While the 29er trend is old news by, like, a decade, and 650b (or is it 27.5?) is all the rage, there are still some lines that the industry at large thinks the 29-inch wheel will never cross. For instance, you’ll see very few all-mountain rigs with more than 6 inches of travel and 29-inch wheels. And 29ers riding up the chairlift to slay the bike park? Forget it!
Yeah, just don’t try to tell Niner that there’s something a 29er can’t do. They’ll politely tell you to go play with your little training wheels, and then do it anyway.
Enter the WFO 9.
As you may have read in my Niner Interbike article, the WFO 9 is Niner’s all-new rendition of the long-travel 29er. While Niner did have a previous model dubbed the WFO, about the only thing the new WFO 9 has in common with its predecessor is the name.
First and foremost, the WFO 9 is a big bike: sporting 150mm of travel in the rear and designed for 150-170mm of travel up front (my test rig was setup for 160), this is one of the longest-travel 29ers on the market today.
One of the primary challenges to creating such a long-travel 29er is fitting such a big wheel into a rear end with that much travel. However, advancements in geometry and technology have made it feasible.
For starters, the WFO 9’s airformed tubing, which I discussed in the Interbike article, allows the tubing to transition seamlessly from square to round without so much as a single weld. This new airforming process has also allowed for a substantial reduction in frame weight (see below).
Next, Niner’s patented CVA suspension and their unique rear end geometry allows for a short 443mm chainstay.
Finally, Niner has completely ditched the front derailleur mount, thanks to the advent of 1×11 drivetrains. While previous 1x setups would sacrifice some gearing range, with SRAM’s new XX1 and X01 drivetrains Niner can pull the rear wheel in as tightly as possibly, without worrying about front derailleur clearance and without sacrificing much, if any, gear range. They do, however, provide bash guard mounts if you plan on getting seriously wicked.
Keeping with the slack and low geometry, the WFO 9 features a 66-67 degree head tube angle, depending on fork travel, and a short 443mm chainstay. For full geometry details, be sure to check out Niner’s website.
While the WFO 9 is available as a frame + shock for $2,099, Niner does offer one complete build option for $5,000.
Most importantly, up front the Rock Shox Pike RCT3 features 160mm of travel, three different compression settings, and travel-adjust. In the rear, a Rock Shox Monarch Plus RC3 shock takes care of all the rocks.
The SRAM X01 drivetrain forms an integral part of the bike, simplifying the setup: no chain guide required, no front derailleur required, no front shifter, and little-to-no sacrifice in gearing.
Other interesting bits include SRAM Elixir 9 brakes, Stans Notubes ZTR Flow EX wheels, and a carbon cockpit.
As pictured in this article, the prototype WFO 9 I rode featured a few small build differences, including the addition of a dropper post instead of the stock carbon post, and an alloy bar instead of a carbon bar.
As tested, with my heavy SPD pedals mounted on it, the complete WFO 9 weighs in at 29.59lbs–roughly 28.7lbs without pedals. The frame itself is 300 grams lighter than its predecessor, thanks to the airformed tubing mentioned above, with the frame weighing in at a claimed 7.3lbs (no Maxle or seat collar) compared to a previous 8lbs (no Maxle or seat collar). As mentioned above, my prototype WFO 9 did have a few component differences from the build kit listed on Niner’s website, so the stock $5,000 build should be a bit lighter than this, but will lack a dropper post.
Yes, you read that right: sub-30 pounds for a complete 29-inch-wheeled bike with an alloy frame and 6 inches of travel. For comparison, I tested a 120mm-travel alloy 29er this summer that weighed in at 32.47lbs as tested with pedals and seatpost. Granted, it retails for about $1,000 less than the WFO 9, but the WFO 9 sports 30 more millimeters of travel and 3 pounds less weight. Wow.
I have been thrashing the WFO 9 on everything from technical black-diamond descents to 30-mile big mountain loops, and have been loving every minute of it. This is a big bike, but it likes to play as well as slay.
For complete ride impressions, stay tuned for the final review.
MSRP: $2,099 for frame and shock, or $5,000 for a complete build.
Thanks to Niner for sending over this WFO 9 prototype for testing.