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The only way.
For 2017, Niner's RIP 9 RDO 2-Star SLX Complete Mountain Bike resembles the previous iteration in name only. In fact, it almost resembles 2016's WFO more than the RIP that it's at least nominally replacing. The suspension is deeper, the head tube is slacker, the seat tube steeper, and chainstays stubbier, and the top tube longer—all of which puts it in a class capable of moving freely between trail and enduro. Some call this impossible; some call it versatile; we call it all-mountain; and Niner calls it the only possible way to improve on the previous RIP 9.
Whatever you call it, the new RIP 9 owes much of its come-all-ye capabilities to the introduction of Boost axle spacing. By bumping the rear axle out to 148mm, Niner was able to buy enough clearance at the bottom bracket to shorten the chainstays and sharpen the seat tube angle by 11mm and two degrees, respectively. These subtle changes make the rear triangle that much more responsive to input while also pushing the rider's engine up over the pedals.
The stubby stays also keep the bike agile, but with a 67-degree head tube and 160mm of Lyrik forgiveness up front, it's just as happy to try flattening everything in its path—or at least bailing you out when your lines start to get a bit too ambitious. In the event that discretion wins the day, the RIP 9's longer top tube and short stem keep handling on-point, despite that low head tube angle, so you can always fall back on those dicey stays to navigate stretches of especially techy terrain. Either way, take solace in knowing that most of the bike's angles are similar to the WFO even though it maintains the precise handling of its predecessor. Given that mixed pedigree, the new RIP 9 enjoys playing in rock gardens as much as barreling over horst and graben rootscapes.
So there's obviously a lot of new radness with the RIP 9, but two things remain felicitously unchanged: the Race Day Optimized (RDO) construction method and the Constantly Varying Arc (CVA) suspension design. RDO involves a dual-compression process that eliminates resin pooling and allows precise control over wall-thickness. Reducing imperfections makes for a more structurally sound frame, and the targeted control over lay-up and wall thickness lets Niner buttress that structure where appropriate and reduce material where it'll save weight without sacrificing stiffness. The result marks the nexus of low weight and efficient durability: a frame that's equal to the abuse of the trail and the pedals.
The new RIP 9's CVA suspension design is also unchanged, but it allows that design to play with 25mm more travel. This brings it up to 150mm—another parallel to the WFO—and optimizes it for descending fast in hairy terrain while keeping it surprisingly responsive when you get on the gas. Unlike other designs, CVA is optimized for the increased bottom bracket drop inherent in 29ers. It tends to ride high in the travel with a controlled mid-stroke that balances pedal input and suspension travel, keeping it stable through rock gardens and snappy when you get on the pedals. It also jumps incredibly well; this is one wagon wheeler that’s very happy when it’s airborne.
The frame's finishing details are everything you'd expect from the obsessive developers at Niner, and our favorite new addition is—far and away—the inclusion of a BSA threaded bottom bracket. PressFit shells may be lighter and more convenient, but the exact tolerances of a CNC-machined thread are unmatchable by today's composite technology. The threading means bearing cups install perfectly, reducing wear over time and eliminating the creaks and groans that so often accompany PressFit models. Vulnerable frame bits are girded with titanium protection plates, and the frame also includes integrated batter storage in case you get the urge for electro shifting. Though this model is built as a 29er (it is Niner, after all) the revised axle spacing and geometry dimensions accommodate 29er tires up to 2.5in and, if you throw on some 27.5 rims, it'll max-out at 3in tires.
- The latest RIP 9 pushes firmly into all-mountain territory
- Six glorious inches of responsive, 29er-specific CVA travel
- Updated geometry climbs faster and drops-in with enduro style
- RDO carbon construction drops grams to gain speed
- Compatible with electronic drivetrain routing and battery storage
- Shimano's no-nonsense drivetrain devours trail abuse