Niner RKT 9 RDO 2-Star Build - Review

Apr 25, 2016
by Vernon Felton  




Niner has a history of designing lightweight, fleet-footed 29ers. They upped the ante for 2016 with this bike here—the all-new RKT 9 RDO. “RDO”—if you are not among those who call themselves “Ninerds”—stands for Race Day Only and while previous Niner models bear that appellation, none has ever worn it as sincerely as the new RKT 9. Niner made several tweaks to their formula, aimed at bringing a bit of progressive style to the new bike. They’ve shortened the rear end and grew the top tube a bit, but make no mistake, this is truly a bike designed to gobble miles as quickly as possible. Race day, indeed.

Niner RKT 9 RDO Details

• Intended use: XC
• Wheel size: 29
• Head angle: 71°
• Front Suspension Travel: 100 millimeters
• Rear Suspension Travel: 90 millimeters
• Carbon front and rear triangles
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
• Weight (size L w/o pedals): 25.95 pounds (11.78 kg)
• MSRP: $4,500 USD
www.ninerbikes.com / @NinerBikes

In recent years, Niner’s cross-country weapon, the Jet 9, has edged a bit closer towards the trail bike category. The RKT 9 RDO models (all six of them) are XC and proud. Each shares the same lightweight carbon frame, paired with different build kits. You could spend as much as $9,500 for the top-tier, XTR-equipped version, but we opted for the base-level bike. Clad in a SRAM GX1 kit, this "2-star" model sells for $4,500, yet boasts the same high-end frame. The RKT 9 RDO frame (with FOX Float DPS Factory rear shock) sells for $3,000 by its lonesome.


Niner RKT 9 RDO
The lower link of the CVA suspension system has always struck me as some kind of rock ski for mountain bikes. To its credit, that link hasn't gotten all bunged up.
Niner RKT 9 RDO
Niner shortened the chainstays 15 millimeters (over those on the Jet 9 model) while also allowing for enough clearance to run 29x2.4 tires. Given the RKT 9's racing proclivities, it comes with this pinner 2.2 tire.


Frame Details

Shaving grams is generally a preoccupation for anyone looking to land on the podium. The RKT 9 RDO fares well when it's time to hoist it on the scales. The carbon frame and far shock combo weigh in at just 2,041 grams (4.5 pounds). Impressive as hell. The entire frame is made of carbon. The only exception here are the aluminum linkages, which Niner says are both lighter and stiffer than carbon versions. For comparison's sake, the RKT 9 frame is a full half-pound lighter than Niner's previous flagship racer, the Jet 9 RDO, which was no boat anchor itself.

Everyone and their kid brother in China claims to utilize a proprietary (or at the very least, incredibly thorough and precise) construction process when it comes to turning wads of pre-preg into finished composite frames. Same drill here. Niner's RDO Carbon Compaction System (CCS) incorporates internal foam-core molds during the curing process to precisely control wall thickness and material distribution. End result? According to Niner, the reduction of voids and resin pooling. Or, in other words, fewer structural imperfections and less grams.



Niner RKT 9 RDO
Niners haven't exactly been famous for their outstanding stand over clearance, but they did right by the RKT 9 in that regard--it's plenty low.
Niner RKT 9 RDO
Even this base-level RKT 9 RDO gets a Kashima-coated Fox Float DPS shock with handlebar-mounted, compression-damping adjuster.


The RKT 9 RDO, however, isn't simply a light bike. Niner went to pains to beef things up while they were waging war on frame weight. To that end, this is the first Niner model to wear a Boost 148 rear end. The forums are full of people who will still argue that Boost is just another scam aimed at milking your checking account for all its worth. Most engineers, on the other hand, will tell you that those extra couple of millimeters might as well be miles when it comes time to try and shorten chain stays and still have enough breathing room to make big tires and drivetrain components play nice together. There's also the potential for stiffness gains on bigger hoops. But I digress... the new Niner rocks the Boost 148 out back and sports 439-millimeter (17.3-inch) chain stays, which isn't setting a world record for short chainstays, but is a good 15 millimeters (.6 inches) shorter than those on their Jet 9. There's also enough room here to fit a 2.4-inch tires out back, if you are so inclined.

In addition to stiffening and lightening up their carbon chassis, Niner wanted to make a more maneuverable XC racer, which explains why they achieved a lower standover height here than on their previous models. It's a definite step in the right direction. Finish quality on the frame is top notch--Niner has always placed a premium on spiffing up things that most companies sort of shrug at, such as pivot hardware. While all their RKT 9 models are equipped with single-ring drivetrains, the bike features a very clean, removable front derailleur mount, as well as provisions for Di2 routing and internal and external dropper-post lines. In short, the frame will work with any drivetrain or seat post you can imagine.

Niner RKT 9 RDO
Yes, the chain is routed improperly here. Photos were taken about an hour after we pulled the bike out of the box. Horrible grating noise manifested on first climb. Chain was re-routed. Problem solved and not mentioned in review, because doing so is like talking about what I ate for breakfast that morning. However, since the comments section is on fire about this, I'm now typing this caption. Okay, moving on with big picture now....


Suspension Design

The RKT 9 RDO pivots on a short-travel (90-millimeter) version of the brand’s longstanding Constantly Varying Arc (“CVA”) suspension system. CVA is a sort of kissing cousin to VPP, DW-Link, Maestro and other dual short-link designs that harness chain tension to combat suspension squat. Niner’s design includes a lower link that sits below the bottom bracket. It looks like something absolutely precious that is destined to be destroyed in short order. I’ve tested a baker’s dozen worth of Niners over the years, however, and have yet to mangle the lower link. The link on the RKT 9 fared just as well.

While some people will never be satisfied with the look of that lower link dangling down there, Niner contends that its link location is critical. Chain torque, in theory, applies a force that wants to rotate the top link forward as well as a force that wants to pull the bottom link forward and down. Since the links are connected by the solid rear triangle, chain forces are essentially neutralized and that allows the rear suspension to act independently of your pedaling. That's the theory anyway. I'm not going to suggest that I have an engineering degree or a long history of designing rear suspension, and that Niner's line of reasoning rings true to me. I mean, it makes sense on paper, but I can only tell you how the bike actually rode--we'll get to that in a second.


