From the Top: Chris Sugai of Niner Bikes

Dec 20, 2016
by Mike Kazimer  



What do window tinting and mountain biking have in common? Well, if you're Chris Sugai, they're both key parts of the pathway that led him to his current position as the CEO of Niner Bikes. After nearly 12 years in business, it's safe to say that Niner have secured their spot in the mountain bike world, but that position was a little more tenuous when Sugai got the company off the ground with their first offering, a scandium singlespeed hardtail. At the time, 29ers were still on the edge of mainstream acceptance, and starting a company dedicated solely to the bigger wheels certainly raised plenty of eyebrows.

Chris Sugai has never been afraid to voice his opinions, and his outspoken nature has ignited more than a few lively debates, but at his core he's a mountain biker just like the rest of us. I recently paid a visit to Niner's headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado, to find out more about the past, present, and future of the company.







Niner
Some of the Niner crew outside the company's headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado.


How did you first get into cycling?

My dad was really into motorcycles. As soon as I learned how to ride a bike (I was about 5 or 6 years old) I got a motorcycle. When I was about 8 or 9 I started getting into BMX, and I raced for about five years, with Tinker Juarez and some of those other guys back in the day in Southern California. I got off of the bike through high school, just got into cars and girls and all that stuff, and then in college some buddies of mine started riding mountain bikes; this was back in the late '80s, so they were still pretty new. I started riding mountain bikes back them - I had an AMP fork and a Yo Eddy - and I've been riding ever since. I've been riding for 30 years now, so I've seen all the changes over the years – it's been fun.


What does the path that led you to your current position as the head of Niner Bikes look like?

When I was in college I started a car window tinting company in LA, and I grew it to be the largest tinting business in LA over the course of seven years. I owned that company for almost 23 years, and at one point I wasn't really working full time anymore. You always read, “Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life,” and since I'd sort of lost the passion for window tinting a while ago I told my wife, “I'm going to try this thing, do something you love, and start another business." At the time it was going to be a hobby business, to at least have something else to spend my time doing. The three things on a Saturday you don't have to pay me to do are ride my mountain bike, play poker, or watch Formula 1. Those are my three passions, and I literally spent a year poking around in all three industries back in 2004.

At the time I was primarily riding singlespeeds. I had a custom built steel singlespeed, and I broke the fork on that bike. I had a 29er that I bought, but I hadn't even ridden in my garage. I'm a bike geek – I had 15 bikes, even back then. Anyways, I started riding that 29er and I was like, “Holy cow.” When you're riding with a group of people there's always a pecking order – you know where you stand going uphill, you know where you stand going downhill. And then all of a sudden I was passing these people uphill, and then passing a bunch of them going downhill. And I'm one of the only people on a singlespeed. Still, I realized there was a performance gain on this bike – it wasn't me. It was literally on of those 'bing' lightbulb moments.

I looked around and thought, 'Wow, there are only seven companies making these bikes.' So that was our goal in the beginning, to build a custom-type bike at a price that was attainable for more people. Our first bike was a scandium singlespeed 29er. I remember getting our first shipment and then the company really started taking off. We had phenomenal growth, and it started slowly tapering off in 2012. It grew so fast that I pretty much lost focus on my other company, and I ended up selling it off to a competitor of mine. I’m still pretty proud of that one as it’s going on 30 years now. I feel very blessed that I can come to work every day and talk about bikes, being around people that love bikes, talking about what you rode... I feel really glad that I've been able to do something that I really love.


Niner
A full-service repair shop is located just inside the entrance of Niner's headquarters to help customers dial in their bikes.
Niner
There's a separate shop for Niner's employees to tune up their own rides.


Do you think you made the right call by starting a company focused solely on 29ers?

At the time, I could see the advantages that 29ers had over 26” bikes. And obviously, the 29er wheel size has taken off and we’ve seen tremendous growth over the years. So, yes. It was the right decision at the time. But when it comes down to it, we love bikes and we want people to ride the bike that’s best for them. Maybe that bike’s got 27.5” tires. Maybe its got 29ers.


