First Look! Niner RLT9 Gravel Road Bike – Big Wheels Take the Road Less Traveled!

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

When your brand is seemingly built around mountain bikes of a particular wheel size, how do you grow beyond that? Sure, Niner’s teased a downhill program during the launch of the new WFO9, but otherwise they have a bike that fits virtually every major category.

The answer is to simply turn left. To take a new road. One that may be less traveled but is becoming more and more popular. All of us continue to seek new adventures (or at least I hope you do), and sometimes you’ve got to stretch your perceptions of yourself a bit to cover new ground.

I asked what led the decision to branch off from mountain bikes, and Niner’s cofounder Chris Sugai had this to say:

“Not every rider has access to perfect singletrack, but many people have vast networks of dirt roads to explore and train on. We want to contribute to making that experience great. Niner is about making the best off road bikes available – we’ve applied our experience making great carbon forks and high end alloy frames directly to the RLT 9 project – we think riders are going to be very pleased with the ride quality and functionality as well as the Niner signature touches such as the geared and singlespeed functionality.”

What he left out was that everyone at their office (and ours) totally wanted one. Grind past the break to see why…

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

The RLT9 is quite simply an “all road mountain bike” that’s designed to tackle epic cyclocross races like the Iron Cross and Southern Cross as well as endurance gravel grinders and monster cross showdowns. The hydroformed frame uses a tubeset similar to the AIR9, giving it aesthetically pleasing structural shaping.

Shift cables run internally, entering the frame through new entry port grommets that’ll work with mechanical and electronic drivetrains. There’s an auxiliary port on the seat tube near the front derailleur for Di2/EPS systems, otherwise the front shift cable pops out just under the BB and comes around to meet the front derailleur.

The rear shift cable pops out at the same spot and runs housing all the way back to the derailleur. The design offers reasonably easy installation and safekeeping from mud and grit. If you’re running Di2/EPS, wires will run internally to the rear derailleur, and frames ship with plugs installed on all wiring holes not shared with mechanical drivetrains.

Rear brake housing runs externally along the bottom of the downtube.

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

Fender mounts are built into the frame and fork, letting the bike double as an aggressive commuter…assuming you commute without racks.

The frame uses a Pressfit 30 bottom bracket. What’s not shown here is a new BioCentric 30 bottom bracket. Built similar to their two-bolt BioCentric II EBB, it allows you to run a standard 24mm or 24/22mm GXP crankset in the PressFit BB30 frame and adjust chain tension when set up as a singlespeed bike. That keeps the rear dropouts much cleaner:

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

The dropouts are custom forged pieces with hollowed out sections to save weight. The non-drive side integrates a minimalist brake mount. Note the fender mounts set back and above the rear axle. Speaking of which, the frame is built around a standard 135mm QR rear axle.

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

The new full carbon rigid fork is also built around standard quick release axles. It, too, builds in fender mounts just above the dropouts and behind the crown. Both the fork and frame have a max clearance for 700×45 tires, meaning you should be able to cram a 29×1.8 semi-slick in there…that’s something we’ll have to test when we get a demo bike in for review (Dear Niner, please go ahead and put us down for one!).

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

Tube shapes and wall thicknesses are all designed to provide a fast but lively ride. It’s also designed to use a 27.2 seatpost for a bit extra compliance, and they recommend using their own RDO carbon seatpost for maximum comfort since it has intentional aft flex to soak up the bumps. We’ve ridden them and they work.

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

It’ll be available as a frameset or complete bike in two colors. Mint, shown above, and…

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

…Industry Gray, which has a slightly bluish tint. Claimed frame weight is 1395g for a 53. Available sizes are 47, 50, 53, 56, 59, and 62cm. Framesets include the fork and will retail for $1,049 (we’re double checking on whether that includes the headset and seatpost collar, stay tuned).

Complete bikes will come in two specs:

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike complete build specs

Click image to enlarge. The 4-star build uses SRAM Rival 10-speed with the S-700 series hydraulic disc brakes and retails for $2,999. The 2-star build uses Shimano 105 and comes in at just $1,999. Both include a new Niner drop road bar and logo’d foam bar tape.

