We’ve known Chris Sugai for the last seven years and we’ve always viewed him as one of the true innovators of the bike industry. He is not only a visionary in bike trends but also in work style and flexibility. In 2004, he co-founded company Niner Bikes with Steve Domahidy. Steve was the engineering and design genius while Chris ran the company and sold the 29er ‘Kool Aid’ to the riding public. They both believed in the virtual office environment as Chris lived in Southern California and Steve in Colorado.
In 2005, Chris dropped by our Sea Otter booth about five times until we finally rode his odd prototype bike. It was small but it had huge wheels. It had no gears, no tubes and wide bars. He called it a 29er and he said his company will only build singlespeed 29ers. Man, talk about niche multiplied by niche. My first impression was that Chris was passionate but crazy and he had risked his livelyhood on a pipe dream. But then I took this big wheeled bike on one lap on the Sea Otter course and my mind was changed forever. I convinced him to let me race the bike the next day for my event and I got him to send me a test bike right away.
Here’s a link to the very first bike we tried from Niner: Mtbr Review of 2005 Niner One 9
We’ve been happy ever since and have always had a Niner bike in the stable. Next week, we get an Air 9 Carbon that we will lighten and optimize to its fullest abilities. We can’t wait.
Chris and Niner have been on a long journey to get to this point and the 29er landscape is very, very different now. Steve Domahidy is no longer with the company but they still benefit from his engineering contributions and visionary ideas. With Chris at the helm an and a top-notch team spread across the country, Niner is in good hands.