Only making 29ers may be a gamble, but for Niner and its latest RIP 9, it’s one that’s paid off, big time
Assumptions are a funny thing, and for the second time this year I’ve had to re-think my usual stance that 29ers aren’t as much fun. And it’s all thanks to Niner, a niche American brand that only makes bikes with 29in wheels. First I was impressed by the Niner Ros 9 hardtail, and now the RIP 9 full- susser has blown me away too.
With 125mm of sorted travel from a stiff 3.17kg (7lb) frame, the RIP 9 is an out-and-out trail bike. The aluminium tubing is shaped by compressed air in a heated mould, which offers more precise control of the wall thickness than can be achieved by traditional hydroforming. It helps that the tubing profiles look good too, with oversized, red anodised pivot hardware, forged links and 8mm alloy shock-mount bolts to finish off the slick package.
Niner’s patented CVA suspension design wraps a twin-link design around (rather than on top of) the bottom bracket shell. It’s a unique configuration where placing the lower link below the bottom bracket gives a higher virtual pivot with increased chain torque regardless of the gear combination. The end result is super-efficient pedalling. Deeper in the travel, Niner has tweaked the axle path to give a smooth, forward arc, minimising chain growth to keep the suspension feeling supple.
“The RIP 9 is a ruthless pedaller and climber and delivers excellent surges or ‘pumps’ of speed”
In simple terms, the rear suspension works a treat. The RIP 9 is a ruthless pedaller and climber and delivers excellent surges or ‘pumps’ of speed when sneaking in a little crank or bodyweight thrust on technical features and descents. And, crucially for the overall fun factor (unlike some other efficient pedalling bikes), it also gobbles up small bumps and rough chatter sweetly for a short-travel bike, delivering excellent cornering grip and good comfort and tracking.
This well-tuned, progressive suspension wouldn’t be much use without decent geometry and shape, but the poppy ride boasts a centred, neutral riding position that feels spot-on. The length of the front triangle is a tad shorter than most modern medium frames (L and XL sizes are also available), with a head angle that looks a little sharp on paper too, so aggressive riders might assume the need for more slackness. I found the numbers balanced the stable 29er wheels well and kept things very playful and lively on tighter trails though, and the Niner never felt out of its depth with the excellent 140mm RockShox Pike fork. A build with less travel up front might not be quite as capable, however.
It’s high praise indeed, but the Niner RIP 9 is right up there with the Kona Process 111 and Specialized Camber Evo as one of the best 29er trail bikes. In fact, there’s not many better all-round UK trail bikes than the nimble Niner RIP 9, period. It can munch the miles and enjoy the rough stuff equally well, the suspension is sorted — both efficient and cushy — and to seal the deal, I reckon this green model looks fantastic too.