Mountain Bike Action Bike Test: Niner Rip e9 eTrail Bike
NINER RIP e9
As the name implies, or at least infers, Niner was a bike brand founded on the concept of the 29-inch wheel. Since their introduction in 2005, Niner has set about to perfect the design of their bikes dedicated to the big-wheel design, which has helped them stay at the front of the popularity curve as far as 29ers go.
From hardtail and full-suspension trail and gravel bikes and now e-bikes, the Colorado-based brand has always prided themselves on catering to every category of off-road rider. When the demand for e-bikes came along, the same mentality of access for all remained. Niner believes if it gets you out riding off-road, it’s a positive thing. They offer an all-mountain-style, full-suspension e-bike, which they call the RIP e9, starting at $5995, and is currently their only build.
The aluminum frame has internally routed cables and connects the motor mount with the upper and lower shock mount for maximum rigidity. The grey and black color scheme with multicolored lettering is pretty unique as well. For the tweakers and tuners of the world, you adjust the frame’s geometry by changing the position of the shock between two different mounts.
One plus to this frame is a water-bottle mount, which seems to be hit or miss with many of the e-MTBs we have encountered.
The pedal-assist system for the RIP e9 is the new fourth-generation Bosch Performance CX line. The larger 625-Wh battery is integrated in the frame with a charge port near the bottom of the frame. Niner rates the parts spec as one of their three-star builds, which means most of the components are in the mid- to-upper-level category.
“The ergonomics feel really nice, and the added wheel size of the 29ers makes for a really smooth ride all around.”
The Niner enjoys a SRAM build, starting with a 12-speed SRAM SX derailleur with a 50t rear climbing gear and a 36t chainring. The RIP e9 rides on 29-inch tubeless-ready Stan’s Flow rims with a mixed pair of a 2.5-inch Maxxis Aggressor tire in the rear and a Minion DHF in the front. Slowing the 50-pound bike down are a pair of SRAM Guide brakes with 203mm rotors.
For suspension, Niner went with a 160mm-travel RockShox Yari Debonair front fork and the RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ 150mm rear shock. Oh, and of course, a LEV SI dropper seatpost.
By now you may have heard about the latest Bosch drive unit, and more than likely you’re wondering if it’s worth upgrading or not. Well, over here at MBA, we’ve been lucky enough to try a few bikes with the Gen 4 Bosch, and it’s been eye-opening to say the least. With 75 N/m of torque with updated torque-, speed- and cadence-sensing, the new Gen 4 drive unit fills in the weaker points we’ve come to know about pedal-assist systems. Without relaying specs straight off the Bosch website, let’s speak plainly and get down to the actual feel of the power delivery.
Bosch obviously has some big ears and has done their homework with the feedback from consumers, as well as some precision R&D work. The pressure sensitivity is remarkably smooth and so quick, you really don’t even realize how fast you get up to speed. When letting off the pedals to get over a technical rocky uphill, you can start pedaling again, and the power is there instantly. As fast and smoothly as the power comes on, it’s just as impressive when you let off the power. As soon as you let off foot pressure, the power rapidly lets down as if it’s an extension of what your mind is telling your legs to do. In other words, there’s no worrying about compensation of any lag or power remaining once you’ve let off the pedals.
Another important factor to this new Gen 4 is that even if you’re in Turbo mode cruising up the hill, the motor is really efficient. It doesn’t just give you all the power right away; instead, it rewards more torque from the legs. This allows for a more efficient use of the 625-Wh battery. Don’t get us wrong, the power is there, but it’s a smarter power. In fact, as of now, you can get a software update that allows you to go from 75 to 85 N/m of torque, as well as some updates to the e-MTB mode.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
If you’re used to 29-inch wheels and are particular to them, this e-bike is definitely a fair price for the level of quality if offers. The RIP e9 will suit a wide range of riding styles, as well as terrain types. Obviously, the design of this bike is more off-road rough, single-track-ready, so determining what type of riding you’re going to be doing should help your decision on buying a RIP e9.
“Slingshot engage” was our first mode of operation on our maiden climbing adventure. As opposed to riding the bike with no power like many of our e-bike tests, we put the RIP e9 in Turbo and blasted up the 7-1/2-mile-long climb. With about 2700 feet of elevation and some severely steep sections to traverse, we were excited to see we only used one bar of five to get to the top.
“The pressure sensitivity is remarkably smooth and so quick, you really don’t even realize how fast you get up to speed.”
The frame geometry combined with the 29-inch wheels allows for minimal pedal strikes but doesn’t lack in tighter-turning ability. Our first ride down some gnarly, rocky singletrack was when are eyes really got opened, though. The forgiveness of the 160mm forks and 29-inch wheels are apparent, especially as the trail gets rougher.
One of our testers, being about 5-foot-11 who normally rides a large frame, was scratching his head thinking the medium was actually feeling really good: “It took the rough sections so well, and the quick reaction of the turning was exceptional”. So, having a slightly smaller frame seemed to have its advantages without feeling cramped on the bike.
Niner couldn’t have picked a more perfect time to get into e-bikes, especially when you consider the current e-bike boom, which is as much the result of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the ever-growing popularity from mass-media publicity that e-bikes have been enjoying.
Only helping matters has been the timing of Bosch releasing their new motor and bigger battery. Adding to all that, Niner has made an e-bike that really fits a sweet spot in the market. The ergonomics feel really nice, and the added wheel size of the 29ers makes for a really smooth ride all around. The price is right in the ballpark of what you would expect for a bike with this ride quality and component build. An important factor that you can actually feel is the fact that Niner didn’t just throw an e-bike together for the sake of cashing in on a popular trend. They really put time into the design, making sure the weight was distributed evenly.
When we first got the RIP e9 out of the box, our first thought was that the downtube looked extra square and big. Although, we quickly realized the new 625-Wh battery takes up a bit more room, and Niner obviously did their homework making an extremely balanced machine. One trouble spot is the placement of the charge port, which is placed right on the inside of the cranks, which could cause damage if the cranks are rotated when charging. Luckily, the Bosch chargers are really sturdy, and this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. The frame comes with a lifetime warranty.
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.