The Niner RIP 9 is Keen to Descend the Fastest Trails [Review]

Sitting atop the Niner mountain bike lineup in terms of suspension travel, the RIP 9 leaves little doubt as to its intentions. It’s hard to believe the 150/140mm front/rear travel 29er has been around for more than a decade, long before long-travel 29ers were considered mainstream. As the forebear of today’s 29er enduro bikes and even downhill bikes, I was curious to test the RIP 9 to see how it competes within the crowded field of 29er all-mountain bikes.

The frame

Niner employs a flip-chip to give the bike two distinct configurations to suit conditions and ride styles. The “high” mode is designed for everyday trail rides with a 66° head tube angle and a 75.8° seat tube angle. In “low” mode, designed for shuttle and park days, the head angle slackens a full degree to 65° while the seat tube angle relaxes to 75.2°. Low mode also drops the bottom bracket an extra 7mm. Adjustable geometry is fairly common on mountain bikes these days, but the RIP 9 is notable for changing the head angle and bottom bracket height so dramatically. For that reason, Niner isn’t far off base when they claim the RIP 9 is effectively “two bikes in one.”

The Constantly Varying Arc (CVA) suspension setup is designed to minimize chain growth while maximizing anti-squat at the 30% sag point. Niner optimizes the system to minimize pedal kickback so the suspension remains responsive whether climbing or descending.

The latest edition of the RIP 9 sheds 10mm of rear travel off the previous version to land at 140mm, which Niner pairs with a 150mm fork up front.

Niner only offers RIP 9 frames in carbon, utilizing high-quality fibers and a rigid internal mold process which is said to result in a more consistent and precise end product. The RIP 9 features end-to-end cable guides to make internal routing easier. Pricing for the frame is set at $3,200 and builds range in price from $4,200 to $9,700. I’ve been testing the mid-range 3-star, XT build which retails for $5,700 (available online at JensonUSA.)

The Fox DPX2 shock sits inside something called the “Rib Cage,” which is made up of carbon struts running horizontally around the shock to provide added stiffness to the frame. With the DPX2 shock, this creates an unfortunate air valve access issue, so Niner includes an unusual adapter that clips to the inside of the left chainstay for storage. A warning label reminds riders to remove the adapter before sitting on the bike to check sag as this could cause serious damage to the carbon frame.

With the “Santa Fe Sand” color scheme, Niner has created an iconic look and one that garners almost universally positive feedback from the riders I’ve met. The color-matched decals on the fork and shock are on point, and even linkage hardware bits are color-coordinated. The swooping lines of the frame and shaped carbon tubes, plus dialed internal cable routing give the RIP 9 a slick, polished look.

My extra-large, 3-star XT build with XTR pedals and a lightweight bottle cage tips the scale at about 32.2lbs.

The build

As expected, the XT build features a 12-speed Shimano XT drivetain (Race Face Turbine crankset), paired with 4-piston XT hydraulic disc brakes. A Fox DPX2 Performance shock and Fox 36 Performance Elite fork handle suspension duties, while the bike rolls on DT Swiss M1900 wheels.

For the cockpit, Niner specs a Race Face bar and stem, along with Niner-branded flanged grips. Personally, I don’t get flanged grips for mountain biking; they tend to get in the way of the controls for me. Looking closely at my build, it appears the bottom flange was actually cut off, perhaps for this very reason.

The saddle is also Niner-branded. Clearly those who are considering this bike are experienced riders who know saddle choice comes down to personal preference. With that in mind, the included saddle just doesn’t work for me, and that’s fine.

With a 2.5-inch-wide, three compound Maxxis Minion DHF up front and a dual compound, 2.5-inch-wide Maxxis Aggressor in the rear, the tire spec leaves little room for improvement – although heavier riders may want a tougher casing. The stays offer plenty of clearance for meaty tires — up to 2.6 inches wide, according to Niner — giving buyers nearly endless choices when it’s time to replace the stock rubber.

Niner has done a good job keeping the standover height and seat tube low on the RIP 9, allowing them to spec a 175mm travel dropper post on size large and extra large frames. I’m at the short end of the recommended height range for the extra large, and yet it appears there’s plenty of room for an even longer post.

On the trail

Pedaling the RIP 9 up above the fog.

Right off the bat the RIP 9 suspension feels incredibly supple. I’m talking Kashima smooth and supple, but without the Kashima. The bike sits noticeably low in its travel and has an insanely responsive top stroke. The CVA design really seems to get maximum performance out of the mid-level Fox shock.

On fast, wide open descents the RIP 9 shines the most. The bike is very stable at speed thanks to its long wheelbase, slack headtube, and low-ish bottom bracket. My height (6’3″) generally pushes me toward an XL frame size, but with the RIP 9, I think I might actually try sizing down to slow things down and add a little more agility. For those who say the longer the better, the RIP 9, with its progressive trail geometry, could be the perfect choice.

The CVA suspension does a good job ramping up toward the end of the stroke, providing a surprisingly firm reinforcement against bottom outs. The carbon frame is stiff and responsive when it comes to cornering.

During a session at the local jump line I managed to get a water bottle wedged in the frame between the shock and the downtube, which was a little scary. I’m not sure why the bottle mounts are so low, especially on the extra large frame, but the placement and lack of clearance also prevented the use of the Topeak Ninja bottle cage I prefer. I don’t imagine many riders will manage to get a bottle wedged like I did — provided they don’t mount a side-access cage or use with a short, hard-walled bottle.

photo: Paul F.

The RIP 9 pedals uphill well enough, though keep in mind the bike is called RIP and not CLIMB. Getting the sag point dialed is crucial to getting the most out of the CVA platform when it comes to pedal efficiency, and truthfully I was never able to find the spot where pedal bob was completely absent. Still, the RIP 9 climbs and pedals well enough for all day trail rides, which I confirmed with a five-hour, pedal-powered test ride in the mountains where I climbed up and over multiple gaps.

On some of the tight, technical, and frankly low-speed trails closer to home, the RIP 9 is overkill.

Buyers will get the most value out of the RIP 9 as an extremely capable descender, with few limits on where it can go. I would absolutely ride the RIP 9 at the bike park, with or without the flip chip in low mode. The long, slack geometry combined with generous, capable suspension inspires confidence at speed and allows riders to tackle whatever the trail might throw at them.

Bottom line

Depending on what your local trails are like, the RIP 9 could absolutely be a good choice as an everyday trail bike that pulls double duty as a weekend gravity weapon. With its CVA suspension design, the RIP 9 offers a comfortable ride feel without totally sacrificing pedal efficiency. \

⭐️Find the Niner RIP 9 on Jenson USA

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