First impressions: Niner Air 9 Carbon

By Shannon Mominee

My head was filled with dreams of flying to New Zealand and racing in the 2010 Single Speed World Championships that were held in Rotorua on October 23rd. I had a plane ticket, beer money, and some idea of what I’d be doing while visiting in the youngest country on the planet, but no bike. Thanks to Karl’s hard work and the good folks at Niner, my Air 9 Carbon tester arrived six days before my departure date. Plenty of time to get in a few rides before flying it halfway around the world and pedaling in pumice-based soil.

The Air 9 Carbon is a beautifully crafted frame and also Niner’s debut full carbon fiber frame. It shares the same geometry as Niner’s other hardtail offerings and an impressive ride quality that makes me want to keep pedaling. The monocoque frame design includes alloy interfaces around the BB and headtube bearing journals for added strength, while the tapered headtube, large hexagonal downtube, and structurally shaped bottom bracket area increase torsional rigidity and lateral stiffness.

The frame is compatible with 80mm or 100mm forks. My size large tester came with a Niner paint-matched carbon fork and RockShox Reba XX Dual Air 29 with a hydraulic remote lockout system. My first four rides were with the carbon fork, but I didn’t know what to expect in New Zealand so I mated the Reba to the frame. With the carbon fork, Stan’s sealant and no pedals the bike weighed a silly 17.44 pounds. With the Reba, tubes, Shimano XT pedals, my standard WTB saddle, and some dried mud, as pictured, it weighs 21.44 pounds.

I have it built up as a single speed with 32×20 gearing, but it can also be built as a geared bike by replacing the drivetrain inserts and utilizing the Bio-Centric EBB and vertical dropouts.

Riding the Air 9 has been a joy and the Bio-Centric bottom bracket creak-free. I plan on putting as many hours on it as possible before the inevitability of having to give it back comes. Look for a complete review in issue #154, the first of 2011.

You can also read about my trip to New Zealand for the SSWC here.