First Look: Niner E9 ebikes, Rip 9 and 180mm WFO

The 'pedal damn it' company says 'ride damn it'

News

Today, Niner bikes, joined the e-bike category with two mountain bikes, the 150mm travel RIP e9 and 180mm travel WFO e9. Mtbr had a chance to ride the WFO e9 for several weeks and our impressions on the $6295 bike are detailed on the video above. It is basically a downhill bike that one take on any big descending adventure while skipping the shuttle vehicle or lift access to get to the top of most peaks.

The RIP e9 is a more versatile bike with 150mm rear travel and 160mm front both on 29er wheels. This bike, like the WFO is well-spec’d for $5995. Both these bikes utilize the fourth generation Bosch Performance Line CX motors for smooth, responsive, and usable power. This motor has been updated in July, 2020 that firmware that increases the power from 75 to 85 NM of torque and makes it more responsive in difficult trail conditions.

Both bikes use an internal 625 wh battery to give bikes long range or incredible punch for that quick two-hour jaunt. Another key feature is the these of a Niner-tuned Horst link suspension systems optimize kinematics for the active, supple needs of eMTB riding. The suspension is complimented by free-moving bearings even in the rocker links to optimize supple, ground-gripping performance.

RIP e9 Details:

    • 150mm rear travel with air shock and lockout, 160mm fork travel, 29” wheels front, and rear.
    • Bosch Performance Line CX motor with Power Tube 625wh battery.
    • Niner tuned Horst-link suspension rides on Enduro Max Black Oxide pivot bearings.
    • Two shock mount locations for adjustable geometry with a flip-chip
    • 1 Bottle cage in the front triangle
    • 160mm max front suspension
    • Bosch GEN4 ISCG compatibility
    • 2.6 maximum rear tire size
    • Price: $5995

 

WFO e9 Details:

    • 180mm travel with a coil shock. 29” front, 27.5+” rear wheel.
    • Bosch Performance Line CX motor with Power Tube 625wh battery.
    • Niner tuned Horst-link suspension rides on Enduro Max Black Oxide pivot bearings.
    • Two shock mount locations for adjustable geometry with flip-chip
    • 180mm max front suspension
    • 180mm rear suspension travel
    • Mullet wheel combination – 27.5×2.8 rear / 29×2.6 front maximum rear tire size
    • Price: $6295

 

Q&A with Niner Bikes:

Mtbr: First off, how is Niner doing in light of the global pandemic? How are the supply chains and the demand for bikes? How are the employees doing as far as health and well-being?
Niner:Thanks for asking that, for sure. We definitely saw some interruptions and delays with production and logistics when the pandemic was getting serious overseas. Then we saw a significant slowdown in March and April as it began to affect communities in the US. However as bike shops were being declared essential, and people started returning to cycling for recreation and transportation, we’ve seen a strong upswing. The most affordable bikes are in the highest demand as families turn to riding as a safe and healthy alternative to team sports and indoor activities. But we’re seeing a lot of inactive or dormant riders get back in the saddle either by repairing their existing bike or acquiring a new one. The bike business overall seems to be doing well and we’re appreciating that.

Regarding things here in the office, our warehouse kept things moving through thick and thin. Our administrative staff worked remotely for about 6 weeks during a statewide stay at home order but we’re back to full strength and operating according to city and county guidelines. Fortunately, we have a lot of space and a lean staff so there’s plenty of distance between us. And even more, fortunately, we’ve all stayed healthy.

We’ve had a long history with Niner bike starting with 29ers with no suspension and just one gear

Mtbr: Why is Niner getting into ebikes after years of only pedal bikes?
Niner:Our mission is to make riding on dirt, better, period. Whether it’s better bikes, better service, or advocating for better trails, we’re always pushing in this direction. As ebike technology has improved and the bikes achieved wider adoption among riders around the globe, we realized that these bikes offer another way to make riding on dirt better.

They offer riders better access to a broader array of trails when challenging climbing can be prohibitive.
They allow longer rides in shorter periods of time, opening up outdoor opportunities for busy riders.
They let a rider carry more gear with less effort, for bigger adventures in more places.
They’re fun, damn it!

