One Ride Review: New Niner JET9 Alloy & ROS9 Steel 29er Mountain Bikes

2014 Niner Jet9 alloy 29er full suspension mountain bike ride review

Before we even had a chance to go over all the details of the new bikes, Niner took us out for a little pre-launch ride around the wonderful trails of Park City, UT.

I rode the new JET9 and ROS9, two completely different bikes. As a current owner of both the 2nd generation alloy JET and the newer carbon JET, it was really fun seeing how they continue to refine and improve their alloy offerings. The ROS9, on the other hand, is just its own thing. I rode the steel SIR9 at last year’s launch, and a family resemblance is there, but the ROS is, well, read on through for first impressions on both…

NEW NINER JET9 ALLOY

2014 Niner Jet9 alloy 29er full suspension mountain bike ride review

First, a bit of background: When Niner introduced their carbon JET9 RDO, the upped the travel to 100mm and focused on making the frame stiffer and lighter. In other words, Race Day Optimized…hence the RDO. With the new alloy version (tech details here), the goal was to bring the alloy model’s performance as close to the carbon bikes as possible, giving riders a premium product that didn’t make them feel like they had to compromise if they couldn’t afford carbon.

After riding it for a half a day on trails like Deer Crest, Mid Mountain and others, I’d say they succeeded.

Bumping the travel up to 100mm and shaping the tubes more heavily give it a very similar feel to the carbon bikes’ handling and high speed bump eating ability. Niner’s CVA suspension also does an excellent job of maintaining traction on the climbs, whether seated or standing. Park City’s trails have plenty of bermed turns that can be taken at speed, tight back-and-forth tree slaloms and steep curves and sneaky switchbacks. Through all of them, the frame held its course predictably and easily whipped around them all to spit me out the other side exactly where I wanted to be. The latest Rockshox dampers gave it a bit firmer feel as the suspension seemed to stay a bit higher in the travel, but I kinda liked it after getting used to it.

The only area where I felt the carbon version is superior is in acceleration. The new (and, for that matter, the prior) alloy model goes plenty fast, but the carbon bikes are just a bit snappier off the line. And they’re slightly lighter. That’s it.

And, the alloy’s cable routing for the rear brake is actually better. It runs under and inside the non-drive seatstay, instead of along the outside. This keeps it from rubbing your calf, or poking it if your zip tie wiggles around. I’ve got a full, very long term review of the JET9′s coming, so I’ll suffice to say this for now: It’s a bike that makes a perfect XC rocket bike that’s equally capable well off the beaten track. There are a lot of great bikes out there, plenty that do  some things a bit better, but the JET9 is just incredibly capable all around and wicked fast when you need it to be. The new alloy model seems to carry all those traits forward.

NEW NINER ROS9 HARDTAIL

2014 Niner ROS9 29er steel hardtail mountain bike ride review

Word is, even some of the folks at Niner questioned the ROS9′s  raison d’être, until they rode it. When they first announced it, I kinda wondered, too. Until I rode it.

Is a hardtail, long travel steel 29er for everyone? No. But for those with bermed trails, easy access to parks or a lot of well built jumps, it could make for one heck of a fun bike. Like the SIR9, the ROS9′s steel frame does a good job of smoothing a bit of trail buzz and taking some of the edge of drops and landings. I didn’t go hucking, but I did find myself looking for things to jump, roll and flick the bike through.

2014 Niner ROS9 29er steel hardtail mountain bike ride review

As you’d imagine from a steel frame, it’s a lively ride. And it’s surprisingly easy to whip around, which generally makes for a fun bike. And I think that’s what the ROS9 is all about, just going out and having fun without having to think too much about settings, travel, etc. My ride on this was much shorter than on the JET, but I sure had fun.

Comments

Craw - 07/18/13 - 9:32am

Word is, even some of the folks at Niner questioned the ROS9′s raison d’être, until they rode it. … This perspective explains why you don’t see many Niners in BC. Most people around here saw the ROS and instantly thought ‘Finally, a Niner for us!’.

Henry - 07/18/13 - 10:58am

The ROS is nice but lacks the long top tube of my XL Honzo, otherwise I’d give it a serious look. Beautiful bike though.

pfs - 07/18/13 - 11:01am

Why do you want a longer top tube? I think that Niner typically had a top tube that was too long anyways. This bike looks perfect, on paper.

Tyler Benedict - 07/18/13 - 11:39am

Craw – Your comment really supports something we’ve noticed at Bikerumor over the years: Mountain bikes really seem to take on the characteristics needed for riding around a company’s headquarters and test riders. Curious, what sorts of 29ers are people riding up in BC?

Paul Fletcher - 07/18/13 - 12:39pm

Why do “bermed trails and easy access jumps” require a long-travel forked hardtail? Those things describe groomed “flow trails” which are best hit on a short-travel bike. A big fork hardtail is best for rough terrain, not smooth flowy terrain.

Tyler Benedict - 07/18/13 - 3:25pm

Paul – For me, that’s where I’d take a bike like this -and it’s what I tested it on in PC- but it’s no secret I prefer full suspension for the rough stuff. The direct feel of a hardtail’s rear end (for me anyway) inspires a bit of confidence on the jumps since I’m not wondering what the compression and rebound will do on takeoff. Part of that’s just the side effect of always riding different brands of bikes on these kinds of trails and events, it’d probably be different if I were taking my own bike to PC, Whistler, etc. Anywhoo, Craw makes a good point that everyone’s idea of the perfect bike for a certain type of terrain is different.

Phs - 08/10/13 - 6:25pm

Any idea on the frame weight of the ROS9?
Thx.

Steve S - 11/16/13 - 1:11am

Tyler – thx for the review. Other than some small weight penalties and tube shaping, any significant differences b/t the 2nd gen alloy from 2012 and this newer 3rd gen alloy frame? Would like to try it out and wondering if the difference is worth buying new rather than a solid used 2012 alloy? Since you have experience with several models, thought you might have an opinion. Thx.

Steve S - 11/16/13 - 2:06am

Tyler – since you’ve been on many models of the Jet9, do you have any opinion on the ride of the 2ndGen alloy frame vs this 3rd gen alloy frame? Curious if you noticed any significant differences while riding each that back up the significant changes in design. Thanks.

Per - 02/17/14 - 7:14pm

Tyler – any date on the “full, very long term review”?
It’s in my top three for a new FS 29 along with the Specialized Epic and Canyon Nerve AL 29 so all reviews are welcome.

NNNN

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