Compare-O Bottom Line: Niner’s WFO 9 eats big trail—and convention—for breakfast and still gives you change for lunch

29er Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–http://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014

BEST OF TEST AWARD WINNER: BEST VALUE

When you mention the word “value,” expectations usually go towards the lowest price, but that’s not what we mean. A good value is getting the most bike for the fewest dollars, and by packaging some of the best componentry in the test—a RockShox Pike, SRAM 1×11 drivetrain and a frame that’s a functional work of art—Niner’s $5,000 WFO 9 takes the title. No, $5K is not chump change, but the WFO 9 delivers performance way in excess of its price point—as does our runner-up, the carbon-framed Fezzari Timp Peak.

See the rest of the award winners here.

We have to admit to a bit skepticism about the Niner WFO 9. We’ve always known Niner to defy convention then deliver the goods, but with all the references to downhill and goggles and Whistler and full-face helmets, we thought maybe someone was a little too hopped-up on Red Bull Rampage when they wrote the catalog copy. As usual with our doubts of Niner, we stand corrected—it’s not the Red Bull that gives you wings, it’s the WFO 9.

What’s a WFO? “Wide, full, open” they say officially, but we suspect a different f-word—said in a positive way with a certain enthusiasm. With 150mm of rear travel, a stunning aluminum sculpture of a frame, and an updated geometry, the Niner WFO 9  brings a cannon to the gun fight against not only the other long-legged 29ers in our test—the Specialized Enduro 29er, the BMC TrailFox FS01, and the Intense Carbine 29—but the omnipresent 27.5ers as well.

To top it off, Niner brings the value, packing in the de facto fork of the year—the RockShox Pike RCT3—and a legit 1×11 drivetrain for under $5k.

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Has long legs, great curves and likes it rough

With the manifold changes to the 2014 version of the WFO 9, this year’s model falls somewhere between an update and a redesign. Rear travel’s been bumped up by 10mm, while the head angle mellows to a slacker 66.5 degrees.

The entire bike sits lower with a shortened and lowered top tube that offers even more standover clearance than most comparably-sized 26ers, giving it a certain “between the wheels” balance absent from its predecessor. All these tweaks start to justify the DH rhetoric, according to our test crew.

“The WFO gets to work when things get rough,” commented one rider. “The Niner eats rocks, ruts and roots for breakfast then charges downhill.

And while it’s certainly point-and-shootable, the WFO 9’s lowish bottom bracket and centered rider positioning let you get low and leaned should you choose a more slalom-like route.

“It has a certain playfulness I wasn’t really expecting,” said one reviewer. “It can rip corners and have fun popping, jumping and dropping.”

Indeed the bigger the rocks and the gnarlier the terrain, the more this WFO 9 excels. The bike “seemed more at home being flogged on bigger obstacles” according to one test rider. The flip side being a more taut ride over braking bumps and other more subtle hits—an unusual characteristic for a 29er.

“The WFO’s small bump compliance is not world class,” said one test rider. “No matter what I set the sag to, it just doesn’t seem as active as the other bikes in the shootout.”

Some riders also noted a difference in suspension feel front to back.

“The Pike up front is plush and just about perfect,” one rider said. “And the rear, while effective, never had that suppleness which could mean the shock needs more break-in time.”

Photos courtesy of Niner Bikes.

Pedal, pedal, climb, squat

In the WFO 9 we see Niner’s most ambitious use of its CVA suspension platform to date. With as much as the bike has going on around in the bottom bracket area, the WFO 9 could have been a mess aesthetically, but Niner manages to make sculpture out of it.

And while CVA looks good and delivers outstanding gravity performance, a few of our riders noted shortcomings in its climbing performance.

“The Niner exhibits some pedal-induced bob,” one rider said. “The suspension can squat a bit when delivering power on techy climbs resulting in occasional pedal strikes on very rocky terrain.”

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

On long climbs, however, the Niner easily settles into a comfortable sit-and-spin routine. Flipping the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 to lockout, the bike efficiently bides its time on the way to the next descent.

