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Big Wheel Testing: The Niner WFO 9

Niner describes its WFO 9 as “an outlier in the Niner lineup and a bike whose time has truly come.” The long-travel 29er is not a new concept, but Niner sought to do it right with the WFO 9. It is a burly bike that can truly handle the rigors of aggressive and technical trails. Niner designed this bike to appease the gravity enthusiast but not to replace the true gravity sled in its quiver.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The WFO 9 is the most aggressive bike in Niner’s lineup. The long travel and slack geometry make for a bike that’s at home on any enduro course and could even be pushed into daily driver duties in the bike park, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t also be enjoyed by a rider who prefers to pay a little “long-travel tax” on the climbs in order to shred the descents a little harder.

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WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The WFO 9 rides on 29er hoops, and we’d expect no less from the company with the wheel size in the name. The frame is built from an “airformed” aluminum alloy and has 5.9 inches of travel. The frame is compatible with 5.9- to 6.7-inch travel forks and comes with a custom-tuned RockShox Monarch rear shock. The bike also sports ISCG-05 tabs, a tapered headtube, a 12×142-millimeter axle, and internal routing for a dropper post.

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WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

The RockShox Pike fork, SRAM X01 drivetrain, and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires all scream attention to detail. Simply put, we didn’t have to change a thing on this build to make it completely trail worthy.

Niner-5Niner’s house-brand stem and handlebar give this bike a custom-built feel right out of the box. Whereas we often find ourselves swapping stock components for other options, the 31-inch wide bar and short 50-millimeter stem worked for every rider who rode the WFO 9.

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HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Moving Out: The Niner’s frame sizing is different from the norms. The medium runs on the small side, and the large runs very big. As a result, some riders may find themselves in limbo, but our size large test bike fit our tallest test riders like a glove with the long top tube, short stem, and wide bar setup that we’ve come to expect from any enduro bike worth its salt.

Pedaling: Niner’s CVA (Constant Varying Arc) suspension design exhibits just enough anti-squat characteristics to pedal efficiently with or without help from the compression damper on the rear shock. We did find ourselves reaching to flip the lever to the “climb mode” on the longest climbs, a task made easy by the smartly positioned and easy-to-reach shock.

Climbing: The WFO 9’s climbing prowess is spot on for a long-travel trail bike and works exceptionally well on technical climbs when the rider can charge an obstacle and allow the suspension to work its magic. Our test bike came equipped with Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic tires, and while we loved the traction and high-volume feel, a lighter-weight option would help this bike on the climbs,

Cornering: The stable nature of the WFO 9 makes it a blast to rip through high-speed corners. The geometry strikes a not-too-steep not-too-slack balance that’s both confident and relatively nimble feeling. There’s no hiding the long wheelbase of the WFO 9. This is a big bike with big travel, and as such, it can be a handful in tight corners and switchbacks where its long wheelbase requires the rider to enter the corner wide and aggressively carve the turn.

Descending: Niner would have you believe that this is a replacement for a downhill bike, but we found this to be a stretch. Rather than grabbing our Leatt brace and full-face helmet, we found ourselves pedaling to the top of trails and tackling the chutes and rock gardens of our local trails with ease. The wrecking crew feels this bike is truly designed to hit trails aggressively, like a skilled downhill racer would, with all the benefits of a shorter-travel 29er package for climbing back up.

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TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

The cable routing of the WFO 9 seems well thought out on the surface, but after several rides, we noticed significant wear on the shock from both the shifter and brake hoses contacting the shock during compression. It’s crucial that these cables are cut to the perfect length to minimize this damage, and we recommend also adding clear adhesive rub guards to several places on the frame to prevent further damage.

The paint job on the WFO 9 is striking and sharp but delicate. We noticed several new paint chips every time we took the bike out for a ride. Clear protective tape is a must for riders who want to keep the frame pristine.

At some point during our testing, the compression adjustment knob on the shock came loose and fell off. It was a simple part to replace by calling SRAM’s warranty department, but it was still was an annoyance on the trail.

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BUYING ADVICE

While this is not a replacement for a true gravity bike, the WFO 9 is just as at home taking on shuttle runs and chairlift-accessed, double-black-diamond trails as it is pedaling to the top of an enduro race or even a “heavy-duty, cross-country” ride. The long-travel suspension coupled with a dialed geometry will keep the gravity junkies happy, while the relatively low weight and reasonably efficient pedaling will keep this bike coming back to the top of the hill for that “one last run.”

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THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION:

Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. You can start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345. Also available from the Apple Newsstand for reading on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

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