Niner RKT 9 RDO XC race bike review

Ruthlessly efficient climber, that's stiff, nimble and playful, too

29er Cross Country
This bike is meant to get you places where you are looking down on other places. That's our Crested Butte South home somewhere down there.

This bike is meant to get you places where you are looking down on other places. That’s our Crested Butte South home somewhere down there.

Lowdown: Niner RKT 9 RDO

Mountain biking is a niche sport. And I don’t mean in the fringe sense. In this day of extreme specialization, you’re not just a mountain biker anymore. Instead we’re segmented into ever thinner categories. Maybe you’re a trail rider or all-mountain shredder. Perhaps marathon is your thing. Or you’re a racer — enduro, downhill, XC, pick a flavor.

For all those categories there is “the right” bike, one whose attributes fully encapsulates the unique requirements of your chosen discipline. The question then is do you want a bike with such a precise, narrow focus? Or are you looking for something more diversified? How you answer those questions will go a long way towards whether or not you’re a fan of the Niner RKT 9 RDO, those final three letters short for “race day optimized.” Read our full review to learn more.

Stat Box
Frame: Full carbon front and rear Chain: Shimano XT 11-speed
Fork: Fox 32 Float Factory Fit4 100mm w/Kashima Bars: Niner flat top carbon, 710mm
Shock: Fox Float DPS Factory 90mm Stem: Niner alloy, 100mm
Shock sag: 25 percent Grips: Niner Grrrips
Wheels: Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Arch EX Seatpost: 30.9mm Niner carbon
Hub spacing: 110x15mm front, 148x12mm rear Saddle: Niner custom with cr-mo rails
Tires: Maxxis Ikon 29×2.35” front, 29×2.2” rear Headtube angle: 71 degrees
Brakes: Shimano XT M8000 Ice Tech Pads Chainstay length: 439mm
Rotors: 180mm front/160mm rear RT86 Ice Tech Seat tube angle: 74.5 degrees
Shifters: Shimano XT M8000 BB drop: 35mm
Front derailleur: N/A Wheelbase: 1146mm
Rear derailleur: Shimano XT 11-speed Sizes: XS to XL
Cable routing: Internal Colors: Green/greener; carbon/Niner red
Crankset: Shimano XT M8000 32t 1x Weight: 25 pounds size XL
Bottom bracket: Shimano XT MT80 MSRP: $5500 ($3000 frame/shock)
Cassette: Shimano XT M8000 11-42t Rating: 3.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers 3.5 out of 5

  • Ruthlessly efficient XC race bike
  • Steep front end
  • Exceptional climber
  • Twitchy steering
  • Nimble handling
  • Narrow SAG range
  • Corner carver
  • Minimalist suspension
  • Remote lock-out
  • Overmatched in rough terrain
  • Low standover
  • Lower linkage below chainring
  • Compatible with 120mm forks
  • Could be lighter
  • Clearance for 2.4” tires
  • Hard-to-find middle suspension mode
  • Short chainstays
  • Narrow application of use
  • Internal dropper post routing
  • On the expensive side
  • Tall BB improves pedal clearance
  • Boost spacing improves overall stiffness
  • Reliable shifting and braking
  • Improved internal cable routing
  • Fast rolling tires
  • Titanium frame guards
  • Oversized pivot hardware
  • Shimano Di2 compatible
  • Mounts for two bottle cages (M, L, XL only)
  • Great looks

Review: Niner RKT 9 RDO

In the 3+ months since this Niner RKT 9 RDO took up residence in my garage in Crested Butte, Colorado, I’ve logged about a dozen test rides. Of those outings, three have been races: the 32-mile Half Growler, the 40-mile Fat Tire 40, and an 8-mile Wednesday Worlds session known as the Pinnacle Race Series. In each case, the Niner was for the most part that right bike, its aggressive geometry, light weight, and supreme climbing acumen allowing me to squeeze max efficiency out of my personal genetic abilities. But was it fun? Maybe…

Net weight for our size XL tester with an XT build and Stan's alloy wheels was 25 pounds on the nose. Price as spec'd is $5500.

Net weight for our size XL tester with an XT build and Stan’s alloy wheels was 25 pounds on the nose. Price as spec’d is $5500.

Herein lies my personal dilemma with this bike. With its minimalist suspension (90mm rear, 100mm front), steep 71-degree head angle and shorter head tube, stock 100mm stem, and lack of a dropper post, it’s not a bike I’m continually reaching for outside of the XC racing arena. Call me soft if you want, but these days I actually find it a little scary to ride steep terrain without a dropper post. And that’s okay, because that’s not what this bike is all about. Indeed, if you’re reading this review, it likely means you’re in the market for a racy rocket, and the Niner RKT (as in rocket) 9 RDO is just that.

Continue to page 2 for more of our Niner RKT 9 RDO review »

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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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  • JayP says:

    “Herein lies my personal dilemma with this bike. With its minimalist suspension” – the fix can’t be any simpler. 120mm fork and downhill stem. My 2013(?) alu frame Jet didn’t mind the treatment (and I could care less for warranty either) – great climber and fast on the way down.

    • Jason Sumner says:

      Fair point, JayP. But at a certain point doesnt it make sense to seek out a bike that has the kind of spec you are looking for in the first place, rather than swapping parts or building from scratch?

      • Christian says:

        I agree with you Jason, it would be obvious to go for the JET 9 RDO instead of trying to change the DNA of the RKT.

      • Adam says:

        Not necessarily. I find I can ride rough, rough terrain on an XC bike. The back end doesn’t balk (your knees can handle the rest), but you could use for travel up front to help with control and steering. I like the slightly wilder, sketchier ride of an XC bike.

  • David says:

    For endurance riding, what is the best weapon out there if looking for a FS bike? Needs to be highly durable, comfortable, light weight and efficient for climbing and confidence inspiring when faced with fatigue and technical, rocky, rooty terrain.

  • eb1888 says:

    At least Niner won’t have to make many of these. The six guys who need one are already sponsored anyway. Maybe some day they’ll become a bike company.

  • Tom says:

    This bike is meant to be a pure xc “whip” so I think it’s design is appropriate. Kind of reminds me of my year of endurance racing on an Epic. Fastest, least fun bike I’ve ever raced. These days, for 100s I prefer 120 at both ends, if at all possible (Fuel EX) or at the front for sure.

    WRT “finding” the middle shock position. There is a little hole near the lever that allows you to add a bit of preload to the spring tensioner locating ball bearing. Try giving it a half turn with a 2 mm (IIRC) hex key.

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