One Ride Review: Niner WFO 9

Niner WFO 9 Front End

With the cycling world abuzz over yet another wheel size, it seems like suddenly everyone has forgotten Big Billy Goat Gruff in the race to find that perfect balance between flickability and rollability (those are the, uh, technical terms).

Luckily, the engineers at Niner Bikes have kept steadily grinding gears because the new WFO 9 is a revelation. Just last year, popular convention held that a long travel 29er wasn’t possible and yet nearly a year after the world was set to end – we have several great long travel options available.

So what sets the Niner WFO 9 apart?
Niner WFO 9 Drivetrain View

For starters, this is a big bike. With big wheels, a 160mm fork, and 150mm of rear travel, you could almost get away with racing this downhill.

But the WFO has always been a big bike, just not necessarily one with a particular mission. In order to make this bike truly modern and enduro worthy, Niner slackened the headtube out to 67°, cut the chainstays to 17.4″, decreased the top tube length across all sizes by 20mm, and ditched the front derailleur for good. On paper, my rowdy inner downhiller already likes where this is going.

Niner WFO 9 Cockpit

 The WFO comes stock with a 780mm bar, hurrah! 

Our demo bike was built up with the higher tier 4 Star X1 Spec and featured an X01 11 speed drivetrain, Elixer 9 brakes, Rockshox Pike, Monarch Plus rear shock, and a Niner branded finishing kit. We applaud the company’s choice to spec more mid level drivetrain and braking components, in order to squeeze in Rockshock’s highest end suspension products at this bike’s $5K pricepoint.

The only thing I personally would nitpick is the choice to spec Schwalbe Nobby Nics front and rear. While they’re an incredibly light weight high volume tire, in my past experience, the tires wear quickly and are looser than Bill O’Reilly’s mouth.

One thing to note is that while this demo bike came equipped with a dropper post, Niner’s stock build comes with a branded carbon seatpost according to their website. On our scale, that build comes in at 28.35 lbs.

Niner WFO 9 Saris Riding Show

On the trail, this bike was a huge suprise. I’m not a devoted worshiper of any wheel size, but at just under 5’8, I’m not your typical wagon wheel rider. Yet out on the ragged technical terrain in the Vegas desert, this bike was the perfect ride for a couple of compelling reasons.

Anyone who has ever ridden a 29er can testify to their ability to roll over rocks and the WFO lived up to the reputation. Between the nearly 6″ of travel and the large wheels, even the ugliest rock sections were a mere point-and-shoot away from cleaning. Pointed uphill, the patented CVA suspension exhibited little bob but provided lots of traction.

The downside is that due to the large wheelbase, the bike is a bit of a handful to double, but the front end pops up easily and is very neutral in the air. Cruising through the canyon boosting every rock in sight, I was impressed by how incredibly well the suspension performed. Rockshox has really upped their game.

Inevitably, some of you will probably be curious about a direct comparison between the 150mm WFO 9 and 155mm travel Specialized Enduro 29er, and while I have ridden both bikes, that’s like asking me to pick a favorite beer. Like every good ale, there’s an occasion for each, and the decision ultimately comes down to what your local trail network and riding style are like. The WFO 9 is a whole lot of bike and it’s not quite as rowdy descending, but it is the perfect ride for someone with both technical climbing and challenging descents in their backyard.

Interested? You can expect to see these pop up at dealers just in time for Christmas.

 

Comments

wheelz - 09/26/13 - 10:26am

I know a book shouldn’t be judged by it’s cover, but this bike looks so dialed! I want.

satisFACTORYrider - 09/26/13 - 11:20am

i don’t know, saris…that enduro 29 is not a beer. i agree that the niner is though.

Ryan - 09/26/13 - 11:50am

Interesting comment on the Nobby Nics. I just noticed my rear starting to show signs of wear and have also mentioned they can be a little loose in the corners. However, that said, the rear doesn’t slip a bit with the right pressure dialed in. I love climbing in them, particularly rock gardens.

Jim - 09/26/13 - 1:43pm

I agree with your comment on the Nobby Nic. After only 40 miles of single track the rear is showing heavy wear and they break free when transitioning to the side knobs which can be scary!

Mindless - 09/26/13 - 1:59pm

All successful enduro riders choose 26″ or 650b.

Ck - 09/26/13 - 2:03pm

I feel like Niner is going to get blasted for not including a dropper in the stock spec on this bike.

