Review: Niner RIP 9 RDO 29 - Pinkbike


The United Wheels purchase provided Niner with the power to move forward with the new bike, and some breathing room with which to fine tune it. Understandably, the new RIP 9 RDO project became a powerful incentive for the team to show their new owners that Niner was on track for success. No pressure, right?
bigquotes If you've watched any Kirt Voreis videos lately, you'd probably want to experience their take on the ultimate all-mountain 29er. I did.RC

Meet the New RIP RDO 29

What about that carbon chassis? Two ribs surround the Fox DPX2 shock - the frame's standout design element, used to directly reinforce the bottom bracket area against lateral forces. In fact, almost all of the improvements that Niner built into the new RIP RDO chassis were targeted to improve lateral rigidity, while maintaining a little flex in the linear plane to mute G-outs and larger impact events. More on that later. Look beyond its steep seat-tube angle, extended reach, and slack front end, and you'll notice an equally worthy component pick. In Niner fashion, four builds are available, ours being the second tier, four-star kit that features a SRAM Eagle XO1 transmission including the carbon crankset. Wheels roll on Stan's NoTubes Flow S1 rims and a capable Maxxis 2.5 WT Aggressor rear/ DHF front tire combination, and a Race Face cockpit. Suspension is all Fox, with a 150mm 36 FIT4 fork and DPX2 shock that cranks out 140 millimeters of travel from its CVA rear suspension. The four-star build leaves nothing to want for with an MSRP of $6950 USD.

Construction and Features Niner began life selling frames only, so they pay attention to features that help customers with future upgrades. The RIP 9 RDO has a threaded bottom bracket shell, full-length tubes to guide cable housing and hoses through the carbon frame. Future proofing comes from things like wiring ports for Fox Live Valve. There's a water bottle mount on the down tube, and Niner put a lot of planning into lowering the seat tube and providing enough straight section to allow owners to run full length droppers. Most will be able to use a 170mm model.
By far, the most visible design elements are the twin "ribs" that encircle the Fox DPX2 damper. Parry says that they wanted to eliminate the seat stay bridge in order to make more room for big tires (the RIP 9 RDO sports Maxxis 2.5 inch WT rubber). To accomplish this, the seat and chainstay tubes are enlarged to provide stiffness and the upper link has been reinforced. That puts an additional load on the seat tube, however, which normally would be countered by enlarging the lower seat tube and bottom bracket area. Parry says, "it's always better to support loads as directly as possible. We did that, using those rib structures to tie in the down tube to the middle of the seat tube and it made a significant improvement - more than we could have accomplished by strengthening the bottom bracket area."
Geometry & Sizing Niner product manager Barrett James was the driving force behind the new RIP 9's geometry. Barrett is one of three accomplished bike handlers on the Niner staff who have been chafing at the bit to get a real gravity bike in the Niner portfolio. Designer George Parry said that he and Barrett said that the funny thing about the current move towards steep seat angles was that 66 degree head angle was that they needed to do that early on to obtain clearance for the rear tire at full compression and also to bring riders closer to the handlebar, because larger wheels required longer reaches to fit everything in place. "That aspect of so called modern geometry kind of fell into our laps," said Parry, "We settled on 75.8 degrees, which is plenty steep to climb well and it centers the rider over the bike."Niner offers four sizes and, as mentioned earlier, the head tubes and seat tubes are kept as low as possible to allow "tweener" riders to size up or down to obtain optimal reaches without sacrificing stand-over clearance or dropper-post stroke. That's a good thing, because the medium sized framed review bike was more compact than the last two bikes that came through for review. At five foot seven inches (170 cm), most medium sized bikes are a roomy for for me. The medium-sized RIP RDO 29, has a 440mm reach with a 40mm stem and it felt just right, so lankier riders may want to size up to a large.Flip chips are commonplace on today's bikes, but it's a first for Niner. The rocker-mounted chips lower the bottom bracket by seven millimeters and slacken the head tube angle by one degree, from 66 to 65. I may be getting ahead of the story, but I was smacking the cranks about as much as I could tolerate in the high position, so I asked Parry why they bothered with the chip. "We wanted to give gravity riders the option to set the bike up for park and shuttling, where lower is better," says Parry. "But I admit that, in the high position, it's about as low as you'd like to have it for riding both up and down trails. I think we found a good balance with the geometry."

The most noticeable aspect of the suspension is a noticeable increase in mid-stroke support and that the starting leverage has been increased to overcome the shock's seal friction and provide more grip. Niner's literature also states that the ending stroke leverage curve falls off slightly to compensate for the natural ramp-up of the Fox DPX2's air spring.
Speaking of air springs, Niner's frame development sort of collided with changes with the Fox DPX2 damper, which created a post-production clearance issue with some shock-pumps and the location of the shock's air valve The frame rib on the air valve side is a tight fit, so the solution was the "crack pipe" - an angled adapter that comes clipped to the RIP 9 RDO's frame and allows easy access to the filler valve. Niner chose Fox's 36 Float Factory fork with the FIT4 damper and a 150-millimeter stroke. Paired with the bike's 140-millimeter-travel tail end, that seems to be the sweet spot for all but the most aggressive gravity riders riding 29ers these days. I like the 36 because I can set it and forget it, almost from the first ride. The offset is reduced to the now popular 44 millimeters, which works fine for me with a light, but consistent feel at the handlebar.
RIP 9 RDO 29 Four Star Build

Riding in mild Winter conditions gave me the chance to scrape up slippery rock gardens, drift around snowy corners and experience some of the best hero dirt we've had in Southern California for a long while. I've had the Niner RIP 9 RDO 29 for a couple of months, and have become quite familiar with it. Initial setup is made easy by Niner's rocker-located suspension sag indicator, which encourages 30-percent on the pip. I found that I needed a slightly softer setup to prevent the shock from overdriving the fork, which I set at 20 percent sag with both compression and rebound at Fox's sticker recommendations. Later, Niner sent a memo that suggested that I switch the Fox DPX2's .4 air-volume spacer with a more linear .2 sized spacer. That would be the only issue that cropped up with the Niner's suspension through the entire review period. My feelings were echoed by two other riders I regularly share testing duties with who are much harder on the bike than I am.

