Review: Niner R.I.P. 9 RDO 4-Star X01

The R.I.P 9 is Niner's do-everything trail bike with 125-millimetres of rear-wheel travel. The RDO 4-star (Race Day Optimised) is a full carbon model that sits second from the top in the range. It features a carbon swingarm and rocker links with oversized aluminium axles. The suspension design is Niner's own patented CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) dual-link rear suspension.

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The Frame


The RDO R.I.P. 9 benefits from a full carbon frame made with Niner’s Carbon Compaction System. Now used throughout the Niner RDO lineup, this CCS utilizes rigid internal moulds that, according to Niner, result in a tighter, more consistent compaction of the carbon layers, yielding increased precision in wall thickness and significantly reduced resin pooling in the final product. Allowing them to aim for better ride tuning, increased strength and durability along with a weight reduction from a more efficient use of materials.

The suspension design is Niner's own patented CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) dual-link rear suspension. In order to isolate pedaling forces across a range of gearing, the CVA’s ‘instant centre’ location is in front of the drivetrain. With the lower pivot under the bottom bracket, the force at the rear axle from chain tension pulls the two linkages in opposite directions in all gear choices, effectively isolating the drivetrain from the rear triangle. In other words, when a rider cranks on the pedals, the chain is trying to pull the lower link down and away from the bottom bracket, and the upper link in its regular rotational path. As the rear triangle is one piece, these opposing forces cancel each other out, leaving the only outlet for chain-induced torque being rotation of the rear wheel, where it’s most wanted.

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Past the rearward-most position at sag, the axle path moves in towards the bike at a gradual, constantly varying arc, which insures that there is minimal chain growth throughout the length of travel. This also means minimal pedal feedback in the drivetrain while cycling the suspension, essentially isolating it from the fully active movement of the suspension design.

Available in a full size curve from XS to XL, the small and up all have space for a water bottle in the front triangle and one under the downtube, while the XS only has space for a bottle mount under the downtube. The frame comes standard with titanium frame guards to prevent damage from chain suck. Depending on specific models, there is enough clearance to run a 2.4" tyre with space remaining to keep mud from building up and slowing you down.


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Internal routing and provision for a dropper seatpost are nice detailed touches. The entry ports on the head tube look a bit messy though and will require some form of D.I.Y to keep them neat and fresh for longer.

Features

  • 29er for enduro or trail riding
  • Niner's flagship RDO Carbon Compaction System makes for a precise lay-up
  • 125 mm of 29er-specific CVA travel keeps the pedaling platform firm and consistent
  • FOX's Float CTD Adjust Trail shock
  • ISCG 05 tabs to add a chain guide if you'd like
  • 12x142mm rear axle
  • Titanium frame guards
  • Optimized for 120 or 140mm travel forks

Components


Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air
Another Pike equipped bike and another Pike that performs as suspension should. We have ridden several Pikes in all sorts of configurations and they always get the job done. The ease of adding or removing bottomless tokens makes tweaking the Pike to your liking a breeze.


Shock: Fox Float CTD, Kashima
The Kashima coated Fox Float CTD was a good match to the Pike and the overall feel of the bike.


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Drivetrain: SRAM X01
A SRAM X1 crank does duty with an otherwise full X01 drivetrain. As always shifting was smooth and precise and I never once suffered a dropped chain or clunky shifting.

Brakes and Rotors: Shimano XT M785 ICE Tech Pads with 180/160MM Rotors
No use having a fast fun bike if the stoppers can't keep up. Shimano XT brakes are popular for a very good reason. Brake feel and modulation is excellent and offers great stopping power with no sign of fatigue or heat build-up.

Seat post: RockShox Reverb
Stealth routing would have been nice, but the externally routed Reverb works just as well. Great to see that all but the 2-Star GX1 model arrive standard with a dropper.

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Handlebar: Niner Flat Top RDO, 780mm
The handlebar, along with the Pike, were the first signs to me that Niner mean business with this bike. Not only is the bar nice and wide, it is comfortable. At 179cm tall I'd trim them down to 760mm, but that's personal preference and I like the fact that they start out wide and give you the option to work your way down from there.

Saddle: Niner Custom with Cr-Mo Rails
Niner's own saddle is comfortable in all the right places. I don't mind a flat, low-profile saddle, but found this one disappear under me from the first ride.

Tyres: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Snakeskin TL, 2.35
Over the last year or so I have come to the conclusion that Nobby Nics do not have a place on a bike that's meant to hit single track at speed. Thankfully they have seen a major overall for 2016 and early reports have been good.


