Bikerumor Review: Niner RIP 9 – Part 2

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For Part Two of our Niner RIP 9 review, we wanted to see how it climbed, jumped and descended.  PART ONE of our review was on local trails that offer tight, twisty singletrack with a fair amount of rooty sections to test the suspension and big wheels.  The specs, weight and frame details for the RIP 9 are on Part One of this review.

We headed to Dark Mountain and Warrior Creek trails in Wilkesboro, NC, which are some of the finest trails in the state.  The new Warrior Creek trail, built by BMCC, offers a huge loop with climbs, descents and an insane amount of high-speed bermed turns.  Seriously, it’s like a roller coaster and it’s one of the best trails we’ve ever ridden.  The berms are fast.  They test not just your strength and skill, but the lateral handling and stability of the bike.  Dark Mountain, on the other hand, has some solid downhills, jumps and straightforward climbs, which let us test how well this Freeride monster could pedal uphill and handle in the air.

Evan and I rode RIP 9′s, a size Large and a size Small, and Daniel rode a JET 9 for the day.  We tackled approximately 33 miles, and we all walked away very, very happy.  Tired, but happy.

Hit ‘more’ to read the rest of the review and tester’s comments…

Evan showing how to catch air at Dark Mountain.

Evan showing how to catch air at Dark Mountain.

EVAN’S COMMENTS:

  • Height: 5’5-1/2″
  • Weight: 127lbs
  • Riding style: Fast & Aggressive

Tales of the Rip 9, dadah! After a 5 hour day on the RIP 9, I was in a state of euphoria.

First off, thank you greatly to the Niner rep for lending me a small to ride! It is not always often that a small is available or makes it my way. After about thirty minutes in the parking lot setting up the bike to my liking we ambled on to the trail. All felt good. Just on the roll out through some grass and stones I could tell that the 29” wheels were going to be a new experience. This ride designated my first journey on a bike sporting 29” wheels.

After about ½ a mile in I felt like I was ready to step my pace up to where I normally ride. First up is a ½ mile climb. I put the rear shock on Pro-Pedal and cranked.  I had heard skepticism on 29er’s ability to climb. Here’s what I think of that:  Ha! What a load. Even with the bike being approximately 30 pounds and having 5” travel front and rear, this bike motored up the hills… motored! This also is a good time to deliberate whether or not 29er’s are practical for a person of shorter stature; I’m 5’5” and I unwaveringly claim ‘yes.’  I did not feel that my height was an issue at all.

The Rip 9 performed exceptionally all day long over various terrain, ascents, descents and rock gardens and whatever else I wanted to throw its way. I was amazed at how it utterly consumed roots and small trail obstacles. The combination of 5” of travel and 29” wheels is an elixir that is everything a person needs in a trail bike. I felt empowered knowing that, even at ridiculously high speeds, the bike would keep composure and track like a needle. Niner paid attention to detail as far as making this machine trail savvy. There was very little loss of efficiency on the climbs with their suspension and linkage set-up, yet on the flats and downhills it was engaged without glitch or hesitation. As long as the bike is dialed in correctly, it’s like it’s thinking what you’re thinking, scary! I guess in closing there is only one thing left in need of stating…….THIS BIKE RIPS!

Tyler's lame attempt to jump like Evan.  It's a fear of commitment, really.

Tyler's lame attempt to jump like Evan. It's a fear of commitment, really.

TYLER’S COMMENTS:

  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 178lbs
  • Riding style: Fast, Mildly Aggressive

I have to mirror Evan’s statements regarding the climbing.  The real point of taking these bikes to Wilkesboro was to see how well they could pedal uphill…the jumping and stuff was just icing on the cake.

The RIP 9 is equipped with the Fox RP23 rear shock w/ ProPedal, and during the first part of our test on flatter trails, I set the ProPedal to “1″ just to make it a little more efficient when hammering, but to be honest, there wasn’t a tremendously noticeable difference.  When climbing, though, flicking the ProPedal on made the RIP 9 climb as well as any other full suspension bike, 26″ or 29″.  There was very little movement of the shock with the ProPedal set on 1, which is where I ended up leaving it after playing around with the firmer 2 and 3 settings.  The Niner’s CVA linkage design does a great job of keeping things fairly efficient without the ProPedal, so there wasn’t much need to keep changing it around for the type of riding we generally do.

As for descending and general trail riding, the RIP 9 is a blast.  The frame is extremely sturdy and tracks well at speed, keeping you in line over rough stuff.  It inspires confidence, which made me try things I wouldn’t do on my own bike (a 26″ 80mm travel older Trek Fuel 100).  On one particularly swoopy, rocky, rough downhill, I blasted through it far faster than ever before on any bike I’ve ridden on that section…it felt like a Mack Truck on a Roller Coaster!

