Outerbike Test Sessions: Niner RIP 9 RDO

29er with a boost spaced rear and 160mm RockShox Lyrik

29er All Mountain Trail Outerbike Test Sessions

Interbike Mtbr

This bike was downright poppy for a long travel 29er.

This bike was downright poppy for a long travel 29er.

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 you get used to the long feel, the short chainstays assist in handling drops quite nicely.

Once you get used to the long feel, the short chainstays assist in handling drops quite nicely.

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.

Read the Mtbr review of the Niner RKT 9 RDO XC race bike and learn more about the alloy version of the Niner RIP 9.

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.

This size large felt like an XL in reach even with a 70mm stem.

This size large felt like an XL in reach even with a 70mm stem.

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

Manufacturer’s Response

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.

About the author: Benjamin Slabaugh

Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim on Mtbr, lives near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The 37-year-old has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12. His first high-end bike was a 1995 Specialized Stumpjumper M2, which he still has. Ben considers himself a climber, and competes in local road and MTB events. But he also loves to cruise on fast, flowing singletrack, and even makes the occasional trip to the bike park. While not an industry insider, Ben is tuned in to the nuances of bikes and believes he can communicate those characteristics in ways that are helpful to others.

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  • Farmer Ted says:

    Niners always feel long, I don’t care what the geometry chart says. If you size down one from where you think you should be, it’ll probably be spot-on. At 5’11”, I ride a medium Niner where I’d be on a large in most other brands.

    I run a 50mm stem on my previous generation Rip Rdo with a 740mm bar and that feels perfect for me. This new longer generation should definitely have a shorter stem.

    With that being said, I really like the Niners of old (I have 3). They’re very well balanced bikes in my experience. I kind of wish they hadn’t jumped on this current ‘long, low, slack’ fad but, unfortunately, I don’t think these smaller companies have a choice. If your geometry numbers don’t fit the trend, your bikes don’t sell.

    I kind of wish the bicycle industry would learn how to do change incrementally and in moderation and not constantly swing to extremes with wild trends and fads.

  • Suns_PSD says:

    Appreciate the reviews. Keep them coming.

    Any Specialized Enduro 29 reviews expected?

  • Benjamin says:

    Chris, I appreciate your offer for longer-term review and am looking forward to getting that set up in the future! It’s very classy response from you and the Niner organization, thank you.

    Once I got past the initial tuning and adjustment hurdles, I started to really like how the RIP 9 handled chunk and step-downs and was gaining confidence on it throughout the ride. With such a playful disposition, I’d love to have another crack at it with time to fine-tune everything and fully push its limits. Moab beats bikes to death, and at the end of the season, I’m sure the demos have taken their fair share of hard hits. Short initial impressions aside, it’s great to have another entry into the longer travel enduro-oriented 29er category.

  • S. Archer says:

    A good reviewer has the ability to see past setup issues or personal cockpit preferences and get a feel for the bike. An inch here or there on the stem and handlebars, or the placement of the controls may not be ideal, but it isn’t a reason to drop the bike drive side down on a rock and walk away.


  • hellbelly says:

    I am going to play Devil’s advocate on this one. First and foremost, Ben’s writing style and review are as clunky as the bike’s attributes he reviews here. The bike may in fact be horrid or fantastic, but a negative opening statement and poor syntax simply do not assist in his efforts to interest readers. I understand the fact that this is a bike that was taken out for a single ride and not a proper long term review. Nonetheless, having demoed tons of bikes myself (I have five more years of riding over the author) I take the time to A. set up the bike as ideal as I can including the cockpit controls and B. more importantly I actually pre-ride the trail on my own bike to establish a baseline for the bike(s) to be demoed. Granted, I realize this is not always practical, but it gives the reviewer a more accurate comparison. Furthermore, I never get too hung up about the components on any demo. I have my preferences, but the frame and suspension performance are paramount. I would venture to say that the majority of viewers of this website will actually at least customize their builds if not build the bikes from the frame up. I look forward to reading more reviews here and hope that they will be stronger in format and content in the future. Ride on.

    • Vegasrider says:

      I agree that components should be a small part of the review and should be overlooked as much as possible in order to review the bikes design characteristics. I also think it would be in the best interest of Niner and all bike companies to be tirelessly looking the demo fleet over and making sure everything is set up well and sounding fine. It doesn’t take much to make a riding experience a poor one on a new bike. Suspension set up can ruin a 10k build and the right set up can make a 2k build feel amazing.

  • ColoradoRider says:

    agree with others that mentioned the bike should have been better tuned for the trail, there’s few things as annoying as creaks in the suspension or noisy, clanging cables. Ben, next time do your due diligence. You took out a bike that was too large for you “This size large felt like an XL in reach” Niner’s ride large. I wonder how your lack of proper sizing impacted your analysis on the suspension, traction and handling.

    Ben makes a comment that the front suspension was too pressured: “dumping 10psi out of the fork, which was too pressured for any of the 170-pound-range riders in our test group.” Wait a minute, you took a bike out on a 30-60 minute ride, with the objective to provide an accurate review and you didn’t take a couple of minutes to check the fork’s air pressure? The proper settings are plastered right there on the fork…it couldn’t be easier to get this right. Someone that’s ridden bike for 25 years missed this??

    Regardless of bike, when riding the wrong size, and not having suspension dialed-in for your weight will absolutely impact traction and overall experience. “The bike’s suspension wasn’t as good as DW, VPP, or Switch Infinity options…” No sir, the suspension wasn’t the problem, your sloppiness in getting the bike ready for you was.

    The failure on this review wasn’t the bike. It was the rider.

  • WhipSnap says:

    I picked up a 2017 Niner RIP 9 RDO in early March 2018 and so far it has been a fantastic bike. I’m 6’1″ with a nearly 6’3″ wingspan and the size large fits me quite well. So far I have over 200 miles on the bike without issue, creak, or rattle. Once dialed and tuned tt has handled Wasatch singletrack and the slickrock trails of Moab with aplomb.

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