Geometry

Despite all the new and improved burbling under the RKT 9 RDO's hood, the bike is a bit of a throwback. Niner makes some definite nods to the latest trends in frame design--they've shortened their rear end considerably, they've got the bottom bracket reasonably low (13.2-inches) and they've added some length to the front end, but at 610 millimeters (24 inches), the RKT 9 RDO's top tube is shorter than what you'll find on many of the latest models. The 71-degree head tube is also a whole lot steeper than the norm. Niner, however, wanted to create a quick-handling race bike and the flip side of the shorter front center, steep head angle and short-ish chain stays is that a size Large RKT 9 RDO also sports a wickedly short 1125-millimeter (44.3-inch) wheelbase. Quick head angle, short wheelbase, fairly sporty rear end...you can probably see where this thing is heading.

Niner RKT 9 RDO


Specifications
Specifications
Release Date September 2015
Price $4500
Travel 90-mm rear travel, 100-mm fork travel
Rear Shock Fox Float DPS Factor w/handlebar remote
Fork RockShox Reba RL Solo Air, 100MM, 110X15MM
Cassette Shimano XT 11-42
Crankarms SRAM S1000 PF30 32T
Chainguide None
Bottom Bracket SRAM PF30
Pedals None
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX1 11-speed
Chain SRAM PC 1130
Shifter Pods SRAM GX1
Handlebar Niner Flat Top Alloy, 710-mm
Stem Niner
Grips Niner
Brakes SRAM DB5, 180/160 G2CS Rotors
Wheelset NINER ALLOY, 110X15MM Front, 148 X 12MM Rear
Tires Maxxis Ikon SC 2.35 F, 2.20 R
Seat Niner
Seatpost Niner Alloy seat post, 400-mm
Niner RKT 9 RDO
You could pay as much as $9,500 for this same frame, hung with XTR. That's what makes the smartly dressed 2-Star Build a serious bargain. Highlights include the RockShox Reba RL fork and SRAM GX1 drivetrain.






Set-Up

Niner contends that their CVA suspension is both efficient and smooth under power. Theory and fact generally pair up pretty well with the RKT 9, with one caveat: I continue to find CVA more fickle than other designs. While it’s no harder to set sag on the bike, you need to really nail the air pressure if you are to ride happily into the sunset. Sure, that’s true of any suspension bike, but it’s truer still of the RKT 9. Run anything more than 25 percent sag and you will not be stoked. At all. The ride is a bit firm at 25 percent, so you might be tempted to run something approaching 28 or 30 percent. Don't. The climbing suffers in a big way. In short, if you hop on this thing and are not impressed, pull out the tape measure and double-check that sag.


Niner RKT 9 RDO
True to its name, the RKT 9 RDO gains elevation with ease, and that's also true on chunkier climbs than that pictured here.


Climbing

I got my first ride on a RKT 9 RDO this summer, when I broke the seatstay on my go-to trail bike and was handed a loaner version of this then-secret bike. Given its lack of heft, I wasn’t surprised by the RKT’s ability to motor up buff climbs. I was astonished, however, by how well it rolled up and over eroded water bars, big rocks and roots. The wagon wheels and the mojo brought to the table by Niner’s CVA suspension is a powerful combination. A full day aboard that bike in Idaho’s backcountry had me eager to get more saddle time on the new Niner, so I ordered up a version that bore a more wallet-friendly price tag.

Same story the second go round. The 2-star version of the RKT 9 RDO climbs just as well as its top-tier sibling. Well, it weighs a couple pounds more, so there’s that to consider, but traction is just as good.

Though the RKT climbs well enough in wide-open mode, I wound up using the handlebar-remote to set the bike into Medium mode on most climbs. CVA is quite efficient under power, but the Niner definitely benefits from an extra bit of compression damping. In short, it’s a strong climber, but I wouldn’t say it absolutely tops the list of short-dual link designs in that regard. I’ve ridden several DW-Link designs that hold a slight edge here.

The geometry is exceptionally well suited to threading your way through tight and technical uphill switchbacks. Though there were times when I was cursing the 71-degree head angle, this sure wasn’t one of them. The RKT 9 RDO is at its best when powering up and through the kind of climbing sections that unfold like some kind of evil, cardio chess game.

Niner RKT 9 RDO
If you're a fan of old-school XC geometry, you'll dig the way the RKT 9 handles descents. Me? I was wishing for something a bit slacker and more stable.


Descending

A few years ago, I would have said that the RKT 9 RDO was as capable a descender as a cross-country bike could be. Cross-country bikes, however, have started to undergo a transformation, with many of them achieving near-trailbike capabilities on the downhills, thanks to more progressive geometry. The Kona Carbon Hei Hei DL that we recently profiled here, for instance, climbs on a par with the RKT, but absolutely shreds the descents. I’d argue the same for Specialized’s Camber bikes, which are, admittedly, clear-cut trail models, yet are also light and efficient enough to be raced cross-country.

The RKT 9 RDO just never matched that level of confidence on the descents. The 90 millimeters of rear suspension works well enough—with enough progressivity at the end stroke to prevent harsh bottom outs (even when you push the bike a bit too far), but the short wheelbase and steep head angle do not inspire confidence on fast and hacked-out terrain. Those traits were a plus when I was gaining elevation, but when I was barreling down the other side of the mountain, it led to some white-knuckle moments.

On the upside, you can bolt a 120-millimeter travel fork to the RKT 9 RDO, if you are looking for a bit more grace under pressure—Niner designed it that way. You could also add a dropper post to the mix, which would be a big plus since a whopping six inches of the stock rigid post is knocking about between your legs—even when the seat post is slammed down as far as the frame will allow.

Those two tweaks would add a bit more forgiveness to the RKT 9 RDO’s downhill personality. Then again, I can almost hear detractors howling and throwing feces at their computer screen as they read my suggestions…Add a longer travel fork? Add a dropper post? This is a cross-country race bike, dammit! Sack up and ride it like one!

Maybe they are right. I dunno... Color me conflicted. I would have agreed with them a couple years ago, but time on bikes such as the Tallboy and the Hei Hei DL have me thinking that you can have your cross-country cake and eat it too when its time to descend. The good news here is that Niner gives you the option to tweak the RKT 9 so that it swings both ways.