Finally, Niner is a global brand with fans around the world. Interest in ebikes is surging globally and we want to keep our fans having fun on our bikes, both e-powered and pedal-powered.

Mtbr: How will adding ebikes to the mix evolve the brand and the dealers? How will it affect the brand loyal customers and will it attract new customers to the brand?
Niner:Well we wouldn’t have jumped into the ebike game if we didn’t think it would be a benefit for our dealers and the brand. We’re not shy about getting into things that are maybe a little early for their time: 29ers in 2005, gravel bikes in 2012, full-suspension gravel in 2019. Ebikes are much farther along than those categories so in some ways we’re right on time.

Our dealers around the world have been asking for ebikes for the last two years. So this evolution helps our dealers to have a full spectrum of Niner bikes – MTB, gravel, and now e-bikes. We hope that our full spectrum of bikes made for pedaling on the dirt gives our dealers an advantage, with a Niner for everyone who wants to Pedal, Damn it!

Regarding our loyal #ninerd fan base, let’s be honest: there are definitely a few that won’t be supportive. And we get it. The brand has a strong history in a sort of funky, counterculture, singlespeed rigid hardtail community. An ebike in the range looks like selling out.

Internally we had some really heated discussions. It wasn’t an easy decision and these ebikes were not an easy project. It would have been easy to just skip it and focus on pedal bikes.

But the reality is (and I’m quoting directly from some marketing copy I wrote a few months ago, so forgive the canned tone here): There’s always been an “e” in Niner. There’s an “e” in everything we stand for: access, experience, exhilaration, and adventure, not to mention equality. So internally we came around to the ebikes as offering new ways to pedal, damn it! and maintaining our signature ride quality and Niner style. We’re bringing the Niner ethos to hopefully some new folks that just want to have fun riding outside, no matter their fitness level or whatever.

Mtbr: Pound for pound, Niner has always been one of the most active and generous supporters of IMBA and trail advocacy. How does this Ebike program fit with Niner’s long-time advocacy for trails and support for IMBA?
Niner:Fundamentally, we feel that all trail users (riders, runners, horseback riders, and more) should have access to shared spaces for outdoor recreation. And we feel that different user groups, including pedal-powered and e-powered riders, can all get along and be good stewards of public land. When we support each other as courteous and responsible trail users, we have a stronger voice when speaking in favor of new trails.

We still stand by IMBA as a cornerstone of trail advocacy around the world. So nothing really changes there. Specifically, regarding e-bikes vs. pedal bikes, we know that e-bike trail access is regulated differently depending on land management agencies. We support sensible regulation along with open communication between the bike industry, user groups, and land managers, to fairly accommodate and extend access to riders of all types of bikes.

Mtbr: Why did you do this in aluminum, not carbon?
Niner:Multiple considerations guide Niner’s choice of materials and manufacturing. We’re always weighing material structural properties against external factors such as price, intended use, engineering complexity, and more.

In the case of the e9 series, it’s all about access. These bikes offer access to Niner’s signature designs and ride quality in a pedal-assisted system. The chance to ride a little farther, complete a dawn-patrol lap in less time, get to a sweet drop-in without needing a shuttle truck, or just get to the corner store without using a car.
Accordingly, the primary driver in choosing aluminum for the e9 mountain bikes was price. E-bikes are unavoidably more expensive than their battery-free brethren. But we want all riders to have a realistic chance to own one without busting their budgets. By building the RIP e9 and WFO e9 in aluminum, we can bring these sweet bikes to riders at more affordable prices.

Our rider and ambassador Kyle Warner spoke in favor of the alloy frame. “Honestly, I think that this is one of the most overlooked aspects of an ebike. The alloy frame offers such a nice and compliant ride quality and also acts as a great heatsink for the motor and also doubles as a great acoustic damper. An alloy ebike will always be a little quieter, more compliant, and run cooler in the summer than a carbon ebike. If I had to spend my own money I would prefer an alloy ebike any day of the week.”


Mtbr: Why not use CVA suspension? What qualities of the emtb are justify this change? Is this new suspension more active?
Niner:Well this was a tough one for sure. CVA or Constantly Varying Arc is of course our patented suspension system that was originally designed specifically for 29ers. It’s a great system and we love it.

