First Look: 2019 Niner RIP 9 v3

“Don’t call it a comeback… I been here for years…” It’s only fitting that I’m getting ear-wormed with L.L. Cool J., circa 1990, as I’m carving berms and boosting doubles through Southern California chaparral. The third-generation Niner Rip 9 has got me feeling nostalgic for a few reasons. I’ve ridden these same trails many times on my previous-generation Rip 9—a bike that served me well for two seasons, a bike that I have forsaken for a newer, shinier all-mountain bike even though I couldn’t have been happier with it. I’m going to make some comparisons to that bike, because as much as the v3 is true to its roots… there is not much that hasn’t changed for the newest Rip 9. And I would say that this bike is somewhat of a metaphor for Niner as a company right now (hang in with me for a minute while I explain) …

It’s easy to forget that Niner has been rocking big wheels for 15 years! When pretty much every XC brand declared that 29” wheels were too heavy and too slow to accelerate for the weight-conscious race crowd, Niner doubled down and put it on the down tube. Once the industry recognized that this was not a fad–and once better rim, tire, and suspension product was available—it was inevitable that the lycra set would eventually embrace this faster rolling technology. Then along comes this 27.5”/650B/Tweener size to offer “the best of both worlds” to those of us not attaching a number plate every weekend. There were a whole lot of folks who predicted the demise of the 29” wheel; and nearly everyone said, “well 29ers for XC, but twenty-seven-point-five is going to rule for trail bikes”. “Nearly everyone”—not Chris Sugai. Niner’s Founder was right about 29” XC hardtails in 2004, and Niner was right about 6” travel 29ers when they launched the first Rip 9. It’s no secret that financial circumstances have dictated that they weren’t first to market with a new “modern-geometry” long-legged 29er, but I’ll argue that once again they helped pave the way—and the “shreddy twenty-niner” is nothing new for Niner Bikes.

Disclaimer: When Niner emerged as a brand in 2004, I was already drinking the 29 Kool Aid—and Niner became one of my favorite flavors. Their bikes quickly became the geometry gold standard for the big-wheel genre (I must confess to borrowing their geometry when designing a bike). They also had a leg-up with their suspension design—CVA suspension paired really well with the efficient feel of the big wheels. I respect that the exploding sales of 27.5” trail bikes in the past 7 or 8 years did not cause Niner to deviate from their course; because if the last year of 140-150mm-travel-29er new model introductions is any indication, Niner was right again…

What's New?

When you check out the v3 Rip 9, it doesn’t look all that different—but in reality, revised CVA suspension (and wheel diameter) is the only common thread. Porsche just launched the 992-series 911, it looks almost identical to the 991-series car—but they share virtually nothing. Same thing here, Niner focused much of their attention on stiffening the frame’s structure. The top tube and down tube are wide—really wide (wide enough that the Velcro strap on my Dakine truck pad barely hooks it up). To make sure they hit their mark, there are twin tubes that form a cage around the rear shock. I found that the front triangle is as stiff as anything I have ridden (and the extra tubes make a good handle if you must portage). My singular gripe with my old Rip was that I could feel the flex in the lower link. To make sure that the back end would perform as well as the front, the v3 gets new wider, stiffer links—and the rear triangle has also been beefed up considerably and widened. Mission accomplished, this thing feels solid—I pushed it hard through rock gardens and torqued on the 800 mm bars in off-camber situations without it yielding or whimpering. Next to the older model, the v3 Rip 9 just looks like it has spent a lot of time in the gym; it’s bigger, it’s chiseled (it’s probably more likely to pick a fight as well). This brings me to the only complaint I have found—in the interest of notable torsional stiffness, the rear triangle is not only beefed up, it is also wider. I had some calf rubbing occurrences on the seat stay. Now, I must disclose that I am oddly proportioned (my calves or more like cows—and this is not the first bike that I have experienced this with). I reached out to Niner’s product manager and it sounds like I am the first to complain of this, and I know that a fair number of journalists have logged some miles. Probably not an issue for most folks, but if you have Popeye calves check it out. I’m running a Sram crank with a narrow 168 mm Q-factor—it was wisely pointed out that there are a good number of cranks in the 174-176 mm Q-factor-range that would get me all the real estate I need.

Let's Talk Numbers

The new Rip 9 geometry is RIGHT! There are folks who will believe “the steeper the seat angle, the better” … “the slacker the head angle the better” … Well, yes—and no. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch! A 77-degree seat angle is great for staying on top of a 32×50 gear on a gnarly singletrack climb, but it’s not great when you’re grooving a fast sweeping descent (the ones where you’re still in the saddle and pedaling to keep your momentum). I’ve concluded that for all-around trail bike performance I want to be between 75 and 76 degrees in the seat angle department. Niner provides both high and low positions to allow you to choose between 75.8 and 75.2 seat angles. Likewise, that two-position strategy lets you vote for 66.0 or 65.0 degrees for the head angle. After a week with the bike it was clear; I like the climb-friendly nature of the higher/steeper setting, and I also felt that the bike was more flickable and nimble in switchbacks and riding technical terrain. To shred at the bike park all summer, it would be lower/slacker all day long.