Niner RKT 9 RDO
1999 wants its massive stem back. The RKT 9 has a long top tube by Niner's standards, but it's still a bit shy of what's becoming the norm. The long stem helps extend the reach a bit.
Niner RKT 9 RDO
$4,500 for a complete carbon frame paired with this SRAM GX 1x kit is a pretty damn good deal--particularly when you consider that the frame alone sells for $3,000.

Component Check

• No Dropper Post: I know, I know...it's an XC race bike, so it doesn't need a dropper, right? Yeah, well, bullshit. If you're going downhill, you'll want one and that's particularly true when the bike in question has razor sharp front handling and a short wheelbase. I'd definitely pay an extra couple hundred for a dropper. The frame, fortunately, accepts both stealth and externally-routed dropper posts, so you have that option.

• That Float DPS Rear Shock: Having bitched about the lack of a dropper post, I will say that I appreciated the remote, rear-shock adjuster which assumes its place on the handlebar. The Fox remote makes sense for racers who want to toggle between wide open and firmer modes without bothering to reach down during the heat of battle for that little blue lever. On most bikes, it'd be superfluous, but it makes sense here.

• SRAM GX1 drivetrain: This is actually the drivetrain I'd personally buy if I was looking at this bike. The weight penalty of going with GX1 (over, say, XTR or XX1) is not severe enough to lose sleep over and you could use a portion of the thousands of dollars saved with GX1 to splurge where it matters most--on a lightweight-but-bomber wheelset that'd liven up the ride.


Niner RKT 9 RDO

Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotes If you race cross-country or enjoy marathon backcountry sessions, but aren't on board with the whole slack and long geometry thing, the RKT 9 RDO should be on your short list. The bike lives up to its moniker. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a short-travel bike that can double as an all-purpose trail bike, there are more evenly-balanced options out there. - Vernon Felton


Hold Up...
As you can tell from this review, I feel that the RKT 9 RDO is a good choice for dedicated cross-country racers and people who are interested in marathon, back-country rides. It's a quick-steering, nimble little thing. It is not, however, my choice for a short-travel bike that would pull double duty as my all-around trail bike. There are, for the record, some short-travel models hitting the market right now that do all that. So, why then did Niner go the full-bore-XC-racer-route with the RKT 9? People are essentially asking me that question in some of their forum comments. I've responded with a "I suppose Niner's take would be such and such a thing..." comment. But that got me thinking--Hell, I should just ask Chris Sugai--the owner of Niner and the guy who designed this thing--to drop his two cents in here. So, here you go....

Vernon, thanks for the opportunity to respond and talk with your audience.

First off I would like to give majority credit to our R&D team, Team CLIF Bar riders and Rebecca Rusch for the design and creation of the RKT 9 RDO.

Our intention when designing the RKT 9 RDO was to make a lighter, stiffer and sharper focused bike than the JET 9 RDO. We wanted a bike that would clearly address the needs of XC & marathon racers as well as riders who want a no-excuses machine to put the hurt on their buddies ;-)

To that end it delivers what XC minded riders and racers expect, and is spec’d accordingly with suspension elements that lean toward efficiency. A 100-mm travel 32-mm stanchion fork coupled with 90-mm of travel on the rear don’t equate to a lot of sag and bomber descending feel, because they aren’t intended for that and there simply isn’t enough to work with. While the geometry is not full on new school, we have more to come.

For riders expecting a more trail worthy ride, they can fit the RKT 9 RDO with a 120mm fork and a dropper post, but we might instead suggest our JET 9 RDO with a 120mm fork and designed specifically for that purpose.

We made the RKT 9 RDO to climb well, ride efficiently and above all, to go fast.

This is the first of a total evolution of our mountain bike line-up and we have much more to show you this year.


Peace,
Chris Sugai




Visit the high-res gallery for more images from this review




About the Reviewer
Stats: Age: 44 • Height: 5'11” • Inseam: 32" • Weight: 175lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None
In 1988 Vernon started riding mountain bikes—mainly to avoid the people throwing cans of Budweiser at him during his road rides. At some point, roughly when Ronald Reagan was president and Hüsker Dü was still a band, he began loving mountain bikes on their own terms. Vernon Felton spends most of his time riding bikes, thinking about bikes, thinking about riding bikes and then riding some more on the wet and filthy trails of Bellingham, Washington. If it has a greasy chain and two wheels on it, he’s cool with it. Except for recumbents. Well, okay, maybe those too. Nah, forget it. No recumbents.



166 Comments

  • + 188
 I'm reading this review, thinking "Huh, this XC rig actually seems pretty badass. Wonder what the high-end build is like..." AND THEN I SAW THAT CHAIN ROUTING