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Wheelset: NoTubes 3.30/ZTR Flow EX, 15mm Front, 142 X 12mm Rear
Back in the day Flow rims were considered heavy and for AM / DH use only. Some knew better and revelled in their strength and durability for day in, day out fun. On a 29er the extra strength helps off set the bigger size and the wheel deflection that plagues skinnier 29ers wheels. An added advantage of the Flow EX rims is the 25.5mm inner diameter (29.1mm outer) adding some volume to your tyres of choice.

Specification:

[spec_list][spec_list_row=Frame]RIP 9 RDO – MATTE WHITE/NINER GREEN or LICORICE BLACK[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Fork]RockShox PIKE RCT3 Solo Air 140mm, 15MM[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Shock]Fox Float CTD with Kashima coat[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Wheels]NOTUBES 3.30/ZTR FLOW EX, 15MM FRONT, 142 X 12MM REAR[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Tires]SCHWALBE NOBBY NIC SNAKESKIN TL, 2.35[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Brakes and Rotors"]Shimano XT M785 ICE Tech Pads with 180/160MM Rotors[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Brake Levers"]Shimano XT M785[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Shifter]SRAM XO1 11sp[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Rear Derailleur"]SRAM XO1 11sp[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Shifters]Shimano XT M8000 I-Spec 2 for 11 Speed[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Cassette]SRAM XG 1195 11sp 10-42T[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Chain]SRAM PC 1170[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Crankset]SRAM X1 GXP 32T[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Bottom Bracket"]SRAM GXP[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Saddle]Niner Custom with Cr-Mo Rails, Niner Graphic[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Seat post"]RockShox Reverb[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Handlebar]NINER Flat Top RDO, 780MM, Red Niner Graphic[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Stem "]NINER Trail Stem, Red Niner Graphic[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Grips]NINER Grrrips[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=RRP]R96,299.00[/spec_list_row][/spec_list]

On the Trail


Jumping on the R.I.P RDO, the first thing I noticed was how well the bike pedals even with the shock fully open. Due to rushing to get to the trail, I rode the shock a bit soft on my first ride, but even so there was little sign of unwanted bob and loss of efficiency. Once setup correctly, the R.I.P RDO was happy to tackle any piece of dirt in sight. Short technical climbs were no challenge and when out of the saddle the bike flows under you like a well-oiled machine. Stomping on the pedals for a quick burst of speed translates into forward motion rather than the feeling one often gets of a bike squatting under power.

Get up to speed and stay off the brakes to experience a 29er at its best. The combination of the CVA suspension and sorted components makes light work of rough terrain. The just-slack-enough geometry copes well with most trails and technical sections. Even though the Enduro label made it onto the spec sheet, the bike would not be my first weapon of choice for proper big mountain enduros. Stay within its limits and the R.I.P. will reward you with many a smile on your dial for miles.

What stood out was just how well-balanced the bike's suspension felt. The combination of the class-leading Pike, CVA suspension and the Fox's tune make for a bike that makes light work of trails. So much so that you actually notice just how smooth and in control it feels.

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One irritation was the rear shifter cable outer that would build up some slack when the suspension works through its travel. The extra length would end up rubbing against the top of the chain where it runs over the chainring. I had to sort this out a couple of times and it would be nice to see Niner solve this problem.

Verdict


If you're looking for one bike that can do many things very well, you probably need not look further. Although the R.I.P. 9 stands with both its feet inside the trail camp, the bike sits on the borders of XC and All Mountain, making it a very capable bike.

It is not an extreme out there 29er designed to tackle a black route day in, day out. Although it will happily get you safely to the bottom. It is best suited to flowy trails with the odd challenge and obstacle thrown in. So if that is your scene and you're the type of rider who is looking for a fun and capable bike that will be up to a full day in the mountains, the R.I.P 9 RDO should be to your liking.

Pros
  • Niner's CVA Suspension performs as advertised
  • Great spec with only the tires a bit of a let down
  • Beautiful design and colours
  • Pedals (damn) well
  • Sorted geometry
Cons
  • R96 000 is a lot of money
  • Internal routing did not stay put and can be a bit messy
  • Very little else




5 Comments

Odinson, Dec 07 2015 08:43

Good review, Iwan!

 

The seat angle looks quite slack. Was it noticeable during climbing? Further, why was the bike specced with an XT shifter and not a SRAM unit?