It handles sharply and is easy to whip through tight trails…something that surprised me given the tall wheels and 29lb 9oz weight.  Any thoughts that a bike like this can’t finesse the trail went out the window on my first ride.

By the end of the day, it was apparent this isn’t a flyweight racer, but it can climb efficiently, bomb downhill and tackle everything in between smoothly and confidently, making it a great all-around performer.  That’s saying a lot for a 4.5″ travel bike intended for All-Mountain abuse.

One issue / concern I had was front derailleur placement.  When we got the demo bike, it was set too high, which made the chain rub on the bottom of the cage regardless of which cassette cog it was in.  I lowered it enough to let it run through the range of the cassette without rubbing, but then it was too low to shift into the big ring.  We didn’t seem to notice this problem on Evan’s Small frame, so either he never went into the granny or the problem was exclusive to my test rig.  Either way,  it took some finessing to get it in the right place, but there was still some compromise between not having the chain rub the bottom of the front derailleur cage and still being able to shift into the big ring.  Oddly, it seemed to go away after our last adjustment, but we can’t explain why. Gremlins, perhaps. (NOTE: Niner has a tech warning about front derailleur clearance, but it deals with  the cable pull swing arm and not the issue we experienced.)

Here's the full image.  That's Evan jumping over Daniel.

Here's the full image from the cover shot. That's Evan jumping over Daniel.

DANIEL’S COMMENTS:

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 162lbs
  • Riding Style: Normal Cross Country

First things first, I didn’t get to ride the RIP 9 on the climbing trip to Wilkesboro, so my comments are based on normal XC riding on our local trails with shorter climbs.  The RIP 9 was not built as a cross country race machine. Yet with no intention of hucking this all-mountain beast off anything too crazy, I demo’d the RIP 9 on a long cross country ride to test out the geometry and efficient design of the rear end. Rumor had it that Niner’s design increased efficiency and wouldn’t lose power on climbs.

It’s definitely a big bike capable of eating up the trail with little effort. I hit every root and rut as fast as I could and the RIP 9 floated through all of it. When it came to long fast flats or grueling climbs, the RIP 9 showed an impressive eagerness for speed. I expected the bike “bog down” or “soak up my effort”. And while I could feel the added weight of being an all-mountain bike as compared to a light weight cross country rig, I was hardly disappointed with the results. The RIP 9 was fast and incredibly capable on the climbs. A combination that allows a rider to descend with extra large cahones and then easily ride the bike back to the top to do it all over again. Well done Niner, well done.

BIKERUMOR RATING:

The RIP 9 was redesigned recently, with the new model just going on sale in late Summer 2009.  Previous models had garnered a lot of praise, and with the improvements to frame stiffness and durability, the new model is a gem.  If you’re looking for something that can tackle pretty much any trail and accommodate any riding style, the RIP 9 should be on your short list.  If you climb a lot, you may want to consider a lighter bike, but keep in mind that this bike is sold as a frameset only…with careful parts selection it could be built up to be somewhere around 27lbs  (Size Large frame weight is about 7.5 lbs w/ shock) without totally breaking the bank or giving up durability.  How you build it just depends on how aggressively you like to ride down the mountain once you’ve climbed up it.

We averaged our three opinions to give it our rating: 4.5 Thumbs Up!

bikerumor-thumbsup-4-5

While (obviously) we rode the complete bike as built by Niner, it’s sold as a frameset (frame, shock, headset and reducers), so the rating is based on the frameset. Here’s what we liked:

  • At $1,799 USD, it’s competitively priced against other 120mm-travel frames regardless of wheel size
  • Flexibility to run different rear axle configurations
  • Sturdy, good looking frame
  • Climbs well and descends with authority
  • Low standover height makes it easy to whip around
  • Fits smaller riders

Here’s what we didn’t like:

  • Potential front derailleur mounting issues

Niner offers a 2-year warranty against manufacturer defects, and they have a Crash Replacement Policy that lets you replace the frame for 50% of retail price if you wreck it or wipe it off your roof rack in the drive thru.

Comments

alex - 08/25/09 - 11:34am

Nice one, i think the review is spot on. I demoed this last weekend and it is truly awesome. The ability to climb over the most ridiculous steps, mud, loose rocks is stunning. Heading down it ploughs through rock gardens and flattens out trail stutter. If you like to go out in the hills and ride anything nature can throw at you this is just superb. I’ve got mine on order.
PS i rode a large with XT front and x9 rear and no problems regards chain rub – in fact it was weird how little nosie the bike made which i put down to a lack of chain suck.

Mike The Bike - 08/26/09 - 8:09am

My love for this bike (even if I prefer the WFO) increases in each review I can read. I want 2 bikes, one for my girl and one for me BUT… she is tall but has no long legs and is not going on a bike unless NINER increase the STANDOVER HEIGHT even more. ¡PLEASE NINER take that upper tube down the most you can on all frame sizes and models!

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