Niner's new Air 9 RDO (race day optimized) is a thoroughbred 29er hardtail built for speed and racecourse performance. It follows on the heels of the Jet 9 RDO, Niner’s competition-focused full-suspension cross-country bike.
With the goal of optimizing the new hardtail for racing, and using the Air 9 Carbon as a blueprint, Niner focused on minimizing frame weight. The result is a chassis that's said to average just 1,125g (2.48lb) in the medium size (without seat collar or protective down tube tape) – about half a pound less than the original Air 9. To achieve the dramatic weight reduction, Niner reduced diameters and trimmed tube profiles throughout.
The new bike has a smaller, all-carbon Pressfit30 bottom bracket shell and utilizes molded bearing races for the tapered head tube, which eliminates the need for metal inserts and their added weight. The rear brake mount is tucked inside the curvy stays; Niner say this distributes twisting forces evenly and permits use of smaller post mounts and decreased wall thicknesses for the molded carbon stays.
Shift cables are routed internally, as they are on the standard Air 9, and a new aluminum head badge allows for full-length runs of housing. Niner cite simplified cable changes and protection from the elements as their motivation for this. The new bike also serves to introduce a new seat collar, which will be offered for retrofitting to existing models through Niner’s store; it comes in anodized red, blue or black and costs US$20.
The rear brake mount moves to the chainstay on the RDO
The Air 9 RDO shares its geometry with the standard Air 9 and is designed for use with a 80- or 100mm suspension fork. Niner back it with their C5 carbon warranty, which covers the frame for five years. It'll be available in a complete size run with standard Niner build kits or as a frame only by mid-March.
The first 50 bikes will be offered to North American riders with a special ‘launch spec’ that includes a Shimano XTR transmission and brakes, and a painted-to-match RockShox SID 29 World Cup XX fork. Complete bikes will cost US$6,199 and will be available in Niner Green or Licorice Black, and medium or large sizes only.
Niner’s color matched RockShox SID 29 World Cup XX fork
‘Launch spec’ Niner Air 9 RDO:
- Frame: AIR 9 RDO – Licorice Black or Niner Green
- Fork: RockShox SID 29 World Cup XX, 15mm Maxle, tapered steerer, Licorice Black or Niner Green
- Wheelset: American Classic Race 29
- Tires: Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo, 2.25in TL, Ready
- Brake callipers: Shimano XTR Trail M988
- Brake rotors: Shimano Deore XT SM-RT86, 180mm/160mm
- Brake levers: Shimano XTR Trail M985
- Shifters: Shimano XTR M980
- Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR M985 GS Shadow Plus
- Front derailleur: Shimano XTR M986
- Cassette: Shimano XTR M980, 11-36t
- Chain: Shimano XTR M980
- Crankset: Race Face Next, 2x10, 38/26t
- Bottom bracket: Race Face w/ SRAM PF30 adapter
- Saddle: WTB Volt Team, titanium rails
- Handlebar: Niner RDO Flat Top, Red or Niner Green
- Stem: Niner RDO, Red or Niner Green
- Seatpost: Niner RDO, Red or Niner Green
- Grips: Ergon GA1 EVO
Newport Beach, California-based Pro Bike Supply already have their hands on the new model and gave us their first impression. “Out of the box, with everything except pedals, it weighs 20lb 7oz,” owner Mark Cohen told BikeRadar. “The tubes are much skinnier than you think they are, and the placement of the rear brake housing – now running along the down tube – is going to be much better.
"A lot of people used to complain, when it was on the top tube, that you’d catch your hand or leg on the cut zip-ties. With the internal cable routing, there’s still quite a bend for the front derailleur, because it has to go around the bottom bracket, but I think [shifting] should be greatly improved.”
At Pro Bike Supply the medium complete bike weighed in at 20lb 7oz (9.27kg)
Pro Bike Supply have already modified the spec of their Air 9 RDO to drop another half pound off the complete bike. “We swapped the saddle for the Fi’zi:k Tundra 00, we replaced the seat collar with the KCNC mountain collar,” said Cohen. “We got rid of the XT six-bolt rotors and swapped to the KCNC Razor rotors, and then we took the grips and swapped to the ESI Chunky in green.
"Finally, for a little bit of flash and weight savings, we traded the American Classic skewers for Tune ones. This brought the weight down a half-pound to 19lb 15oz. I'd say it'll be very easy to bring this bike under 19lb with pedals and a cage – swapping out to the [NoTubes.com] Race Gold wheels will get us there.”
Pro Bike Supply, based in Southern California, provided these images of Niner’s Air 9 RDO. The shop specializes in custom road and mountain bike builds. Customers are encourage to start with a frame and work with Pro Bike Supply's staff – who include mechanics with 15 years of experience and pro riders – to build a bike to fit their riding style and budget.