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike geometry

Geometry is explained similarly to how we’ve heard other gravel grinders are put together. Compared to a true cyclocross bike, the chainstays are a bit longer and the headtube’s a bit slacker (better stability), and the bottom bracket’s a bit lower so you’re more “in” the bike rather than “on top of it”. In other words, they’re designed to let you power through the rough sections but not feel skittish on the loose stuff.

2014 Niner RLT Road Less Traveled Gravel Road Bike

Ready to take the road less traveled with Niner? Get your order in now, they start shipping at the end of the year.


60 thoughts on “First Look! Niner RLT9 Gravel Road Bike – Big Wheels Take the Road Less Traveled!

  1. where is the video where i learn nothing about the product, but it looks great with the surrounding landscape and a top tier build kit?

  2. Niner… Please take my money!

    Just when I was about to get really annoyed by the overflow of (matt) black frames, or frames looking like logo infested parade machines… These came up.

    Clean, distinctive, refreshing and not too flashy. Love it!

  3. That’s a good-looking frame. Press-fit bb? No, thanks. Internal cabling? Someone here put it well, “What vendetta do you have against your mechanic?” Looks better, works worse.

  4. @Tim- I think bike manufactures are taking pages from children’s toys assembly process. It’s obvious that they aren’t having to put these bikes together or service them.

    Anyway, great looking bike from Niner.

  5. You dont need a 65mm BB drop to gravel grind. Its not a CX bike…

    70mm would have been better. I have been looking for a “all roads bike” but I need a lower BB and a longer top tube for a 56-57 st.

  6. And white is dumb. Try keeping it looking clean!

    I would like to see a more classic looking steel version. In paint and tube shape. Lower BB Obvs.

  7. I wondered if they might make a ‘cross bike or something similar. I’m not a fan of PF30, but the possibility of singlespeed is kinda nice. It a pretty bike!

  8. The paint job is extremely similar to that of Specialized’s 2012 Crux schemes, albeit with different colors.

    Still, what a great looking bike.

  9. Really like the looks of this thing, any idea how well the 24mm/SS bottom bracket adapter will work? (Also not a huge fan of press fit BBs)

  10. I’m indifferent to whether it’s steel or alloy. In fact, if comfort is your top priority you’d go with alloy over steel unless you don’t know much. If you doubt this seek out and ride a Vitus 979 or Alan frame. Both are far more comfortable than any steel frame (many pros rode rebadged Alan and Vitus frames in the classics because they were more comfortable than the steel bikes they were issued). I still prefer steel at the high end but at the lower price points Easton alloy is nicer riding than the Reynolds 520 drainpipe steel so many companies go with.

    Like the graphics but lose the internal cables, especially if you’re running a mechanical drive train!

  11. Chris–Surely you jest. Comparing aluminum frames from the 80’s that were notorious for being wet-noodles to modern-day aluminum and steel frames is nonsensical.

  12. Nice ride…. Glad to see that Niner is thinking of us singlespeeders (and slider haters) by putting in the PF30. Looks clean and works great. Thanks… Might have to look into one of these.

  13. @Haywood,

    You don’t need a specific bike for gravel, but when that’s all you do, it’s nice to have a dedicated bike. You don’t need a tri bike to do a triathlon, but if that’s your think, it makes a difference.

  14. @Chris – Comparing the ride qualities of 30 year old steel and aluminum frames to modern steel and aluminum frames is stupid. Especially when you’re comparing the highest end aluminum to the cheapest steel. Nice agenda, Johnny Toolbox.

  15. Really liking all the features on this frameset. It’s like the warbird that should have been. Scr3w the warbird’s cable routing and salsa’s new screwed philosophy preventing them from creating bikes people want. This frameset appears much nicer and niner actually listened to what people wanted.

  16. @professor & TSchmidt – How can you comment on tire clearance when there is not a picture with a tire in the frame? They say that it can fit a 700×45, that seems like a lot of clearance to me. Especially considering that the warbird says it only fits a 700×38.