Do you think we'll ever see mainstream acceptance of 29" wheeled downhill bikes?

I don't know. Looking at the courses and the way they're ridden, I think there are merits to riding a 29er on some of them. Seeing that you can ride a chainless bike to a win, in those areas where you're coasting a lot I think a 29er would gain a lot of ground. I think without head-to-head testing and racing it's really hard to tell. And really, it comes down to terrain and rider preference. Some courses probably work better on a 29er. Others, 26 or 27.5. Ultimately, it’s about having the right bike for the right course.

Another thing that's holding back 29ers from entering the downhill market is there currently really isn't a 29er downhill fork. There also aren't a lot – there are some – but there aren't a lot of tires with the proper casing for racers to select without making compromises. We faced the same thing when we started Niner – for the longest time there was only one fork available and there were very few tire selections, and I feel the downhill market is facing the same thing. People want to try it, but there just isn't the equipment to make it viable.


Niner
Niner have an entire wall dedicated to the IMBA bikes they've created to help raise money for the organization each year.

After nearly a dozen years in business, is there one bike in particular that stands out as your favorite?

The bike(s) I'm the most proud of are the IMBA bikes. (Each year, Niner auctions off several custom painted bikes with all the proceeds going to the International Mountain Bike Association - Ed.) I went to BLM meetings way before I started this company, and saw the struggles of losing trail access around Southern California. At that time I would just show up and pay my dues to IMBA, but to be able to give back, $20-30,000 every year, to me, is my biggest accomplishment.


Niner

How did your involvement with IMBA come about?

I remember trails getting closed in southern California; it was mainly a fight against the equestrians and hikers. We were so badly outnumbered – I'd go to city council meetings and there would be four of us and thirty of them. I saw the loss of trails directly. Then I found out about IMBA, and when I started Niner it's in our mission statement as a company to help advocacy for trails. Without trails there's no Niner. I think people take it for granted until their trails get closed, when it's too late. It's like a long, slow train that's moving, and unless you get on board early and help start directing it, once the train crosses over your area and says a trails is closed it's too late – it's done. I know there are other groups popping up to fight the Wilderness Act, which I think is valid, and that could obviously change things. I think it's really important for people to get involved.


How about a bike that didn't turn out exactly as you'd hoped?

The WFO was probably the one… It began its life in the Niner lineup as a 140mm travel bike in 2009. In 2013 we made a revision to the WFO that pushed the limits of our long travel offering to 150mm, which set the stage for the most recent revision, which has now evolved into our current RIP 9 RDO and sits as our flagship, long travel trail bike. I think the original WFO was really great, it just didn’t attract a wide audience. I think we were too early with it. Sometimes it’s possible to get too far ahead of the market.


Niner
The RIP 9 RDO is one of the newest additions to the Niner lineup, with 150mm of travel and the ability to run either 29" or 27.5+ wheels.


This year Niner released a 27.5+ bike, a slightly surprising decision considering the company's history of focusing solely on one wheel size. How did that come about?

There were lots of discussions about that bike, for sure. I started riding one, and I was living in the desert at the time. In loose, gravely situation it's an amazing bike. I saw the potential right away, in the climbing ability of the bike, and then the confidence it inspires on the downhill. I was actually climbing sections faster that I was on my other 29” mountain bike.

When I first started Niner it was really black and white – it was 26” and 29”. Even back then they were going through the transition from V-brakes to disc brakes, and it was a big controversy. People were like, “We don't need disc brakes...” People were vehemently against it. A lot of the armchair engineers were speaking what they thought was true, but in reality it didn't hold merit as time passed. It was such a hard fight to get tires for 29ers, rims for 29er. I remember going to a fork manufacturer asking for a 29er fork and they said, “There's no market for that, we're not going to build one." Spin forward to today and every three months there's a new standard out and something else changes. I think there's this fear of missing out; everybody's chasing everything they can, which I think is good and bad. It's good in that it's spurring more innovation within the industry, but I think it's bad in that it's getting much more difficult for the average rider walking into a bike store to ascertain what they should buy. They get barraged with all these things – what wheelsize do you want, what fork size do you want, what axle standard do you want? I think we're doing ourselves a little bit of a disservice.

