Bikerumor Review: Niner’s RIP 9 – Part One

review niner rip9 rip 9 mountain bike 29er full suspension cover graphic

Bikerumor Review: Niner RIP 9, Part One: Niner paid us a visit last week for a private demo of their brand new Rip 9, which started shipping recently but have been hard to come by…that whole supply / demand curve has been on the wrong side for consumers (in other words, they’re hot!)

The RIP 9 is Niner’s mid-tier full suspention offering, between the JET9 and WFO in terms of travel and build.  It has 4.5″ (120mm) travel, and was completely redesigned for 2009 to make the frame stiffer and more durable. It’s available as a frame-only (includes frame, Fox rear shock, headset and reducers) for $1,799 USD.  The headtube is a tapered 1-1/8″ to 1.5″, and Niner offers package deals with a Fox fork and some other bits to help get the bike built.

I took the Rip 9 out for a 32 mile cruise through our local trails, riding everything from dips, whoops, roots, drops and some mild hills.  The 29+ lb beast handled everything with aplomb, and felt surprisingly nimble for such a big bike.  If you’re thinking you don’t need 4.5″ of travel on a 29er, may we suggest you hit ‘more’ and read Part One of our Niner RIP 9 Review…

SPEC LIST:

Since Niner doesn’t sell complete bikes, here’s how ours was built up:

  • SRAM X9 shifters, X0 rear derailleur
  • Shimano XT front derailleur
  • Avid Elixir R brakes
  • Truvativ Stylo cranks/rings
  • Fox Float RP23 rear shock
  • Fox F29 FIT fork
  • WTB hubs / Stan’s ZTR Flow 29er rims
  • Panaracer Rampage 29 x 2.35 tires
  • Niner Flat Top handlebar
  • Thomson post and stem
  • WTB seat and grips
  • FSA headset

THE FRAME:

2009 Niner RIP 9 full suspension 29er mountain bike

The RIP 9 gets a beefier frame than the JET 9 to accommodate the longer travel and intended use.  Niner describes this bike as their All-Mountain rig, and for 2009 it got a complete makeover.  Using stress testing and structural analysis, they increased the stiffness dramatically over the prior year while keeping the weight and travel the same.

niner-rip9-01

Our test bike weighed in at 29 lb 9 oz without pedals (Size Large).  Surprisingly, the JET 9 we took along on this ride weighed only about 1-1/2 pounds less…and it’s a lighter frame and had lighter wheels.  Now, 29-1/2 pounds isn’t exactly light by today’s XC standards, but the RIP 9 felt surprisingly nimble on the trail, and it handled much sharper on our tight, twisty trails better than I had anticipated.

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2009 Niner RIP 9 full suspension 29er mountain bike 2009 Niner RIP 9 full suspension 29er mountain bike

All of the welds are beefy, imparting a strong, sturdy look to the bike.  The pivots all use Niner’s trademark machined, anodized red caps, which are very sharp and look tough.  All pivots use full complement sealed cartridge bearings. You can see on the bottom right pic some scratches from getting the chain wedged between the chainstay and the rings…which had as much to do with the occasionally muddy spots on the trail as anything else, but the chain tension did feel a little soft.  Tightening the set screw on the derailleur to pull the chain a little tighter may have fixed that.  Note the black bottom linkage…we’ll cover that in a second…

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The big welds meet big, hydroformed tubes at the headtube.  The top- and downtubes are heavily shaped on the new RIP 9 to increase lateral stiffness, and one of the things eagle eyes may notice is the lack of a gusset between the two tubes from previous models.  They also got rid of the “support beam” at the rear of the top tube by drastically increasing the height of the tube where it meets the seat tube. The new tube shapes give the 2009 bike a much cleaner, svelter appearance.

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The tapered headtube  rounds out the burly appearance.  The frame comes with an internal headset and is designed to work with 100mm to 135mm forks, though all measurements and geometries are based on a 120mm fork…and that’s what we rode.

The cable guides along the top tube are for AM and FR riders that want to install a remote-actuated adjustable height seatpost.  I tend to ride with my knees in, and they never hit the guides.  In fact, I didn’t even notice them until we started shooting photos.

2009 Niner RIP 9 full suspension 29er mountain bike niner-jet9-dropout

A cool feature of the RIP 9 (left) is the replaceable / swappable rear dropouts.  Compared to the more XC-oriented JET 9 (right), it allows more aggressive riders to run 10mm thru-axle hub.

