We had the opportunity to talk Niner President Chris Sugai and Marketing Manager Carla Hukee and they gave us invaluable insight on the Niner RLT 9 gravel grinder bike. “Carla and the gang first brought up the idea to me two years ago and I was firmly against it because it was not a 29er bike and not in line with the core values of the brand. But it came up again last year and since I still wasn’t sold, I told them: You guys do everything on it and we’ll judge the final product.” So Chris really just saw the bike for the first time a few weeks before Eurobike and he was impressed like the rest of the cycling world. The bike is dialed and it seems to fit in the Niner brand and the bike quiver of the Niner customer.
“Like our new bikes in the line, this is a bike that the staff really wanted to ride.” said Carla Hukee. “It’s what we want and it completes the bike stable of our employees.” And it does make sense as everyone can use a road bike, specially one that is as verstatile as the RLT 9.
Chris Sugai said that this is not a pure cross bike or a classic gravel grinder bike but it is somewhere in between. It is what many people will want to own. And it can be used for cross racing or for bike touring on gravel roads. It’s a platform with a fairly broad swath in the road biking category.
We asked Chris what the difference was between a cross bike and a gravel grinder and he said the obvious ones are that gravel grinders have a slacker head angle and lower bottom bracket. They don’t need to turn as sharply and they don’t need to jump over obstacles. In fact, gravel grinders by definition have to turn more slowly since gravel does not have much traction. Stability and comfort are at premium for these long adventure rides and the the RLT 9 should deliver.
Carla also mentioned that the carbon fork is tested to mountain bike standards. When you start taking this on trails with rocks and drops, take comfort that Niner has tested it to much more adverse conditions so the fork will be fine.
Hats off to Niner for another well-conceived bike.