Bike Test: Niner Jet 9 RDO
Niner Bikes was founded just before the rise of 29-inch wheels as a brand committed to the future of the larger hoops. Holding fast to the wagon wheels, Niner has continued to innovate and push the benefits of 29ers. With a couple of 27.5+ offerings, Niner has yet to adopt 27.5-inch wheels, but the rumor is they are coming. It has been a few years since we have had a Niner in our test fleet, so we decided to revisit the brand by testing the Jet 9 RDO. We have a strong history with Niner and its bikes and were eager to put the Jet 9 to the test on our home turf.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
Niner makes everything from steel hardtails to longer-travel, enduro-bred beasts. The Jet 9 RDO sits in the middle with 120mm of rear travel and a trail-oriented geometry and shock tune. The Jet 9 RDO was designed for riders who want to use the same bike to pedal on backcountry adventures and dabble in local cross-country race series during the summer.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
This version of the Jet 9 was released back in 2017 with an updated geometry and frame design. Niner offers the Jet 9 in two versions: aluminum and carbon fiber. The RDO iteration tested uses a full carbon fiber frame with rear triangle and Boost rear spacing to allow for more tire clearance. The Jet 9 was designed to run 29-inch or 27.5+ tires on the same frame and rear triangle. Up front, the Jet 9 RDO has full internal cable routing with the ability to run a dropper internally or externally. Niner uses a thread- ed bottom bracket shell for increased durability with ISCG05 tabs for riders looking for a little insurance when descending rowdy bits of terrain.
The Jet 9 RDO uses Niner’s Constant Varying Arc (CVA) sus- pension design that has been used on all of its full-suspension bikes. CVA was designed solely for 29-inch wheels and varying drivetrain setups (1x–3x) with an efficient pedaling platform but active and plush feel on the descents. This patented system uses a metric-sized Fox Factory shock with a three-position damper on 120mm of rear travel.
Niner developed the Jet 9 geometry for general trail riding with a slack 67-degree head angle and steeper 74-degree seat tube. While some brands have gone longer and lower, the Jet 9 has fairly conservative reach numbers at 445mm for a size large. The geometry and suspension travel are designed to balance cross-country and trail performance.
The Jet 9 RDO starts at $3000 for a frame kit, while complete builds, starting with the 2-Star option, begin at $4200. Niner does offer one build with an aluminum frame for $3200. Our test bike is the 3-Star build with higher-end Fox Factory suspension and a SRAM GX build kit for $5400.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Out of the lineup of RDO builds, the 3-Star offers the best value with full Fox Factory suspension, Stan’s Flow wheels, and a KS LEV SI dropper post. The Fox Float shock worked well with the rear suspension design and offered plenty of adjustability. Niner spec’d our bike with Stan’s Flow rims that have an internal width of 29mm. This width is versatile enough to run 2.3- and even 2.5-inch-wide tires and provided a compliant ride quality during our testing.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setting sag: CVA is known for its smooth and plush feel, and with Niner’s recommendation, we set the Fox Float at 30 percent with the Open Mode Adjust in the first setting for most of our testing. Up front we ran the Fox 34 with 15-percent sag with two volume reducers and low-speed compression set about halfway for a little more support when pedaling out of the saddle.
Moving out: Swinging a leg over the Jet 9, the geometry felt comfortable and a bit more aggressive than we were expecting. With the stack height on the handlebars dropped and the saddle height dialed, the fit was similar to that of a cross-country bike, but the short 40mm stem and 780mm-wide riser bars reminded us of a trail bike.
Climbing: Getting out on the dirt, we hit the first climb on our local cross-country trails. To get a feel for the CVA suspension, we left the shock completely open with the fork in the middle setting. Seated, the suspension felt supported, but once the trail kicked up to steeper grades we opted to run the shock in the middle setting. Out of the saddle the frame was stiff and the suspension was efficient with the shock in the proper setting. On technical climbs we were surprised at how easy it was to pull the front wheel up over obstacles. The 2.4-inch-wide Maxxis Ardent tires provided suffi- cient traction on steep climbs and had minimal rolling resistance.
Cornering: The Jet 9 likes to be leaned over in corners, espe- cially at high speeds. Pushing into corners, the rear suspension was controlled and helped carry the bike out the other end. Our test riders were impressed with how effortless it was to get up on top of the bike when leaning over through tight turns and corners.
The wide 780mm bars provided some much needed leverage to help push the back in and out of turns.
Descending: During our testing, the Jet 9 demonstrated plenty of cross-country prowess on the climbs, but when we started descending the bike had a few surprises. The Jet 9 was plush, incredibly plush, over technical terrain and on flow trails. With the shock wide open, the CVA was active and felt like it had a bit more travel than 120mm. The geometry added to the lively feel of the Jet 9 and gave our test riders a playful yet forgiving ride. The Jet 9 was more than ready to pop off any lip or obstacle in hopes of adding a little bit of extra fun to every line choice.
TRICKS, TIPS OR UPGRADES?
The few limitations of the Jet 9 were mostly the result of tire choice. The stock Ardents had little rolling resistance, but most of our test riders were looking for a little beefier tread for more aggressive riding. Opting for a burlier Maxxis front tire, such as a High Roller II, would give the bike a bit more capability and control on more technical terrain. Some of our test riders left the Open Mode Adjust in the second mode for a little extra support. If you want a little more regressive feel out of the suspension, this tweak can make a big difference.
Niner hasn’t been afraid to go all in when it comes to technology and innovation; after all, the brand was named after a wheel size. The Jet 9 RDO is an efficient pedaling bike that is plenty fun on the descents. While the 3-Star build that we tested might be a bit out of reach financially for some riders, the 2-Star build will still get you into a carbon fiber bike with quality components. The Jet 9 RDO is a fun bike to rip, and we’d be happy to ride it any day. ninerbikes.com
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