Niner’s R.I.P. 9 won’t raise too many eyebrows based upon its statistics. Today, one can choose from a hundred well-apportioned mid-travel 29ers with welded-aluminum, 125-millimeter-travel frames that are similar to the R.I.P. 9’s, and its geometry does not break any rules either. Many trail riders who sell themselves as technical specialists might pass over the mid-travel Niner because it isn’t carbon, or because it lacks the super-slack head angle that is so fashionable at present. The R.I.P. 9, however, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and those who own or have ridden one will tell that the R.I.P.’s performance far exceeds the sum of its parts.
Niner released the first R.I.P. 9 in 2006, and since then it has seen minor changes in its construction and geometry, but for the most part, it was a winner out of the blocks. The aluminum chassis features curved, butted and manipulated tubes that are uniquely formed using pressurized air. The use of hollow forgings at major frame junctions keeps the weight of the chassis low and its stiffness high. Niner’s CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) dual-link rear suspension allows the R.I.P. 9’s chainstays to be comfortably short, because most of the lower rocker mechanism is tucked under the bottom bracket. In addition, CVA is claimed to provide efficient pedaling while, at the same time, freeing up the rear suspension to do its task unhindered by drivetrain forces.
• Frame: Aluminum, CVA dual-link-type suspension, ISCG 05 mounts, 142-12mm Maxle.
• Wheel size: 29 inch
• Suspension travel: 125mm - rear, 120 to 140mm - front.
• Minimum stand-over clearance: 27.7 inches (704mm)
• Fork: 130mm RockShox Revelation RCT3 (tested)
• Shock: RockShox Monarch RT3
• Front derailleur: top-pull, direct-mounting provided
• Bottom bracket compatibility: 73mm threaded
• Sizes available: Small. Medium, Large, X-large
• Build: Semi-custom, SRAM XX1/RockShox components
• Weight as tested: 26.6 pounds (12,08kg) no pedals
• MSRP frame, Monarch RC3 shock and Maxle: $1849 USD ($4999 est. complete)
The R.I.P. 9 is detailed to be as trouble free as possible. With large axles and bearings at key suspension pivots. The R.I.P’s external cable and hose routing bucks current trend. Running the lines inside the frame looks great, but we prefer the simplicity and ease of service that external routing provides. ISCG 05 mounts ensure that the bike can be configured for all-mountain use, or they are there for those who simply prefer to run a chainguide. The frame’s low-swooping top tube provides best-in-class stand-over clearance and, while we are on the subject, there is adequate clearance for 2.4-inch tires out back. Niner sells a lot of frames, so it specs a threaded bottom bracket shell in response to customer demand and, while most Niners will probably never see a front derailleur, there is a direct-mount boss on the seat tube and housing stops are placed where needed. R.I.P. 9 frames come in small, medium, large and X-large sizes, and in either black Licorice, or lime green metallic colors. The MSRP for the frame, with a Monarch shock, seat-clamp and Maxle axle is $1849 USD.
Suspension options for the R.I.P. 9 are variable, with all builds sporting a RockShox Monarch damper and a selection of Fox and RockShox forks. Your fork of choice can affect the bike’s geometry, which is actually encouraged. Niner says that the bike will accept forks from 120-millimeter to 140-millimeter strokes and provides a chart that depicts the numbers generated by the two extremes. Those who are too lazy, or simply can’t read print as small as the text on the geometry chart should know that the head angle begins at 70.5 degrees and drops up to 69 degrees, while the bike’s bottom bracket drop varies between 29 and 22 millimeters (about one fourth inch).
Rear suspension travel, however, is limited to 125-millimeters. Our test bike was custom built by Niner with a 130-millimeter RockShox Revelation fork, which set its geometry squarely between the two extremes. More about that later.Component Builds
Niner offers the R.I.P. 9 as a complete bike in four well-appointed build kits
that range from $4699 to $2599, with one SRAM X1 one-by-eleven option and three with Shimano two-by-ten drivetrains. Our test bike, however, was a custom build that was intended to showcase the R.I.P’s versatility as both a nimble XC trailbike and a technical all-mountain shredder. Our build was highlighted by a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Avid X0 Trail Brakes, and RockShox suspension in the form of a Monarch RT3 shock and a Revelation RCT3 fork. The dropper post was a RockShox Reverb, and the 50-millimeter aluminum Trail stem and 780-millimeter carbon RDO handlebar were Niner products. Wheels were American Classic AM 29s, rolling on 2.3-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires. Without pedals, our test bike came in at 12.08 kg (26,57 pounds)
and the estimated MSRP for a similar build would be just under $5000 USD
During the course of testing, we switched out the fork to a 140-millimeter-stroke Formula Thirtyfive 29, changed the Niner foam 'Grrrips' to Teva lock-ons, and experimented with various wheel and tire combinations. Another noteworthy change was dropping the standard 32-tooth chainring to a 30-tooth, which improved the bike’s usefulness on extended climbs.
