First Ride Review: Niner RKT 9 RDO XC 29er race bike

Ruthlessly efficient climber that’s nimble going downhill, too

29er Cross Country
Niner PR man Brad Cole raced the new bike at August's Breck Epic XC stage race.

Niner PR man Brad Cole raced the new bike at August’s Breck Epic XC stage race (click to enlarge).

Suspension is overseen by Niner’s patented 29er-specific CVA linkage design, which it says allows for pedal forces to operate independently of rear wheel travel, the idea being energy into the pedals is MPH blasting out the back end. CVA is designed to take advantage of the increased bottom bracket drop of 29ers. Because the lower swingarm linkage is located underneath the bottom bracket, chain torque in any chainring effectively neutralizes the unwanted forces that degrade power transfer to the rear wheel, claims Niner.

Niner also claims this iteration of CVA is the best yet, thanks to its engineers optimizing the linkage and bearings to produce the lightest, stiffest version. Again it’s impossible to honestly speak to any of these claims, except to say that during our limited time on the bike it went up hill just as you’d expect a lightweight, short travel full suspension bike to do — quite well.

You can also stay hydrated on this bike thanks to medium and large frame sizes that have water bottle mounts on both the underside of the down tube and within the front triangle.

The 73mm PF30 BB allows for compatibility with the full array of drivetrain configurations, and if you are anti-press fit, the bike can accept a threaded bottom bracket using adaptors. And yes, it is dropper post compatible if you choose to make the upgrade (which you should). The frame is also Di2 friendly and has a detachable front derailleur mount.

The frame is also Di2 compatible and has a detachable front derailleur mount.

The frame is also Di2 compatible and has a detachable front derailleur mount (click to enlarge).

Time to Head Down

At the top of the climb, the Picture Rock trail levels out, darting in and out of Pine Tree groves. Here the RKT 9 RDO was really in its element, easily maintaining speed through pedaly sections, and hugging tight lines as the trail weaved its way to sprawling overlook of the South St. Vrain Canyon below. In 2013, this drainage transformed into a torrent of destruction during the tragic Boulder County flood disaster.

That ugly memory is pushed aside. It’s time to retrace our tracks, this time going downhill. Quickly the limitations of this bike become apparent. Remember it’s a race bike with 90mm of rear travel and a 100mm Fox 32 fork up front. Rough trail will always feel like rough trail. You cant simply slam your way through rock gardens. A more precise and deft touch is required. Fortunately all the aforementioned nimbleness comes into play again.

This is no boat of a bike. Instead, it changes direction quickly so long as its pilot is paying attention. At the bottom of the trail I admittedly feel a little beat up. My go-to bike these days has 160mm of travel and 2.4” tires. This is a whole different ball game. But if your game is going fast uphill, racing to win, and capably surviving (not thriving) in the rough stuff, Niner’s new RKT 9 RDO should be on you short list of 2016 bikes to consider.

This isn't necessarily this bike's happy place, but it has enough mustard to handle the rough stuff when required.

This isn’t necessarily this bike’s happy place, but it has enough mustard to handle the rough stuff when required (click to enlarge).

MSRP for frame, rear shock, seat collar, headset and maxle is $3000. Head over to page 3 for a rundown of features, build specs and complete bike pricing, plus an extended photo gallery. For more info visit

Continue to page 3 for a rundown of features, build specs and complete bike pricing, plus an extended photo gallery »

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • professed says:

    Very odd release for a now large bike manufacturer.

    Niner already have the excellent Jet RDO – why not tighten it up a bit if they want a WC XC bike?

    Perhaps the Jet nine is heading to 120mm travel now and a slacker HA which is really what Niner should be doing and looking at. That is the sort of XC bike most of us want these days.

    Then LLS the RIP so that it can capture some of the booming Stumpjumper 150mm 29er sales.

    There is hardly a market for something like this.

    C’mon Niner – we want you to succeed !

  • coke says:

    My local trails are very tight with lots of steep climbs, turns, and switchbacks. This bike would be a great match.

  • duder says:

    Never will understand a 100mm or less rear travel bike. Get a hardtail if thats what you are after.

    • jpre says:

      I rode an 80mm rear travel bike for 10 years. Liked it way better than my hardtail and way fewer rear flats.

    • Harry says:

      You’re implying less than 100mm rear travel travel is no different than no rear travel at all. That’s like saying if you’re going to go less than 180mm, you may as well just go with 100mm. Pretty silly comment.

  • Kuttermax says:

    I’ve got a Jet 9 RDO upgraded this year with a Fox DPS Evol shock and a RS-1 120 mm fork. The DPS Evol makes this an amazing “daily driver” handling a wide range of terrain with a much more progressive feel compared to the stock RP23. I don’t race enough to give up the comfort and confidence that I get from the small amount of additional travel.

    I suspect some of the positive atrributes that the early reviews of the RKT 9 RDO are in no small part related to the new Fox DPS that is on the bike. It likely helps compensate for the drop to 90 mm of travel from the 100 mm the Jet 9 RDO had due to the more progressive nature of the Fox DPS.

    I’m definitely curious to see what the introduction of the RKT 9 RDO means to the rest of Niner’s lineup. A new Jet 9 RDO with shorter rear chainstays would be interesting.

  • MGCan says:

    A head to head comparison against an Specialized Epic or Cannondale Scalpel would be good. Also how about some full build weights, XC folks, love to hear complete build weights.

  • I'mRight says:

    If you can’t “bomb thru rock gardens” than your xc valved FS bike will wallow thru the rocks. Then your “not meant for this shock” will blow up and your maxed out cc won’t be able to save you and you’ll wish you bought the Niner ROS instead.

  • Gator says:

    Can I run a 120mm fork on it?

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