 

It has to be said: R96k for a bike with Flow rims and XT brakes?! Madness.

NicoBoshoff, Dec 07 2015 08:55

What trails did you ride this bike on?  I think that would be a nice addition to reviews so that readers get a general idea of what types of trails the products were tested on to gauge whether it is similar to what they usually ride.

 

E.g. if this bike did well on Rosemary Hill it wouldn't really convince a rider who usually rides Jonkers and Steilte which is more technical and extreme in its ascents and descents.

 

Just some constructive feedback ;)

Iwan Kemp, Dec 07 2015 09:06

Good review, Iwan!
 
The seat angle looks quite slack. Was it noticeable during climbing? Further, why was the bike specced with an XT shifter and not a SRAM unit?
 
It has to be said: R96k for a bike with Flow rims and XT brakes?! Madness.

Thanks.
 
Seat angle is 73.5 with a 120mm fork and 72.5 with a 140mm - did not find it too slack or something that bothered me on climbs. Must be testimony to the CVA that does not squat under load. I would  still prefer it to be 73.5 with a 140mm fork, though.
 
Bike was build while Niner SA was still waiting for parts kits to arrive. 
 

What trails did you ride this bike on?  I think that would be a nice addition to reviews so that readers get a general idea of what types of trails the products were tested on to gauge whether it is similar to what they usually ride.
 
E.g. if this bike did well on Rosemary Hill it wouldn't really convince a rider who usually rides Jonkers and Steilte which is more technical and extreme in its ascents and descents.
 
Just some constructive feedback ;)

 
Yeah, taken and I agree. Have done that in a review or two only to get a PM saying it doesn't help as they don't ride in CT so have no reference of the trails mentioned. Can't please everyone.
 
But I agree 100%, some reference of trails would help and maybe so you know how I approach it: I look at the bike and it's intended purpose then pick what trails to ride. The Reign for instance saw some Paarl action - it was one of the very few bikes I reviewed this year that had to crack it there. 
 
Once I've ridden those I try a trail or route or two that would push the bike's boundaries to see if it would be happy outside of it's comfort zone. 
 
I always make sure a bike gets ridden on varying terrain. Fast / flowy + rocky / technical + whatever else. One of the reasons we insist a bike to spend some time at Bike HQ in order for us to get a good understanding of it. And because we like bikes.

NicoBoshoff, Dec 07 2015 09:42

Thanks.
 
Seat angle is 73.5 with a 120mm fork and 72.5 with a 140mm - did not find it too slack or something that bothered me on climbs. Must be testimony to the CVA that does not squat under load. I would  still prefer it to be 73.5 with a 140mm fork, though.
 
Bike was build while Niner SA was still waiting for parts kits to arrive. 
 
 
Yeah, taken and I agree. Have done that in a review or two only to get a PM saying it doesn't help as they don't ride in CT so have no reference of the trails mentioned. Can't please everyone.
 
But I agree 100%, some reference of trails would help and maybe so you know how I approach it: I look at the bike and it's intended purpose then pick what trails to ride. The Reign for instance saw some Paarl action - it was one of the very few bikes I reviewed this year that had to crack it there. 
 
Once I've ridden those I try a trail or route or two that would push the bike's boundaries to see if it would be happy outside of it's comfort zone. 
 
I always make sure a bike gets ridden on varying terrain. Fast / flowy + rocky / technical + whatever else. One of the reasons we insist a bike to spend some time at Bike HQ in order for us to get a good understanding of it. And because we like bikes.

I think that's the perfect approach.  Use as intended and then at the end push it a bit beyond to see where the limits lie.  Anything else would be unfair to the product.

 

Perhaps consider taking a picture or two of the trails where tested for universal reference?  Or even better, a picture or short vid of the product being tested :)

 

After all, more content makes for happier readers.

Iwan Kemp, Dec 07 2015 09:45

I think that's the perfect approach.  Use as intended and then at the end push it a bit beyond to see where the limits lie.  Anything else would be unfair to the product.
 
Perhaps consider taking a picture or two of the trails where tested for universal reference?  Or even better, a picture or short vid of the product being tested :)
 
After all, more content makes for happier readers.

 
Yeah, working on that as well and, quite funnily, tried some video and photo "selfies" of me riding riding at Meerendal. But it proved to be quite a challenge and it's more fun to just ride than to stuff around with cameras and angles and other nonsense.
 
But yeah, riding pics and vids in reviews would be nice.