Three months of consistent riding on the Niner RIP 9 and I’m smitten. I’ve now rotated through two different forks, two different sets of tires, two pairs of grips and two different handlebars as I’ve used the RIP as my Summer test sled. With each component change, one thing has remained the same — the RIP is one of the most versatile and fun bikes I’ve ridden.

NOTE: This is an older model. You might want to check out our review of the 2014 Niner RIP 9 Al. Hint… it’s even better than the original.

Niner RIP 9 Features:

  • Dialed-in 29er geometry from the big-wheel masters at Niner (this is HUGE)
  • 4.5″ of CVA™ suspension
  • Custom valved Fox RP23 shock
  • Tapered headtube technology
  • Hydroformed tube construction
  • 10 forged or extruded parts
  • Swappable rear axle: 135 x 9 qr or 142 x 12 thru-axle
  • Colors: Raw (tested), Licorice Anodized, Hot Tamale
  • MSRP: $1799 (frame, shock & headset)

Niner RIP 9 29er Review

It’s no secret that the folks at Niner have absolutely nailed the big wheeled thing. They make the Kool-Aid, my friends and are highly-regarded for their consistent, comfortable and capable rides. Some 29ers suffer from sluggishness or feel top-heavy. I don’t know what Niner does, but their bikes virtually eliminate some of the negative traits inherent with going big.

I rode and loved the original RIP 9 two seasons ago and had a chance to swing a leg over the current version while it was still in prototype form two years ago at Interbike. But, I hadn’t had a chance to ride the final production version of the RIP (which varied quite a bit from the prototype), so when given the opportunity to pick one up to use as my Summer test bike, it took very little convincing.

At my disposal has been a raw-colored medium-sized RIP 9, custom-built with SRAM X0/X9 drivetrain, Roval Control EL wheels, Syncros and Easton cockpit, WTB Vigo saddle and split-time between the 2011 Fox 32 TALAS 29 FIT Terralogic and 2011 RockShox Reba 29 RLT Ti forks. Thanks to the fine folks at Timpanogos Cyclery for building everything up! It’s been a great summer of riding and the RIP has crushed hundreds of miles of singletrack along the way.

Niner knows how to build a sexy bike and the RIP is drop-dead gorgeous. The red anodized bolt caps, black swingarms, raw finish and white lettering is visually stunning. Going past the visuals, the bike is also built like a tank to take all the punishment you can dole out. Lateral stiffness is now off the charts compared to the original RIP and overall ride quality is noticeably-improved as well. Tapered head tube and oversized and shaped tubes elsewhere add up to one trail-devouring package.

Many people wonder why 29er cockpits tend to consist of negative rise stems and flat bars. Well, with the extra height provided by 29-inch wheels, you want to keep your front-end as far down as possible. While I believe that, I also like the feel of wider riser bars, so I did a bit of experimentation and slapped the Syncros FL 80mm 6-deg stem on like I would on any regular bike. I matched those with low-rise set of bars (Syncros FL and Easton EA70). I then reversed the stem and rode it with the same bars. The difference is very apparent and I stuck with the stem in the negative rise position and low risers. Experiment for yourself, but negative rise stems are the way to go with 29ers and low riser bars are also kosher.

My first two months on the RIP was with the Fox 32 TALAS. Climbing with the TALAS was excellent as I had the option to drop travel down to 95mm for extended climbs. Flipping it back and forth from 95 to 120 yielded only subtle improvements, but worthwhile if you have the coin. With the 120mm-travel RockShox Reba 29 RLT Ti up front, the same amazing climbing abilities were on display. As you pedal the RIP harder and harder, it simply doesn’t flinch. As BIKE magazine put it, the RIP definitely has “monster truck climbing ability”.

In spite of its deceiving 28 lb. weight on paper, this bike ascends like lighter bikes due to the efficient suspension and dialed geometry. I can climb in and out of the saddle while maintaining excellent traction. While some bikes suffer from a wandering front-end on long, steep and technical climbs, the RIP shows none of those tendencies.