But back to the whole wheelsize thing... Going forward, with time and maturity, we're taking a much more agnostic view on wheelsizes. While we still favor 29ers (they make up the majority of the bikes in our lineup), who knows if 28.25 is actually the right size? Also, now that I've been part of the bike industry and been able to ride all over the world – I've been able to ride in the Philippines, in Singapore, Israel, Romania - and just seeing all the different types of surfaces and terrain, there really isn't one perfect bike for everything. Bikes need to be reviewed and looked at as to where you ride and what kind of riding you do. I think because there are so many choices people want to simplify; they say “Tell me what the best bike is.” But you really can't, because if you live in Whistler, the bike that performs really well in Whistler may not perform as well on maybe the East Coast. I think more education is needed when bikes are being brought out. “This bike is great here..." versus just giving the pluses.

I know I've said some controversial things on Pinkbike, and honestly when we were first starting it was frustrating to see the pushback. People were saying they were only for tall people, and I was like, "Hello, I started this company, I put my life savings into it because I believe in it, and I'm only 5'6". Or telling women they can't ride 29ers... So it's been really frustrating, and sometimes you need to be obstinate to break through the chatter.

Niner

bigquotesAs for my comments on 27.5, obviously 27.5 has come to fruition and done really well, so I brought this pie so you can see me eat humble pie. I want to show that we're just people and just trying to have some fun and have a good time. There's no one wheel size that conquers all. - Chris Sugai


What has been the most challenging part of being in the bike industry?

I try to stay grounded and remember that I do something that I love. The challenges that I face are no different than you'd face with any other business. I wouldn't say that there's anything specific about the bike industry that's onerous.


What's Niner's stance on e-bikes?

I think the future of e-bikes in the US is pretty cloudy because of access issues and acceptance. There's been a lot of pushback on the US side, but everywhere else is like 'c'est la vie.' That's our take at the moment – we're still more interested in the mountain bike side, the pedaling side.



Niner
Niner has a frame and wheel test lab to help ensure that their products are up to the use and abuse they'll be subject to out in the real world.


Are there any recent technological advancements in the cycling world you're especially excited about?

I've been calling it 29er 2.0. Part of it is the fork manufacturers coming together with the 51mm offset as a whole, where years prior you had 48, some had 51. It made it challenging because you could build a bike around a 48mm offset, but then it would have a steeper head angle. So many people just read geometry charts and then ascertain a bike will ride a certain way without realizing the affect fork offset can have. But now everyone has coalesced around this one standard I think it makes it a lot easier.

We have 1x drivetrains, which remove the front derailleur and give us a lot more real estate to shorten the chainstays up, and then Boost; having the wider hub flanges, triangulating the wheel, and then 27.5+ has a big market to certain riders. All those things make changes in geometry possible, so you can have shorter rear ends, longer front centers, and much more stable bikes, which I think are bringing people back and trying a 29er again. For me that's been really exciting.



What does the future hold for Niner?

For us, we just want to be part of the cycling community. A big thing for me is helping to grow trail access and keeping access for the sport through IMBA. At the end of the day we can talk about wheelsizes and races and downhill bikes, but if riders don't have places to ride our sport isn't going to grow. To me that still feels like the most important mission that we have.

I'm really proud of the staff we have, and it's been really rewarding to work with these people on a regular basis and see what we've built together. I really am shy about taking credit for what's happened other than starting the company. I'm only one person out of the forty that are here - we're a real company of passionate people.


