Niner has always been among the aspirational aristocracy of the MTB world, and with the new Jet 9 RDO frameset costing £3,000 it’s clearly still aiming high. However, while its high traction suspension makes it upwardly mobile, it lacks a stiff upper lip when things get rowdy.
Niner Jet 9 RDO XT AM 29 spec overview
The Niner Jet 9 RDO's spec and price is dependant on territory and build option, so please check with your local distributor.
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano M8000 GS Shadow Plus
- Shifters: Shimano M8000 RH
- Brakes: Shimano XT M8000 w/180/180mm Ice Tech rotors
- Crankset: Shimano XT M8000 1x11 32
- Cassette: Shimano M8000 11spd 11-46
- Chain: Shimano XT M8000
- Handlebar: Niner Flat Top RDO Carbon (£120)
- Stem: KS Ether 50mm
- Grips: Hope
- Headset: Niner
- Seatpost: KS LEV Integra w/ Southpaw
- Saddle: WTB Volt Race
- Wheels: Niner Carbon XC (£800)
- Tyres: Minion DHF 2 3C 2.35 TR / Maxxis Ardent 2.35 TR
- Tubes / sealant: WTB Valves/Sealant
Niner Jet 9 RDO XT 29 frame and equipment
While it’s certainly expensive, you can at least mitigate costs to significant others by explaining you’re getting two bikes in one. That’s because it’s both 29er and 27.5 plus tyre compatible, although Niner’s 2.5in and 3in max tyre claims won’t apply if it gets muddy.
Unlike other dual wheel bikes there’s no flip chip in the frame to change geometry either, just a 10mm longer 140mm travel fork on the complete bike kits. That means the steering angle slackens 0.5 degrees to 67 (three degrees slacker than the older Jet Carbon) and the bottom bracket drops 5mm, but there’s still plenty of space under the belly to get the pedals round without clattering cranks. Niner’s new (R)Evolution geometry has also added 4mm more room in the top tube giving 445mm reach in 29” flavour and 441mm in plus, for size Large.
The biggest change over the old bike is the increase in travel from Niner’s proprietary CVA suspension system from 100 to 120mm. That means it actually replaces the previous 125mm travel RIP bike, while the new RIP RDO delivers 150mm of rear wheel travel, replacing the old WFO.
The Jet is still an XC rather than technical trail oriented bike at heart though, with organic-looking big volume carbon main tubes squeezed in to shape with Niner’s high fibre/low resin concentration Carbon Compaction System moulding. The twin link CVA suspension is tuned more to power response than pillowy smoothness too, with chain tension spreading the upper and lower linkages apart. In theory this neutralises any torque effect on the wheel behaviour, but in practice applying power tends to lift it higher in its travel and stiffen things fractionally.
How that power is supplied isn’t restricted at all though, as the Jet frame can be configured for double or single chainrings and there’s even an internal Di2 battery mount and wiring provision. The screw-in bottom bracket is a resolutely reliable old school touch while ISCG mounts give full chain-taming options.
Our test bike also included several Niner own brand kit options, including carbon rims complete with Stan’s No Tubes licensed tubeless technology, a Niner carbon handlebar and neat little ‘whatever bottle top you want’ YouAreWhatYouDrink Aheadset top cap on the KS stem.
A KS Lev Integra carries the WTB saddle at the far end while Shimano XT transmission and matching brakes do the driving and stopping. At 12.61kg it’s definitely heavy compared to similar price and category dual wheel machines, such as Scott’s Spark and Trek’s Fuel EX though.
Niner Jet 9 RDO XT 29 ride impression
It’s a big credit that this extra mass doesn’t stop the Jet taking off really well, as the carbon wheels spin up to speed quickly. The CVA suspension means you don’t have to throttle back whatever the rear wheel is about to roll over either. Even with a semi-slick Ardent Race tyre on the back it powered up extended wet leaf and root climbs we never expected to get up.
Once you’ve got the rebound and pressure set-up sorted you can forget about the suspension entirely. Rear end grip is consistent, there’s no bounce under power even with the Fox Float Factory Kashima shock fully open and it collects sequential hits and big drops without drama or disturbing its poise. It was equally predictable and steady even when we added heavier plus wheels and tyres, and climbing grip is even more ridiculous if you don’t mind dulling acceleration.
Despite a relatively relaxed head angle for a big wheeler and composed suspension, the Niner does struggle when you start pushing it harder through corners or more random terrain. That’s due to very noticeable frame flex not just through the linkages but also a surprising lack of muscle in the buff-looking mainframe. Even when we swapped to ultra stiff wheels we still couldn’t get the normally ultra trustworthy Pike RCT3 fork to feel communicative and confident and glancing blows or sideways slips of the rear wheel sent an obvious ricochet shiver down its spine too.
Add the way it tends to sit high in an already tall 345mm ride height, the Jet always felt defensive rather than decisive on descents. While plus tyres masked the twist in some cases, their extra turning resistance and another element of random rebound in the already twangy ride didn’t do the Jet any favours when things got fast and feisty.
Niner Jet 9 RDO XT 29 early verdict
Impeccably neutral, naturally fast cruiser and climber, but very flexy when things get feisty.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.