by Nick Jaynes
Since its inception, mountain bike-makers Niner has been the brand to which many experts and enthusiasts gravitate. That’s because the brand’s creations are tech-savvy and loaded with attention to detail. Though a little intimidated by the rough and tumble trail-thrashing types who ride Niners on nearby single tracks, we were determined to see how hobbyists held up on one of its saddles. We spent the spring and early summer mucking it up in the Pacific Northwest with one of the brand’s best-sellers: RIP 9 Carbon.
The Niner name comes from the “29er” nickname for 29-inch wheels, in which the brand deals exclusively—Niner’s bikes are designed with 29s at the heart. And that’s a benefit because, unlike other bike-makers that simply bolt larger wheels to a frame designed for 26-inch wheels, Niner boasts the only full suspension system that is 29er-specific, called CVA. In short, CVA allows for more efficient transfer of torque from the pedals to the rear wheel, as the lower swingarm linage is located underneath the bottom bracket.
It’s that specific passion that sets the tone for the RIP 9 Carbon riding experience: the bike feels almost like a bespoke bike. The carbon frame is painstakingly designed for not only lightness and stiffness, but also efficiency. During the design process, if something isn’t working, rather than layering up with more carbon, Niner goes back to the drawing board.
All of the aforementioned attention to detail manifests in even the most minute external extras and lends itself to a wholly intuitive and natural feeling ride. Perhaps the best compliment to pay regarding our trail experience with the RIP 9 Carbon is that it was almost possible to forget it was even there. Whether climbing a hill or making a rapid descent, the RIP felt like a natural extension of the body rather than a high-tech piece of rolling mechanicals.
We were especially impressed with the Niner’s ability to sail effortlessly over obstacles on the trail. Though this is a natural benefit of 29ers, the RIP boasts great ground clearance, thanks to the aforementioned CVA rear suspension and bottom bracket design, which kept us from getting snagged by trail protuberances. This allows riders to keep their head up and not worry about what was directly underneath—but rather what’s ahead.
Typically, it’s not easy to catch air with a 29er, as their sheer size and geometry prevents riders from taking flight. Delightfully, we found the RIP 9 Carbon to be quite adept at taking flight. Landings were just as manageable as take-offs, thanks to the RockShox Pike RC Solo Air 140mm front forks and RockShox Monarch RT rear shock.
Digging into the muck, the RIP also proves effective at finding—and keeping—traction in all types of conditions, which is something we found few bikes could boast in the slick, rocky and mud-drenched forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Now, after months of riding the RIP 9 Carbon, it not only continues to provide a visceral riding experience, it also stands out on the trails as one of the most keenly designed bikes around. Plus, no matter which trailhead we roll up to on the Niner, we seem instantly ingratiated as regulars, since the brand imbues a passion and dedication that few others can. And that’s what is special about the RIP 9 Carbon—it’s a bike designed by and built for purists, but it can easily elevate the skills and enjoyment of even the most modest weekend warrior.
The Niner RIP 9 Carbon is available now, with prices starting at $3,299.
Images courtesy of Nick Jaynes