Bike Test: Niner RIP 9 RDO
Niner RIP 9 RDO
Taking flight: The all-new Rip 9 RDO has a balanced feel, whether you’re railing turns or taking flight.
Niner stood behind 29-inch wheels long before they were cool. The wheels, once referred to as “wagon wheels,” have been strongly supported by the Colorado-based company for years. If you’ve been a fan of the sport over the past decade, then you’re likely all too familiar with the growth in popularity of 29-inch wheels. In fact, there has never been a better time to own a big-wheeled bike. They’ve come so far that our testers often forget they’re riding a bike deemed to be a less playful option.
The RIP 9 RDO joined Niner’s fleet in 2008, a few years after the company was established. The original bike sported 117mm of travel and claimed to be a do-it-all package. The spirit of the RIP 9 RDO lives on, but for 2019 this do-it-all machine went through a complete redesign. The new RIP received updated geometry, a reconstructed frame and the choice of two different wheel sizes. Yeah, you read that right. Niner offers two different frame options built around 29-inch or 27.5-inch wheels. Unlike the previous RIP that simply allowed riders to use 27.5-plus-size wheels on a 29er frame, the all-new RIP unapologetically offers two dedicated frame options resulting in two no-compromise designs. Although the thought of riding a Niner with 27.5-inch wheels piqued our test riders’ curiosities, our test mule arrived with Niner’s staple wheel size so we could closely compare this new trail weapon to ones we’ve previously ridden.
Modern geometry made its way to the RIP 9 RDO, making it longer, slacker and lower than its previous iteration. Niner then took the RIP’s geometry a step further by introducing a Flip Chip to enhance its trail prowess. Keep in mind the high setting is more aggressive than the old RIP. Meanwhile, the new low setting makes this bike capable enough for shuttle runs and bike-park days.
Niner then took steps to increase frame stiffness by designing a rib cage around the shock that is said to reduce torsional flex at the bottom bracket area. Additionally, Niner flattened the top tube and downtube, widened the main rocker link pivot, and beefed up the rear triangle.
Along with the new geometry and added frame stiffness, Niner shortened the seat tube by 20mm to allow room for a long, 170mm-travel dropper post. The new RIP has all the necessary mounting points for Fox’s Live Valve, should you want to upgrade as the technology becomes more widely available. And last, the bike features full-sleeve internal cable routing, the ability to carry a water bottle inside its frame, and clearance for tires as wide as 2.6 inches.
Niner offers a wide range of component specs to suit a variety of riders’ needs and budgets. The entry-level model starts at $4500, and the top-shelf, five-star build sells for $5800. We tested the four-star build, which can be had for $6950. This build includes a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, Fox Factory-level suspension with Kashima coating and a Race Face cockpit. The size-medium frame we tested came with a 150mm-travel SDG Tellis dropper post; however, size-large and -XL frames sport a 170mm post. Size small offers 125mm of dropper post travel. Our test bike rolled on Stans’ Flow wheels wrapped in 2.5-inch Maxxis rubber front and rear.
The RIP 9 continues to use Niner’s patented Constantly Varying Arc (CVA) suspension system, although Niner increased the leverage ratio to help provide sensitivity at the beginning of the stroke. This change also allowed the RIP to be ridden near the middle of the shock’s stroke, providing a smoother and more predictable ride. Suspension travel was then reduced by 10mm, giving the new RIP 140mm of rear-wheel travel. This caused a few of our testers to question whether or not Niner has plans to bring back the RIP’s longer-travel brother, the WFO. With that said, the new RIP 9 is more than capable of handling bigger hits from aggressive riders while remaining efficient enough for long climbs.
One really cool feature Niner added to this bike is a sag indicator built into the rocker-link pivot. Once a rider sits on the saddle, the pivot rotates and lines up with a clearly marked position that indicates your travel is set at 30 percent. This can be a bit tricky to see from a seated position, so we recommend having a friend help you out here. This sag indicator makes setup easier, but the cage design surrounding the shock doesn’t. In fact, due to this design, a shock pump can’t be connected unless the provided L-shaped valve adapter is used. We have to give Niner credit for including an adapter with every bike to solve this issue, but it feels like a design oversight with a quick-fix solution.
YAWYD top cap: Niner’s YAWYD (You Are What You Drink) top cap gives you the option to snap your favorite bottle cap onto your ride.
DOWN AND DIRTY
Climbing: After setting up our shock with 30-percent sag and adjusting the settings to our liking, we hit the trails ready to earn our descents. The new RIP offers an active feel that maintains traction well and retains efficiency even in the shock’s open position. We left the shock open throughout our testing with great results. It seems like the days of reaching down to switch between suspension modes are long gone; however, we occasionally experienced a long fire-road section where it just felt right to dampen the shock for out-of-the-saddle climbing.
The steeper seat tube angle was another welcome change over the previous model, placing rider weight more evenly over the bike. This helped keep our front wheel planted during short and pitchy climbs while still providing rear-wheel traction. Considering this bike’s short 435mm chainstays, we were surprised how easy it was to keep the front wheel from looping out. The additional reach was also likely a factor here. Overall, this Niner provided a balanced and efficient feel that worked well whether grinding out a few mile-long climbs or attacking rolling hills.
Descents and corners are what mountain bikers dream of, and the RIP 9 RDO is always up for the task. After powering up to the top of our climb, we were ready to drop our saddle and let the good times roll. The newly tuned CVA suspension offers a familiar feel but lets you get away with more. And, this is with 10mm less travel than before. The RIP soaks up braking bumps and smaller hits quite well, giving your legs a chance to take a break while you watch the suspension do all the work. Once you begin to feel the descent a bit more, the suspension just gets better. It holds the rider well in the middle of the stroke, allowing one to push into corners or pop off lips without blowing through too much travel. That’s not to say a big hit won’t utilize the RIP’s full travel, but the Niner does a nice job of preventing harsh bottom-outs.
This bike combines an aggressive geometry with relatively short travel, making it more capable than you might think. It’s one of those bikes that makes you feel like you’re descending with more travel than you really have and somehow you’re managing to get away with it.
Once you dive into the corners, the RIP continues to shine, thanks to its short rear end and slack head tube angle. Slapping the rear wheel around is a breeze, while the front end provides a stable and predictable ride.
MODS AND UPGRADES
Although our test rig wasn’t the top-of-the-line-model in Niner’s lineup, we couldn’t poke holes in any of its components. Sure, there are some upgrades that could be made, but the performance gains would be minor considering the cost. What it really comes down to with this ride is customization. Put on whatever makes this bike your own and go ride it.
The RIP 9 RDO has long been Niner’s staple trail bike, and with the latest updates to its frame, suspension and component spec, it’s arguably the best Niner to date. It’s also likely the best non-29er Niner to date, although we didn’t have the chance to ride the smaller-wheeled version. As far as 29ers go, the all-new RIP 9 earns MBA’s stamp of approval—although we have to wonder what it means for the future of wheel sizes when a company who fought for 29-inch wheels since their birth finally embraces the 27.5-inch option. Seems to us like the long debate over the ideal wheel size will continue for years to come.
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