|Niner's R.I.P. 9 is nimble on the trail, and it can out-turn almost any bike I've ridden on a tight switchback. What I didn't expect was how well it stayed planted while I was maching down chunky descents.|
Fussy is not a word in the R.I.P. 9's vocabulary. Set the shock sag somewhere between 20 and 30 percent, turn the rebound damping dial somewhere near the middle, and you are pretty much good to go. The fork setup requires a little more precision, because once you get a feel for the bike's handling, you'll probably be driving the fork to the limit of its travel on every descent. We discovered that running the spring rate and low-speed compression damping a little higher than a "normal" XC/trail setup provided the best performance. We ran the RockShox Revelation fork at a maximum of 20-percent sag - closer to 15 - and set the low-speed compression six to seven clicks in from wide open. That said, softer settings will not upset the R.I.P. 9's handling or cornering much, but you'll be running the O-ring to the top the moment that descending becomes enjoyably steep and rough.Rolling out
: In stock trim, with its 2.3-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, the R.I.P. gets up to speed quickly and can maintain momentum over a wide range of trail surfaces - to the point where it had us questioning why we were recently becoming so enamored with mid-sized wheels. Of course, most riders would anticipate that a lightweight, 125-millimeter-travel 29er would roll fast, but few would believe that the Niner's steering would feel as agile as the R.I.P's. At singletrack speeds, there is no tendency for the front wheel to wander under power and the bike tracks with effortless precision. We could choose to pick our way around imbedded rocks or hold a straight line across them with a light grip on the handlebar. A relatively slack, 73.5-degree seat tube angle puts enough of the rider's weight on the rear tire to maintain uphill traction without requiring any antics. Similarly, we found the top tube to be long enough to allow riders to remain centered over the bike when transitioning from level ground to steep-ish descents. Summed up, the initial feel of the R.I.P. 9 in an XC/trail situation is efficient under power and light at the controls. It's an easy bike to ride.
|Switching to a more aggressive tread turned the Niner into a little green monster and we made short work of some of local climbs that often force accomplished bike-handlers to their feet.|
Ascending moderate grades aboard the Niner was almost easy on the legs. Pedaling felt firm enough and acceleration was adequately crisp without employing the Monarch RT3 shock's low-speed compression lever. Climbers who spend a lot of time out of the saddle, however, will find the R.I.P. 9's rear-suspension action too mushy for extended efforts and the shock's pedaling platform option then becomes a must. "Easy on the legs" is a relative term, because the R.I.P came stock with a 32-tooth chainring, which is fine for athletes in top shape, or those surrounded by midget mountains. Switching to a smaller, 30-tooth chainring (a popular choice for 29er trail riders)
made a big difference in low speed pulling power without noticeably affecting the bike's top speed. Considering how tuned in Niner is to its clientele, we wonder why the 30-tooth ring isn't a standard item.
By small-wheel standards, the Niner's 17.9-inch chainstays are as long as fishing rods, but in the context of the R.I.P.'s 29-inch wheels and adapted geometry, they transfer sufficient weight rearward to to claw up some seriously steep and loose climbs - but not with the stock Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires. The Nics sent us scratching like hungry hens when the climbs got technical. Switching to a more aggressive tread turned the Niner into a little green monster and we made short work of some of local climbs that often force accomplished bike-handlers to their feet. It was there where we learned to keep the Niner's CVA suspension unlocked to take advantage of its ability to take the edge off the rocks and roots without adversely affecting our leg power. Turning:
Most 29ers that we have tested need an extra few degrees of lean and some coaxing of the handlebars to hold a tight line around a corner, the R.I.P 9 does not. Its steering feels light at the bars and the bike feels well balanced front-to-rear, so transitions like hard-left to hard-right turns feel almost seamless. Like all 29er, the R.I.P. stands tall, and there is a slight awkwardness that can be felt by those stepping up from smaller wheels when throwing the bike around in tight singletrack situations. That said, the R.I.P. 9 has an uncanny ability to steer around tight corners without pushing the front tire. We had the opportunity to ride a number of dodgy switchbacks, both uphill and down, and the Niner felt like it would bend in half if we asked it to. We could steer around turns that had others pivoting on the front wheel to clean them.
