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
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
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.
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.