  17. Needs an actual thru-axle front and rear, and a full carbon or high end steel version to really make it a really compelling option. Aluminum…. bleh. Right now it’s just an Warbird with different paint and bigger tire clearance. Whoop de doo. Warbird looks prettier and has an ENVE fork. Calling it an All-Road “Mountain bike” is also ridiculously silly. It’s not a mountain bike.

    BB drop is too high. Also, you can get away with a bit more BB drop as you add more tire clearance. Low BBs are way better for skittish terrain. Angles don’t REALLY need to be slacker, some of us like a quick handling bike even on gravel.

    Internal cable routing serves only to make a bike look prettier and is not a selling point to core cyclists. I like being able to field service a bike or replace cables quickly and easily… also shifting suffers significantly from internal routing. Granted, a lot of dust and dirt can get into a cable system when riding gravel. But I still get better shifting performance on my All-City Mr. Pink. Sealing is the only reason I can see for internal routing on a bike such as this.

    Pressfit BBs are the new standard. You guys whining about Pressfit BBs… I don’t get it. Pressfit adaptors for 24mm BBs work flawlessly when installed correctly. Going with a threaded BB is going to alienate a good portion of the 30mm spindle market. PF30 is the best thing going right now. Be happy it’s not BB30.

    The paint jobs are creative but off-putting to me, personally… Keep it simple, silly. Offer the people what they want! Keep up, Niner.

  18. That water bottle in the middle of the tube is going to make using a frame bag suck hard. BB needs to drop lower. if you find any B-roads like the midwest has mud is going to build up on the chainstay bridge. round seatstays and chainstays ride like crap on gravel.

    I can tell the guys at niner don’t have much personal experience with gravel races, but i guess this is a solid 2nd tier gravel bike for short races.

    Someone who gets 7,000+ gravel miles a year in 10-300 mile lengths.

  19. Given Niner’s history with their other models, a CF RDO version of this bike seems inevitable. I don’t understand the appeal for thru-axles – these are intended to shore up the rigidity of inherently flexible sprung frame subassemblies or forks on real MTBs – you don’t need them on a rigid frame bike meant to ride on the road (even dirt roads). They’d do nothing but add weight and reduce your choice of wheels/hubs. I’ve been riding the Northeast’s premier dirt road epic (D2R2) for years on a CF 29er hardtail (retro-fitted with a Niner CF fork). This bike might convince me to build a new dirt road machine. But I’ll probably wait for the RDO…

  20. I was really excited when I saw the headline, but damn, they just missed the mark. I was sure Niner would include clearance for 29″ tires, or 700x60c if you will. There are a lot of events like Leadville and Iceman Cometh that this would be ideal for. This would help mud and fender clearance for skinnier tires too.

  21. Would go for increased BB drop too. Something that would be super low with 32c tires for smoother terrain, but could be 1″ more clearance on rougher terrain with 29″ tires.

  22. @Haywood, You’re right. I did forget I took the mountain bike out a few times this year. I also did a couple long rides on pavement to get ready for Kanza. So 90+% of my miles are on gravel this year. Sorry, to cause you to laugh. I’m not sure why that might seem unbelievable. I can ride for hours and hardly see traffic, I can do it out my back door and the farmlands are amazing scenery.

  23. A bottom bracket drop of 65 is not low (at least my size range)…
    am I missing something there? “Sitting in the bike” my ass.
    Please advise. Cheers

  24. Just got off mine and it is a sweet ride. Years ago I swore I would never ride an aluminum bike again but Niner came up with the RLT and I caved. Glad I did because the RLT is smooth, responsive, and a very supple ride. Power transfer is instant through the upgraded Force components. The brakes are BB7 mechanical with plenty of stopping power.
    The RLT handles gravel, dirt, broken pavement, and seal and chip roads with equal aptitude. Thanks Niner!

  25. Nice bike. Lots of trolls and some good and fair opinions, but for you who claim BB drop is not lower, I am glad it is not as I run 180mm cranks. I like the paint job, and whomever said it was dumb referencing IKEA, I think your comment is dumb – taste is always subjective and nobody is wrong.

    Remember, they are trying to hit both arenas – the cross and the grinder in the same bike. I know some folk grinding hybrids for the parts laying around the garage, this is going to be that much better.

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