The Sunday Spore With D2: Niner Review Edition!

I know this has been a long time coming, so let’s get right down to it. This week, the King Spore D2 will be do review number 2 of 3 of the Niner One9. To read review number one, CLICK HERE.

First off, remember Lauren?

 

Niner One9

Yeah, I remember Lauren, too.

There she is, with one helluva good looking bike.

 

Let me start by saying this bike is flat out SICK.

Let me follow that up by saying it’s not perfect. Most of its imperfections are in its components. So here’s the rundown of what’s spec’d on the orange beast, interspersed with some shots of the rig, complements of my iPhone.

—Niner One9 frame with hydroform tubing, tapered headtube, bio-centric (or eccentric, or e-centric…however the hell it’s spelled) bottom bracket, and bottle opener on the dropout. Hell yeah.

Niner One9

Not a speck of dust on her yet.

—Hayes Stroker hydraulic disc brakes

—Manitou Tower fork

—Sun Ringle Black Flag wheels

—Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires

—XT cranks with Niner ring…32T

—Niner cog…20T

—Niner carbon seatpost

—Selle Italia C2 saddle

—Niner stem and handlebars

—Ergon grips…hell yeah!

Niner One9

She climbs like a champ.

A brief discription of what I’ve done so far on this singlespeed hog: about eight rides on technical trails with few long climbs; a long ass 4 hour haul that included a 12 mile dirt road climb and perhaps the gnarliest singletrack descent I’ve done since college; several rides with sustained climbs and various types of descending, including fast and loopy as well as steep and technical; lame ass pavement climbs to reach the trailhead.

Let me break this down by type of riding.

 

SUSTAINED, NON-TECH CLIMBS:

One of the problems I’ve had with 29ers in the past was the inability to climb well, usually due to a headtube angle that was too slack to accommodate the bigger wheel. The Niner does not have this problem. As one of my riding buddies put it, “You feel like you’re riding in the bike, not on it.” I didn’t feel like the wheel was jutting off the front, which made me feel more confident…in fact, it felt responsive like a 26er and climbed just as well. Yes, I noticed a bit more sluggishness, but hell, if I pushed just a little harder, it felt solid and fast.

Niner One9

The fit of the cockpit was perfect. I felt like I was riding in this bike, not on it.

SHORT, STEEP CLIMBS:

Okay, this might be the Niner One9′s achilles heel. I found myself walking some short steeps…whether this had more to do with the big wheels or the fat ass on the saddle is up in the air, but I think the bike was lacking a bit in this department. I will say this, though: it still performed better in this area than some other 29ers I’ve ridden, most notably the Specialized Epic 29er.

TECHNICAL DESCENTS:

I was expecting the bike to go fast over obstacles on technical descents, and I was right. I was also expecting it to be less responsive and nimble through the tech; I was very wrong. I felt like I could throw this bike around like a 26er but roll over things I would normally avoid, the way a 29er should be.

TECHNICAL FLATS AND CLIMBS:

On the tech flats, the bike performed very well. I felt more confident, so much so that a riding buddy said I looked much improved since the early days of riding in Colorado (about eight months). This bike makes me feel confident…no other way to put it.

 

Niner One9

I started off riding the Hans Dampf tires, which were entirely too wide. This was taken at Palmer Park, which is pretty technical without many sustained climbs. The Niner really shined here.

STRENGTHS SO FAR: Just about anything that says Niner on it.

This frame is full-on sexy as hell, both in looks and ride. I never thought I’d say this about a frame that wasn’t steel or carbon, but this frame is compliant and comfortable. It’s laterally stiff but not harsh on the body. The carbon seatpost and handlebars probably have something to do with that, but man, I love this frame. It fits me like a glove, too. So many 29ers have that clown-bike feel: too small, too long, too steep in the top tube. Not this bike. It feels balanced, light, and well engineered.

The orange paintjob? Fuck yes. I think it’s Niner’s best looking frame so far. No internal routing on anything, either, which is a bonus…not that there’s really anything to route on a singlespeed. This frame is eye-catching; a woman on the trails even said so, out loud, as I rolled past! See? Sexy. A female said so.

I managed to crack the seatpost after one ride, though I suspect it might have been user error (my fat ass?). I torqued the post to 6Nm, and only found out later that the torque spec is 4Nm. Enough to crack a post? Maybe not…willing to give the benefit of the doubt here.

Niner One9

WEAKNESSES SO FAR:

Just about anything that doesn’t say Niner on it. I’m not entirely sure what compelled Niner to choose Hayes Manitou as their supplier of components, but I’m not sure it was a wise decision. Let me break it down:

 

–Hayes brakes: better than I expected, but by no means a better choice than some other offerings out there. In fact, I think I’d still throw Avid mechanicals on there if I owned this bike. Brake fade? Yeah, I got some of that. These brakes don’t have quite the bite I’ve seen on some Shimano and Sram offerings, though I was surprised at how well they felt, considering Hayes’s recent reputation as a dog-house company.