C'mon guys, rookie mistake.
  • + 41
 Well spotted! Don't worry. Problem will rectify itself eventually. Only after, like, 3,000km or so.
  • + 28
 I had to take a second look. This is actually pretty funny Smile
  • + 22
 @cptmayhem: it's a niner, the frame won't last that long anyway.
  • + 34
 Kind of makes you think though, about the reviewer's credentials. He must have done some mileage on this bike, to be able to give his verdict on it -- and he never noticed that chain rub?
  • + 4
 @kopaczus: Oh no, his creds are definitely there. And we all make mistakes. I've seen that problem on bikes more times than I'd care to recall. And in some cases it makes hardly any difference to the pedalling performance.
  • + 11
 @kopaczus: Is it inconceivable, though, that the chain was fine when the bike was being tested? Perhaps they took it off for ultrasonic cleaning prior to the photoshoot and were in a hurry putting it back.
  • + 5
 hahahah... also, @vernonfelton you should wear spandex for this test, haha
  • + 4
 sorry guys...where does the chain rub? I can't see it
  • + 21
 @lorislucchini: it's incorrectly routed through the derailleur cage. If you have a look at the pic of the rear triangle, you'll notice that the chain wraps around the lower pully, but then exits the cage and goes around the brace, then back around to the upper pully. It's not supposed to do that.
  • + 8
 @cptmayhem: Ok thank you! now I can sleep tonight Smile
  • + 4
 Damn, I must've missed the chain-lubricating cage technology on PB's intial GX review.
  • + 1
 That's just most efficient Wink
  • + 3
 The cable routing is quite bad too (Not so clean)
  • + 8
 RKT RDO? how about: rekt rear d... ...oh!
  • + 2
 I had a Devinci Copenhagen commuter that came that way from the factory. Took me a couple of days riding a noisy bike to figure out WTF. Although - in my defense - mine was on an SLX derailleur where the chain mis-routing was far less obvious.
  • + 1
 people would think ;" what is that sound? must be electric" Smile
  • + 0
 @drwal44: Right? How do you not notice that when riding? No one would not notice metal on metal rubbing like that.
  • + 56
 The photos were taken on the first day of riding. You get up in the morning, pull the bike out of the box, tighten things up, head to the trail, take some photos, shift up the cog, look down and realize--shit, that chain is routed wrong. You go home, you correct it, you keep on riding the bike. A few months later, you post a review, but you don't write about the chain routing because you feel like it would be talking about the sandwich you ate that day--irrelevant to the larger issue of how the bike rides, whether it's well designed, etc. In short, I realized that the chain was routed wrong on the upper pulley first day out. I just didn't think the review merited mention of a minor mis-hap in the bike prep. On with the big picture....
  • + 6
 @vernonfelton: Thanks for explaining! We didn't mean to roast you too hard I think, at least for me I was just confused.
  • + 22
 @vernonfelton: welcome to pinkbike comments. ; )
  • + 13
 @jdendy: Word..... I just typed a caption that explains the RoutingGate situation to the readership. Upwards and onwards....
  • - 26
flag parallaxid (Apr 25, 2016 at 10:47) (Below Threshold)
 yet even with Vernon's excuse, it doesn't explain why the bike is all muddy and clearly had been taken on a ride with the chain routed incorrectly. Just hard to take a review seriously when they can't even build the bike right and ride it without noticing.
  • + 1
 @vernonfelton: Might be worth the quick editorial addition of 'this chain was installed after removing the bike from the box on the first day, but before the positive effects of caffeine had kicked in'.

I'm still more curious about things like effective stack height (flat bar, 100mm fork) and how the setup you ran affected downhill performance, especially since the version it sounds like you'd prefer is a 120mm fork, dropper equipped variant. Do you think the rear end would keep up (without a custom tune), or would it feel like a super-complaint AM hardtail that happens to be absurdly light?
  • + 30
 @cptmayhem: Someone sent me a bike set up that way for a review (top brand name too) with a Shimano XT rear derailleur. I assumed that the noise was coming from the chain guide and rode it that way for two months. Shifted great!
  • + 4
 @parallaxid: Re-read his comment, and build a mental timeline on what happened. Look at the background of the photo.
I see no reason to question that's how it went down. Potentially worth the comment that the rapid-link has some value for a trailside fix of this nature, but why spend valuable review space on a self-induced setup issue? I'd rather hear about bike handling and performance traits, not a giant explanation of 'we had the bike setup a bit wrong for a day'.
  • + 28
 @parallaxid: I live in the PNW. So, if you take a new bike off the rack, roll down the first section of trail (about a half mile) with the chain running along the 10,12, or 14 cogs it doesn't make an unholy racket or manifest a ton of noise. Since it's muddy as hell where I live, the bike gets muddy right quick. You pull over, take a few intro shots of the bike in a field because the light is good, then you start climbing and shifting up the cassette. You notice a noise. You look down. You spot the problem because if you are me you've been riding mountain bikes since 1988 and have some degree of mechanical aptitude. You fix it. That's how it happened. If, however, you are committed to the idea that I am lying to you and that we editors are all out there to scam you, there's nothing I can say that will deter you from holding that position. It's a free world. You're free to believe whatever you want to believe. I suppose I'm curious as to why you are approaching this on the assumption that I am lying, but hey, you can believe whatever you want to believe. Ride on.
  • + 8
 @tehllama: The bike is designed to have a fairly old school (bars low, seat high) position. Between the flat bar, the shorter (for Niner, at any rate) head tube and the limited ability to lower the post, you are definitely in an aggressive XC position, which, to be fair, is this bike's whole rationale/vibe/reason for existing. It's not a bad thing, it's just more of a traditional XC thing. Some people will really dig that. I grew up riding bikes with that kind of cockpit set up and I understand where they are going with it. I only mention my being somewhat at odds with it after having ridden several other XC models that have a more, modern trail bike kind of geo/cockpit set up (including a 120-travel fork). I personally gravitate towards that kind of bike because I live in a place with lots of steep, technical descents. But that's my own personal bias. Some people will dig the RKT 9 just the way it is. Different horses for different courses and all that. The RKT's rear end would keep up fine with the longer fork. I mean, it'll never feel like true trail bike, but a lot of us ride shorter-travel XC bikes with longer travel forks--you just approach trails differently. I suppose Niner's take on all this would be that if you are interested in a more trail-bike kind of ride, the latest Jet 9 is going to be more up your alley.
  • + 1
 @vernonfelton: Mmm... Sandwich!
  • + 5
 @vernonfelton: @BullMooose was right, I totally didn't mean to put you on blast--thanks for the caption edit! Big Grin
  • + 0
 @parallaxid: ...and time to get over it.
  • + 18
 This has been pure internet gold. Thank you gentlemen. #RoutingGate
  • + 1
 Must've been set up by one of those "engineers" that told him boost was a good idea.
  • + 2
 @RichardCunningham: I just set up a m9000 rear with a xg1195 cassette, with the chain wrong like it's one's... I'm like "goddamn, this combo is SUPPOSED to work"... and then I saw my mistake 《but at least I caught it while it was still benched 》
  • + 1
 removed
  • + 1
 Removed.
  • + 1
 And what about the cable management? Looks like a bird can stand there while you pedal
  • - 6
flag weebleswobbles (Apr 25, 2016 at 19:33) (Below Threshold)
 @RichardCunningham: so you test bikes for pinkbike and didn't realize the chain was misrouted for two months? Really, ...really?
Come on are you shitting me? WTF
  • + 8
 @weebleswobbles: You read that correctly. We all make mistakes. I had a laugh that it also happened to Vernon. The derailleur shifted fine and didn't feel draggy. I figured that the mild buzz it made was coming from the chainguide and didn't give it a second thought. If I can remember, it was at least a month before I was switching wheels and noticed the chain was running over the giude tab. It was a Homer Simpson moment, but somehow, I managed to survive.
  • + 1
 @RichardCunningham: can you believe that would make it out of the factory/warehouse on nice upperend bikes but yes, fair enough we are only human..yea some of the chainguides out there I could feel drag..I want to try the one up components bash guide..happy trails
  • - 2
 @skeen95: so because you cant avoid the tree in front of you your blaming it on the frame ?
  • - 2
 @skeen95: maybe you should learn to avoid the tree in front of you
  • - 2
 @RichardCunningham: , gotta love this guy , how many people would confess to that , especially a respected journo, big up !

