First Ride: Niner Rip 9 is a light, maneuverable, off-road machine

This off-road machine is an affordable 29er trail bike option for those who don’t need the carbon bling

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MONTEREY, Calif. (VN) — How often do you have the opportunity to meet the person who engineered your car or designed that latch on your stove that always seems to stick? The beauty of the bike industry is that large events like the Sea Otter Classic give the average consumer a chance to meet the people behind the products.

Pay attention and you’ll notice which brands have a loyal following. It took 10 minutes at the Niner tent, as they set up our new Rip 9 test bike, to suggest that this company is doing something right. Once we hopped on the Rip 9, we were convinced.

On the trail

Some 29ers ride with an unwieldy feel, especially when they have over 120mm of suspension. Despite the 125mm of rear travel, the updated Rip 9 alloy is quite maneuverable, even poppy when exiting bermed corners or pumping off rollers and jumps. The suspension itself is quite capable, riding high and firm under pedaling and taking care of business through choppy braking bumps, even when the shock isn’t switched into a firmer damping setting.

Best of all, the Rip 9’s steering is quite tight for a 29er. Where many of its large-wheeled rivals understeer and push off the trail in corners that are off-camber or have a late-apex, the Niner keeps on driving and responds well to firm input on the front end. Though we’re often spoiled by the brilliant performance of carbon-framed full suspension bikes, the Rip’s front end felt just as solid and precise.

A rip for the rest of us

Although carbon bikes are becoming more prevalent, they still hit the pocketbook pretty hard. Fortunately, as we found on our all too brief first ride, Niner’s revamped alloy Rip 9 can hang. The airformed front triangle has reduced frame weight to seven pounds — just .65 pounds shy of the flagship Rip 9 RDO carbon frameset.

Plus, it has the same excellent ride qualities that make Niners popular. The least expensive Rip 9 alloy model will run $3,000 with Sram X7 componentry. That isn’t cheap, but dollars for donuts, few 29er full suspension bikes offer the same performance and ride qualities.

Your wheels must be this big to ride

With a name like Niner, the company’s single-minded focus on 29ers is evident (Twenty-Seven Fiver wouldn’t really roll off the tongue anyways). That doesn’t always sit well with 26-inch wheel traditionalists, including some of us on the VeloNews staff. That being said, the Rip shows that 29ers don’t always have to ride like overloaded Walmart carts, and judging by all the avid Niner fans out there, we aren’t the first ones to figure this out.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.