Our hunch was correct. That little teaser that showed a new Niner Green Air 9 frame was in fact an all-new RDO version of their full carbon hard tail 29er.
We got a special early look at the specs, pics and details: The frame uses the same geometry as the original Air9 Carbon but gets optimized carbon layups to minimize weight and tweaked tube shapes up the performance. Where the Air9 Carbon uses their versatile CYA bottom bracket shell to accommodate single-speed and geared setups, the Air9 RDO gets a smaller, lighter PressFit BB30 setup. The smaller junctions at the BB also meant they could leave off the alloy insert, saving more grams.
Up front, they molded the headset races in carbon, eliminating more metal. Out back, they moved the post-mount brake tabs inside the rear triangle. Not only does this give the bike an even sleeker look, but Niner says it makes the braking platform stiffer and allowed them to reduce tube wall thickness in that area.
The result is a 1,125g frame (Medium, without seat collar or protective downtube tape), which is half a pound lighter than the Air9 Carbon! But wait, there’s more…
The first 50 frames are available in a special edition Niner Green or Licorice Black, as a frameset or custom color matched complete build kit with green SID XX 29er fork and XTR drivetrain with 2×10 carbon Race Face Next cranks. Full build spec:
The frameset (includes FSA headset) will retail for $2,099 and the complete bike with the above build is $6,199. If you want one, get to your Niner dealer ASAP as only 50 will be available in this special launch version.
The full carbon tapered headtube gets a new alloy badge to funnel the full internal cable routing to the derailleurs. Niner Bikes made a similar move when they created their first “Race Day Optimized” bike, the new Jet9 RDO.
The original Air9 Carbon is an incredibly sleek looking bike, but when you get up close, it’s tubeset is absolutely massive. Massive in a good way, but the new version apparently gets slimmed down a bit. Seat tube is still for the large 31.6 standard, though, so they didn’t go crazy…and perhaps they want you to consider the slightly flexible RDO seatpost to go with it.
By moving the brake post mounts inside the rear triangle, Niner was able to slim down their profile considerably, putting the caliper almost directly onto the frame. No doubt this should keep things stiff and, hopefully, squeal free. The complete bike comes stock with American Classic’s very popular Race 29 Tubeless wheelset, which means rotors had to step down to IceTech XT rotors in order to fit the 6-bolt mounting standard (XTR is CenterLock only for now). Rotors are 180mm front, 160mm rear. Sorry weight weenies, looks like you’re stuck with 160 back there.
Like the Jet9 RDO, Niner stuck with a standard 135mm QR rear axle standard. Simple, light and has worked just fine for years. They studied the stiffness improvements when designing the Jet9 RDO and found that the increased costs didn’t justify the minor stiffness gain achieved by a thru-axle because the rear triangle was already so stiff. Presumably with a hardtail it’s even less of an issue.
The Air9 RDO is meant to be run only with gears, aftermarket EBB adapters are not recommended. Because PFBB30 uses plastic cups on the bearings, no alloy reinforcements are necessary in the bottom bracket shell. Weight, saved. Not shown are the standard titanium chainsuck/chaindrop protection plates that come on the frame.
The frameset is available in Licorice Black or Niner Green.
Getting a custom painted SID XX 29er fork to match the bike makes the complete package more compelling. Only 50 are being made, then you’ve got to settle for a “standard” build kit.
UPDATE: The limited edition complete bikes start shipping this week, frames start shipping in March.
Like the rest of the hardtails and the alloy Jet9, the Air9 RDO’s geometry is set up for an 80mm to 100mm fork. We’re pretty sure it’ll work just swell with their RDO carbon rigid fork, too. Full geometry chart: