The RIP 9 RDO is a full carbon-framed wonder bike. The linkage is Niner’s patented CVA suspension that offers up a full 125mm of rear travel. Niner claims this design provides “active travel with superb compliance and damping,” thanks in part to the specially-tuned CVA Fox Float CTD Factory Shock with trail adjust and Kashima coating.
If you’re interested in more technical information about the suspension linkage, here’s some info straight from the horse’s mouth:
In order to isolate pedaling forces across a broader range of gearing, the CVA’s ‘instant center’ location is in front of the drivetrain. With the lower pivot under the bottom bracket, the force at the rear axle resulting from chain tension pulls the two linkages in opposite directions in all gear choices, effectively isolating the drivetrain from the rear triangle. In other words, when a rider cranks on the pedals, the chain is trying to pull the lower link down and away from the bottom bracket, and the upper link in its regular rotational path. Since the rear triangle is one piece, these opposing forces cancel each other out, leaving the only outlet for chain-induced torque being rotation of the rear wheel, where it’s most wanted.
Past the rearward-most position at sag, the axle path moves in towards the bike at a gradual, constantly varying arc, which insures that there is minimal chain growth throughout the length of travel. This also means minimal pedal feed back in the drivetrain while cycling the suspension, essentially isolating it from the fully active movement of the suspension design.
As for geometry, the RIP 9 features a 70-degree headtube angle, 73-degree seat tube angle, 450mm chainstays, and a 1109mm wheelbase in a size small. For more geo deets, be sure to check out Niner’s website.
The RIP 9 RDO is available in a variety of build kits, but I tested out the 5-Star XX1 build, which retails for $6,499.
As I’m sure you picked up on in the previous sentence, the drivetrain is a complete XX1 kit, and it comes stock with a 32T front chainring. SRAM X0 Trail brakes pair wonderfully with the XX1 drivetrain, making for a very clean cockpit.
Also, I personally requested a dropper post, so Niner installed the RockShox Reverb before they sent the bike out. The reverb isn’t normally available on the stock RIP 9 RDO; instead this build normally comes with a rigid carbon post. One word of caution when considering a dropper post installation: on this size-small frame, due to the bend in the seat tube, the dropper post almost couldn’t go into the frame far enough to accommodate me… but I think I barely fit on it. If I was buying a new bike, I could have potentially tried bumping up to a size medium, or gone with a different brand of dropper post. While you do need to be careful when considering this upgrade, the frame does feature dropper post routing, so a dropper post is definitely applicable on this bike.
Suspension duties up front are handled by a RockShox Revelation RCT3 Solo Air 130mm (with 15mm through axle), which in the latest rendition features the jet-black RockShox stanchions.
This blinged-out rig rolls on Stans NoTubes 3.30/ZTR Flow EX wheels clad in Schwalbe Nobby Nic Snakeskin TL 2.35″ tires.
Finally, the cockpit features a Niner carbon flat bar, fantastic Niner grips, and a Niner-branded WTB Volt saddle.
A note about tires.
Admittedly I’ve developed a personal aversion to Schwalbe tires, so I really tried to love the Nobby Nics. I honestly did. But in the high desert, loose-over-hardpack conditions that have been my primary testing grounds so far for the RIP 9 RDO, the Nobby Nics just didn’t want to hook up when leaned into the corners. Sure, as a rear tire it’s been great, but up front I just didn’t dig it.
Of course, tire choice is a very personal thing, and is very dependent on your local terrain and riding style. As I’ll mention in my final review, the RIP 9 is an extremely versatile bike, and with a change of components it could swing far toward the XC end of the spectrum or far towards the aggressive trail end of the spectrum. And if you’re going to be pedaling rolling, loamy XC trails, the Nobby Nics may serve you very well.
In order to give the RIP 9 RDO a fair review and not get derailed by a less-than-ideal tire setup, I got in touch with a contact over at Maxxis to get his recommendation on the ideal tires for this bike in these conditions. He sent over a High Roller II 2.30″ for the front and an Ardent 2.25″ for the rear.
Since the tire swap, hookup in the corners has improved astronomically! I’ll review the new tires on their own down the road, but for now suffice it to say that, for my riding style and my conditions, this is a much better setup for the RIP 9. So if you see tires in any of these photos or in the final review that look decidedly un-Schwalbe, that’s because they are.
General Pre-Ride Impressions
Alright, enough techno mumbo jumbo. The reality is, there are a ton of bikes out there with excellent components and good suspension designs. But in my opinion, one of the things that sets the RIP 9 RDO apart from the crowd is soul.
When I pulled this bike out of the box, I was instantly struck by how beautiful this machine truly is! Every detail is taken into consideration, including the sparkling-blue carbon sheen and black cut out decals (under clear coat) that allow the blue frame to shine through the lettering. Add in the matching fork with black stanchions that jives perfectly with the black lettering on the downtube, the black drivetrain components, black seat and seatpost, black bars, back wheels wheels, and more, and this is a true black-and-blue beauty. While a mere black-and-blue would be great on its own, the red highlights from the gorgeous linkage to the bottom bracket to the New Belgium beer cap on the head cap serve to further accent all of the aesthetic qualities that are already at play on the RIP 9.
Of course, the true test of a bike is how it rides out on the trail. Stay tuned for my final review!
More Detail Photos:
Many thanks to Niner Bikes for providing the RIP 9 RDO for review!