Last September, Niner bikes unveiled the RLT 9, a gravel race bike with an alloy frame and carbon fork. At the time, Niner hinted that it had another, more cyclocross-centric, design in the works. It appears this mystery model is nearly ready for release.
BikeRadar spotted two Niner-sponsored team CLIF Bar athletes putting a pair of carbon cyclocross bikes through the paces at this week’s New Belgium short track race, a seven-race series that benefits the youth cycling in Northern Colorado.
Niner wasn’t ready to release details of the new bike, though there’s a great deal we were able to glean from our images.
Not a carbon RLT 9
First and foremost, this isn't a carbon version of the RLT 9. The RLT 9 has geometry that is longer, lower and slacker than many cyclocross bikes — favoring long-haul stability over agility. This new model appears to have more traditional cyclocross geometry; the bottom bracket looks to be slightly higher and the chainstays appear to be shorter that Niner’s current gravel rig.
Niner is poised to bring a carbon cyclocross bike to market
The lines of this new frame borrow heavily from Niner’s Air 9 and One 9 carbon hardtails. Like the Air 9, the new frame uses a Press Fit 30 bottom bracket. Singlespeed ’cross racers could conceivably convert the frame into a singlespeed with Niner's BioCentric 30 bottom bracket.
The new model uses a 15mm thru-axle
While the RLT 9 uses a tapered carbon fork with open-ended dropouts for a quick-release, this new model has a carbon fork that uses a 15mm Maxle thru-axle to bolster front-end stiffness. Niner appears to stick with a 135mm quick-release at the rear of the bike.
Niner's ’cross bike has internal cable routing for the front and rear derailleurs. It is very likely that the frame is also compatible with electronic drivetrains as well. The rear brake is routed externally along the down tube, with the caliper tucked neatly between the stays.
The post-mount rear brake can accommodate a 140mm or 160mm rotor
There’s no bridge between the seat- or chainstays to collect mud and debris during muddy races. Tire clearance looks to be quite good, though not as generous as the RLT 9, which can clean tires up to 45mm wide.
The finished nature of the two frames, along with the fact that Niner signed on as the bike sponsor of the CLIF Bar Development Team for the 2014/2015 season, leads us to believe that the company is well past the prototyping stage. It is very likely that Niner’s new cyclocross model will be ready in time for the this year’s cyclocross season.
We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.