On fast and smooth singletrack, the RIP rides like a dream. Handling is up there with some of the best 26-inch trailbikes on the market. Yes, you can feel the large wheels on slow, technical terrain, but that tradeoff is minimal for what you’re getting. Letting the RIP fly downhill is an absolute pleasure as the RIP takes as much punishment as you can dish out without flinching. The laterally-stiff frame is matched with the capable CVA Suspension that provides efficient travel and excellent smoothness.

Summing up the RIP 9 into one word, I’d have to say “playful.” Now, playful is not one of the most common traits associated with 29ers, but believe me when I tell you that the RIP is indeed a playful bike that leaves you wishing for another thousand feet of winding singletrack. Whipping this bike around corners and snaking through slalom-like trees, it just puts a huge smile on your face. Laying the bike down on hard corners, it hooks up and propels you into the next turn. It makes me smile as I write this and think about my last ride.

My favorite tires with the RIP have been the Specialized The Captain 2.2’s front and rear. These tires hook up with amazing ferocity, yet roll very smoothly. Laying them into corners, they simply hook up and power into the next turn. Winding singletrack results in the most fun I’ve had all season as The Captain tires allowed the RIP 9 to shine.

Just a few small gripes about the RIP 9, though. I did my best but couldn’t get the suspension to absorb high-speed chatter as well as I’d like. Believe me, it rides plush and smooth, but I guess I feel it could be just a tad smoother in high-speed stutter bumps. The only other issue is that the lower CVA link does sit below the bottom-bracket and tends to attract plenty of dirt. Make sure and keep it clean for longevity. Other than that, I’m drawing a blank.

Good RIP 9

  • Rides deceptively-light for its 28 lb package
  • The frame is extremely responsive and laterally stiff
  • Drop-dead looks (Raw finish is the one to get)
  • CVA Suspension design climbs and descends very well
  • Niner simply knows how to dial in 29ers
  • Nimble and playful
  • Can be built up for around $3k, which makes it an excellent value
  • You can swap rear axles to a 12mm thru for added stiffness

Bad RIP 9

  • Could be just a teeny bit better at high-speed chatter (I’m being picky)
  • Location of lower CVA pivot does attract dirt and grime

Bottom Line: Niner RIP 9

Summing up the RIP 9, I’d have to call this bike “playful”. It is the definition of what an all-mountain bike should be. I can efficiently climb for 2-3k feet and then descend down that same vert in full control with the ability to take drops, rail corners and fly through the rough stuff without flinching. This bike devours singletrack in a way only Niner’s can. It stands next to the Ibis Mojo in my mind as one of the most versatile and fun bikes on the market today.

Buy Now: Shop for Niner Bikes at CompetitiveCyclist.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.

46 Comments

  1. Thanks for the update. I’ve been riding my RIP since May 2010 and every single time I get on that bike I just shake my head in disbelief at how amazing it is. The geometry is so perfect for technical climbing as I’m able to unweight the front and rear with minimal effort. I haven’t actually weighed mine but it feels pretty light when riding up hill and is very responsive. I’ve got my sights set on the Air 9 Carbon next. If you ever get a chance to review that one I’d love to hear about it.

    Thanks.

  2. i love my rip. i just put a 2011 rlt ti fork on it, and it is much more responsive than my previous reba (which i think had some issues).
    this bike does everything for me. i have a similar build as the tester as i too ride the captain control 2.2 and find them to hook up beautifully.

    all in all i love this bike and am bummed that the riding season is ending soon here in co, because i don’t want to put it away.

  3. Pingback: Niner RIP 9 29er Quick Bike Review – Interbike 2008 - FeedTheHabit.com

  4. Jack… If I had to choose one bike, I’d be stoked for that bike to be the RIP, no question. I now have a Santa Cruz Tallboy for comparison, so we’ll see if a carbon frame and VPP suspension compares.

  5. Thanks Jason. I’m riding a ’99 FSR stumpjumper so I’m sure either would be a vast improvement. What did you think of the medium frame size?

    • Hey Jack… yes, the RIP would be an awesome improvement for you. The Medium size fits me perfectly (5′ 10.5″ – 32″ inseam). I tend to like a bike with a 23.5-24″ top tube measurement and the Medium is a 23.75″ TT. A 70mm stem and I’m golden.

