In the past 18 months I’ve gone from being a 29er rookie to being well-versed after riding several designs from a handful of manufacturers. 29ers are for real and unbelievability I’ve even muttered the words “I could ride a hardtail again” after riding a 29er hardtail earlier this year.
In spite of my rose-colored glasses, I’ve still gone into my 29er experience with my eyes wide open–expecting to find the Achilles heel of the big hoop phenomenon. I thought I’d find floppy-handling, top-heavy feeling and awkward riding in tight terrain, but have found confident, solid, predictable and fun instead. My latest 29er is the Niner Jet 9 and it’s been mine for the taking, but in the end, the Jet took me for a ride that solidified the legitimacy of 29ers and Niner Bikes.
About the Niner Jet 9
The Jet 9 was introduced in late 2007 and rolled out of the factory in early 2008. After a few production delays and some challenges with the pivot rockers, everything has been smooth sailing. This steed sports 3.1-inches of rear wheel travel and the ability to roll with either an 80mm or 100mm fork up front.
The CVA Suspension design reminds me of my old Balfa 2-step. At its core, it’s a flavor of virtual pivot, but with Niner’s touch to give it just the right wheelpath and ensure high-quality and efficient travel in all conditions.
This XC machine isn’t just built for the race course, but is intended to be ridden in all conditions. In fact, Niner co-founder Chris Sugai rides the Jet as his personal day-in-day-out bike–even though he could choose from any bike in the line.
Features of the Niner Jet 9:
- 6061 aluminum frame weighs 5.8 lbs
- Custom-tuned Fox RP23
- Tire clearance for even the largest tires
- Sealed cartridge bearings in all pivots
- 3.1-inches of rear wheel travel
- CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) suspension design
- Sizes: Small, Medium (tested), Large and X-Large – view geometry chart
- Colors: Kermit Green (tested), Jet Black, Vanna White
- Weight: 27 lbs (as tested)
- MSRP: $1749
Niner Jet 9 29er Bike Review
When it comes to building solid 29er bikes, I trust “29er only” manufacturers, like Niner Bikes, more than makers of other flavors of mountain bikes who also make a couple of 29ers for kicks. Having a dedicated 29er engineering and fabrication process ensures that everything is built with 29ers in mind and not merely a modified 26-inch design. Yes, I’ve ridden several great 29er designs from Kona and Ellsworth, but a dedicated 29er outfit just knows their way around the big hoops.
In spite of the nay-sayers out there, Niner is pushing the travel envelope with the 29er platform–not necessarily with the Jet but with the RIP 9 Al trailbike and the new WFO long-travel trailbike. As a result, Niner has the most experience with 29er suspension designs and knows how to make a bike that is both squishy and efficient in a variety of travel options.
As tested, the build-kit was mostly top-shelf parts with the venerable Fox F29 100mm front fork. The overall Jet package was solid with great parts all-around. I was particularly impressed with the complete wheel package from the WTB LaserDisc Lite hubs, Stans ZTR Arch rims and WTB Prowler SL, which was lightweight, laterally stiff and offered dirt-gripping traction in all conditions. I was surprised how well the 2.1 width tires hooked up. I could push them hard enough to let loose, but under normal riding, they were stellar.
Funny story about the wheels. I ran into a few friends on a local trail. One of them commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever said this to a guy before, but those red nipples look awesome.” I just laughed and said, “Uhhh… thanks, I think.” The whole wheel package with the red nipples did tie in the red accents on the pivot bolts nicely.
Climbing on the Jet 9 is efficient and fun. I love the momentum-carrying 29er wheel platform for its ability to power through anything and the Jet 9 can definitely motor up steep and loose terrain with the best of them.
With the long Fall we had here in Utah, I was able to ride on some my favorite trails and climb with mid-season efficiency though my body wasn’t quite in mid-season form. I was able to spin up my local time trail climb in my typical time–had I ridden the Jet during the summer, I’m sure I would have beat my personal best.
Both standing and seated climbs are met with a solid platform and excellent traction.
I was a little weary of the mere 3.1-inches of travel, but in the back of my mind I was confident in Niner’s ride quality. When I did point the Jet downhill, I was met with calm and collected handling with the ability to ride through much more than your typical 3-inch XC bike could even dream of. The more I rode the Jet the more I liked it and the more confident I became.
This bike truly rides beyond it’s travel on the downhill and remains very efficient on the up.
In Kermit Green, this bike looks awesome, but both the ride quality and build quality are proof that this love at first sight will also be a long-time companion.
Good Jet 9
- XC efficiency with trailbike manners
- Exceptional build quality
- CVA suspension platform is smooth and keeps the center-of-gravity low
- “No Wander” climber keeps things tracking straight
- Precision handling inspires confidence
- Frame just looks sexy
Bad Jet 9
- Small bump sensitivity and chatter bumps can be a tad rough
- Water bottle location is tight
- You’re unlikely to find one for a test ride
Bottom Line: Niner Jet 9
With XC roots and trailbike manners, the Niner Jet 9 is fast on the way up and capable on the way down. Handling is superb and build quality is top-notch. There’s no question that the Jet is a Niner. While it is an XC bike, this bike is extremely versatile and could easily be that one bike to rule them all.