And Vernon, you wrote the review months ago , and still printed the picture ?? Huh !
  • - 2
 @pigman65: Exactly. No reason to doubt these guys creds due to a simple chain routing issue which has negligible impact on the ride characteristics.

As for the pic - the way I see is is that the pics are taken as soon as possible, just to get them out the way. That way the first requirement is met, and the journo doesn't need to worry about when he's going to get the opportunity to get decent pics of the bike. They can just save the pics for when the article is ready....
  • + 0
 @cptmayhem: That makes sense, not like when i was a lad and you had to post your roll of film off to be developed, and then wait a month or two for it to come back lol
  • + 2
 @vernonfelton: Wake n Bake! Lol
  • + 1
 @vernonfelton: Ever had a Primanti bros sandwich? Shit is unforgettable.
  • + 42
 HEY YOU GUYS PUT THE CHAIN ON THROUGH THE DERAILLEUR WRONG
  • + 19
 WHAT'S THAT???
  • + 15
 I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT!
  • + 68
 I CAN'T HEAR YOU MY BIKE IS MAKING NOISE
  • + 8
 @DARKSTAR63: Genuine lol. thats the funniest PB comment I've read in ages.
  • + 0
 mechanic fail of the year
  • + 24
 So while the entire mountain bike world is going slacker HA, steeper SA, Niner decide to go the opposite way... To be expected by a company who's owner said 27.5 was dumb and wouldn't stick.
  • + 35
 the review could be summarised as 'cool bike but buy a Hei Hei'..
  • + 10
 They made an XC bike according to what's best to them, but looks like everybody, even the reviewer insists in judging with trail or AM bikes parameters, or comparing to what everybody else is doing (because if they are doing it they must me absoluty right). You should say to yourself before looking at this bike, like a mantra: It's not a trail or AM bike!
  • + 1
 @passwordpinkbike: not really.... lots of proper XC bikes are taking cues from what builders have learned about geometry on AM bikes. Hei Hei, Scott Scale/Spark, Focus Raven, BH Ultimate, etc etc. These are bikes with WC XC podiums....

I don't think anyone is saying "turn it into an AM bike!", I think they're just noting that XC bikes are being built to handle way better downhill (and be more fun). I'm sure a lot of that has to do with how gnarly XC courses are getting in the last couple years.
  • + 1
 @bkm303: Well, it looks to me that Niner didn't focus on the downhill capabilities of the bike, but maybe in making a more "pure" cross country bike. The "no dropper post" comment in the review sounds a lot to me like "turn it into an AM bike".
  • + 1
 Not accurate statement, steep HA, yes, but SA at 74.5 is not slack.
  • + 1
 ReformedRoadie:"So while the entire mountain bike world is going slacker HA, steeper SA, Niner decide to go the opposite way... To be expected by a company who's owner said 27.5 was dumb and wouldn't stick."

Relaaax.!!!!!!!!!!!!! The whole world is still racing and winning races on the climbs. US is not the whole world. We are very prone to extremism and following hypes. Certainly we not fit enough to climb , look at UCI XC race ranking ,pretty embarrassing.And we are the whole world and telling the world what is good for the ride. They do not even sell race version of Kona Hei Hei in USA, well they assume we have too fat asses to ride anyway.

You are kind of clueless about bike geometry. one is to design bike with steeper angles and shorter TT, the other is design slacker bike with longer TT , neither way is better, this the matter of preferences. There is absolutely nothing wrong with RKT geometry and I think the short wheelbase whip with slightly higher stock is a lot fun to ride.

So, now have fun, eat your burrito and buy the gondola ticket and do not forget slack your ass before the ride, I heard that it may help
  • + 1
 @marco855: Relax? You wrote two short articles in the comments (yeah, the one is near the bottom, because no one cares)...
You own one, you're butt hurt. I get it. I'd say come back to comment after it breaks, but it sounds like you don't ride it hard enough.

And generalizing a country based on UCI XC results?
That is as dumb as making assumptions about someone you know nothing about on the internet.
  • + 0
 @marco855: yes, the whole world is still racing... and the podiums are going to the bikes I listed above, which have lower HAs. It has nothing to do with the US being good at racing; when Niners end up on podiums your argument will make sense. Otherwise I think it's safe to say Kona, Scott, Focus, and Cdale are on the right track when it comes to geo.

Don't be a dick.
  • + 0
 @ReformedRoadie, @marco855 RELEVANT.... speak of the devil.

www.pinkbike.com/news/cannondale-scalpel-si-first-ride.html

"the new Scalpel-Si is longer and a bit slacker, making the bike look much more forgiving and, dare we say it, fun for a machine that's made to win cross-country races...."
  • + 1
 @ReformedRoadie: you nailed it !!!!!!, "nobody cares what you say". Thank you for being so honest. That is what is suspected anyway. So guys are coming to the board and coping and pasting their per-judged opinions and walk back with the tail between the legs when confronted with the facts, because the simply have nothing to say.
I feel sorry for the somewhat frustrated guy who just tried get engaged this forum with constructive conversation about this bike, he got whooping 2 props, while some retard making supposedly funny comments get 40 or more. It speaks for itself.