      You just need to determine what size will fit you best based on your measurements. I can’t help you there. Good luck!

  6. Great review. I demoed the RIP for several days a year ago but decided to go with a Mojo SL.
    I found that the RIP handled technical terrain better then any 26r I road but it hasn’t got the adrenalin spark that I get when I ride the IBIS, It is most obvious on fast technical single tracks especially when it involves some air. Eventually I think 29rs are more capable machines then 26rs and I hope they will evolve to deliver that adrenaline feel that in my opinion is missed.

    • I completely understand what you’re saying. With the RIP, you do get a fast-rolling, terrain-gobbler, but the Mojo SL is a little more lively and more capable in rougher terrain. It’s got more travel and a carbon frame will also do wonders for ride quality. I love the SL.

  7. I felt faster climbing and descending from my first ride on my RIP. All of a sudden was hanging with faster guys and dropping previously equal riders. Made the mistake of letting my riding group sample my bike. Now they all bought them; advantage lost!

  8. Jason, I’ve been reading your reviews for some time and really appreciate the great info. I just got back from 24 hrs of Moab and was amazed at how many riders were on 29ers. I have yet to ride one, but given the consistently great things I’ve heard, am leaning that direction for an upcoming bike purchase. I live in SLC and also ride in Moab fairly frequently. I’m considering primarily the RIP 9 or the SC Tallboy w/ a 120mm fork. Any benefits or drawbacks stand out to you in comparing the two bikes? Suggestions for where to demo?

    • Hey Matt… I sent you an email about where to demo. As far as comparing each one, I’d like to understand a little more about your riding style. The SC Tallboy rides like an XC race bike. It is fast, smooth and screams of efficiency, but it hits its limits when the trail gets dicey. The RIP is still pretty darn efficient, but you wouldn’t want to race it. However, it is much smoother than the Tallboy in the rough stuff and is a tad more fun, I think.

      Both are amazing bikes, but the Tallboy is just a tad more business-like.

  9. Thanks Jason! I’m THAT guy who wants one bike to do everything. i really enjoy the satisfaction of finishing a long tough climb, clearing all the technical sections, and beating my personal best time. But I also want the payoff of flying back down the trail with a huge grin on my face. Oh, and I want to feel “one” with the bike navigating a twisting, rolling single track. Reasonable request, right?!! I’d say my “standard” trail is Temple Quarry at the bottom of Little Cottonwood Canyon, but my favorites up north are Wasatch Crest to Mill D and Mid-Mountain in PC. In Moab, I love the Whole Enchilada, particularly Porcupine Rim. Thank you for the email!

  10. Matt:

    Just my two cents. Having ridden your favorite trails. I would not overlook the Mojo SL. I have both and Jason is right. “The Mojo SL is a little more lively and more capable in rougher terrain. It’s got more travel and a carbon frame will also do wonders for ride quality. I love the SL.” I bought the RIP thinking it would replace my Mojo, but it does not. Take it from another person who knows. 29’s are great and the RIP is no exception. Have you ridden a Mojo SL? I would and you will see a 3-4lb difference, carbon frame, and exceptional navigation.

  11. Pingback: 2011 RockShox Reba RLT Ti 29 Fork Review - FeedTheHabit.com

  12. I’ve had one for the last 18 months- also built to 28 lbs. Spot on review Jason!
    I’ve put well over 2000 miles on mine in the hills of the Caribbean. I also flew it out to CO last summer for week of riding real mountains and a break from summer humidity. I love the bike. I can not explain why but it climbs better and faster then my 22 lb Ti 26er hardtail. Great traction and comfort. My only tiny (really tiny) gripe is chain suck in wet conditions which I understand Niner addressed with a running modification for the 2011 models.
    I’ll be hitting a 22 mile/2100′ climb ride (commute) home tonight with it. Night riding is a blast on this bike. Just keep your momentem up and it’s totally forgiving of the shadows that turn out to be bigger holes/rocks/roots than you high-lumen LED lights lead you to believe.

