Niner RIP RDO 29 3-Star Review
Cons: Moderately heavy, complicated linkage, low bottom bracket
Manufacturer: Niner Bikes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy this Bike?
The RIP 9 RDO is the evolution of Niner's long-standing RIP 9 trail bike which they claim is "more versatile and capable than ever before." It's definitely the most exciting bike we've seen Niner make in quite a while, a real departure from their traditionally more conservative designs. It is undoubtedly more capable than any Niner we've ridden on the descents, thanks to their adoption of a modern long, low, and slack, geometry. The new RIP 9 has a serious preference for the descents and is a bit of a bruiser with a mini-enduro bike feel. It's very forthcoming with its travel and feels like it has more than 140mm of rear suspension as it smooths over mid-sized chop, eats up big hits, and comes alive as speeds increase. Its climbing performance is respectable, though the uphills aren't this bike's strongest suit. It's an aggressive trail bike, plus it has adjustable geometry with a flip chip to slack it out even further for shuttle or lift access days. Niner has also broken their own mold by offering the Rip 9 in a 27.5" wheel size, a good option for smaller riders or 29" wheel haters.
The Editor's Choice Award-winning Ibis Ripmo is one of the easiest and most obvious comparisons for the RIP 9 RDO. The Ripmo shares similar travel numbers as well as a similar long, low, and slack design and rips the downhills harder than the Niner, and with a sportier and more lively rear end that helps make its performance feel more well rounded on the descents. The Ripmo has a steep seat tube angle and supportive rear suspension, power transfer is excellent, and it climbs as well as it descends. The Ripmo also weighs less than the Niner giving it a noticeably lighter feel that contributes to its liveliness and climbing prowess. The carbon Ripmo V2 comes in a variety of builds starting at $4,399.
The Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Carbon 29 is a versatile and well-rounded trail bike that is a little more approachable and easy going than the RIP 9 RDO. The Stumpjumper doesn't impress with any particular performance characteristic; it just performs consistently well in most situations. It's got the same amount of travel as the Niner but with a slightly less aggressive geometry that can handle just about anything that comes down the trail. One of the best things about the Stumpjumper is its user-friendliness; people with a vast range of skills can have a great time on this bike. Carbon Stumpjumper builds range in price from $4,520 up to $9,520.
Looking for something a little more lively and zesty on the trail? The Pivot Switchblade is a zippy and playful mid-travel 29er. The Switchblade has 135mm of rear wheel travel with a stiff aluminum frame that delivers ultra-precise handling. Despite weighing nearly a pound and a half more, it climbs better than the Rip 9 RDO and is significantly more agile and fun loving. The Switchblade, however, can't compete with the RIP 9 RDO when it comes time to charge down steep, rough, or rowdy terrain. Aluminum builds start at $4,099, and Carbon models range from $5,099 up to $9,399.
The RIP 9 has been Niner's flagship trail bike for a number of years and it has seen a complete redesign for 2019. This bike is a departure from Niner's typically conservative geometry, and it's clear that they intend for this bike to shred on the descents harder than anything else they've ever produced. This is most evident in their adoption of a long, low, and slack design that puts this bike in line with modern trail bike geometry. They've also equipped it with 140mm/150mm of generous feeling suspension to tackle whatever comes down the trail. It's also offered in both 27.5" and 29" wheel sizes with dedicated frames for each wheel size. Flip Chips in the seat stay pivots also allow you to choose between high and low geometry settings.
The RIP 9 RDO features their CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) suspension design which they claim "is perfectly balanced, so the result is stable yet supple, active, ground-hugging traction in every situation." Constantly Varying Arc refers to the path of the rear axle as the rear suspension moves through its travel. They claim this axle path helps to control chain growth during the bike's suspension travel, which helps create the anti-squat in the rear suspension. This design features a rocker link attached about midway up the seat tube that compresses the shock straight down towards the bottom bracket. There is also a large curved lower link that is attached just in front of the bottom bracket that wraps underneath it during compression of the rear suspension. Both links are connected to a stout rear triangle with thick carbon tubing.
The front triangle of the RIP 9 RDO has big carbon tubes, and they've added Rib Cage struts that connect between the down tube and seat tube around the rear shock to stiffen up the rear end. While they may stiffen up the frame, the Rib Cage struts do get in the way of the shock's valve, and you have to use a valve adapter to make pressure adjustments. Niner has included a crack pipe valve adapter, which is nice, but using it is annoying as is the difficult to reach attachment point on the inside of the seat stay. The frame has a low standover height, and Niner has shortened the seat tube to allow for the use of longer dropper seat posts; our size large test model came with a 170mm dropper. We measured our test bike to have a 624mm effective top tube length and a 465mm reach. Its got a long 1212mm wheelbase and 436mm chainstays. The head tube angle measures 66 degrees in the high geometry setting with a 75.5-degree effective seat tube angle. In the low setting the head tube angle slackens out to a trail plowing 65-degrees and the bottom bracket lowers by 7mm.
- Offered in carbon fiber only
- Available in 27.5" or 29" wheel sizes with dedicated frame designs
- CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) suspension design
- 140mm of rear wheel travel
- Designed around a 150mm reduced offset fork
- Adjustable geometry flip chips
- Full-length internal cable sleeves
- Frame only starting at $3,200
- Build kits ranging from $4,500 to $8,800
The Rip 9 RDO impressed us the most when it was pointed downhill and gravity was doing most of the work. It has plush suspension and modern geometry that excel at speed, over mid-sized chop, and on bigger hits or drops. It seems to have no speed limit and handles rowdy terrain better than some others in its travel class, though it does so at the expense of agility and liveliness. The 3-Star build is impressive and helps this bike excel in aggressive terrain.
