Niner's 2009 WFO was the first bike to prove that big wheels, big speeds and big terrain can all play together happily.
The new Wide 'Full' Open refresh takes full advantage of all the latest component and construction technology to keep it up with the upstarts.
Frame and equipment: a high-class package
It's a tribute to the carbon-competitive weight of the new airformed alloy frame that our complete mk2 bike with a 160mm (6.3in) travel fork weighed less than 30lb and still kicked OK for photoshoot hill repeats in the 40°C Nevada sun of Interbike.
Offset forged linkages and a 142x12mm rear end mean the frame is plenty stiff, and the parallel-link CVA suspension is encouragingly positive under power. Neat anodised details and ISCG tabs complete a high-class package.
SRAM's X01 11-speed transmission is a fantastic choice for an enduro speed bike and also flatters the CVA suspension. The RockShox Pike fork and piggyback Monarch Plus air shock work well in harmony too.
Our US sample bike came with a Stan's and Schwalbe based wheelset, while UK bikes get WTB rims and Maxxis tyres. Either way, overall bike price is directly comparable with other alloy boutique bikes. Niner underline their premium status with top quality own-brand parts, plus some really neat lifestyle extras.
Ride and handling: good traction and cornering authority
The WFO's back end is pretty short for a 6in travel 29er, and even with a steep seat angle and 70mm stem there's plenty of breathing space to keep your lungs fed and make the most of the impressive traction that's always been a feature of Niner full-suspension bikes.
Having weight forward helps reduce slack head angle steering flop at low speeds, and the tall bottom bracket height means plenty of ground clearance before you sump out the lower linkage.
While it's no slouch hustling rolling trails or harvesting altitude to trade for gravity, what this bike is primarily about is going down fast. The big wheels, raked out head tube, 780mm bar and superlative control of the Pike create a serious steamroller feel up front, with minimal deflection however ragged and rutted the track or big the rocks.
The back end isn't quite as impact-ignorant, with some kickback through the pedals, but drop your heels and relax, and the shock tames trail trauma well, particularly at higher speeds on stutter bump sections that the big wheels glide over the top of.
We appreciated the way the RockShox Reverb dropper post let us get further back than the natural 'in saddle' ride position though, as the high bottom bracket and suspension action seem to sit you 'on top' rather than 'down in' the WFO.
This can feel a little precarious until you learn to trust the stiffness of the frame to rip you round corners – something it does with predictable authority if you commit early with a decent effort to get those big wheels dropped in.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.