The 2018 Niner Jet 9
The 2018 Jet 9 has the same frame and components as the 2017 version we tested except for its fork, rear shock and color. The bike goes red for 2018 as you can see below at right. The 2017 version is on the left.
The Jet 9 trades in a RockShox Yari RC with 35mm stanchions for a Fox 34 Float Rhthym fork. Both are 130mm. We find the Fox fork to be plusher off the top than the RockShox Yari, which offers more mid-stroke and full travel support for hard-charging riders. This change will likely result in the Fox fork softening up the Jet 9's front end. In this case, that shift is doubly likely as the Fox fork has smaller stanchions. We found the 2017 Niner to have an overly plowing feel so this could be a good change. Replacing the 2017 RockShox Monarch RL with a Fox Float DPS Performance EVOL rear shock is more of an even trade. We don't expect the rear end to ride much differently.
Fun comes in many forms, testers on the Niner are happiest when aimed straight and carrying speed.
Overall, the test riders did not rank the Jet 9 very high in the fun factor department. There are a number of reasons why, including a high seated position, large sizing, and long wheelbase. For these reasons, one of the riders simply couldn't get comfortable on the bike. While all riders feel that the bike is capable downhill, it is rather slow to react, and a few testers found it hard to wheelie the bike. One of the testers says the Jet 9 was "fun in the way driving a truck is fun." The rest agree.
Situations where the Jet 9 is most enjoyable, are on higher speed trails without a lot of tight corners. Thanks to its ample suspension, the Jet 9 is pleasant on faster, rockier downhills. On flatter trails that require a lot of rolling speed and momentum, the 29-inch wheels and efficient pedaling platform of the CVA suspension design makes the Jet 9 quite capable and comfortable.
The Jet 9's efficiency overshadows it's fun. It rates among the least fun in the test. Although the frame design itself limits the Jet 9's fun factor, adding a dropper post and a front tire with more bite would improve the bike's fun quotient. The Ibis Ripley is outfitted with the same amount of travel as the Jet 9. The Ripley is infinitely more fun in almost all situations. This is especially true through the bends in the trail. Intrigued by the planted downhill feel? The Santa Cruz Hightower is a stable pinner with much better trail manners.
The Jet 9 likes to operate at high speeds in straight lines bulldozing any root or rock in its path.
Overall, the Jet 9 is an accomplished descender so long as the trail is on the straight side and is not particularly steep. Because of its longer-travel design, slacker head tube angle and plush RockShox suspension, the Jet 9 is eager to attack chunky and more technical sections at higher speeds than most other bikes in the test. One rider called the Jet 9 a downhill bruiser in the category, more of a trail-oriented bike than cross country. But it doesn't quite edge into longer travel, more aggressive trail bike territory.
In a straight line, the Jet 9 is confidence inspiring on the descent. The faster you go on the Jet 9, the more stable it gets, unless you have to scrub speed and make a turn. The CVA suspension design and RockShox platform have excellent mid-stroke support with a progressive shock rate, meaning that it provides plenty of subtle action on smaller hits without bottoming out on bigger ones. As a result, it rides like a bike with more suspension than it has. One of the testers mentioned that square edge hits unsettled the Jet 9 a bit, but overall, testers felt the Jet 9 was quite capable when the trail pointed downhill — its strongest attribute.
In more high-speed, sweeping corners, the 29-inch wheels, and ample suspension of the Jet 9 made it feel secure, although a front tire with more bite than the stock Maxxis Ardent would improve high-speed cornering significantly. When it came to tight downhill switchbacks, the tall seat position and longer wheelbase of the Jet 9 made it feel less quick and nimble in and out of turns than other bikes in the test. The "driving a truck" comparison was noticeable when trying to maneuver the Niner through tight corners.
The Jet 9 is among the least skillful descenders in the test. Despite the extra travel, the Santa Cruz Hightower handles much better than the Jet 9. Riders who like getting aggressive will have a much more pleasant and calm experience on the Santa Cruz. Favor nimble handling and want to stay in the 120mm travel range? The Ibis Ripley LS is a ninja that operates with high levels of precision on the descent.
The Niner is a sure-footed climber that requires serious body English to manuever effectively.
All the testers agree that the Jet 9 feels like one of the slowest climbers in the test. This doesn't seem to be attributable to the CVA suspension though, as there is minimal pedal induced bob. Based on rider feedback, the lack of climbing prowess is more a matter of the bike's weight and body positioning. It's a workout trying to accelerate out of corners and steering into tight uphill switchbacks. One of the testers says, "I found myself in the granny gear on the Jet 9 more than any other bike."
