First off, remember Lauren?
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.
—Hayes Stroker hydraulic disc brakes
—Manitou Tower fork
—Sun Ringle Black Flag wheels
—Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires
—XT cranks with Niner ring…32T
—Niner carbon seatpost
—Selle Italia C2 saddle
—Niner stem and handlebars
—Ergon grips…hell yeah!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
—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.
—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…by