Niner’s done gone changin’ things in a big way. The vaunted AIR9 frame departs from its round Scandium tubesets in favor of a lighter, stronger and more shapely hydroformed 6000-series alloy. It also gets a tapered head tube, and it has a new anodized color option.
The EMD 9 gets the same frame updates and remains Niner’s most affordable frame option.
The AIR9, shown above in Vanna, is designed around an 80mm to 100mm fork (or Niner’s rigid carbon fork) and updates to a PressFit BB30 bottom bracket, something the EMD doesn’t do this time ’round. Click on through for lots of pics and info, including a tubeset comparison from old to new!
Niner admits some loyalists may balk at the idea of moving away from Scandium. The reason is Scandium works great for round tubes, but it just couldn’t be hydroformed into the shapes they wanted. The new AIR9 uses hydroformed tubes for every tube and stay except the seat tube. Niner says this let them fine tune the strength, stiffness and ride characteristics of their top-end alloy racing hardtail.
Niner’s hydroforming process is done in two stages to reduce stress on the metal and better control wall thicknesses in certain areas. The full explanation is here, but the elevator pitch is this: First, they bend the tubes into the desired geometry, then they’re put into molds and pressurized with hydraulic fluid to expand the tube into the desired shape.
The result is a frame with larger tubes – much larger, look at the diagram above – that allows for larger welds and contact patches at major junctions like HT/DT and DT/BB, making the bike much stiffer.
Combine that with the new PFBB30 and you get a frame that’s stronger, stiffer and 112g lighter (size med., anodized frame). The exact weight savings for the frame is described as follows:
OLD AIR 9 + EXTERNAL HEADSET + GXP BB = 1773g
NEW AIR 9 + INTEGRATED HEADSET + PF30 BB = 1661g
Moving to a tapered headset let them switch to a more versatile integrated standard which makes that area stiffer while retaining the same overall stack height.
Thanks to the switch to alloy, the anodized black option (two photos up) is completely new for the AIR9. Their popular Tang continues on, albeit with a gloss black duotone. MSRP is $849 for the frame.
EMD uses the same 6000-series alloy but it gets less hydroforming and manipulation. That results in a slightly heavier frame that’s not quite as tuned, but still has the generally well regarded Niner geometry.
Actual frame weight isn’t official yet, but Niner’s brand manager Carla Hukee says it’s “not bad” (read: not much heavier). UPDATE: New EMD9 frame weight is 1690g.
The EMD9 is designed to offer most of the performance of their AIR9 but designed to be more approachable for people making their first switch to a hand-picked 29er frame. That’s why it keeps the standard bottom bracket, making it easier to swap parts from an existing ride to this one. Other than that, it gets the ZeroStack internal headset in the tapered headtube, oversized hydroformed tubes and updated look of the AIR9.
The EMD9’s frame finish details also match the AIR9’s – stainless steel Niner headbadge, reamed and faced headtube and bottom bracket, chased BB threads and faced disc brake mount tabs. MSRP is $549 for the frame, and it’s available in the Tamale red shown here and ano’d matte black.
Unrelated: About those new Jet 9 RDO frames, Niner says they’re shipping and orders are being filled worldwide, but there are back orders. If you’re on the order books, the frames are moving down the line, don’t worry. If you’re getting ready to place an order, it might be about three to four months from the date of order as of now, but they expect that to shorten over the next
12 four months.