Niner JET 9 RDO 3-Star GX Eagle
Sizes: XS, S, M, L (Tested), XL
Tester: Brett Rothmeyer
Weight: 165, lbs.
Top Tube: 24.5”
Head Tube: 67°
Seat Tube: 74°
BB Height: 13.4”
Weight: 28.5 lbs.
“Honesty is the best policy.” I was sure that the phrase originated from “The Brady Bunch” or maybe it was “Leave It to Beaver,” but the Internet assures me that it was some bloke named Sir Edwin Sandys. Regardless of whether it was this Sandys fellow or Ward Cleaver responsible for first uttering the phrase, the sentiment remains. So let us begin with a truthful confession before proceeding any further.
When I dragged the Niner bike box down to the garage workshop and popped the staples and separated the glue, I was not overwhelmed with the usual joy of unboxing a new bike. It’s not because I dislike Niner as a brand or even that I was turned off by the orange paint scheme, quite the opposite. More than anything I had convinced myself that I was over the 29-inch wheel size. Perhaps it is the subliminal industry influence, or maybe it was the fact that I had just ridden a string of 27.5 bikes that were an absolute blast to ride, but I found myself writing off the JET9 RDO off before the first pedal stroke.
Based around 120mm of rear suspension, the bike is decked out with a Fox Float DPS rear shock and a FIT4 EVOL 34 fork with 130mm of travel. Both the front and rear suspensions offer a three-position control to give you full on the fly adjustability for the terrain ahead. Niner continues to use its Constant Varying Arc suspension design, and in tandem with the Fox Float it delivers a ride quality so enjoyable it would be crazy to try and outdo its own achievements at this point.
While Niner claims that the new JET will also accommodate 27.5×3.0 tires, I rode this bike only in its 29er variation by way of Stan’s Arch wheels and Maxxis Ardent tires. Besides not having a spare set of 27.5+ wheels lying around to throw on the JET, I felt like as a Niner it was best to test it in its true form. With almost every trail bike we have seen in recent months come spec’d with the Maxxis Minion, it was a nice surprise to see this bike dressed up in Ardents. Don’t get me wrong I have grown to love the hero traction that the Minion delivers as much as the next rider, but with summer’s perfect dirt and in-shape friends to chase around, the faster rolling Ardent was a welcomed change. At the 2.4 size the Ardent still delivered plenty of traction even on slightly muddy days.
When Niner redesigned the JET they did so to make it the “anchor,” as they say, of their trail lineup. Extending the top tube and steepening the seat tube, the JET 9 now sits among the heavy hitters in the mid-travel trail bike category.
The efficient pedaling of this bike will try to trick you into thinking that perhaps it hasn’t left its cross-country roots behind. Whether you’re chasing friends, Strava segments or getting chased, the JET keeps the power going to the pedals. The cross-country illusion doesn’t end there; Niner also made sure that it climbs well. The JET excels in technical and steep climbing. While some of the 27.5 bikes that I had mentioned above were perhaps more nimble, they seemed to struggle on the steep, technical pitches. The JET 9 was quite the opposite, making short work of rock and root littered terrain.
However well the JET rides going up, it doubles down on the descent. Flow, tech, rock gardens, rollovers, jumps, ham sandwiches – this bike makes short work of whatever you throw at it. The term “confidence inspiring” gets tossed around quite a bit, but in this case it applies in a bucketful. Perhaps my technical abilities are increasing, or maybe this bike contains a touch of magic because I rode lines that just a short while back I may have considered walking or looking for the B-line (tragic I know).
I have to be careful when using the term hybrid when referring to a bicycle, but perhaps that is what we are seeing from the modern mid-travel trail bike. With how well these bikes are pedaling and how aggressive they can be piloted down a challenging track, they really are displaying the best of both the cross-country and trail bike worlds. As suspension systems and frame designs seem to continue to improve at a rapid rate, perhaps the ever sought after “quiver killer” is not far off. Perhaps you won’t be grabbing the JET 9 to knock out the weekly short track series, but honestly, you would probably be just fine on it. While the JET 9 is every bit of a trail bike, it has retained just enough of its cross-country abilities to have you leaving that old 100 mm bike hanging on the hook regardless of the terrain.