For one thing, the engineering challenge to accommodate both the CVA system and an e-bike drive system is enormous. For another thing, the pedaling efficiency provided by CVA serves our acoustic bikes particularly well, but it’s not as critical on a pedal-assisted system.

Simply put, maintaining hyper-efficient pedaling input is less of a factor when Bosch pedal assist power is supplementing the rider’s effort.
Our engineers turned to (and significantly tuned up) a Horst-link 4-bar system. Turning over every rock in pursuit of performance, we adjusted the leverage ratio, shock length, stroke, orientation, and mounting location to elicit Niner’s signature kinematics.

And by using a “right side up” trunnion shock mount, bearings in the rocker arm are friction-free to rotate smoothly through almost 40 degrees. The result is super supple, sensitive suspension which is critical to maintaining traction while climbing under the higher torque and power output of the pedal-assisted system.

Mtbr: Why did you choose Bosch for the drive system? What qualities of this motor and the company behind it were most attractive to you?
Niner:Bosch was an easy choice for Niner. There’s so much backing up their position as a global leader.
Bosch’s latest Performance Line CX Gen 4 motor is smaller by 40% and reduced in weight by 700 grams (26%) while increasing efficiency (more range for the same battery) and keeping the torque performance, compared to the prior version.

The recently released software update increases the available torque to 85Nm and adds a rollover feature to the eMTB mode. Bosch’s motor is the most efficient on the market today with the flattest torque curve. This means that at a cadence of 30-110rpm the torque is even and available to the rider.

Bosch has the most responsive (fastest processing speed) torque sensor on the market. It’s 20x faster than the nearest competitor. This means the system adds assistance faster and also shuts off faster when the rider stops pedaling.

Bosch’s battery is the only UL listed battery and charger on the market. Niner is using Bosch’s new PowerTube battery in both the 625 Wh size, nestled into the frame to optimize the low center of gravity. Bosch’s battery offers the most energy density on the market today (which translates to the most range per pound of battery, making bikes lighter).
Bosch has the largest service network in North America with over 2500 certified techs. Frequent clinics around the world offer plenty of opportunity for Niner dealers and sales staff to be certified.

An automotive-grade diagnostics system makes it easy for dealers to monitor Bosch drive systems.
Bosch has a 2-year warranty on their systems and they are conservative in their estimate of system life. In fact, testers have run motors for longer than 5 years and 30,000 miles.

Mtbr: Will we see other price points for Niner eMTBs?
Niner:For now we’re offering this in a “3-star” SX Eagle build which hits a moderate price level for the rider. But we’re already looking at spec changes and maybe growing the range of specs for the future. It’s a case of “crawl, walk, run” and we want to make sure we’re getting things right, first, before expanding to more builds and prices.

Mtbr: Will we see your other bikes with assist systems? Do you see a market for assisted hardtails and lighter bikes?
Niner:We expect another e-bike in the coming year for sure. I can’t tell you anything about it for now, but we promise it will be cool.
There’s a market for lighter bikes and hardtails for sure, but they often have some compromises. Our focus out of the gate for this project was durability, long-range, a best in class drive system, and really good suspension. With a really good drive system and long-range, there’s no reason to forego good suspension so you can take full advantage of getting to the tops of climbs faster.

What are your other hopes and goals with your eMTB product line?
Niner:The e9 series is somewhat of a starting point for us. As a small company, the effort to build ebikes was huge. There’s been a big learning curve and a lot of testing and refinement. It’s just a whole other thing compared to acoustic bikes. The goal right now is to expand our range of bikes to have acoustic MTB, e-mtb, acoustic gravel … and grow from there. This gets our foot in the door so to speak so we can offer more access to more Niner fans, more riders, more dealers.


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.



Comments:

  • Bob Allard says:

    I wish they would reply to my emails. Invested 4k and they haven’t reply in 3 weeks. Bike is great but customer support is not on their radar.

  • William Christy says:

    Bob Allard, try calling them. Lately I have had great success in getting someone on the phone.

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