The Niner gets cable…and other details

Perhaps because they’re caught up in all the advances in suspension and drivetrains and frame design, some companies forget to put the effort into smaller things, like cable routing. Not Niner. On a long-travel bike, cables need to go somewhere under compression, preferably not outward to hit the riders legs, nor inward towards the suspension linkage and frame. And while many riders think the shortest, straightest route is best, Niner knows the art of the graceful bend. By placing attachment points in key places on the downtube and seatstays, the WFO’s cables move up and down under compression, eliminating leg strikes and rattling. It’s a little thing, but like so much of what Niner does right, it contributes positively to a bigger whole.

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Niner WFO 9 and full photo gallery »
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About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • DaveG says:

    “If you like to race or ride big and rough—and are willing to trust a 29er for the task—the WFO 9 will reward and delight.”

    If you did none of these things how can you make this statement?

  • Mtbr says:

    Well Dave, while we did not enter a formal race, we DID indeed ride the bike at race pace, in race style on several occasions…and DID ride trails–while not Whistler big–with big drops jumps and rocks. Not really sure what your point is.

  • Haggis says:

    Gotta be impressed with the 2lb/$5k difference to the Bronson C. Despite the wimpy tyres and carbon post; it’s still a full alloy kitted 29er and it’s only 2lb heavier…

  • barcolounger says:

    Thanks for the review, but why no comparison to the Specialized Enduro 29? As far as this whole compare-o series, I think your definition of “compare” is different than mine.

  • DaveG says:

    “Though the WFO 9 appears to deliver on its gravity promises, we frankly didn’t have the terrain—nor the gonads—to give ‘er…”

    Your words, not mine.

    • Mtbr says:

      You left out the critical “to give ‘er Whistler Bike Park-style” which makes all the difference when using that quotation. But point taken Dave–you didn’t like the review. We appreciate your feedback.

  • Peter Eibeck says:

    MTBR – Please due your readers a HUGE service and begin an actual compare as barcolounger says.

    You guys & girls are riding some of the most interesting bikes in the world yet we have zero feedback one to another. You don’t tell us about the rider who’s giving feedback. Are they big, small. Are they XC or downhill. Don’t you think this will have a big impact? If small riders think small bump is poor and heavier riders think it works well… don’t you think this is IMPORTANT?

    You have some crazy number like 100k worth of bikes on review. Please table this out. Give some details about rider type. Do something to give us some relative benchmarks.

  • Peter Eibeck says:

    MTBR – I’d also like to second that DaveG makes a valid point. I understand the spirit of what he is saying to be this… ‘Why is a person who is not the target rider reviewing this bike?’. This bike is a long travel gravity focused machine. The Rip 9 is a bit more all mountain. So why would the review not place this in the hands of someone who is very familiar with this style of riding?

  • RDO Shredder says:

    Climbing performance would have improved dramatically had the bike been equipped with a Fox suspension. RS is the pits and the pike is over rated mumbo jumbo.

  • Topher mc garry says:

    Gotta say, feel the review was pretty weak and lopsided. ” If you can trust a 29er wheel””, Really, I thought we’d moved past this. Way to dawn the black face and perpetuate the myths. Small bump compliance? ” No matter how much sag I dialed in I couldn’t find the “…. So you think only sag is going to “dial in” your ride? Well how about rebound? Roll any bike over a staircase and play around with above, end result? Plush magic carpet goodness. Take to the trail and spend a few more moments dialing in and “Presto” a $10k bike for half! Please take some time to dial in your bikes before putting pen to paper. Pedal bob while climbing? I really can’t figure out this one. For those RIP owners wanting an upgrade Im here to tell you, the WFO out pedals the previous generation RIP. Weight? Less again. Brilliant up and down? Yes, in spades. Giant gap jumps, crazy rock gardens? Check. Flowy buff trails? Check. Rolling to the pub ’cause you can’t belive you are so lucky to live in an age where a bike like this could come with anything but the most revered review? Check, but make sure she gets parked within hands reach, given any crack head will appreciate it more than our “professional testers” will:)

  • CO Rocky ride says:

    RDO shredder has been on FOX to long. I have Pikes on my Enduro 29 and I am happy to say I think that SRAM/RS has finally topped Fox with the Pike. If the WFO rides similar to that of the Enduro, I’m sure it will be Niner’s top seller. Think of Monster truck ability with climbing of a trailbike.

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