MENTIONS: @NinerBikes / @mikekazimer





Must Read This Week

112 Comments

  • + 238
 The courage to speak up with an opinion that isn't popular and the humility to admit when he is wrong... How can anyone fault that? Then there is the whole, starting a company from scratch with his life savings, thing... TWICE.
  • + 48
 A lot of truth to this statement

Chris Sugai, owner of Niner, is quoted in Feb 08's MBA saying:

"Twenty-nine inch wheels will supplant 26-inch wheel bikes by 2017. In ten years, all mountain bikes sold from $1000 to $1500 and above will have 29-inch wheels. There will be holdouts, of course, and 26-inch wheel bikes will be sold at places like CostCo and K-Mart, but the 29er will take the place of the 26-inch bike as far as the average mountain biker goes."
  • - 8
flag Knife-in-the-dark (Dec 20, 2016 at 7:06) (Below Threshold)
 @rivercitycycles: Except 29ers haven't 27.5 has.
  • + 28
 It should be called 29- not 27+
  • + 1
 @rivercitycycles: I think the guy is more mature and he understand that is not wise to throw verdicts. This is the first thing that struck me with the above interview.. is somehow.. humble? I need to hear the tape cause I think the pinkbike stuff is working as his PR /irony>
  • + 24
 Not a lot of CEOs will admit that they are wrong and eat a humble pie. Usually they will find some very creative (stupid at times) ways to twist it back and forth. Courage.
  • + 2
 @Knife-in-the-dark: but not far off....2019?
  • + 5
 a lot of people don't like key lime pie when they first try it
  • + 4
 @rivercitycycles: I would say that too if it was my company. Bottom line, i've never heard someone complain about a Niner bike as much as people complain about the company being called Niner on Pinkbike.

Suggestion for Chris: Just change the name of your company to Shiner and Shine on brother! Then put this shit to rest and continue selling great bikes!
  • + 1
 @AlexS1: Kind of reminds me of Tim Cook getting rid of the headphone jack. Courage. #RipSteveJobs
  • + 3
 @Knife-in-the-dark: So he was only half right, still called it a lot closer than most.
  • + 1
 @JDMEH: just like how guys like lopes have taken on love 4 29rs and companies like evil made and like em.
  • + 0
 @sarahlh: You reminds me of their fair share of size dilemmas too:

According to Steve Jobs: “… every tablet user is also a smartphone user. No tablet can compete with the mobility of a smartphone, its ease of fitting into your pocket or purse, its unobtrusiveness when used in a crowd. Given that all tablet users will already have a smartphone in their pockets, giving up precious display area to fit a tablet in our pockets is clearly the wrong trade-off. The seven-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.”

But Tim Cook had other ideas for the “tweener” and “thought the world would love a smaller and less expensive tablet.”
  • + 1
 Wow...you do know he didn't write the article right ? I thought it was a great article ! The most important part of is about preserving trails for you to actually ride your bike ! I would be willing to bet that if YOU invested everything you had in to something and it became a success ... you would say the exact same thing.
  • + 92
 Who else LOL'd at the pie? A person with that sense of humour cant be too bad.
  • + 1
 He's clever. A pie is a pie, right? Should taste well no matter what it spells.
  • + 50
 That pie should've been 27.5" diameter, lol!
  • + 44
 As I build my own guide business, it's an important reminder to keep trail advocacy at the core of everything I do. Chris's passion for supporting IMBA, whatever failings you may perceive, is contagious.
  • + 1
 Well said.
  • + 33
 Wow, I wasn't so sure about Chris for a long time. Some of the things he said really put me off, but this article sure made me admire the man.
  • + 7
 I felt the same, a great interview!
  • + 6
 Add me to that list. Another great interview by Pb.
  • + 27
 This is one of the better interviews I have seen on PB in a while. From the sounds of it Chris Sugai is one of the few people from the inside who actually "gets it".

This comment right here...
" Bikes need to be reviewed and looked at as to where you ride and what kind of riding you do. I think because there are so many choices people want to simplify; they say “Tell me what the best bike is.” But you really can't, because if you live in Whistler, the bike that performs really well in Whistler may not perform as well on maybe the East Coast."

That comment needs far more attention than anything else he said.
  • + 9
 I was from the "who needs that" or "from my cold dead hands" group until I found myself walking technical trails when I should have been riding. It was time to turn to road or try something different. The 29er cured any doubts I had about sticking my front wheel in a hole or on a log, and the damned thing carried so much speed. I never thought I could be riding the stuff I am as a senior citizen, I should be dodging cars on the road, step ups and drop offs.