The CVA suspension performs well, even with the RockShox Monarch in open mode when climbing. It shines in more technical situations where the active suspension design tracks well over rocks, helping the bike maintain rear tire grip and momentum. Although all three testers agree it feels like the slowest climber, the Jet 9 is not a bad climber. The pedaling platform feels quite efficient and capable over rocky sections.
The Jet 9 was 0.6 seconds faster on our uphill test course than the slowest climbing bike, the Trek Fuel EX, on average. The Giant Anthem was just slightly ahead while the Santa Cruz Tallboy held a pretty strong margin.
We raced the Jet 9 against four similar short travel trail bikes. The Jet 9 was a middle-of-the-road climber in our benchmark timed testing. The Niner was quicker uphill than the 2017 Trek Fuel EX and 2017 Specialized Camber but slower than the speedy 2017 Santa Cruz Tallboy, and the fast-steering 2017 Giant Anthem.
One tester says the Jet 9 would benefit greatly in the climbing department by dropping a couple of pounds, starting by swapping to tubeless tires. Two of the testers do not like the stock Niner saddle that came on the Jet 9, citing that it makes climbing seated in the saddle a bit uncomfortable. Switching between rear shock settings is difficult on-the-fly, as the shock is mounted low, making the reach to the adjustment lever longer and more awkward.
The Jet 9 rates just under par in a field filled with great climbers. In contrast, the Santa Cruz Tallboy and Ibis Ripley are excellent, easy climbing options with similar downhill capabilities.
The Jet 9 is much happier on wider swooping turns when compared to tight aggressive corners.
Cornering, Handling and Body Language
As mentioned above, as long as corners are not tight, the Jet 9 performs well. It's especially confidence inspiring in higher speed corners where the momentum of the 29x2.4 inch Maxxis Ardent front tire carries the bike through with authority. However, all testers agree that for rockier, looser conditions, a front tire with more aggressive tread than the Ardent would be preferable.
Testers agree that the Jet 9 feels like a lot of mass to maneuver around into tight corners, and a lack of dropper post doesn't help the situation. Because of its longer wheelbase and the fact it's on the large side for a Medium bike, the Jet 9 struggles more than any of the other bikes in tight switchbacks. The measured 66.8-degree head tube angle improves steering confidence when cornering on the descent, but the bike certainly feels a bit lazy taking turns uphill.
One of the riders has to sit forward in the cockpit to keep the front end planted when negotiating tight uphill switchbacks. Another rider has to constantly move around to find comfortable positioning and use a lot of body English to get the Jet 9 to steer into tight corners. The Jet 9 is not on the quick side of the handling spectrum. It requires a rider comfortable with putting more effort into making the bike turn sharp and speedy.
Ease of Maintenance
It is important to take into consideration how difficult or easy your bike's suspension design is to maintain. Yes, performance is important, but paying for costly, time-consuming, repairs is no fun. Our ease of maintenance rankings take the frame and suspension design, fork, rear shock, brakes and dropper post into consideration. Read about our ranking methods in the trail bike review.
Niner's suspension design is not particularly complicated. It does require regular maintenance to keep it operating free of creaks. The service is not especially difficult; it is the frequency that can be tedious. RockShox recommends servicing its suspension components more frequently than Fox. We rate its ease of maintenance a little lower as a result. The SRAM brakes are a little harder to work on than Shimano alternatives.
The Jet 9 utilizes Niner's Constant Varying Arc (CVA) suspension and a mid-length rear end.
Frame Design and Suspension Overview
The 2017 Jet 9 has more travel and a slacker head tube angle than its predecessor. At 130mm front travel and 120mm rear, the Jet 9 boasts more travel than most bikes in the test, matching the Trek Fuel EX 7. The Jet 9's slackened 67.5-degree head tube angle, and 435mm long chainstays attempt to find a reasonable balance between high-speed stability and slower speed maneuverability, although we feel it leans towards the former. This bike also features Boost 15x110mm front and 12x148mm rear hub spacing to improve wheel and frame stiffness while accommodating 27.5+ tires as wide as 3.0 inches.
The CVA suspension features counteracting linkage forces, with a bottom link pulling downward when pedaling to prevent squat, and an upward rotating top linkage that adapts to changes in terrain, making for a noticeably efficient and fully active suspension platform.
Overall, the Jet 9
features some build highlights and lowlights, and comes in about average for build quality.
Fork and Shock — The 130mm travel RockShox Yari fork is one of the most capable in the test, with its 35mm thick upper stanchions resembling the Pike. However, despite its competent performance, the Yari is a rather heavy fork that makes the Jet 9's front-end one of the heftiest in the test.