Climbing No worries in the climbing department. Niner's rear suspension can deliver efficient pedaling with or without the help of the DPX2 shock's low-speed compression lever. When I did employ it, I was ascending fire roads or paved sections to access trails, otherwise, I left it open. The medium-sized frame is roomy enough to pedal comfortably out of the saddle for extended periods, but it never felt stylishly long. I fit it quite well, and as I mentioned earlier in the text, many medium-sized all-mountain bikes are a tad long for me.
If you like a bike that feels super crisp with each pedal stroke, the Niner will fall a little short, but on the dirt - real dirt - its suspension has the right combination of cushion to keep the bike moving forward over the chatter and pedaling firmness to keep your legs feeling fresh.
Descending This is the first Niner I have ridden that felt comfortable at speed from the outset. It's stable in the corners and its feel at the handlebar is very steady, no wiggling around, just point and go. I like that. Typically, I run my fork about 20 percent stiffer than my shock, and the RIP 9 responds well in that configuration with no front end push and just the right amount of rear wheel drift when I overcook the turns. Braking leaves a little to be desired. I am surprised that Niner didn't put SRAM Code brakes on this machine, or a 203 millimeter rotor up front. There is plenty of braking power available from the Ultimate brakes and 180 millimeter discs, but you have to ask for it. The Niner's light steering and smooth suspension would be better matched with a brakeset that required a lighter touch. Certainly not a deal breaker, but that's my two cents.When I did need to brake in earnest, nothing bad happened. There is a lot of grip available from both wheels and the front tire is very predictable on and off the brakes, I can' recall a big push into a turn, ever. That pays big dividends when dropping into rock chutes or muddy descents (a rare pleasure in San Diego). I chalk up much of the bike's control under braking to the fact that I didn't have to shift my weight far to make something happen. It's a very intuitive handing bike.
bigquotes I didn't have to shift my weight far to make something happen. It's a very intuitive handing bike.
Suspension performance is assured by Niner's choice of a Fox 36 fork and DPX2 shock. I never switched out the volume spacer in the DPX2 because the CVA suspension delivered such a gentle bottom-out that I could run the shock at 33 percent sag and let it fly. The mid stroke support was still strong enough to keep the bike up in its travel, even though the O-ring was always slammed. I rode some stupid boulders - long sections of them - at a pretty good pace and never got the "bounce of death."When I handed the bike off to more accomplished riders, I thought the verdict would com back that the RIP 9 was too short and too soft to handle the big stuff. Instead, I got thumbs up and a similar report on the bike's cornering and suspension performance. In short, we all agreed it was an easy bike to ride in just about any situation.

How does it compare? Let's compare Niner's RIP 9 RDO 29 with another famous Colorado brand: Yeti's 29-inch-wheel SB 130. The Yeti and Niner both share 150-millimeter forks, but the Niner sports 140 millimeters of rear wheel travel, while the Yeti has ten millimeter less. Not a big difference, but there are times when a little more can be a game saver. Both bikes have similar head angles, with the SB 130 at 65.5 and the RIP 9 at 66 degrees. not much difference there, especially considering you can run the Niner at 65 with the chip.

Yeti wins the reach game with a whopping 460 millimeter reach over the Niner's 440 millimeters. You'd have to bump up to a large RIP 9 to get 465 millimeters of reach to achieve parity - but that's possible with the Niner's low-slung chassis. That extra reach and the wheelbase that comes with it, gives the Yeti the upper hand on the scary downs, but how do they climb? Turns out that both bikes shred the ups as well as they get down the mountain. The Yeti weighs about two pounds less than the Niner, though, which is a turnabout. Normally it's Niner that wins the weight game. You'll pay a lot more to get that two pounds though, with the similarly equipped SB130 costing about a thousand bucks more than the RIP 9 RDO in this review. The takeaway here is that Niner has done its homework. If their new 140-millimeter travel shredder can fly alongside the likes of Yeti's SB 130, that's a win. So far, it's looking like the RIP 9 RDO 29 has pulled that off.
Technical Report

SDG Tellis Dropper: Stiff action and a wobbly thumb lever were not a good first impression for this new entry.

Eagle XO1: Hard to justify the expense to step up to XX1 when SRAM's second tier 12 speed performs so well.

New frame design: You may balk at the cross-stays that Niner designed into the new RIP's chassis but this thing rails turns and eats up the chop, just like its creators promised it would.

SRAM Ultimate brakes: No issues, Good stoppers, but after riding Codes for a season, I think their power and modulation would be a better fit.

Is there a Niner in your future? This is the bike that Niner has been missing for a long while. It's a solid bridge between Niner's core customer base and the crop of aggressive, gravity oriented trail riders that Niner failed to connect with when enduro came to prominence. The new RIP 9 RDO 29 assures us that Niner can deliver the goods, with the climbing performance we'd expect from its XC/trail heritage and the gravity skills we had hoped for, but never expected to receive with such abundance.