Like all proper revolutionaries, Niner is totally committed to the 29in wheel cause, but is the 'Roll In Peace' Niner's messiah?
Chassis - designed for big wheels
Niner has certainly designed the R.I.P around big wheels, which means it avoids lots of the usual 29er pitfalls. There's loads of mud room around the big mouth chainstay and seatstay yokes, you get a full 4.5in of suspension movement without the big wheel hitting the frame, and the geometry is totally 29er-centric.
Curved down tube and super short, internally butted integrated Aheadset head tube keep the front end as low and close in as possible. Long plate gussets handle the extra long fork leverage, while the sloped and braced top tube restores standover height. The seat tube itself is kinked for rear wheel clearance, and the down tube extends below the BB shell to mount the lower 'CVA' suspension linkage.
Ride - feel the flow not the flex
In the same way that the frame tries to minimise the downsides of big wheels structurally, so Niner has tried to dynamically 'shrink' the wheel size in the handling. Even at slow speeds there's none of the initial reluctance of many big-wheelers. It's not as quick to nip round the back of trees as a 26in bike, but it moves with a well balanced, predictable smoothness.
It's the same under power, too. The bigger wheels and overall weight make it feel slow to start with, and it takes several good strokes to restore momentum over the top of climbs or out of corners. There's also noticeable sideways flex from a combination of long relatively skinny tubes, thin bolt braced linkages and taller wheels.
Let the Niner build speed slowly though, and you'll really feel the pace ramp up, bowling you faster and faster as you relax into its natural handling rhythm. Flex issues disappear as long as you flow with them rather than fight, and the bike snatches back control instinctively if you get twanged off line.
While it's not a natural dropper or airtime bike, you'll soon be floating smoothly over stuff you'd normally be braking into or rattling over. Stability and smoothness means more momentum on the exit, too, offsetting the acceleration drawbacks on more open trails. Add the fact that this is one of the lightest full-suss big-wheelers available, and you've got a great speed and distance bike.
The Niner R.I.P 9 is available as a frame only (£1175) or as a complete bike in the spec here. Either way, the Reba 29 fork and a wide flat bar make a lot of sense. See if you can get the new WTB Prowler SL tyre specced if you're buying between now and spring too, because the stock Nanoraptors can be slippery.
29ers will always have pros and cons, but Niner have certainly minimised the downsides of upsizing your wheels. Stop forcing the pace, relax into its naturally smooth, flowing rhythm and you'll suddenly be floating over ugly obstacles and long distances at a disarmingly rapid speed. Totally smooth and completely surefooted without being too sluggish, it really is a great bike if you value marathon momentum more than immediacy.