—Manitou Fork: the weakest component on the bike, as far as I’m concerned. Back in the day, I hated Manitou forks because they felt like wet noodles. This fork actually feels pretty stiff laterally, and while it’s not super adjustable, I thought it had potential. The problem: stiction. Yikes, this is a sticky fork. Early rides reminded me of elastomer Rock Shox forks from back in the day. It has since loosened up a bit, but that’s not saying much.

On today’s ride in Golden, CO, it felt downright clunky on the descents. Something’s screwy with this fork…

Niner One9

The Manitou Tower fork: leaves a lot to be desired.

—XT cranks: pretty unglamorous, but they do the job. Not too much to complain about here, except that they say Shimano on them. I guess I would have preferred to see something else on here, but really, Shimano’s a go-to choice that seems reliable enough (unless you buy their XT or XTR disc brakes…that’s a story for another day).

—Bottom bracket: the biocentric (e-centric, eccentric, ecxxxentricicity, whatever) BB seems to hold up pretty well, though I was starting to hear some squeaks and creaks after a few rides. No excess chain slop, though, and it’s pretty easy to adjust when needed. So far, so good.

—Sun Ringle wheels: surprisingly decent. I’m happy with them so far. Not too flexy, laterally stiff, smooth bearings, good engagement in the freehub. We’ll see how they hold up in the long term. After several hard rides, no need for truing. Good.

—Nobby Nic tires: a little too wide for this rig. Niner advertises this bike as accepting of wide tires, and I’m not sure I buy it. I barely have a few millimeters of clearance between the tires and the chain stays, so perhaps advertising this as a bike for wide tires is pushing it. The Nobby Nics are decent tires, as are all Schwalbe tires, though I’m not convinced this wide of a tire is really necessary for the type of riding I’m doing. Would I recommend the tires? Sure. Would I recommend them for riding in Colorado Springs? Well…

—Selle Italia C2 Saddle: I specifically asked for this saddle because I love it. Most comfortable saddle I’ve ever ridden. Saddles are such a personal choice, and even though this saddle feels great to me, it may feel like a massive donkey dong rubbing against your sit bones while you shred. Examine your ass carefully before choosing a saddle; if your fat ass is anything like my fat ass, though, I highly recommend this saddle.

Niner One9

The Selle Italia saddle. It's in this photo somewhere...

—Ergon grips: it took me a while to shine to these grips. I rode them on the Gunnar Cockpound and they definitely took some getting used to. Now I love them. Won’t ride without them. Comfortable, well engineered, and tough as nails. Definite strength.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE: Well, this is review number 2 out of 3, and I must say, so far I’m exceptionally pleased with this bike, despite the drawbacks. Review number three will cover my last few weeks on the bike and will hopefully give you a sense of how well the bike holds up over the long haul. I’ve been beating on it pretty good so far, and it’s been meeting or exceeding expectations in all areas, but there are few things I’m worried about, mostly related to components. Until next time…

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About D2

I am a writer and a photographer. I never killed a man in Reno, but I once rode a bike through a casino in Vegas. Bikes are cool, huevos rancheros are for breakfast, whiskey is for dinner. Denver, Colorado, USA

30 thoughts on “The Sunday Spore With D2: Niner Review Edition!

  1. I’d ride that* like it’s going out of style.

    *Of COURSE I meant the bike, silly!

  2. Building mine up this week–Niner fork and good parts. If you liked it out west then it oughta go like stink in the midwest. Enjoyed the review!

  3. Waddaya think about that frame with a rigid fork, dirt drops, fat cross tires and a fixed cog? Should be just like my fixed Crosscheck, only more so. It just looks like it would be SO much fun. And just when I thought my n+1 days were over…

  4. singlespeeds. comfort for the weak.

    a fine looking, Chinese made, pedalship. This is Niner’s approach to the masses.

    Faster, better, cheaper, more…

    kill, kill, kill the poor.

  5. Nope. Send it back…Overpriced Plastic. Eccentric is as fake as sliders. All out wrong. The desires of humans have blinded us all.

  6. *slap* hey Sally, it’s a reasonably recent method for forming aluminum:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroforming

    heh heh, sorry, that was too easy to resist for a puerile dipshit like me.

    I looked at that Niner with gears but ended up going with a crabon/crabon piece at about the same price level. Niner has a franchise, no doubt, but singlespeed seems pretty dumb for a mountain bike… what if you have to go up or down a hill? I think the 1×9 seems like a pretty kewl idea though.

