Hot on the heels of the announcement of their new cross-country rig, the RKT 9, Niner has unveiled two more additions, the RIP 9 RDO and the JET 9 RDO. The model names may be familiar, but the bikes themselves have been completely revamped with more travel, shorter chainstays, and slacker head angles. Those type of revisions have become a familiar refrain this season as manufacturers update their lineups to meet the requests of riders looking for more well-rounded rigs.
In a slightly humorous twist, especially given the Colorado-based company's name and their motto that “the 29er mountain bike...is our one and only love, our heart and soul out there on the trail,” Niner's new bikes are also 27.5+ compatible. Riders will be able to choose their preferred wheelsize, and then pick from one of four different build kits offered for each model.
According to Niner, "When we first started Niner Bikes (2005) there were really only two options on the table, 29 and 26. Since that time there has been a huge evolution of wheel sizes and widths for riders to choose from. We think we have to adapt and take a more neutral position on wheel size going forward as we want what is best for our riders and their particular riding needs."
The previous version of the RIP 9 had 125mm of rear travel and a 69.5° head angle, numbers that created to a quick-steering trail bike, albeit one that was closer to the cross-country side of the spectrum. That's no longer the case – the RIP 9 has left its XC roots in the dust, and now has 150mm of travel, a 67° head angle, and 439mm chainstays, 11mm shorter than before.
RIP 9 Details
• 150mm rear travel
• 27.5+ and 29” build kits
• 1x only
• ISCG 05 tabs
• 439mm chainstays
• 67° head angle with 29” wheels
That chainstay chopping was made possible by the switch to Boost spacing, as well as the decision to eliminate the front derailleur compatibility. This freed up room to scoot the rear wheel forward while still maintaining plenty of tire clearance for 29” or 27.5+ tires. The new RIP is now geared towards the all-mountain crowd, and in Niner's words, it's meant to be the "go-to for backcountry epics and big terrain.”
The redesigned carbon frame now has 12x148mm rear spacing, along with internal cable routing.
There's no option to run a front derailleur - the new RIP is strictly 1x only.
The frame itself is still a full carbon affair, but the top tube has gained a few extra curves, and the swingarm looks more substantial than before. Internal cable routing has also been added for the rear derailleur, dropper post, and brake, although the path of the housing from the down tube to the underside of the seat stays isn't quite as stealthy as some of the other designs on the market. Both the RIP and the JET feature a port under the bottom bracket that helps make routing housing or the wiring needed for Shimano's Di2 drivetrains as easy as possible, and there's even room to store the Di2 battery inside the frame.
There are a total of eight build kits, four with 29” wheels and four with 27.5+ wheels. The 29ers get a 160mm fork, either a Fox 36 or a RockShox Lyrik, and all of the 27.5+ bikes come with a 170mm RockShox Lyrik RC. Prices range from $4,700 USD for the 2-Star build, which is comprised mainly of Shimano's workhorse SLX components, all the way up to the crème-de-la-crème 5-Star build that included ENVE carbon wheels and SRAM's Eagle 12-speed drivetrain.
Niner's JET was formerly an XC-race oriented machine, with a steep head angle and 100mm of travel, but after the latest revision it now sits comfortably in the trail bike category, thanks to its 120mm of rear travel and a 67.5° head angle. Like the RIP, the length of the JET's chainstays was also decreased, and now checks in at a relatively compact 434mm. Even with the shorter rear end it's still possible to run a front derailleur for riders who need the widest gear range possible.
JET 9 Details
• 120mm rear travel
• 27.5+ and 29” build kits
• 67.5° head angle with 29” wheels
• ISCG 05 tabs
• Front derailleur compatible
• 434mm chainstays
Niner's Constantly Varying Arc (CVA) suspension design remains for both bikes, a dual-link design that's intended to counteract any unwanted pedal feedback. The lower link's positioning under the bottom bracket may make it look like it'd be a rock magnet, but it does move up towards the frame as the suspension compresses, and we haven't run into any issues on the various test bikes that have rolled through our doors over the years.
The 29” version of the JET comes with a 130mm fork, while the 27.5+ version has a 140mm fork to help preserve the bike's geometry. As is the case with the RIP, there are four different build kits available for each wheelsize, with prices ranging from $4,500 for the Shimano SLX version all the way up to $9,500 for the SRAM Eagle and ENVE wheel equipped model.
Sun Valley, Idaho, is surrounded by beautiful scenery, and I'm not talking about the aging movie stars that hide out in their slopeside retreats. Mountains reach skyward in every direction, and hundreds of miles of singletrack are located a short pedal from town.
I was able to sample the dusty singletrack and the new bikes over the course of two days, complete with an overnight stay in a perfectly located backcountry yurt in. While the views were absolutely stunning, there was one thing missing – anything that would be considered technical, especially compared to my normal root-filled stomping grounds in the Pacific Northwest.
Sure, there was a tiny rock garden here or there, but for the most part the trails would be just fine on a hardtail or a short travel XC rig. That's not to say that the trails weren't fun - speeding past the charred hulks of pine trees and through fields of blooming wildflowers beats sitting behind a computer any day – but the terrain simply wasn't rough enough to really suss out the limits of either bike. I came a way with a few initial impressions, but nothing conclusive - more time and more challenging terrain are required before reaching a verdict on either bike.
JET 9 27.5+
I'll admit I'm not completely smitten by the whole 27.5+ movement, and although I understand the appeal, my time on a JET 9 set up with 27.5+ wheels didn't do much to sway my opinion. It was an efficient pedaler, and the additional traction provided by the wide tires certainly helped on the climbs, but on the descents its handling in the corners was a little vague. I like feeling the side knobs of a tire dig in when I push into a turn, like a serrated knife slicing into the ground, but with the 2.8” Maxxis Rekon and Ikon tire combo that edge wasn't as pronounced, which made high-speed cornering feel less precise. Tire pressure is also even more crucial with 27.5+ tires, and one ride on unfamiliar terrain simply wasn't enough to find the sweet spot. The good news is that the Jet 9 is one of a growing number of bikes that can run either wheel size, giving riders the ability to experiment for themselves and pick the dimensions they prefer.
I felt much more at home on the RIP 9 set up with 29” wheels. It felt surprisingly nimble for a big-wheeler with 150mm of travel, and I didn't have any trouble scooting around tight uphill switchbacks or whipping it through quick downhill turns. There are some bikes in this category that feel like monster trucks, hell-bent on going in one direction and plowing through everything in their path, but the RIP 9 had an unexpected liveliness to its handling. Of course, as I mentioned, most of the trails were devoid of any obstacles bigger than a softball - it will interesting to see how that handling translates in steeper, rowdier terrain.