"There's no one wheel size that conquers all" is the quote that stands out. I have just finished a two month long trip from Canada to Mexico. The farther South I went the more I realized that maybe my Montana set up wasn't the best for some of the trails. Sand, thorns, baby heads, riding on the Moon, and I couldn't carry all that speed into a corner covered in DG (degraded granite). The thought that maybe there is a place for 27.5+ actually crossed my mind. MTB has always been about trying new things and rewarding talented people with creative ideas. Thanks to industry people like Chris maybe I can be riding blue trails into my 80s instead of being a fender ornament. I think I may need the electric assist if I make 90.
  • - 2
 I owned 2010 EMD - beatiful, well crafted frame. Howevet despite it being in size small it handled like a preagnant freight train. I sold it and less than half of a year later rode Jona Honzo and Stumpy 29 evo which both felt super fun and flickable. That made me think that 29" bikes are excellent for me.

But I'm so sure that Niner did the homework by now Smile

The main reason why I like Chris Sugoi is that so many keyboard warriors rave about not liking him. That means he does something right...
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: jona honzo is a kiwi scrum half..Smile
  • + 1
 @Earthmotherfu: So Waki had an affair, who wants to break the news to Mrs Waki?
  • + 1
 @Fix-the-Spade: no affair, just rode him gangnam style and gave stumpy a tug off. That's what's doing the rounds anyways Wink
  • + 7
 One question Mike should have added to the interview is to ask Chris about the gap in both time and new models with regard to current geometries. Clearly Niner was a leader in the development of 29s early on as they built their business around them. But it took Niner a LONG TIME to embrace the longer, slacker is better approach and roll out new models. The Niner line-up was pretty stale for awhile and now it seems like they're playing catch-up. Hope it works out for them.
  • + 6
 I would assume it takes time to shorten the CSs, steepen the STA, lengthen the TT, drop the BB, slack out the HA, make sure it works for your suspension design, ensure that the bike rides well and then do it all for a number of bikes. The reputation of making even just one shit bike lasts a loooooong time. What manufacturer can afford that?
  • + 16
 We did start with the longer, slacker and short rear end with the ROS which we introduced in 2013 (note we started development of that bike in 2012.) We had clear intentions of updating the JET and RIP in 2014-2015 but ran into delays with Boost and then 27+ being introduced. We thought it was wise to delay production to add these “new” features to an updated design.
  • + 9
 @NinerBikes: fair point on the ROS. Makes sense on Boost and + delaying things on the JET and RIP. And thanks for taking the time to reply and offer the additional insight.
  • - 11
flag parallaxid (Dec 20, 2016 at 13:10) (Below Threshold)
 How can they take credit for new school geometry on the ROS when it was jut a copy of the Kona Honzo???
  • + 6
 @parallaxid: Sorry if you confused our comment. We are not laying claim to the geo just that we introduced it on the ROS in 2013.
  • + 2
 Remember, Niner isn't a huge company.. New frames suck up a lot of time and money...
  • + 6
 Had a chance to visit them in Ft Collins recently and got a lookaround and met some of the crew ... Awesome vibes and the new Rip9 rode great! Also...that IMBA wall of bikes was a real treat to look at up close... All the best to the Niner crew!
  • + 7
 Nice to see Chris is willing to acknowledge past mistakes and even nicer to see PB readers allowing him to do so. Many bikes have come and gone in my garage but I think there will always be a spot for my ROS9. Cheers
  • + 9
 Without trying I ended up with two Niners. I feel like they found me.
  • + 5
 I think that it's very cool that a company can take so long to adjust to a market no matter what the reason—showing that there are intentions besides marketability. I really must give kudos to making amazing bikes. Going from 26 to 29 I've seen barely any drawbacks and countless improvements in the quality of the ride.
  • + 4
 Hah, I was strongly against 29ers when they were becoming the thing. Give me that pie Chris. On another hand why would you eat it?! For fks sake man, the only thing you may have been wrong about is that they will not catch on. 275 is fkng stupid, it is a crime against mountain biking as a sport. A conjoined operation of people who had no clue what they were doing, the only thing they knew and still know is: 1.change wheelsize 2.?3.Innovation. There's been so much change in every strategic component of a bike since the last mass produced 26" rolled off the product line, that giving credit to te wheelsize alone is ridiculous. 29" wheel has obvious, immediately percievable advantage over 26" wheel, even if you compare two rigid single speeds, but 275? C'm on man. A bunch of bored to life twats decided that they will try to ride some weird wheelsize beacuse nothing else was making their dick hard. In 2006 you had a Santa Cruz Nomad or Spec SX Trail with minions and Fox36, protoplast of 90% of bikes we ride today, you could still shred on one today if you gave it a modern cockpit. And what dud the 650B folks have?! Some Haro piece of junk with 71 head angle and tyres that tou wouldn't even put on a wallmart bike, and some impotent middle aged man with full collection of VHS of Star Trek rode that and said: I can see the benefit, how could we be so blind. And that bunch stuffing 275 tyres into 26" bikes because BB is too low, - learn to time pedal stroke, begeebus Christ! C'm on... 275 is the scam of scams of MTB industry. Remember when Giant said 275 will replace both 26 and 29. Why don't they put money where their mouth is?! They should get that stupid pseudo scientific graphic they did to illustrate the benefits of 275 over everything else, dip it in tabasco sauce and stuff it up their arses.

