Niner Jet 9 RDO
Carbon here we come
Niner has always been a small company willing to swim with the sharks
instead of the guppies, and this means they cannot and will not release “me
too” products. That’s why after three years of Finite Element Analysis (FEA)
and testing, Niner has come to the table with a pure-bred carbon race frame—the
Jet 9 RDO (Race Day Optimized). This is Niner’s first venture into the carbon
full-suspension world. After testing their hardtail version, the Air Nine
Carbon (November 2010), and realizing what a carbon 29-inch race bike is
capable of, we had high hopes for this bike.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Niner Jet 9 RDO’s name lets on that it’s a race-day-only rig. This
bike is at home on any cross-country racecourse, especially on rougher
enduro-style courses. But the bike’s travel and geometry give it enough
versatility to be used for any trail ride, as long as you don’t mind going
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The RDO is made from carbon front and rear. It has forged aluminum links
and machined hardware holding Niner’s patented CVA suspension platform
together. The frame’s 4 inches of travel ride on cartridge bearings and are
controlled by a custom-valved Fox RP23 shock. The chainstay and bottom bracket
have custom titanium guards to prevent damage from a dropped chain. The all-new
frame also features internal-shifter cable routing, a press-fit bottom bracket,
direct-mount front derailleur and a 10x135-millimeter quick-release axle.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Carbon wheels always make a bike feel fast. The Reynolds XC 29er
wheelset is no exception. The crisp and quick hub engagement is paired with
ultralight and stiff rims. It makes for a package that wants to get up the
steeps like a monkey scalded with a branding iron. The Kashima-coated Adaptive
Logic RP23 can’t be missed.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
out: The Jet RDO feels very
familiar if you’ve spent time on a Niner. The setup is simple, with about 20-percent
sag front and rear. The frame is compatible with forks up to 4.7 inches of
travel, and our test bike came with the travel-adjustable Fox TALAS 120. The
lower 3.7- inch-travel setting gives the bike a race feel, while the longer
4.7-inch travel setting raises the front end for trail riding and more
Ergonomics: Our large frame felt on
the long side, staying true to Niner’s tendency to run big. One minor complaint
was the routing of the rear brake hose, which bows out when the suspension
compresses. A quick zip-tie around the rocker solved the issue, but it would be
nice to see a cable guide placed here to remedy it.
A highlight of the bike’s
feel comes from the Niner carbon flat bar, which keeps the front end low and
rider weight balanced over the frame. It’s relatively wide at 28 inches and
delivers plenty of leverage for hard efforts.
Pedaling: The Niner pedals with
great efficiency, with or without the assistance of the ProPedal switch. The
rear suspension and Fox shock work together to deliver small-bump compliance without
feeling harsh or sacrificing pedaling efficiency.
Climbing: We took the Jet up steep,
long climbs right out of the gate, and it did not disappoint. Hard efforts are
rewarded with a lightweight, lively feel that cruises up grinding hills. For
more technical, short ascents, the bike responds best to a mix of in- and
out-of-the-saddle styles. The suspension remains active under pedaling forces,
so staying seated while climbing over technical terrain works best.
Cornering: The Jet 9 RDO is a race
bike with trailbike chops. The front end feels quick but not twitchy when
diving into corners and switchbacks. As with most 29-inch designs, the
wheelbase is relatively long; however, the low center of gravity, coupled with
smart geometry and balanced weight distribution, allows this bike to rail
corners. Throw in carbon rims and soft-compound tires and you have a race bike
that turns like a slot car.
Descending: The Jet RDO descends with
confidence, especially when using the longer travel setting on the fork. While
the 4 inches of rear-wheel travel won’t be winning any gravity races, the
suspension is active and effective without feeling as harsh as other race bike
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Niner’s suspension system is very low on the bike. It’s advantageous to
keep the center of gravity low, but it makes the ProPedal lever difficult to
reach. Fortunately, the suspension design resists pedal bob reasonably well and
does not require the rider to switch between settings all that often. We got
great results by choosing a certain ProPedal level, depending on conditions,
and then not touching it for the whole ride. While the Formula R1 brakes are
very lightweight and deliver loads of power, they squeal like a stuck pig. If
power-to-weight ratio is your primary concern, you will like these brakes. If
noise is a concern at all, go for another setup.
The Jet 9 RDO is a perfect bike for many riders. If you’re looking for a
long-travel trailbike, look elsewhere. If you’re going for a sub-20-pound race
rig, it’ll be tough to get there. Everywhere in between, the bike is an
excellent performer. It delivers excellent climbing and pedaling efficiency and
can still shred the descent on the backside.
Reprinted from our December 2011 issue. Like us on Facebook