Niner Bikes is dedicated to the cause of big wheels. Whatever you think about the merits of large hoops, few would deny that Niner puts out a range of very smart bikes. The 4.5in travel Niner RIP9 has had a complete redesign for 2009, although the suspension layout and geometry are unchanged (aside from a slightly higher BB).
The changes are all about increasing stiffness without adding any weight, always a tricky proposition. Niner has tackled this by investing in tooling for hydroformed tubes and forged parts like rockers and the BB shell. It’s also moved to a tapered 1.125in/1.5in headtube with an integrated headset, giving more weld area for the hydroformed top and down tubes.
Niner has developed its own suspension system called CVA (Constantly Varying Arc). It’s a short-link system, with the lower link located under the BB. The fork is a custom Fox F120 with a tapered steerer and the same 44mm offset as Fox’s regular 29er forks. While some manufacturers – notably Gary Fisher – are using even bigger fork offsets and shallower head angles, Niner follows a slightly different path. Its argument is that slacker angles and bigger fork offsets lead to longer wheelbases, and prefers to stick to steeper head angles – the RIP9 has a 71.5° head, which has been unchanged since before increased-offset suspension forks became readily available. The theory is that the gyroscopic effect of the bigger (and, inevitably, heavier) wheels contributes to stability at speed, giving more freedom to run steeper geometry.
Out on the trails and you quickly find that Niner may well be on to something. A wide, flat bar keeps front end height under control, and the RIP9 feels agile without springing any nasty surprises. It was very at home on Bootleg Canyon’s sweeping, rolling trails – we still generally find that 29ers are more carvers than flickers. But if you do need to change direction in a hurry, the RIP9 will deliver.www.ninerbikes.com