  7. Hydroformed aluminum indeed. It really gives the frame a really compliant feel. I know, I was shocked, too. Like I said in an earlier post: if you had said I’d be stoked about a singlespeed, and a 29er, AND an aluminum frame, I would have told you you’re drunk. Alas, it pretty much kicks ass.

  8. …joe breeze once used the ‘hydroforming’ concept to pop a dent out of the top tube of an older eddy soens chromed steel track frame…

    …sealed off the ‘breather hole’ at the seat tube, fitted a nipple at the breather hole at the head tube & used oil under pressure to take care of bizness…

    …worked like a charm…joe’s a savvy dude…

  9. well when I was selling carbon dioxide laser machine tools into the automotive industry, those guys were all spooging in their trousers about hydroforming and I was, like, no you stupid assholes, aluminum is reflective at the 10.6 üm wavelength, we can’t cut that. Let’s talk about steel. It;s more traditional and manly. And hey, I got a nice cutting laser if you need one.

  10. In another few years, Al will be the hot new material… again. A well designed Al frame can ride however the designers/engineers want it to. We moved past Al = light, but harsh, by the mid 2000′s. Manufacturers are just putting all their money into crabon/plackstick bits these days. And people are buying it, just because it’s carbon, not because it’s designed well.

  11. @jefe— with all due respect sir, my crabon/crabon bits seem pretty well-designed. I have two Scotts, both manufactured in Taiwan.

    It would be nice to see aluminum bits as sweet, despite the fact they can’t be cut at 10.6 microns.

  12. No doubt. There are great carbon bikes and bits out there. There are also great Al bikes (that don’t cost near as much, and that us mere mortals can afford). My biggest frustration with carbon (other than the premium) is that it is the material that SHOULD give you everything. Manufacturers have control over nearly every aspect of carbon. I shouldn’t hear my friends talk about how they need to get a steel bike to deal with the chipseal roads around here… but I do. That, and everything goes in cycles. Steel may have played itself out (but is still great for non-racer types. I have three steel bikes) but Al and Ti will be back as improvements in manufacturing come along.

  13. What I’m saying is, check out this hydroformed aluminum. Because it feels awesome. Because I’m digging the Niner. You can like or dislike at your leisure, but give it a shot…that’s all I’m sayin’.

    I’ve ridden steel, carbon, aluminum, bamboo, titanium…you name it, I’ve tried it. They all have ride characteristics that are advantageous in some way and they all have significant drawbacks. What I’m sayin’ is, this bike, the Niner One9, rides like a dream. I dig it. Check it.

  14. with an msrp of $900usd for this “lightest production” hydrobonghit aluminum, I don’t know if the value hits the mark. It’s obvious as day that Niner was able to nail down 29er handling traits, and so it’s a given that any of their flagships will ride well, but what’s the point of this offering? Pricepoint? Hydrobonghits that don’t crack? I digress. I’d ride that shit like any other… but enough with the Orange.

  15. el jefe, I’d see your klunker and raise you a fixed gear that would have fit in 100 years ago if I had a digital camera and google-fu. “…how far we’ve come.” I’ll give you that. there have been alot of changes (even more from the perspective of your obedient gentleman scorcher) but I don’t give a shit what you ride. It all comes down to having fun on a bike. There ain’t nothin’ better than that.

  16. Say laterally stiff one more time I dare you.

    Nice xc bike. If I lived in the springs i’d have a full suspension bike. So many good gnar trails down there.

  17. My whiskey shot tonight was laterally stiff. I can name a few other things that are laterally stiff too.

  18. Carbon fiber in airplanes and seat posts scares the hell out of me. That said, it sounds like someone listened to all of my silent grumblings about the shortcomings of my 1st. gen. Fisher Rig. Still love the bike though.

  19. I see more cracks in steel and aluminum than I do cabrone.

    I look forward to the day when carbon fiber is viewed as just another option in the lineup as opposed to the current group think that has it being a conspiracy theory dead set to smash your face into the schist.

    Or, do I?

  20. I’ve also seen more cracks in steel and aluminum. Carbon is stronger than people think. That said, it’s overpriced and over-hyped, but hell, I’d still ride it. In fact, I have.

  21. I have a Trek OCLV 120 that is going on ten years and well over 10,000 miles. That’s testament. The cost of modern carbon is a whole nother story.

  22. I with The Gnomer; the Trophy Bike is seven years old, has over ten thousand miles on her and remains squeak-free, climbs like an angel and weighs sixteen pounds, soaking wet. It’s a superb machine.

  23. If you see a crack in steel, it’s a warning that it will fail. Typically these cracks start out small and spread slowly. It’s the cracks in crabon you DON’T see that will kill you. And I’ve never seen a crack in steel that couldn’t be repaired in the field by some hayseed with a welding rig. Can’t say that about a crabon frame, nor will today’s crop of plastic bikes be around thirty years hence.