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  19. Great review! I have been looking into one of these since the season is going to start again. I have narrowed it down to the a Rip or the new Trek/GF Rumblefish. This is where I am stuck. The RIP is about $4400 and the Rumby is about $3000 with fairly similar set up. Any insight to one over the other. Any experience with the ABP from Trek?

    Thanks

    • john w Pobst III on

      I too am in the same boat. I’m going 29er this season and I’m very torn between niner rip9,garyfisher rumblefish,and specialized stumpy or camber. i live in western pa and ride mainly trails which roll through every terrain possible. Don’t want to spend more than $3000. might tho if only slightly higher. i have heard good things about all these bikes. please help!!! I too need one bike to do it all. I personally think gary fisher has made 29ers the longest and has the geometry just right. specialized also makes great products. Niner only makes 29ers so i’m sure the have done there home work too. any info will be greatly appreciated. thanxs so much

      • John… sorry for the delay. for $3k, I have a hunch that the Specialized Camber Pro would be a great choice. I happen to have one in the garage for testing, so stay tuned (unfortunately, my review won’t be live for a couple of months). You absolutely can’t go wrong with the Niner JET or RIP and the Rumblefish is a great bike, but not as all-around fun as the Niner’s. Good luck in your search and stay tuned.

  20. I am confused. Did you run the 70mm stem or 80mm stem. In this review you say 70mm and in your Syncros review it says 80mm. Which one is it or is it both? Which worked better for you?

    • My bad for the confusion. It is an 80mm stem, so I should update my specs on the RIP. I like the 80mm stem onboard the RIP for my size and riding style. Frankly, 80mm is about as long as I’d ever go on any bike. Anything longer makes for wonky handling, IMO.

  21. In response to Mark and John, I saw the jet 9 on the speedgoat.com website the other day for about $2400. I am not real keen on mail order bikes, but if you have the in house skills to take care of the build up it seems like a pretty good deal. The bike came with the X7 2×10 set up. Might be worth a look.

    • Jason – great review here and in general at Feed the Habit. Thanks for doing this!

      I have two questions related to the RIP:
      1. is the bike you tested the new version with the slacker HA? What are your thoughts on this new slacker version for tight New England terrain?
      2. If you went TALAS 29 on the new version, would you see any benefit running it at 95 outside of climbing?

      Thanks!

      • Hey Matt. Thanks man! To answer your questions:

        1) My frame is a 2010 model, so it has the original-flavor of head angle. Not having ridden the new one, I can’t say for certain how that head angle would perform. My 2010 handles really well in all terrain.
        2) On the TALAS, I have no reason to use it other than climbing. And even that, road climbing is about all I use it on (fire road or pavement). On the trail, I don’t typically use it.

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  25. What % sag are you running on the RIP9, front and rear. I love mine but am feeling like I am not getting the best out of it. I am a suspension idiot riding in southwest CO. The RIP9 is my high mountain adventure bike. Mine is similarly built but with the 2011 non terralogic TALAS FIT.
    Thanks

    • I can’t recall the exact sag settings (this bike is now sadly not in my stable), but I typically run around 20-30% sag. I’d also check your rebound settings as well. Put it right in the middle between slow and fast, ride, then adjust one click at a time.

      • Hey Jason,
        I am considering building up an endurance xc rig. I’m trying to decide between the Niner RIP 9 & Specialized Stumpy FSR 29 Expert. Have you ridden both, and if so, how did they compare?

        • Hey Scott… I haven’t ridden the Stumpy FSR 29, but I have ridden the Camber. Both bikes should be excellent. To be quite honest, I prefer Niner’s suspension platform over FSR. Not that FSR is bad by any means, but the CVA suspension performs at a high level up-and-down.

          Are you considering the RIP 9 RDO? Either way, the RIP is one heck of a bike!

          • Hey Jason,

            i want to buy a rip 9 , I have the choice of the 2012 model or the new one. do you think th 1000$ difference is worth it? or should i go with the 2012 and buy a really good wheelset?

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  29. Steve… the 2012 version is plenty awesome and spending an extra grand on a wheel set might be a better choice. However, the new airformed tubing is lighter, stronger and sexier.

    Tough call… I’d opt for the new one if it were me, but that’s just because wheelsets are easier to swap out later than a frame.

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