Today it’s the turn of Huw Thomas and his Niner Jet 9 RDO. Let’s take a closer look:
I’ve been 29er curious for some time, seeing a few of my friends riding theirs and seemingly getting on with them very well, both riding for fun and racing. My curiosity grew out in British Columbia, Canada in Summer 2011 when I raced in the BC Bike Race and it was obvious that the “big wheeled revolution” was in full swing across the pond, and I knew it would eventually arrive in the UK.
It was late in 2011 when the opportunity arose for me to finally take the plunge into the 29er World when I was offered a place in the Niner/Stans/Ergon UK Mountain Bike Team for 2012. This fantastic opportunity and my curiosity got the better of me and in January 2012 my Niner Jet 9 RDO arrived from Jungle Products, one of the first to land in the UK.
I chose the Niner Jet 9 RDO full suspension frame over the Niner Air 9 Carbon hardtail as I thought it would suit the type of riding and racing I do. I live in the heart of the South Wales Valleys, where the terrain is rough and technical, the climbs are big, and the descents even bigger. I’m also a 24-hour solo and endurance racer so the added comfort offered by the full suspension set-up was a big plus.
I’m quite a short rider at just over 5’ 7” tall, but I have relatively long legs (32in) and arms. Getting a bike to fit me perfectly has always been an issue; I’m a “tweener”, always between a small and a medium frame. I’ve always had to compromise. Not so with my choice of the medium 18in Niner Jet 9 RDO. The bike just feels right.
The fact that the medium was an 18in frame worried me, but the design of the frame offers massive stand-over clearance, and the effective top tube length is spot on for me, at 595mm. That, coupled with a short 70mm stem and 710mm Niner RDO flat bars, and the fit is perfect for playing around on and for racing.
The rest of the build include Stans No Tubes Gold Wheelset for racing or Stans No Tubes Crest rims on Hope Pro2 EVO hubs for normal riding, RockShox SID RCT3 100mm forks with 15mm maxle, Fox RP23 with Kashima coating (comes standard with the Jet 9 RDO), Shimano XT brakes and 2×10 gearing, and Rotor 3D+ Crankset, and to complete the build, Niner RDO finishing kit and Ergon GS1 grips. The build has lightweight but durable in mind so that it copes with the UK conditions.
With 100mm travel at the front and the back you’d be forgiven to think that the Jet 9 RDO is a full-on racing machine. It is, but it flies down the most technical of descents. At no point does it feel out of control or too “racey” for the type of riding that my local area has to offer. It feels fast on rocky, technical, steep descents, and is very nimble when you hit flowing singletrack. Riding the Jet 9 RDO I certainly disagree with some reports that 29ers are slow and sluggish on tight singletrack.
I admit it took some getting used to on my first ride, riding a MTB with big wheels being the main thing, but it was purely just not being used to it that was off-putting. A few kilometres into the ride and I felt comfortable on the bike and I didn’t notice the bigger wheels. During that ride I had in my mind the advantages and disadvantages I’d heard about 29er bikes. For example:
Slower off the mark? Perhaps, but only very marginally. Again it’s something you quickly get used to and if you want to be quicker off the mark, then pedal harder. Once you’re up to speed then it’s fine and also maintains that speed a lot easier.
Slow on Singletrack and tight trails? On the Jet 9 RDO I completely disagree. It certainly feels a lot quicker than my previous bike (Giant Anthem). On one of my local trails I have a challenging, very tight and steep switchback to navigate and I found it easier to ride around on the Niner than any other bike I’ve ridden. The first time I rode it on the fast singletrack at Afan Argoed and Brechfa Forest, it frightened me!
Rolls over stuff better? I’ve got mixed opinions about this. Yes, the bike rolls over things a lot easier if you can maintain the speed and momentum whilst doing so. But if that momentum is lost I find it somewhat harder to roll over more technical sections on climbs. Perhaps it was a combination of me as a rider and also the increased inertia from the bigger wheels? Again, this is something you have to get used to and adjust to compensate, better gear choice, more effort through the pedals etc.
I’ve only ridden a few hundred kilometres on the Niner since getting it so I’ve by no means had the chance to give it a long term test, but so far things are going great. I’ve raced on it and had decent results, and it has been given a good test on a diverse range of rides around my local area.
I’ve been asked questions like “Do you think 29ers are the future?” and “Will you ever go back to 26” bikes?” I don’t think 29ers need to replace 26” bikes at all, they just have their own place in mountain biking.
They’ll suit certain trails better than 26in bikes would perhaps. If you’re lucky enough to own more than one bike, or indeed have a fleet of bikes in your shed, then a 29er certainly would have a well deserved place in that collection! As for 29ers being the future, they definitely have a future and a very exciting one at that, and I’m glad I decided to join in with the big wheeled revolution!
Huw Thomas, Niner/Stans/Ergon UK
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