New carbon Niner Jet 9 RDO ride report

The Jet 9 RDO has 100mm of rear suspension travel. Expect the alloy version to follow suit for 2012.

By Josh Patterson

In a stroke of marketing [evil] genius Niner used the press release of their recently patented CVA suspension system to show off the rear end of something new, something carbon. Secrecy prevailed until this week’s press camp where Niner bared all. The new carbon version of the Jet 9, dubbed the “Jet 9 RDO”, which stands for Race Day Optimized, is almost too curvaceous, and judging from some of the lewd comments posted about bike on our Facebook page, it certainly has sex appeal…

Looks aside, this bike brings significant advancements to Niner’s lineup. The new carbon version weighs approximately 1.5 pounds less than the current aluminum Jet 9. A size small Jet 9 RDO tips the scales at 5.1 pounds with a custom-valved Fox RP23.

The cables enter the frame at the head tube. The Kashima coating on the Fox RP23 offers a significant performance upgrade over pervious version. As you can see from the picture, little to no platform damping is needed with the CVA suspension system.

In addition to weight savings, the Jet 9 RDO introduces several technologies absent on the standard Jet 9, including a direct-mount front derailleur, Press Fit 30 bottom bracket, and internal cable routing, similar to that found on Niner’s Air 9 carbon. In fact, many of the technologies developed for Niner’s carbon hardtail, both cosmetic and structural, have been incorporated into Niner’s first carbon full suspension frame. On the surface, the internal cable routing and tube shapes are very similar. Internally, Niner uses a size-specific top tube to tune the ride of each frame size to a similarly sized rider. “Many companies base their carbon layups on large frames, so small frames are to too stiff and extra large frames can be flexy," says Niner co-founder Chris Sugai.

Sugai and other Niner employees have worked hard to ensure the launch of the new bike coincides with product availability, something the company has struggled with in the past.

“We’ve definitely put our big-boy pants on this year,” says Niner Brand Manager Carla Hukee. To that end the Jet 9 RDO will begin shipping to dealers next week. The frame with Kashima-coated Fox RP23 retails $2,599 and is available in, black, orange or white; and three build kit options, Shimano SLX, XT and XTR. SRAM build kits will be available this fall.

The rear derailleur cable runs through the driveside chainstay.

So enough rambling—how does it ride?

I spent two days putting the Jet 9 RDO through the paces on the Deer Valley trails overlooking Park City, Utah. The terrain is a mix of loose-over-hardpack, chunky rockgardens, and—if you know where to look for it—perfectly damp “hero dirt”, which lives up to its name by allowing riders to push the envelope through highspeed turns and down steep switchbacks.

Niner’s head of engineering, George Parry set up my demo bike with 105psi in the Fox RP23, which, under my fully-loaded 150-pound arse, gave exactly the 25 percent recommended sag. According to my personal fit preferences and Niner’s size guide, I could fit comfortably on a size small and medium, so I tested both.

Since we were riding at a ski resort, and didn’t have to climb if we didn’t want to, I did substantially more descending than climbing. I did manage to find several trails that allowed me to test the bike’s climbing prowess, while simultaneously testing my ability to gasp for the rarefied Utah air.

Niner uses a postmount rear brake, but choose to use a traditional 135mm quick release for the rear wheel, as the minimal increase in stiffness was not worth the added weight of a thru-axle system.

My initial impressions of Niner’s CVA suspension and the Jet 9 RDO were favorable. The suspension did a good job of absorbing small and medium-sized bumps while descending. I found the ProPedal to be unnecessary and kept it off most of the time. When I did use it I kept it in the lowest level of platform damping, as anything more impeded the bike’s suspension, in both climbing and descending situations, with no discernable increase in pedaling performance.

As for the handling, the steering is quick, requiring very little body english to maneuver through tight switchbacks. Unlike the alloy version, which is compatible with 80-100mm suspension forks, the geometry of the JET 9 RDO is optimized for 100-120mm travel forks. Personally, I’d like the extra travel and more relaxed handling of a 120mm fork for aggressive riding and longer endurance events.

At 5’7” I’m on the bubble between a small and medium. After riding both sizes I decided the medium with a 90mm stem was very close to a spot-on fit. The longer front center and wheelbase of the medium contributed to a noticeably more stable ride at high speeds. Are you a “tweener” too? If so, make sure you try before you buy. Niner takes pride in their demo program so it should be relatively easy for most riders to find a dealer with a demo bike in stock or you can meet up with Niner’s demo truck at an event near you.

Speaking of demos…a demo is NOT a review. There’s only so much a rider can glean from an unfamiliar bike on unfamiliar trails during a two-day period. To that end, we’ve got one on the way shortly. Expect a full review in an upcoming issue. If you don’t want to miss it, be sure to order a subscription now.

Plenty of room to spare with a 29”x2.2”. Niner says the Jet 9 RDO will accommodate most tires up to 2.5”.



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