The stiffness of the frame helps you isolate what the CVA suspension is actually doing. Niner is quick to point out that this patented system is the only one specifically designed around 29” frames. There are two short links that create an “instant center” that is in front of the drivetrain, effectively isolating the drivetrain from a lot of pedal inputs. I shouldn’t use the term “virtual pivot point” but this platform behaves very similar to a VPP bike (which is not a bad thing at all). In the saddle you can tell that the system is working; there is a hint of bob if you get choppy, but you don’t feel that you are losing any power at all. Out of the saddle, the suspension will stiffen as you increase power, so it will accelerate pretty well when you decide to punch it. The Rip 9 is a bike that is going to be expected to do a lot of things well—this is a bike that will see a lot of big epic days. As a result, the suspension tune isn’t aimed at being super-supple, nor is it meant for swallowing huge hits—it has been refined for tracking well at speed and excelling in the middle parts of the travel. The quality of that travel is good—the new 140 mm-travel Rip 9 v3 felt more capable than the 150 mm bike it replaced, but you can find the limits if you seek them out.

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NINER: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE

It should be mentioned that Niner is going to offer the Rip NINE in a 27.5” variety as well. This is not a 27.5×2.8 afterthought with a longer fork—I mean those guys went out and designed an honest-to-goodness 27×2.5 bike to pair with this new rig! Why? I don’t believe that Niner is any less committed to their original mission of making great big-wheel-bikes, but they are acknowledging “different horses for different courses”. I’ll take mine twenty-nine, but I completely get why some riders want the nimble feel of a smaller wheel. Niner gets that too, and so they are going to let you have the Rip your way.

How does the new Rip 9 exemplify what Niner has become as a company? The attention to detail in the v3 frame shows how much effort has gone into evaluating past performance and making every effort toward reaching its potential. The new model is greatly better than the bike it replaces, but I find myself looking backward and saying, “you know, that bike was pretty damn good as well”. And so it is with Niner Bikes in Fort Collins, Colorado… they have recently gotten investors who are driving new engineering and marketing efforts (this Rip 9 v3 is the start of great things to come). I have no doubt that the company is stronger and more primed for success than it was a few years ago, but maybe that company was pretty damn cool too. This isn’t a comeback. And I don’t really think this is “a new chapter” for Niner Bikes—I just think those guys recently shifted two more gears, and they’re picking up speed. So pedal damnit!!!

RECOMENDED RIDER:

The photos and video in this article prove that the Rip 9 can hold its own when under a rider the likes of Kirt Voreis (and our own Danny Lilley).  But, this bike is impressively efficient and nimble for those of us who dream of riding like Kirt but still need some practice getting there.  We love this genre of bikes that can tackle climbs and tech while being poised anxiously to smash berms and boost jumps.  If that sounds like you, then this is your bike.  This is the “one bike” quiver (heaven forbid, one bike only!!!) that will let you hang with whoever your riding with in most every situation.  As always, bikes designed specifically for a certain riding discipline might win by a bit, but it’s hard to argue with the range and diversity of the Rip 9 for most every ride and rider.

WHAT WE LOVED:

  • Impressive chassis stiffness will give you the confidence to go looking for trouble.
  • Modern geometry for the real world.
  • Efficient suspension platform that will allow you back out the dampers.
  • Versatile 29er trail bike from the people who brought you versatile 29er trail bikes.

WHAT WE DIDIN'T LOVE:

  • Rear tringle stiffness comes at the expense of calf clearance.
  • Rip v3, you were late to the party—but you do have some great dance moves.
 

PNW LOAM DROPPER LEVER

Dropper seat posts have changed the way riders ride their mountain bikes. It allows riders to drop their saddles so they're out of the way for safe descending. The PNW Loam Dropper Lever is an incredibly adjustable lever that has a grippy injection molded pad. It features a weatherproof design with an oversized high quality sealed bearing. It has custom CNC machining throughout the whole design for precision and weight reduction.

 

First Look: 2019 Niner RIP 9 v3

EMPLOYEE PROFILE:

  • Name: Seth Kendall
  • Age: 38
  • Rider Height / Weight: 5’9″ / 165lbs
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
  • Riding Style: A bit of everything, but mostly trail to all mountain and DH. Dabbles in BMX, pump track, and gravel riding
  • Favorite Trail: Hard to choose, but currently loving trails with diverse terrain that varies from one segment to the next

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First Look: 2019 Niner RIP 9 v3

Mountain biking is a diverse sport that ranges from full-out pedal fests to hard-charging gnarly descents. But, most riders find themselves riding somewhere in the middle; a mix of climbs, tech, descents, and fun jumps. As 2018 comes to a close, we compiled a list of MTB tires that fall in this range of riding and excel at what they do. We surveyed our employees and our customer reviews to determine each winner. Read on to find out which tires won and why?