Your whole world there are 3 major XC bikes in 2016 for the US market; Top Fuel, Revolver FS and 9 RKT
Trek High 75 SA , 71 HA, Norco 74.5, SA, 70.5 HA Niner 9 RKT 74.5 SA, 71 HA

What make you believe that Niner is doing something else than the other brands.? I think I know It is what you stated so honestly, you simply do not care about the facts.
  • + 1
 @bkm303: Hi bkm303, I was ready to engage with you with some friendly conversation.But after your second post I am passing on you. Have a nice day
  • + 1
 @marco855: friggin AMEN! Geez people grow a pair and ride what you like. It's a RACE bike. If you want a lightweight trailbike then get after it.
  • + 16
 Don't loose sleep on the lack of dropper in XC bikes, it won't last long: look at Julien Absalon's BMC form Cairns Wink
  • + 13
 Stop defending boost in every article. The following and Enduro 29ers both have sub 17" stays with 142mm hubs. That arguement is bunk. Every article on a 29er pinkbike submits tries to defend it with a whole paragraph. Just leave it what it is, and let the dentists adopt yet another standard.
  • + 6
 I have to agree. Talked to a frame builder buddy who very clearly stated that rear hub spacing is irrelevant to chainstay length and tire clearance as the chainstays and seat stays can simply be curved out where they need to be. Especially easy with carbon that is molded. Truly sucks that I have to buy new hubs for my new frame due to this Boost marketing crap.
  • + 7
 But guyyys. An "engineer" told him those 3mm were like miiiillles.

I know they just look like 3mm to us idiots. 3mm which can easily be found without requiring a new hub standard. And extra stiffness which can be exactly replicated with slightly larger hub flanges and no change of standards. And every engineer I know thinks its a stupid idea. But still, we are just dummies. Bow down to the glory of Boost.
  • + 11
 every time they mention it sram gives them money.
  • + 4
 @gabriel-mission9:

Just below this is an article about how cannondale got a zero dish wheel with their 29er and a 142mm hub! duh!
  • + 14
 As a ninerd I should point out RDO is "race day optimized" not race day only.
  • + 20
 With that HA and stem, the 'O' should stand for "over"...as in Over the bars.
  • + 10
 Let me guess: it'll change the way I think about 29ers.
  • + 6
 You need a Following to bring a Wreckoning to that cliche
  • + 5
 No it won't, long stem on a 29er is a recipe for Juggernaut handling that 29ers are often accused of. It may be justifiable on a full on XC racer where you do want a short wheelbase and stem length needs to compensate for that, but anywhere else, a 29er with a +50 stem is a joke.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I commute on 29 +50 stem and i don't give a toss. but what do i know?
  • + 22
 @ekho: how does your argument apply to anything I wrote? I can commute on an unicycle, it still won't make me handle a bike better when I am in the woods.
  • + 10
 @ekho: So you have a road bike with fat tires?
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: yup at first i had a 50mm on my 29'' genius but after changing to 40mm a will never go back... and wheel size is just a choice, never hadn't tried a bad wheel size on any bike, if geo is dialed it can be anything from 20 to 29, you know better whats suits you and the trail...
  • + 6
 I've been reading Felton's words for years on Bike Mag, so I'll forgive him (or whoever set the chain up like that) this time. Everyone else writes the same, but he always stands out.
  • + 5
 As a guy who races Elite XC, and has raced DH (and a ton of BMX)...

50mm stems (no matter the reach/TT length) suck for standing climbing. And 1999's stems were a bit longer than 90mm for XC.

If you can't avoid "OTB" on a 29er without going to a slack head angle, it's your fault, not the bike's. Granted, the slacker HA gives a bigger margin for error, but there are tradeoffs, as well.

I've got a RKT 9 on the way - perfect for what I do, and would have gone with the Jet 9 RDO had I wanted a more trailbike setup.
  • + 1
 One more , already got it
  • + 7
 Dropper post? How about option for a banana seat so you can really sit over the rear wheel?
  • + 4
 @Vernonfelton THANK YOU for delivering such thoroughly entertaining, refreshingly clear and articulate journalism!! Reading your stuff is like watching Chris Akrigg ride. Your recounting the RKT 9's ascending prowess is a gem: "...at its best when powering up and through the kind of climbing sections that unfold like some kind of evil, cardio chess game." Way to capture the simultaneous torture and thrill of nailing hypoxic Colorado climbs littered with technical cruxes... let's those interested in this bike know it's got the goods pointed uphill, while reminding us how such victories are all the SweetTart-tangier aboard a steed like this that begs to loft you into that masochistic delirium.

In other news: you provide a detailed, succinct description of sag nuances; comparisons to other, similar ACTUAL BIKES (so rare, yet utterly invaluable); insightful contrasts to other dual-link bikes' pedalibility; crisp review of geo #'s and trends; healthy-skeptic/no-nonsense tone in discussing the latest tech employed lend you everyday credibility, not to mention reviewing the most affordable model. Plus your significant criticism where the bike lacks? More than well done sir -- don't be reticent in donning the wreath of Reviewer Laureate. Neither hesitate in threading these hot new whips through your favorite trails and filling us all in on the juicy beta.
  • + 5
 That strange feeling when the largest casette cog is bigger than the rear rotor...
  • + 3
 Bummer how this has all gone. I rode a Niner RKT with a 120mm fork and dropper post and it was probably the most capable XC bike I've ever ridden. I was hoping to get it back from Niner for the Singletrack 6 race.
  • + 4
 HTA is steeper than the seat tube angle. I realize that its an XC bike, but 71 degrees is flat out dangerous. That is steeper than some road bikes.
  • + 6
 Classic xc geometry: 71hta 73 sta
  • + 2
 Your joking right? 71 degrees is not that bad, quite rideable actually. Have you ever rode a bike with a 71 degree ha?
  • + 5
 @sunringlerider: Yes, the first gen RIP 9. Feels like you're about to go OTB on the mildest of descents.
  • + 1
 @hamncheez: a lot of riders know how to get their weight back over the rear wheel, and ride down steeps.
  • + 1
 @HaydenBeck: if thats the case, why is any bike slacker than 71 degrees?
  • + 0
 @hamncheez: to slow the handling down, to make it more stable at speed.