|Most 29ers that we have tested need an extra few degrees of lean and some coaxing of the handlebars to hold a tight line around a corner, the R.I.P 9 does not.|
At speed, the stock tires were a limiting factor. Most of our test rides took place on slippery hard pack and rocky terrain where Nobby Nics suffer most. In their defense, they hook up well enough and few, if any, large-volume tires can match their low weight and rolling efficiency. The saving grace for the Nics was in the Niner's ability to shrug off miscalculated cornering speeds by sliding both the front and rear tires evenly. The front tire rarely pushed through a turn, which boosted our confidence and made it easier to excuse their lack of edging traction. Predictably, with better tires, the bike's cornering speed improved and with the drifting lessons afforded by our Schwalbe sessions, we could choose and hold our lines with precision. The Nics were abandoned for the remainder of the test.Technical Riding:
Niner's R.I.P. 9 is nimble on the trail, and it can out-turn almost any bike I've ridden on a tight switchback. What I didn't expect was how well it stayed planted while I was maching down chunky descents. We used the R.I.P 9 for product testing, so we kept it for a much longer period of time than we would normally hold onto a review bike. During that time, we also reviewed some very capable AM/enduro machines in the 160-millimeter travel category on many of the same trails. After blasting the descents for a couple of weeks on burley bikes with nearly double the suspension travel, one would assume that hopping back on a short travel XC trailbike like the Niner would be a scary proposition, but it was not.
The R.I.P 9 likes to go fast, and it is perfectly happy to bounce down rough and rocky trails that would feel like a challenge aboard a decent AM bike - but you will take a beating in the process. It jumps straight and if only for that reason, we returned from every ride with the O-rings maxed on the fork and shock, The balance of the bike is such that the rider feels like he or she is low in the frame and hovering almost exactly between the front the rear wheels. So, when the R.I.P. is banging off boulders and bumps, as long as you stay off the saddle, the bike sort of shuffles around below you without getting tossed off line. Yes, you can feel the rear end flexing now and then. Yes, you will be using up all of your fork travel under hard braking, but it's one heck of a ride.
|Yes, you can feel the rear end flexing now and then. Yes, you will be using up all of your fork travel under hard braking, but it's one heck of a ride.|
We beat this topic to death already. The R.I.P. 9 likes to be ridden with precision, so it stands to reason that a tire with good edging blocks would better match its performance. We used a number of choices with good results and ended up with 2.25-inch WTB Trail Boss tires on both ends.Wheels:
We thought that the American Classic AM 29 wheels would be thrashed after almost two seasons of riding, but they are straight, tight, and only slightly dinged. Who'd a thunk that such a lightweight aluminum wheelset would go the distance?Brakes
With all the ruckus about SRAM's new Guide brakes and the Shimano's ICE XTR and XT stoppers, we had great luck with the Niner's Avid X0 Trail Brakes. The power was strong and the contact point, soft enough to offer great traction control on Southern California's sometimes slippery dirt.Suspension:
We used two forks: the 130-millimeter-stroke RockShox Revelation, which put in a better than average performance - especially considering that it was a 29er fork with 32-millimeter stanchion tubes. The second fork was Formula's new Thirtyfive-29
, with 140 millimeters of travel and stiffer, 35-millimeter stanchions. The addition of the longer and stiffer Formula fork enhanced the bike's high-speed handling and cornering to a degree that convinced us to recommend a similar upgrade for potential R.I.P. 9 customers. Niner now offers the RockShox Pike in a 140-millimeter version for the R.I.P. The Monarch RT3 shock was overwhelmed occasionally, but it never gave up. If it fits, perhaps Niner will offer a reservoir-type Monarch Plus as an upgrade for hard chargers.Handlebar:
A 780-millimeter flat carbon handlebar? When we first grabbed hold, perhaps it was the look that swayed our judgments, but the RDO handlebar didn't feel right. Later, the wisdom of Niner's ways became apparent. A 29er stands tall, and it gets even taller when you add the height of a 130 or 140-millimeter fork. Niner's flat bar puts the rider at the same height as a 26-inch AM bike would be with 160 millimeters of fork travel and a 25-millimeter riser bar. It works.Pinkbike's Take:
|Aluminum probably doesn't get the love and respect that it deserves as a frame material, but if you are one of those riders who gets it - and you are in the market for a big-wheel trailbike that is truly versatile, show up at a Niner Demo day and ride an R.I.P. 9. It is light enough to give your local Strava crowd a run for their money on the climbs and it has enough handling in the bank to keep the local hot shoes in sight on the downs. Of course, there are a number of trailbikes that can lay claim to those two extremes, but only the rarest of the breed can cover all the bases between them as well as Niner's little green monster. The R.I.P. 9 strikes a dissonant chord in the present symphony of acute specialization, with bike makers targeting each of their models to reflect a specific purpose. If you want, you can buy a machine perfected for Freeride, Enduro, XC, DH, AM or Trail - or if you want, you can buy a mountain bike. The R.I.P. 9 isn't carbon, it has nothing to prove, no contests to win - and it is pretty darn close to the perfect mountain bike. - RC|