The RockShox Monarch RL Debonair works very well with the CVA suspension, making it descend like a bike that has more than 120mm of rear travel while still pedaling efficiently uphill.
Fit — The Jet 9 is a big bike and the Medium felt more comfortable to riders who typically ride a size large.
Jet 9 Sizing Guide — XS (5'0" - 5'5"), S (5'3" - 5'9"), M (5'8" - 6'0"), L (5'11" - 6'3"), XL (6'3" - 6'7")
Maxxis Ardent tires on the front and rear of the Niner offer just enough bite to keep tidy in the corners.
Wheels and Tires — The Niner Alloy wheels feature boost spacing and stand up to the bike's intended uses. The Maxxis Ardent didn't have as much bite as testers would like up front but worked fine on the back of the bike.
The Maxxis Ardent, while respectable, should be upgraded to bring performance up another level.
Groupset — The Jet 9 came with SRAM NX 1x11 shifting, which all testers found serviceable, although one rider suggested going from a 32-tooth to a 30-tooth front chainring considering the bike's heavier weight. The Jet 9 features a threaded bottom bracket, ISCG 05 tabs for a chain guide and can only run 1x drivetrain, with no provision for a front derailleur. Although we think of them as lower grade, the performance of the SRAM Level brakes seemed adequate.
The Jet 9 is outfitted with a fun-limiting rigid seatpost.
Handlebars, Seat and Seatpost — The Niner-spec 780mm-wide alloy handlebar and stem are stout and work well. But two riders didn't care for the Niner saddle. The Jet 9 would especially benefit from a dropper post, as the angled seat tube prevents the traditional seatpost from lowering more than halfway into the frame. Although not equipped stock with a dropper, the Jet 9 can be set up with either an internal or external routed dropper post.
The Niner's cable routing is sloppy and could hook a shoe or crank arm.
Notables — The Jet 9 accommodates one water bottle cage for an oversize water bottle inside the front triangle, which is nice. The unsecured, loose-hanging rear brake and rear derailleur cable at the midship of the bike sometimes interfered with the riders' legs and detracted from the design aesthetic of the bike.
The Niner Jet 9 is available in a range of build options with the 1 Star NX1 aluminum build at the bottom of the barrel. It's all carbon from there, starting with a $3,000 Jet 9 RDO frame.
Note: While the Jet 9 1 Star NX1 is 27.5+ compatible, Niner only sells a 29er complete build.
The Jet 9 RDO 2-Star SLX bike is available with either 27.5+ wheels for $4,800 or 29er hoops for $4,500. Both bikes come with a Shimano SLX drivetrain, a KS LEV dropper post and a RockShox Pike RC, a 140mm for the 27.5+ version and a 130mm for the 29er. They share a rear shock with the 1 Star NX1 build, a RockShox Monarch. The 29er also rocks the Maxxis Ardent tires front and rear while the 27.5+ gets Maxxis Rekon tires front and rear.
The Jet 9 is a fast-rolling bruiser of a trail bike.
For the retail price of $2,600, the Jet 9 comes in on the lower end of the value spectrum compared to other bikes in the test. Although it offers high-performance suspension, its drivetrain and brakes are lower grade than other bikes in the test, and it lacks a dropper post.
To improve the Jet 9's performance, we would like to see the Jet 9 outfitted with tubeless tires. This could drop nearly a pound of weight and is neither expensive nor time-consuming and is a highly recommended first modification for this bike. Installing an internally routed dropper post is second priority. Swapping out to a smaller 30-tooth front chainring would also help riders who live in more mountainous areas, improving the low gear climbing capability of the bike since it cannot accommodate a 2x drivetrain. A front tire with more aggressive tread than the stock Maxxis Ardent would be preferable for riders in rockier, looser conditions. Depending on comfort, you might want to replace the stock saddle.
The Niner is a respectable trail bike that lacks agility but has plenty of straight-line confidence.
Although riders have some criticisms for the Niner Jet 9, overall it is a capable and confidence-inspiring bike, so long as the terrain isn't too steep and doesn't have too many tight corners. The Jet 9 is well-suited for someone who primarily rides higher speed, straighter trails that are rockier and more technical than your average singletrack. Thanks to its efficient pedaling platform and larger size fit, the Jet 9 would be an ideal bike for all-day rides where stability and confidence matter more than maneuverability, especially when rider fatigue kicks in. Although it's not the best spec, the Jet 9 is solid and can run traditional 29-inch wheels or 27.5 wheels up to 3.0 inches wide; a nice perk that two bikes in the test lack.