Spit out that humble pie, spit it out! 29ers rule.
  • + 3
 How true. I am still not convinced to the 29 wheels but everything you said about 275 is true. Everyone who rode one, including my self and he can realy "sense" the ride, he knows that 275 is just a marketing bubble. Once we used to laugh with those who rode their 26ers with the weirdo bigger tires but then the big companies came and we were trapped into the bullshit. This was the biggest conspiracy of the industry. They manage to sell everything all over again. The "pretty average" became the norm. Can you imagine a 26 with today's geometry and components? Whoever rides knows!
  • + 4
 Thats the stupidest rant I have ever read in my life. Who the hell are you anyway?
  • - 3
 @JimRawson: were you an early adopter?
  • + 1
 Actually I think 27.5 is a pretty good compromise as I don't really like the feeling of some of the 29ers I've ridden. Also, 27.5 was just an adaptation of the long existing 650b from road bikes. I think it is a great thing to have the choice between wheel sizes and as Chris pointed out, there is likely a place for each of them. For example - I bought my wife an entry level XC 29er as its great for riding road and light trails, however a lot of DH and Enduro riders are sticking with 27.5 and a lot of Dirt jumpers are sticking with 26ers for the ability to tighten up those chainstays and keep the bikes flickable! Choice actually makes it better for all of us in my opinion.
  • + 3
 Chris is totally right about the WFO 9 bike. I purchased one of the last ones off their fleet this last summer and boy is it a monster on trails. I'm doing trails I've never dreamed of doing and it's taking me to new heights(literally) as a rider! I agree though on whatever wheel size feels best to someone just go for it and have fun! In the end we are all mountain bikers and we all enjoy the same thing Smile happy trails!
  • + 0
 I think the WFO would have succeeded if they made it in carbon. They just couldn't compete.
  • + 1
 @kwdog: Well actually I've rode the new RIP 9 RDO and it's basically the same thing as the WFO just, as you said, it's carbon frame brother. I agree though I would have liked to see and would have rather bought a carbon version of the WFO. One thing i definetly like better on the new RIP is the longer reach and how I could run a short stem on that than the one on my wfo. Still love mine nonetheless ????
  • + 7
 Bikes and Formula 1 Beer
  • + 17
 My wife walked in on me one morning at around 7:30am. Had Formula 1 on the TV and a Redbull DH live stream on the computer with an ear bud in... She asked if I have a problem... "Nope!"
  • + 1
 Formula 1 and then Bikes for me, must be a Filipino, having the looks and last name.
  • + 2
 Cool interview. Nice to see Niner is moving past the marketing constraints and just building what people want.

