Editor’s Note: Along with longtime Mtbr forum member Kent Robertson (KRob), the 2016 Outerbike Test Sessions were conducted by Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim on Mtbr. Ben, 37, has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12, and today leans toward the XC side of things. This year, the pair headed to Moab, Utah, for the annual Outerbike consumer demo event where they rode as many bikes as possible. These posts are first ride impressions only — not full reviews. However, they stand by their opinions, and feel like they are good at feeling out the true identity, strengths, weaknesses, and soul of any given bike. For each session, they attempted to get set-up and suspension as dialed as possible. Test rides usually lasted 30-60 minutes. All bikes were then rated on a scale of 1-5 for visual impression/looks, climbing ability, descending, cornering, general agility, fit, and an intangible factor. Lowest possible score is 7. Highest is 35.
Check out the entire Outerbike Test Sessions archive.
The Niner RIP 9 RDO was a mostly negative experience for me, but did have a few positive traits. It has 150mm of travel in a 29er format paired with a boost spaced rear and a 160mm RockShox Lyrik fork. On paper, it looks like it would compete favorably with some longer travel 27.5 options in a 29” wheel package with accompanying benefits.
But I was really unimpressed at first. The tester RIP I was on creaked, groaned, and rattled like crazy. I really wanted to just go in and tighten everything, but it wasn’t an option on the trail with others waiting. I settled for tightening the headset, which was loose and knocking, and dumping 10psi out of the fork, which was too pressured for any of the 170-pound-range riders in our test group.
Once urgent adjustments were done, I was better able to evaluate fit and setup. This size large felt like an XL in reach, even with a short 70mm stem. The Niner website claims a 24.3” virtual top tube, but I felt like I was more stretched out than that. I wish I’d taken a tape measure to confirm.
Never been to Outerbike? Find out what this consumer demo event is all about.
The 760mm RaceFace Aeffect bar felt narrow, but that was in part driven by the fact that I’d just come from the 800mm Phoenix carbon riser on the Pivot Firebird. Also not helping was the RockShox Reverb dropper post plunger mounted on top of the bar and to the outside of the shifter, which made it tough to reach without sliding my hand significantly inward.
Those negatives presented a barrier to getting the most of out of my RIP 9 experience. What was amazing about the RIP, though, was how downright poppy it was for a long travel 29er. Once I got used to the long/narrow feel, the short chainstays assisted in handling slickrock drops quite nicely, actually one of the more controlled examples shoving the bike forward and over when not approaching with quite enough momentum. This kind of capability is certainly what you want from a 29er with extra travel. I’d even call it playful, reminiscent of the Devinci Atlas.
Climbing and scrambling was much more of a mixed bag. The bike’s suspension wasn’t as good as DW, VPP, or Switch Infinity options in just gaining traction for getting out of binds. I had to step out of switchbacks or walk short up-ramps that I’d be able to handle without difficulty on another setup and suspension design. It was partly a traction and partly a geometry problem.
A Double Barrel or Float X2 shock might improve this technical shortcoming, but at this travel I think that the numerous other 27.5 bike options I’ve tried have the edge. This particular Monarch shock was more plush than the one on the Turner RFX, but still constipated in action and feel. Happily, I didn’t experience any hard bottom outs or smacks from an overwhelmed shock. Bottom line, this was not one of my favorite rides from the weekend.
Outerbike Test Session Score: 24 out of 35
Editor’s Note: Shortly after this review was posted, Niner founder Chris Sugai reached out to Mtbr, asking to respond to some of the statements made in this review. Here’s Chris’ note.
Ben — Sorry to hear that you were less than pleased with the bike. We have worked tirelessly to address previous complaints of noise and rattles. We have gone to a threaded bottom bracket and kept most cable routing neat and tidy. We have added a few more cable routing tie down areas to reduce cable noise.
During a short term test we know you do not have the time to evaluate in detail what is causing the noise but hope it was some cable length error and a few loose parts after multiple test rides that a demo bike sees.
We also understand your preference for maybe a wider bar and different placement of the Reverb dropper post plunger, and we are bummed it affected you from getting a proper feel for the bike.
All that said, Niner would welcome the opportunity to let you try the bike properly set up to your liking, and give you the chance to play with shock settings and tire pressures to get the real potential out of the RIP 9 RDO.
Mtbr is working with Niner to arrange a long term review and will post an update when appropriate.
For more information visit www.ninerbikes.com.