16 July, 2015
The new 2015 Jet 9 RDO from Niner has some small changes with the frame design but offers a big change in performance and build. RDO stands for “Race Day Optimized,” which is Niner’s high end models, with a full carbon rear end and a more increased carbon layup design to save weight compared to their Jet 9 model. The Jet 9 RDO is a full suspension cross-country bike that serves as a daily rider or all around bike for downhill riding as well. Vital MTB tested this bike out in the rough terrain of British Colombia and it held up through the fast downhills and steep climbs that are full of large tree roots, rocks and technical obstacles that most bikes couldn’t handle.
New for 2015, Niner has a few upgrades to the Jet 9 RDO model. While the Geometry stayed the same, Niner utilized a new Carbon Compaction System with a new carbon layup design to yield more precise wall thickness while reducing resin pooling. Niner also changed the paint process that uses less paint to coat the frame, but keeps the sleek style that you expect. The final result is a lighter frame that has increased in strength/durability, while creating a more efficient process. Also, Niners patent CVA suspension has stayed the same with a carbon upper rocker, forged aluminum lower linkage to allow for a slightly higher bottom bracket to prevent pedal strike. The CVA suspension also allows for a better power transfer to the rear wheel, since the pedaling force does not interfere with the rear suspension. Pair all that up with a 12x142 rear thru axle results in a stiffer frame and greater power transfer making your riding more efficient compared to most other full suspension mountain bikes.
The bike tested is a medium 3 Star X1 build with a few upgrade and changes. I am 6ft tall with a 32.5-inch inseam and the medium fits me great out of the box. Changes made included installing a RaceFace Next SL Crank with RaceFace PF30 BB instead of the X1 crank with Sram BB, swapping out the Niner grips for ESI Chucky’s and putting a Terry Falcon Y saddle on instead of the stock Niner Saddle. The grips and seat were a personal choice in comfort, while the Next SL crank I had lying around so decided to install on this build. Bike tested weighs in at 26.1 lbs with pedals on. The stock build on the 3 Star X1 is a great package in performance and value. You get a new Rockshox 120mm Pike fork, Stan’s No Tubes Arch EX wheels, Shimano Deore brakes, Sram 1x11 drivetrain complete with Niner Carbon bars and seat post. With a $5,400 price tag, you get the RDO frame with a great parts package that doesn’t need any upgrades. For most the $5,400 might seem like a lot, but when you compare it to other manufactures and what you're getting, Niner stepped it up and offers a high-end frame with a really nice parts package with an affordable price tag.
With a few months on this bike, testing it in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and East Coast, there are very few complaints about this bike. I rode the stock Niner grips for one ride, and if you don’t wear gloves you hands slide right off the bars. Also they felt a little thick and narrow for my liking. I didn’t try the Niner seat at all, since I found that Terry saddles fit me really well. The only other small complaint about the Jet 9 RDO is the internal cable routing. Where the rear derailleur cables goes into the head badge, there is a cable shim to prevent the cable from moving around. I find that the cable sleeve likes to come out of the head badge once in a while. Niner updated the Air 9 RDO with a lighter head badge with a downtube cable entrance for a full internal cable routing back to the derailleur. I feel that Niner should have implemented the same design into the Jet 9 RDO for a cleaner look with less maintenance.
On the other end of the spectrum the Jet 9 RDO has several advantages. One of the biggest advantages I like is having the clearance for 2.4 inch tire. Even if you don’t run wider tires on your 29er, it is nice to have the option to. I personally like riding with a 2.4 on front and rear and many 29ers in the market don’t allow this. I also like the CVA suspension that results in the slightly higher bottom bracket clearance. The CVA feels great while powering up hills and while cruising the down hill trails; rising the bb height allows clearance for ultimate rides in the BC or other rough terrain areas. The dual thru axles and full carbon layup keep the bike light and still with a predicable handling. Also, the arch on the top tube also serves as a great bike handle when you have to hike a bike or just going up and down stairs. Lastly, the overall geometry feels great to ride on all terrains. While the wheelbase might seem long when looking at the geo chart, but once you get on it you can’t notice it at all. The bike is very nimble, predictable and comfortable even if the terrain isn’t.
If you're looking for your next race bike that serves as your daily rider no matter what the terrain is, check out the Jet 9 RDO. The full versatility of this bike allows you to power up hill, storm down hills and easily hit any obstacle in front of you. With Niner’s 5-year frame warranty you don’t need to hold back. If you want to test ride one of these, check out Niner’s event Facebook page for all the demo days that they are doing all over the US this summer. And for more specs and pricing check out the Jet 9 RDO here.