It's a relatively small sample size but it seems that my "Ninerd" riding friends had more issues with cracking frames than the rest of us. It wasn't exclusive to the carbon frames or specific to one model, either. Have you guys done anything to address your design deficiencies?
  • + 5
 Why do people on here get so bent out of shape regarding wheel size? Ride what works for YOU. End of story.
  • + 5
 Props to Chris and the new lineup looks killer!
  • + 1
 I met Chris at MBO (Mountain Bike Oregon) two summers ago. Have to say he was one of the most down to earth guys, oh and super fast on his RIP9RDO. He took the trip with Mondo who is always a riot. Chris always took the time for clients, doing setups or answering question. Truly a great company
  • + 2
 I came on here partly out of interest as I know historically he's been, shall we say, divisive, and has elicited a very strong response. I was quite surprised that he actually seems like a pretty decent guy! Mind blown...
  • + 1
 Niner pushes the envelope on design and that's what I love about them. They have a culture to stand out and that's a good thing in this sea of sameness that's MTB right now. The previous Jet 9 RDO/carbon (carbon rear triangle) is one of the best looking frame designs ever made. It just stands out from the crowd.
  • + 4
 Any plans to stop undercutting local bike shops and selling bikes out of the van at demo days,
  • + 4
 They already do the undercutting by allowing Jenson to sell brand new models for large discounts and screw over shops when refusing to do warranties.
  • + 3
 I'm riding 27.5 right now, but I have considered trying a 9er. Maybe I'll check out a NIner.
  • + 3
 I was a non-believer for a long time, but for anything in the 120ish range, or even bigger than that if you're tall, my favorite bikes have been 29".

above 140mm though, I've had a better time on 27.5". those bikes are already fairly long, requiring more aggressive cornering, & adding 29" to that didn't thrill me. It's taken me 6 months to start sharp corners hard enough on 27.5" as it is, I kept reverting to lazy 26" lean angles.
  • + 1
 my e29 friggin rips. i went from 26 to 29, and it does take a few rides to get used to, but after that, you just destroy everything.
  • + 2
 @groghunter: My bike is at 130 right now. I like to stick in the 130-140mm travel range. Anything more than that just doesn't work well where I live. Most of the trails are fast, flowy, hardpack with some loose sand in the corners especially during the summer (Seriously a lot of people break out fat bikes when it is really dry here). What 29er would you recommend in that travel range that is still going to be flickable?
  • + 2
 @dbarnes6891: I can tell you what I would do, but a lot of that is driven by my rear suspension preferences. I don't get on well with opposing link bikes, Which means no Giant, Santa Cruz, Intense, Turner, Pivot, Niner, etc. I also already have a Devinci Spartan, so my next trailbike will be on the shorter side. I don't need a bike up in the 140mm range, if I need that much bike, I'll just ride the Spartan.

That said, right now, for myself in the next 18 months, I'm basically looking at a Salsa Horsethief, or a Guerilla Gravity Trail Pistol. If I were looking at a bike more like what you want, here's the brands I would look at, in order:

Evil

Transition

Devinci

But really, the biggest advice I can give about buying any bike is to not get blinded by the fancy newness of a bike you can't actually try out on a ride before you buy it. Every bad bike decision I've ever made has been because I bought a bike I hadn't tested first.
  • + 2
 @groghunter: I've looked at the Evil Calling and drooled. It's a bit out of my price range. Honestly I'm getting to the point that I think I'm just going to stick with my GT sensor. It pedals well and rails corners. It's aluminum and heavy, but It's not like I'm going to be racing cross country on it. I think I might put money into new brakes, and a dropper post and I need some new rubber. Anytime I get to the point that I'm thinking of changing something on my bike I think it might be time to get a new one, but I do really like the way my bike rides. Maybe I can shed a little weight in the cockpit or something.
  • + 2
 @dbarnes6891: I will say this: At least currently, age of a bike makes far more difference than anything else about it, purely because of the changes that have been happening in geo. I'd take a 2015-16 Sensor over any bike from the brands I just talked up from 2012, & I'd recommend a cheaper build on a new bike over an XTR everything older build.

