Niner RIP 9 29er Mountain Bike Long-term Review

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an old, old, old review. Read my review of the latest RIP 9.

After riding the Niner RIP 9 at last year’s Interbike and posting a quick review of it, I knew I wanted to get one to ride here on my local trails. The Outdoor Demo at Interbike is a great way to get a couple of quick laps on a bike, but it doesn’t always reflect the true nature of the bike. Plus, there’s nothing like riding a bike on your local trails.

I happened to get a hold of the RIP 9 at the same time I had the Ellsworth Evolve 29er, so I had two great all-mountain 29ers at the same time. It was the perfect scenario to get a feel for just how good a 29er can be. With many 29ers on the market and so many more on the way, how does the Niner RIP 9 stack up against the competition in both small and large-hoop flavors?

Niner RIP 9 29er Mountain Bike Review

About the Niner RIP 9

The RIP 9 was built from the ground-up to be a do-it-all trailbike. The design challenges out of the gate seemed insurmountable when all the “perfect elements” were drawn out on paper. 4.5 inches of travel (more than any other 29er), a proprietary suspension design, short chainstays to keep handling sharp and controlled, enough tire clearance for meaty tires and ample space for a standard front derailleur.

In the end, Niner has nailed an all-mountain bike unlike any other with predictable handling characteristics, a proprietary suspension design–all at a respectable price point.

Here are a few more specs on the Niner RIP 9:

  • Frame: Custom butted and drawn 7005 aluminum with particular attention to detail
  • Travel: 4.5 inches via CVA suspension utilizing sealed cartridge bearings on all pivots
  • Shock: Custom-tuned Fox RP23
  • Other details: Stout replaceable derailleur hanger can withstand repeated abuse, pre-reamed and faced head tube and bottom bracket for easy building
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs (frame only), 29 lbs. complete as built
  • Sizes: Small, Medium (tested), Large and Xtra Large
  • Colors: Hi Ho Silver Anodized (tested) or Atomic Blue
  • Price: $1649 (frame only) with build kits available soon

Niner RIP 9 29er Mountain Bike Review

Niner RIP 9 Long-term Review

This summer has been full of epic riding. I’ve discovered several new trails nearby that have served as the testing grounds for every bike I’ve reviewed this season.  Head-to-head testing on the local singletrack has been combined with several longer rides to get the proper feel for every bike.  During this time, few other bikes have been so at home as the Niner RIP 9.

I’ve heard some of the complaints of friends who have said it took some getting used to with their new 29ers–mostly on the downhill. It turns out that many suffer from sloppy handling and an awkward, tip-inducing high center-of-gravity.

When riding the RIP 9, I simply can’t relate to their trepidation.  Yes, 29ers are different than the 26er you’ve got in your garage, but Niner 29ers are nothing to be afraid of. The key is that the RIP 9 was built from the ground-up as a 29-inch full-suspension bike. It wasn’t adapted from previous designs (this is Niner’s first full-suspension bike), so handling and ride characteristics are spot on.

Mill D Canyon off the Wasatch Crest Trail - Jason Mitchell

As I’ve mentioned before, 29ers aren’t for everyone. Smaller riders and newbies may not get the right feel and/or may not generate enough power to pedal one comfortably. I’ve found that the sweet spot with all 29ers is to ride just ahead of the natural cadence of the gear and the RIP 9 is no exception.

With a fair amount of miles on my legs, I’ve felt completely at home on the RIP 9. Twisty, turny singletrack is no match for this ripper. And, anyone who thinks it may have sloppy handling will be proven wrong once they lay into their first turn.

Climbing is very efficient, but I have made use of the lockout switch on occasion–mostly on smooth, drawn-out climbs on Clark’s Trail here in Draper, Utah.  But, on every other rocky, steep and loose climb, I’ve left the squish engaged without worry.

Descents on the RIP 9 are predictable and fun. Just last week, I descended down Mill D North Trail from the Wasatch Crest Trail hooting and hollering the whole way down. This particular trail is riddled with log drops, rock lips, rock gardens and both tight and wide-open singletrack. On several occasions, I just powered off the log drops without even thinking and the bike was always there–smooth as ever.

There’s no question that this bike is one of the top trailbikes on the market today regardless of its wheel size.

Just a couple of gripes about the build to keep in mind (even though you’ll get to custom build it yourself). If you’re considering the Manitou Minute 29er, make sure to get the 20mm thru-axle version–you’ll truly appreciate the extra stiffness. My test bike had a standard QR, which should be abolished anyway. The Fox Racing 32 F29 120mm fork would be a great option on this bike. Also, the Mavic C29ssmax wheelset suffers a bit from “rubber band syndrome”. Lateral stiffness and tracking is awesome, but it feels as though there’s a slight delay between the initial pedal stroke and the wheel turning. Again, keep those things in mind when selecting your build kit.

Giro Xen Helmet - Niner RIP 9 Mountain Bike

Good RIP 9

  • One of the best all-mountain bikes on the market
  • 29-inch wheels ride like a Cadillac
  • Lightweight and efficient
  • Predictable handling is perfectly dialed
  • Excellent price for what you’re getting

Bad RIP 9

  • Small chatter bumps can sometimes bounce you around
  • 160mm front rotor is overmatched, opt for a 185mm
  • Availability is still limited

The Bottom Line on the Niner RIP 9

This is one of the top trailbikes on the market–29er or otherwise. An ultra-smooth climber and fun downhiller, the RIP 9 will roll through nearly anything you can dish out. While it can’t take the abuse of say the Rocky Mountain Slayer, the RIP 9 is a true all-mountain trailbike for most riders. Since you get to choose your build kit, you can personalize this bike to your exact riding style.

Buy Now: Get a Niner RIP 9 at WrenchScience.com

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

11 Comments

  1. Thanks! Yeah, the Evolve is also a stellar 29er trailbike. It’s hard to pick one over the other because both are such sweet rides. In the end, the Niner is just a tad squishier (yet still efficient as can be) while the Evolve is a little more on the XC side. But, don’t be fooled, the Evolve’s ICT Suspension soaks up the bumps with the best of them.

    • I’m riding the Ellsworth Evolve with 120mm Fox Talas and Industry Nine wheels, and I love the bike, but think the fork is not as stiff as it needs to be at 6’3″ 260#.Did you put the 120 mm fork on and what’s your opinion of it as altered?

  2. Interesting to read about 29ers and a great review. I just wonder how the sizing feels compared to 26ers. Would you usually go for the same size with a 29er as with a 26? I’m 6.5′ tall and I keep thinking that especially us tall guys must have a lot to gain on moving up to the 29ers. Any opinion on that? Cheers!

  3. Magnus…

    Tall folks will especially benefit from the bigger hoops. Sizing of good 29ers compensates for the taller wheels really well. Both the Niner RIP 9 and Ellsworth Evolve are dialed in and well-suited for taller folks like yourself.

    In fact, when I was chatting with Tony Ellsworth about the Evolve, he won’t even put his wife (5’2″ I think) on an Evolve because, even though she’s a strong rider, she can’t generate enough output to take advantage of the 29er’s wheels.

    Another thing to keep in mind with 29ers is that most of them don’t have riser bars because you want to keep the front-end height to a minimum. You would definitely dig a 29er!

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