Niner Bikes have been around for relatively few years, but in that time they’ve become a big name in the world of 29ers. They make an impressive array of big-wheeled mountain bikes, covering racing, trail riding, singlespeeds and even freeride.
The EMD 9 is Niner’s budget aluminium frame. It shares its geometry with the company’s Scandium and 853 frames, but at lower cost – the EMD 9 frame on its own is £499. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, EMD stands for Eat My Dust…
Ride & handling: A blast of a bike that's a rewarding ride on rough trails
Niner’s frame geometry was conceived before the advent of long-offset 29er forks, which explains why the EMD 9 is so steep and long. With a short offset, you need a steep head angle if you want to avoid barge-like steering. And then you need to lengthen the top tube to push the front wheel slightly further away so you don’t trip over it in tight turns.
Since then, forks have grown in offset, including Niner’s own carbon example. The EMD is a very agile bike with the long rigid fork in place. We didn’t get a chance to try it with a suspension fork, but on paper it looks to us as though it could be quite exciting – a sagged 100mm (3.9in) fork is a good bit shorter than the Niner rigid’s 470mm, which steepens the already aggressive head angle even further.
It’s such a blast as a rigid bike though, that we’d be tempted to leave the rigid fork alone. It’s impressive what a 29in wheel will roll over without the help of a suspension fork – under most circumstances a rigid 29er feels about the same as a 26in wheeled bike equipped with a 80mm (3.1in travel) fork.
You’ll have to use your arms a bit more than you normally would over the larger bumps, but it’s actually a very rewarding experience to work the bike over rough trails, even more so when you’ve got used to what you can roll through and what needs some intervention.
Chassis: Super-light carbon fork is the star of the show; frame has some neat details
The EMD 9 may be a budget frame, but Niner have put plenty of effort into it. They’ve kept the 7005 aluminium tubing fairly slim with a view to maintaining a smooth ride. There’s little in the way of shaping, with the exception of the curved down tube that increases weld area at the head tube and improves clearance for fork top caps.
There are some neat details at either end of the frame, including a riveted-on steel head tube badge at the front, and tidy cowled dropouts attached to sinuous snaked stays at the back. All the cables and hoses run under the top tube.
We don’t think it diminishes the EMD frame at all to suggest that the star of the show here is the Niner carbon fibre rigid fork, though. Just looking at it tells you that it’s something special, with its triangular-section blades, integrated brake post-mount and one-piece construction.
What you can’t tell by looking is that it weighs a startling 565g – not much more than half the weight of On-One’s rigid fork at the same length. It’s strong too – Niner have carried out extensive testing that’s resulted in the destruction of about 40 forks. Check out the video below showing Niner founder Chris Sugai attacking the forks with a hammer:
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Equipment: Quality rolling gear means bike builds up light despite Deore groupset
Niner's UK importers Jungle Products supply frames, or can offer a variety of build kits. They put our test bike together with Shimano Deore kit to bring it in at less than £1,500 with the rigid fork. You could have the same bike with a RockShox Reba suspension fork for £1,599.
Deore may seem a little low rent to some, but the latest generation has most of the functional benefits of Shimano’s high-end groupsets, including Shadow rear mechs, HTII cranks and two-way shifters. It performs excellently and is pretty robust. The worst you can say is that it’s a bit heavier, but the complete bike comes in at a commendable 11.1kg (24.5lb), so it’s clearly not too much of an issue.
Jungle have concentrated on the important stuff though. As well as the frame and fork, the wheels are a key part of the build, and the test bike arrived with a wheel package comprising Hope Pro II hubs and DT Swiss X470 rims. A 2.25in Maxxis Ardent tyre provided a bit of extra cushioning up front, while a 2.1in CrossMark saves some grams and rolling resistance at the back.