Bar and stack height have much more to do with the "over the bars" feeling.
  • + 1
 @HaydenBeck: I respectfully disagree. The slacker the HTA, combined with the axle to crown height, puts your center of gravity further behind the front wheel, making it harder to go over the bars.
  • + 1
 Slacker HA will indeed provide you with better resistance to going OTB. This is verified by Tony Foale's experiments on motorcycle rake and trail. It's a very simple and very obvious conclusion on flat smooth ground, that only low speed balance, stability and lightness of steering are improved with steeper head angles, which harms the opposites which is where you actually need stability. a 71 deg head angle is what road bikes use......
  • + 6
 So it didn't help you clean things that you couldn't clean before?
  • + 2
 So you didn't have more fun on this bike compared to bikes you've ridden recently?
  • + 3
 "only exception here are the aluminum linkages, which Niner says are both lighter and stiffer than carbon versions"- WTF! can carbon experts elaborate, please?
  • + 14
 It's the i-beam esque design of the linkages that makes them that stiff, whilst still being light. Can machine them relatively thin in the middle, whilst the I-beam makes the structure far stiffer than an ordinary flat plate of alu would be. You'd probably have to build something a bit heavier and larger out of carbon to have the same strength.
  • + 10
 Situations where carbon cannot be made lighter than alu are rare. This may be one of those (due to the shape of the linkages), or it just wasn't beneficial enough to save a few grams and paying more $ to make them.
  • + 8
 With "carbon" people typically mean carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) and as with any fibre, it is stiffest and strongest in longitudinal direction. So if most loads are in one direction, you can safe weight by orienting the fibres properly and making it stronger in that particular direction whereas it is actually weaker in other directions where the loads aren't supposed to be in. So this typically works well with tubes like frame tubes and handlebar. It also implies that you have to be careful clamping components to that handlebar as these clamping forces are obviously not in fibre direction. Now with these shorter components like these links, loads can be in so many different directions (straight between the pivots for suspension action but also for sideways loads when turning etc) that there is no ideal direction for the fibres. You can orient them in all these different directions, but you'll then eventually end up with something that is heavier than if you'd choose for a material that is strong and stiff in all directions, which is aluminium. You don't need to be a carbon expert is you compare this to how you'd use wood if you want to make something light, strong and stiff. Wood and bamboo are essentially natural fibre reinforced composites (where the cellulose makes up the fibres and lignine is the matrix).
  • + 2
 You make a statement that aluminium can be better than carbon, put it in the beginning of the article and people get so turned on that you could post a pic of your willy jammed down the seat tube as the next pic and nobody would notice Big Grin
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Ouch. Even though seat tubes are getting wider to accommodate these dropper posts I still don't fancy the idea. Just because it can be done doesn't mean I have to, right Wink ?

I think it has been mentioned several times on PB where designers mentioned that even though they went for a certain material for the front triangle, the still went for something different for other components for whatever reason. It is fine really. Look at it as a triangle of product, production process and material. You can't change one without changing the others along with that if you want to end up with a proper design. Now that they went with these short links for their suspension design, aluminium just makes more sense than CFRP. It is horses for courses. A chair can be made out of wood or it can be made out of steel. Both will be just fine, but these will be different designs. It is not going to have solid steel legs, it is not going to have curved, thin walled hollow wood legs either.

For the introduction of a course on production and materials I made a collection of pictures of bicycles made out of wood, aluminium, bamboo, PE, cardboard and what more is out there. All proper designs yet all for their own purpose and audience (the product) and all produced in a way that suits the material (production process).
  • - 1
 On the cannondale habit they saved 90g just using a carbon link for the shock lol
  • + 2
 @fedemeta: Ha you got me there Smile ! I admit I can't really make claims like those if I haven't looked into the calculations or test results. I could write down why I suspect the load trajectories on that Habit link to be simpler than those on the bike reviewed here, but it is indeed hard to back up. Let me say that link on that Habit is much more slender (long with respect to width and thickness) than those on this bike so it is easier to get the fibres more or less in the proper direction. On the Habit they managed to create straight lines between the pivots on that link so that these are only loaded by tensile or compressive forces, not bending. This is not possible with the lower link of this Niner because the BB is in the way.

But I get it if you call BS as I have little to back this up. It is pretty much intuition from here.
  • + 1
 @ekho ...carbon is strong is one direction at a time. To make it strong in more directions, they have to load the layers on. Carbon can be as stiff as aluminum in those situations, but it won't be lighter OR CHEAPER. A stem is the perfect example. An alloy stem by Extralite weighs, what- 75grams at 90mm... an ec90 sl 90 stem weighs like 117 grams. Extralite isn't cheap either, but have you seen their Hyperstem? Pure porn
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Nothing like a narrow little 27.2mm seat tube am I right?
  • + 1
 @wolf-amongst-lambs: not lighter and definitely not cheaper...makes me wonder why so many spend their hard earned dollars for cfrp. Once more the industry pulled the wool over their eyes
  • + 1
 @weebleswobbles: I dunno. I just built-up my first cf frame, with carbon wheels, crank, post, saddle, stem, bar..it seems pretty amazing, but I was coming of an 11 year old alloy rig, so really my perpective is a little off. I went with carbon In a couple spots I KNOW I could have shaved weight with alloy just coz it matched. So far I think carbon isn't the feather-weight material a lot of peolpe think it is. it IS wicked stiff tho!
  • + 1
 @wolf-amongst-lambs: you built your own though, at least you get the parts you want when you do that..I'm building a bike..still aluminum I couldn't spring for the cf just yet..getting my last few parts and a new headset press to finish my build..i got a few new tools and better parts with the loot I saved on frame..
  • + 0
 Wow, stem issues here. I ride a 100 mm stem on my trail bike because I had to purchase a used bike with a small frame because I don't have 5000 dollars for a new bike. It now handles like the medium Rocky Mountain frame I would have purchased, but I saved 2000 dollars, buying a bike that was 2 years old. Not everybody needs a 50 mm stem.
  • + 0
 @vernonfelton can you wear some proper length socks with fresh elastic, please? It saddened me to see wrinkled up socks as i continued to scroll down the review... I guess I expected 6in. tall cycling socks from a guy of your caliber Wink
  • + 1
 2016 Whiskey off road speaks for itself. Some bikes were to be meant cool, some to dominate and win the races. It looks like Niner destroyed the competition in the overall standing, including Pinkbike beloved Kona.
  • + 0
 Riding this bike around two months. XX1 , nox composite wheels, weigh around 21.4 lb , me; 175 lb 5,9"