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The RIP 9 has some specific front derailleur requirements: Top pull / bottom swing, high clamp mount.  All this means it just fit under the weld for the upper rocker arm pivot mount…though, technically, it looks like it could have been mounted a little lower…there was a lot of clearance between the outer plate and the big ring.  Shifting between all three rings was flawless during our ride, though.

SUSPENSION DESIGN

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Niner’s CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) suspension technology initially aims the rear wheel in a rearward path for the first 25% of its travel, or about what they recommend you set for sag.  From there, it starts moving vertical, then in a varying path back toward the seat tube.  The idea is that no matter where the wheel is in its travel, it’s not pulling or slackening the chain (no feedback), it’s always active (better small bump sensitivity) and it can use the full 4.5″ of travel.

Physics dictates that the forward “pull” of the chain as you pedal will affect the path of least resistance. Niner designed their rear triangle to carry that force through both the chainstay and seatstay, which would theoretically push the chainstay forward to compress the shock and push the seat stay forward to move the lower linkage (not visible in the pic above).  This would effectively split the two apart and pull the wheel into the frame.  To prevent this, they placed a “wishbone” that connects two stays, making a solid rear triangle.  Now, the path of least resistance from all that chain mashing simply turns the wheel and makes you go fast.

Oh, and that wishbone piece?  That was redesigned for the ’09 model, too.

HOW DOES IT RIDE?

For our review, we looped together most of our Greensboro mountain bike trails into about a 33 mile “loop” of mostly tight, swoopy, rooty trails with a few short steep climbs and rolling descents.  If you count the BS stops and occasional seat height tweaks, we were on the trail for a little over four hours.

Rider Profile: I’m 6’2″ and weigh about 178 lbs. I rode the Large RIP 9 and it fit well, but I did have the Thomson seatpost maxed out.

I had ridden the JET 9 the prior weekend on different trails, and was expecting the RIP 9 to feel noticeably heavier and slower.  What surprised me was how nimble the bike felt, and honestly, there wasn’t nearly as much difference as I’d anticipated.  In fact, the RIP 9 felt quick enough, but it definitely tracked and handled better.  I chalk this up to the beefier headtube and wheels, and the larger, more aggressive tires probably had something to do with it.

On the fast, swoopy sections of the Wild Turkey trail, the bike felt every bit as quick as my 26″, 80mm travel Trek Fuel…and that was probably my biggest surprise.  I was trying to push it through the corners, some of which sneak up on you at speed, to see if the larger wheels and bigger bike would be able to react quickly and turn sharply…and they did.

The other thing, which any 29er rider will be sayin’ mmmm-hmmmm to, is that the bike can bomb over the little log piles, roots, rocks, etc., with much more speed.  The suspension soaked up everything I threw at it, some of it while seated, and it tracked over the bumps well.  Hucking it off a couple small rocks and jumps ended with smooth, controlled landings.  It was predictable, confidence inspiring handling, which is exactly what you want when you’re going fast.

By the end of the ride, I was definitely spent.  It did take a little more effort to get the RIP 9 up to speed over the JET 9, and certainly more than on my 26′er, so I think that took a lot out of the legs.  Overall, though, it was a 4-plus hour ride, so tired legs were to be expected…and this bike is probably a little overkill for most XC-type trails.

Niner claims its CVA design reduces the need for Platform shocks because it is inherently stable, and I found that there was very little visible shock movement when powering down the trail, and any movement wasn’t noticeable in terms of ride feel or pedal feedback.  The bike had a Fox Float RP23 with ProPedal.  After playing with the different settings, I turned the knob to “1″ (least amount of Platform) and left it on and it seemed to help slightly without hampering suspension performance.

BIKERUMOR RATING

Our first impression is very, very positive.  Both the RIP and the JET were very good performers, and perhaps the best compliment is to say it’s a bike we’d enjoy riding again and again. We’re holding our full rating until our next ride.  We’re meeting up with Niner again shortly to see how the RIP 9 climbs and descends on some real mountains. In the meantime, check Niner’s website for a local dealer…some of them have demo bikes, and you owe it to yourself to try one out.

PART TWO of this review has more rider comments and the overall rating.  Read it, then:

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Comments

Richard irvine - 07/09/09 - 8:41am

Those pivots at the bottom bracket might suffer in the English mud despite the caps and sealed cartridge bearings.

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alex - 08/17/09 - 4:55am

any news on when we can expect part two yet?

Kristibee - 08/17/09 - 5:28pm

Hi Alex,
Part two should be up soon.
-Editor

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[...] been rockin’ a RIP 9 here at the Bikerumor offices since shortly after our review, using it for Super-D and plenty of local and Asheville riding, and while plenty capable, we have [...]

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