Niner’s new carbon fiber Jet 9 RDO is out of the box with a sleek, curvy frame that mirrors the aesthetic of their Air 9 Carbon hardtail, including the paint schemes.
UPDATED: More pics, specs and weights uploaded.
UPDATE 2: Video run down from Niner Bikes prez Chris Sugai posted here.
The new frame’s initial design was actually done three years ago – before the Air 9 Carbon – and has been in top secret testing by their employees and sponsored racers for the past nine months.
It gets a bump to 100mm of rear wheel travel, up from 80mm for the aluminum model, but keeps the same basic geometry. The benefit of the increased rear travel is that it can now run a 100 or 120mm fork. It’s a monocoque carbon frame, and each frame size gets its own layup schedule and tubing sizes, with smaller frames having thinner tubes. This allows Niner to tune the ride characteristics to be the same across the entire size spectrum, from Small to XL. Chris Sugai, Niner’s president, says the different size tubes let them keep the wall thickness the same, which keeps it strong, while allowing the ride quality to match the size-appropriate rider weight ranges.
Lots more has changed, and turns out it can be built lighter than originally thought – quite a bit lighter – proof is after the break…
Niner says when they redesigned the Jet 9’s original alloy frame to create the current model, they increased overall frame stiffness about 14%. The goal with the carbon Jet 9 RDO was saving weight, and Niner says the stiffness is similar to the current gen alloy frame. That said, the tubing is much, much larger with massive headtube and bottom bracket junctions, thick seat and chainstays and a fatter seat tube, which does in fact make the bike feel a lot stiffer (look for a ride report later in the week).
The rocker arms and linkages get a sleek new look, too. Bearings remain outboard in the rocker arms and lower linkage, which helps distribute the load better.
Another nice change is the move to internal cable routing, drastically improving the cable run to the front derailleur, which is now direct mount for either SRAM or Shimano. Note the rear shift cable housing popping out on the left pic then ducking directly into the chainstay.
The lower cable guide is removable, leaving a large opening to aid cable installation (the black piece on the rear of the BB shell in right pic). This means you don’t have to remove the cranks like on the Air 9 Carbon. The front derailleur uses only a small piece of housing from the shifter to the headtube, and the rear runs housing from the BB to the rear derailleur. It uses a PressFit BB30, which is quickly replacing standard BB30 for most brands, and has titanium chain guards at the front of the BB shell and chainstay, followed by a reinforced chainstay guard to prevent chain slap damage.
Covering a large part of the bottom of the downtube is a 3M clear material that Sugai says is the same material used to protect the edges of carbon fiber helicopter blades.
The direct mount front derailleur cleans up the overall look and allows them to use an oversized, square-ish shaped seat tube.
The rear swingarm uses a single-sided carbon bridge to link the seatstays and chainstays. This replaces the “Y” shaped bridge on the alloy model and allows Niner to keep a short chainstay length and have a very stiff rear end. Sugai says this design also mitigates the need for moving to a larger rear axle standard compared to suspension designs that have longer seat- and chainstay tubes that extend forward of the seat tube.
They stuck with 9mm QR for the rear axle because, as the RDO moniker suggests, the bike is focused on lightweight “Race Day Optimized” performance. Sugai said they did test it with a 12mm thru-axle rear, which showed only about a 3% improvement in stiffness but presented several manufacturing hurdles that didn’t justify the marginal improvement. The post mount brakes match those on the Air 9 Carbon.
A very large carbon tapered head tube runs the shift cables around the steerer tube into the downtube after passing through a magnesium head badge. The paint scheme intentionally left the carbon raw at the head tube so it’ll match up with the carbon-crowned SID 29er World Cup fork once they’re available.
Frame weight with shock is 5lbs 1oz with Fox Kashima shock (size small), which is about 1.5lbs lighter than the alloy frame with shock.
The complete Large bike with SRAM X0, Stan’s Crest wheels with tubes installed and Thomson stem and post was 25lbs 15oz (size Large, on left). Built with Stan’s Race Gold wheels set up tubeless and SRAM XX, the weight drops to 23lbs 8oz (size Large, on right). Both bikes had WTB chromoly railed saddles, Rockshox Reba forks with hydraulic remote lockout and Niner’s carbon flat bar. Replace the fork with the new SID 29er and make a few cockpit tweaks and you can easily drop the bike below 23lbs.
Perhaps the best news is that the first batch has a full size run and starts shipping next week. The bad news is that the first run is pre-sold internationally. The second run, though, will make it to the U.S. about two weeks later.
Retail is $2,599.99 for the frame and Fox RP23 w/ Kashima shock and will be available in the new Black Licorice matte/gloss black carbon, Tang and White.