The RIP 9 RDO has a preference for speed and handles rowdier terrain quite well given its 140mm of rear and 150mm of front wheel travel. It gives freely of its travel, and it feels like it has more squish than those numbers suggest. We tested it primarily in the high geometry setting, mostly because the low setting felt way too raked out and low for our everyday trail riding needs. The 66-degree head tube angle is plenty slack to charge down steep rock gardens with confidence, and this is backed up by a sturdy yet super plush Fox Factory 36 fork. The CVA rear suspension settles deep into its travel, lowering the bottom bracket and slackening the front end even further. At 30% sag, we measured the head tube angle in the upper 64-degree range. The rear suspension is quite supportive at the top and mid-stroke but generously provides full travel when you need it.
The RIP 9 RDO has a long but not excessive 1212mm wheelbase which helps give it impressive stability at speed. It also has a long but reasonable reach of 467mm. This provides a roomy and comfortable riding position that feels great when the pitch steepens, or you're going warp speed. This bike definitely feels better at speed and in more open terrain, it prefers the fall line and has a ground-hugging suspension feel. When the trail gets tight and speeds decrease, we noticed the length of the wheelbase and the slackness of the head tube resulting in somewhat sluggish handling. Playful isn't a word that got used much to describe it either; this bike is more of a plower. A couple of testers also noted that it occasionally, but not always, seems to wallow in its suspension when it's deep in the stroke. This resulted in some moments of awkward handling with the front end being ultra slacked out while the rear end tries to recover.
The build on the Niner is really quite impressive. The cockpit is well appointed with an excellent Race Face 35mm bar stem combo for responsive steering, and a 170mm SDG Tellis dropper post that gets your saddle nice and low for those steep, aggressive descents. Niner also chose to spec a nice wide Stans NoTubes wheelset and crowd-pleasing Maxxis Minion DHF/Aggressor tire combo. These tires are spot on for this bike's aggressive intentions, and provide great cornering and braking traction and inspire confidence. The SRAM Guide R brakes are solid and have predictable and reliable performance. The suspension package is what really blew us away. The Fox Factory 36 fork and Fox Factory Float DPX2 pack some serious bling factor, are highly tuneable and are typically found on more expensive builds.
Considering the aggressive downhill performance of the RIP 9 RDO it still climbs pretty well. The CVA suspension platform provides a good amount of anti-squat, and it has a calm and relatively stable pedaling platform, even with the shock in the open position. It rolls along relatively efficiently and climbs well for a bike of this weight and geometry.
The CVA suspension platform provides a stable pedaling platform that has barely any suspension movement when seated. Out of the saddle, there is noticeable bobbing of the rear suspension, and if you're an out of the saddle climber, you will probably benefit from the use of the compression dampening on the rear shock. With an effective seat tube angle of 75.5 degrees, the seated pedaling position is comfortable and just about directly above the cranks for solid power transfer. Due to the frame's design and kinked nature of the seat tube, it does feel a little bit like your weight is a little further back over the rear wheel than on bikes with straighter seat tubes like the Ibis Ripmo. The RIP 9 does settle into 30% sag very easily and the 338mm bottom bracket height can feel a little low and result in pedal strikes if you aren't careful.
Due to the long wheelbase and slack head tube angle, the RIP 9 RDO can be a handful in tight uphill switchbacks or technical terrain that requires quick and precise handling. It motors along quite well in a straight line and benefits from momentum and a skilled climber. While the 31 lb 6 oz weight isn't terribly heavy, it is noticeable when navigating techy climbs and will certainly wear you out on all day epics, especially when compared to lighter models.
The components on the Niner are a benefit to its climbing abilities. The SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is great and provides reliable and consistent performance with plenty of gear range. The 32-tooth chainring paired with the 10-50 tooth 12-speed cassette has pretty much every gear you'll ever need. The 2.5" Maxxis Aggressor tire in the rear has loads of air volume and a fast rolling center tread, yet provides ample climbing traction in all but the loosest of dirt conditions.
The 3-Star build we tested retails for $5,600, and we feel this is a good value considering the quality of the component specification. That's no drop in the bucket, but this bike comes fully decked out and ready to charge on the trails. There is little if anything we'd need or want to change about this build, and the Fox Factory suspension is definitely a highlight. Of course, this bike will be most valuable to the right consumer, a descent-focused rider looking for an aggressive mid-travel trail bike.
Niner is certainly on to something with their new RIP 9 RDO. This is by far the most cutting edge and aggressive design we've seen from this traditionally more conservative brand. This is an aggressive trail bike that thrives at speed and when the trail gets steep and rough. It rides like it has more travel than it actually does and feels a lot like a mid-travel enduro bike. It's far from the most agile or playful bike out there, but if you're focused on the descent and are after a stable, planted, and confident ride we think this is a solid mid-travel option to consider.
Niner offers the RIP 9 RDO in both 29" and 27.5" wheel sizes. They have produced completely different framesets for the different wheel sizes. They offer it as a frame only for $3,200, and in 4 build kits including the 3-Star GX Eagle we tested.
-The least expensive version is the 2-Star NX Eagle, $4,500, that comes with a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, Fox Performance suspension, SRAM Level brakes, and a Niner wheelset.
-The 4-Star XO1 Eagle, $6,950, comes with a SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Guide RSC brakes, carbon cranks, and a carbon handlebar.
-The top of the line 5-Star XO1 Eagle build, $8,800, comes fully tricked out with a SRAM XO1 drivetrain and DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheels.
— Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, Pat Donahue