Not sure how old your Sensor is, but have you looked at just updating to a newer one? If budget is a concern, GT is a pretty good choice. You might also take a look at the YT Jeffsy.
  • + 1
 @groghunter: It's a 2015. I really like it and I have upgraded it quit a bit. Solid build. RS pike in the front with a RS monarch xx with remote lock in the back. Went with a Chester crank. It's a bit heavy but it won't bend like the stock one did. Shimano XT drivetrain otherwise. Raceface Atlas bars trimmed a bit and a chester stem along with a nice SDG tifly saddle. It's an awesome build. I guess most of my want for an upgraded is a bit ill founded in the new industry standards that are starting to sprout like this whole boost thing, and the metric shock sizing and what not. Just got a new wheelset built up with Velocity blunt 35s. So all of that has a lot to do with me thinking of hanging on to it. I know I can't sell it for what i have in it plus it needs a dropper post and some new brakes. I got a set of used SRAM guide RS brakes and hated them one of the pistons basically completely locked up and I was just over them so I put an old set of avid elixer 1s on. They aren't the best but they work. I had the shop order some Hope Tech 3 E4s so at this point I think I'm too deep to sell it plus it's a great bike.
  • + 1
 @dbarnes6891: Unless you just don't get along with the rear suspension(it seems like you like it just fine) I think you're right to keep this bike for now.

I have been willing to lose money on bike sales, but it was always because the rear suspension was something I couldn't find a way to tune to my liking.
  • + 1
 @groghunter: Yeah you're right. The rear end stays glued to the ground which I love. Think I'll just stick with it and ride it until it falls apart.
  • + 4
 Where do I pre-order my 28.25er? Razz
  • + 4
 Arigatou gozaimashita for this Sugoi interview, Pinkubaiku-sama! ^_^
  • + 0
 My SIR 9 SS is still my favorite bike for a good old fashioned mash. I'm on my third. (1 very well supported warranty on a chainstay crack, not at the weld... the manufacture is better than the reynolds tube) . I will then have a 4th...

29er doesn't work for me in a full sus though... had a small RIP 9 RDO, just couldn't make it work for me at 5'5". But in 27.5+ with shorter stays i may give one another go.
  • + 4
 So much admiration! Proud to stand by this brand.
  • + 2
 I got 275 bike , no pie spent all the money getting wrong wheel size bike but it does roll forward which is a plus not plus size tyes just a good thing ..
  • + 3
 I wish I got to eat pie every time I was wrong.
  • + 2
 So why not make hub flanges longer so we can have shorter spokes? Maybe carbon/al hubs
  • + 1
 E-13 hubs maybe?
  • + 1
 @slimboyjim: yep, good call theyre trending that way.
  • + 1
 Perhaps some taller profile rims in carbon as well?
  • + 1
 As a local Fort Collins Niner rider, and a friend of the Niner family, I can tell you that these are the most rad people you will find on the trails!
  • + 1
 Would have loved to seen a question on why, of all the advocacy orgs that are out there, IMBA gets their $. I guess something is better than nothing...
  • + 3
 Hmm, a RIP 9 with 27.5+ shoes might be a sweet ride.
  • + 3
 I have one, it *is* a sweet ride.
  • + 3
 Great interview, looks like it would be an amazing place to work too!
  • + 1
 DH 29er are the future. Wheel size will go by height.

Producing 29ers-only and calling the company Niner was a great/honest/no bs marketing move.
  • + 0
 Wish they made a carbon SS with sliders.....those EBB's suck
  • + 1
 With 2 wraps of plumbers tape and a clean shell i've never had mine slip or creak. The upside of thru axle and no slider adjustment is well worth it.
  • + 0
 Why not have hubs with longer flanges so spokes can be shorter?
  • + 0
 is mondo still there?
  • + 2
 Mondo is alive and well!
  • + 0
 @NinerBikes: nice! cool guy. met him at blkmrkt years ago.
  • + 2
 @fullbug: "nice! cool guy" That comment is Mondo to a T - we are very proud to have Mondo representing us.
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