Ryan - 09/26/13 - 2:31pm

Which compound Nobbie Nics are we all talking about here? The Trail, Gate, or Race ‘star? I’m speaking of the PaceStar—and with Double-Defense.

pfs - 09/26/13 - 4:06pm

I am glad that niner didn’t spec a dropper post. There are soo many bad ones out there and I already have my favorite. I would hate to buy one with the bike then have to sell it and buy my favorite flavor…

Jonathan - 09/26/13 - 4:29pm

The WFO looks damn sexy, and light too. It’s amazing it’s not a carbon model. When that version comes out (assumption), that will be an amazing ride. This is a good review. I’ve been less than satisfied with some of the editorial content here in the last few weeks. This looks like a pretty decent effort. Please keep it up, the quality attention to detail is appreciated. Isn’t there a limitation on the rear tire size? I don’t recall off the top of my head, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

On the Nobby Nic. I f*cking hate that tire. I will never buy one again. Ran the Downieville classic and got 6 punctures. Stans sealed 5, but the 6th was too much and I needed to run a tube to finish. The nob pattern is horrible, my rear end get’s all squirly and the tire developed a wobble. (Yes, it is seated properly). All this on about 60 miles of riding. It has since been thrown in the trash. Lesson learned I guess.

Mirwin - 09/26/13 - 4:42pm

Mindless,

You should tell Curtis Keene that he does not meet your definition of a successful Enduro rider.

Mindless - 09/26/13 - 4:51pm

Mirwin,
He obviously did not win. He would if he gets a more appropriate bike.

satisFACTORYrider - 09/26/13 - 4:55pm

mirwin,
jared graves- appropriate enough “success” @ enduro ews and uci dh worlds on same 26 bike

Padrote - 09/26/13 - 6:42pm

if you raced downieville on a tubeless setup without serious sidewall protection that’s your fault.

Padrote - 09/26/13 - 6:45pm

incidentally, you can tell someone doesn’t know what they should expect from mountain bike tires when they think they’re going to be “grippy” or “not grippy”

MMyers - 09/26/13 - 7:04pm

Might not win enduro races? Who cares?

I bet it’s fun to ride.

Priorities, mindless.

Mindless - 09/27/13 - 12:47am

MMyers: Not as fun to ride as a lighter, better handling bike with wheel-size appropriate to travel and application. Priorities is fun to ride over marketing bullcrap.

Psi Squared - 09/27/13 - 3:26am

Apparently a lot of folks are having fun without mindless’ permission and have the gall to not believe his claims. Oh, the temerity of those people.

Ian Settlemire - 09/27/13 - 1:30pm

Should be a fun bike and let people tackle trails they couldn’t before. The bike should have a dropper and some beefier tires. I really like NNs, they corner excellent on the front, but a bike like this needs something tougher, like an Ardent.

Mirwin - 09/27/13 - 4:40pm

Mindless,

My apologies, I wasn’t aware you knew everything about 26 vs 27.5 vs 29ers. You must be a wheel size consultant for the bike industry, no? Anyways, make sure you share your endlessly abundant, albeit flawed opinion with all the pros on the WCS that their losing SOLELY because of wheel size and not skill. And following your flawed logic perhaps I should tell Jeep that my old Grand Cherokee would be much better off road with my JCW Mini’s wheels instead of those stock larger ones… because they be cooler, right?

Mirwin - 09/27/13 - 4:47pm

Ian,

Don’t mind NN’s for light weight and grip, but I find the side knobs fold under hard cornering, feels like a soft tire squirming. Not always confidence inspiring.

Maybe we should consult Mindless. He’s a bike industry consultant apparantly.

Mindless - 09/27/13 - 5:34pm

Yes, Psi, there are a lot of people, yourself included, who are sheep and prone to marketing drivel.

tec1 - 09/27/13 - 8:37pm

Nobby Nicks we’re definitely the wrong tire for Downieville. I ran Spesh Purgs UST at Downieville so I didnt even bother bringing a spare tube or pump. Just a multi tool, water and gels.

This bike looks pretty tight though.

Rich - 10/01/13 - 9:46pm

@ Mindless – - little wheels for little people.

KGr - 10/04/13 - 5:12pm

Is Rockshox making the 160mm 29er Pike exclusively for Niner? I haven’t seen one longer than 150 for sale anywhere.

Engineer - 10/04/13 - 10:24pm

@ Jonathon

The nobby nick is an insanely light race tire. I have been to downieville before, just looking at downiville’s rocks would make that tire go flat. Still an amazingly light race tire for an area that isn’t sharp rocks. I raced them for a loong time with no trouble at all.

bin judgin - 10/10/13 - 5:15pm

these bikes are like dump trucks.

SB66, son!

Big Al - 10/13/13 - 2:13am

Rich is right. Mindless, there are those of us who are 6’6″ who definitely appreciate a bike like this. So keep your kiddie and juvenile wheel sizes. I like mine 29. Of course I am no pro. Then again, neither are you.

YoKev - 02/17/14 - 1:17am

Aluminum frame and aluminum 29″ wheels equal 30lbs+
I’m not buying 28.xx..

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