- Suspension is very setup sensitive. It is not like DW Link, set it and forget it. You need to dial it up until it clicks for you.
You need to except the fact that is going to be on the stiffer side or forget about this bike. In the soggy mode it rides horribly.Once dialed is as good as Maestro or DW Link

-Geometry is most misunderstood aspect of the RKT. i was kind of concerned about 590mm effective TT for size Medium.
It seemed to be too short. While I started to ride I understood the concept. With the bike with steep geometry you do not need that long top tube.This 590mm may feel longer and more effective on the uphill race than slacker bike with 610mm TT. It is what I call 'top tube on demand'. On flat you don't stretch your back for no reason and for uphill battle, bike geometry put you so much in forward position you do not need super long top tube. This is the most effective position for maximum power transfer. When you stretching and lowering your body you may think you are going faster but perception is not always reality. I love the shorter wheelbase and slightly larger stack, more typical for trail bike.It feels more sophisticated and more pleasure to ride that long and low bikes, I tested . 71 HA is normal for me on XC race bike.

- There is some demon in this bike when accelerating uphill. I am very impressed. On the more level up parts of trial bike is on par with other cross country bikes, may be slightly slower comparing to Epic.

- Descending. I can judge only from very practical prospective. All 29-ers have long enough wheelbase for safer descending and with the RKT wheelbase and geometry I have a lot of room to move my body backward for the better balance.And I can do it effortlessly I do not think RKT geometry and suspension travel are only responsible factor for descending impression. Typically frames with more oversized but thinner tubing inspire more confidence on downhills. RKT feels just like a race frame.

I am happy with the bike, it rides really well.
  • + 3
 That is a properly properly ugly bike.
  • + 2
 One minor quibble... RDO stands for Race Day OPTIMIZED; not "Race Day Only". Good article though.
  • + 2
 You're reviewing the descending abilities of a full blown xc bike!?... 'appalling' would have sufficed!
  • - 2
 [Behold the personal rant]

Progressiveness.. Progressive.. I don't like this word. As a practical man, it doesn't mean anything to me. And yet, it is used by everyone; the pros, the mechanics, the sales people, etc.

"happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step." (Google definition of progressive)

So, according to this definition, when a suspension system is said to be "progressive", it is developing gradually. What is not clear is HOW it is developing. We can only assume it is getting stiffer(more damping) by the end of the travel, logically. Still, it is quite an ambiguous word to use to describe a bike style: " Niner made several tweaks to their formula, aimed at bringing a bit of progressive style to the new bike.".

Now, don't get me wrong, I just think it is an overrated word or expression at the moment used at every possible time someone can't really describe the difference between the old and the new product. (Oh! trust me, it's very progressive!)

Please, reviewers, use a proper explanation of what is happening instead of, you know, being so progressive.
  • + 3
 Say youre on a bike that blows through its rear and front suspension super easily withough giving up a fight. Sometimes its the bikes design that makes this happen, or its the suspension product. When that haplens, its not progressive. When a bike rides through the roughest terrain like a mountain lion on cocaine, and it hasnt even bottomed out and it feels damn good and fast, thats being progressive. Because the suspension ramp up is there, its being a progressive bike. I dont know why youre over thinking the word. But there... I hope I maybe answered your question?
  • + 4
 Your post reminds me of some quotes by G.K. Chesterton.

"Progess is the comparative of which we have not settled the superlative."

"this bike is progressive blah blah".... well if you're going to say that tell me what it's progressing towards or how it's progressive. I think we can assume that when they say that regarding the suspension it means the shock firms up towards the end of it's travel and doesn't bottom out harshly and if they say it regarding the bike in general or it's geometry the bike is "long, low and slack".
  • + 2
 @westeast: Never thought I'd see Chesterton on PB. Cheers! Love his commentary on progress/progressives.
  • + 0
 I really wish PB would post height and weight of the tester for every product review where it could be relevant, ala Dirtrag.
  • + 4
 @LuvAZ the bottom of the article has those specs....

"About the Reviewer
Stats: Age: 44 • Height: 5'11” • Inseam: 32" • Weight: 175lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None "
  • + 1
 @Duc1098: Missed that thanks!
  • + 2
 90mm rear is for getting a little roudy and dual purpose as birth control.
  • + 1
 Definitely submitting the pic of the poorly routed chain to the folks over at "Your Bike Hates You."
  • + 2
 Is the pinkbikes take based only on the opinion of 1 rider?
  • + 7
 A pretty darn experienced rider, who's probably been around bikes longer than you've been alive, yeah...
  • + 1
 @cptmayhem: So experienced that you failed to notice that you had the chain routed outside the derailleur cage. What little cred you might have had is long gone now.
  • + 9
 @stratosfear: You realize he isn't the person who reviewed the bike, right?
  • + 1
 Why not get the opinion of a rider with excellent prose and the ability (not to mention proclivity) to ride it around Idaho for a few months? Still easy to get more opinions on it, but the opinion of people who get to ride the thing in two guises in its intended habitat are probably all I need in order to discover that this is a good bike for a different rider than myself.
  • + 1
 I think Vernon got his riding glasses from the Matrix
  • + 0
 Niner definetly did not get the memo. 2016 is all about the long travel 29er. Lol.
  • + 1
 2 star build doesn't sound as good as 5 star.
  • + 1
 looks like a balfa two step
  • + 1
 What of the chain and rear derailleurs? Smile you in that state and tested?
  • + 1
 frame has a built in bashguard lmao
  • + 1
 Hey, just by The Following......and be damn happy you did !!
  • + 1
 Here's a nerdy comment, it's race day "optimized" not only
  • + 1
 Vernon looks lonely without the bible test crew around.
  • + 1
 I thought RDO = Race Day OPTIMIZED, not "Only"
  • + 1
 oops
  • + 0
 A Solid, thoughtful review! Good to read your bike reviews on PB Vernon!
  • - 2
 So if I've got this right, the lower link doubles as a bash guard? Sketchy!
  • + 0
 Balfa did it better!
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