I first met the crew at Niner Bikes at Interbike 2008. They were there serving two varieties of Kool Aid to the masses at Interbike: Actual Kool Aid and the big-wheeled kind. It’s hard not to like these guys as their passion and dedication oozes from every fiber. Niner was my introduction to big-wheeled-ness and I owe them for my inability to ride 26″ mountain bikes anymore.
Niner Jet 9 Al Features:
- Race-ready 29er full suspension, updated for 2010
- 3″ of CVA™ suspension
- Custom valved standard Fox RP23 shock
- Compatible with 80-100mm forks
- Tapered headtube
- Hydroformed tube construction
- Custom forging throughout
- Colors: Black Anodized, Tang, Raw (tested)
- MSRP: $1849
Niner Jet 9 Al Bike Review
Not too long ago, I rode the original Jet 9 and loved it, but in 2010, Niner completely re-designed the Jet 9 Al and greatly improved its performance and design. The current aluminum Jet 9 sports hydroformed tubes, a tapered head tube and their now-patented CVA Suspension design.
While we are all understandably enthralled with the recent introduction of the Jet 9 RDO, the regular Jet 9 Al still has plenty of life in it and stands out as one of the easiest-to-own full-suspension 29er bikes on the market today. Dressed in SRAM X7, the Jet 9 Al can be had for right around $3k — very refreshing in today’s market. So, yes, without a doubt, the Jet 9 Al still has plenty of lawn to mow and will continue in Niner’s lineup for 2012 and beyond.
For my test bike, I opted for the raw color as I amassed my custom build kit that included a full SRAM X0 drivetrain, Easton EA70 XC wheels, Truvativ and Easton cockpits, Specialized Henge saddle and three different forks: RockShox SID RLT 29, Fox F29 and Fox 32 Float 29 Kashima. With 80mm of rear travel and 100 up front, the Jet 9 is built for speed and efficiency, but don’t overlook its trailbike manners.
The entire package is definitely not featherlight at 28 lbs., but in real-world terms it’s responsive, fast and fun. My tire selection (Specialized The Captain 2.2) wouldn’t be approved by XC racers, but they balanced the racy-ness with extra traction that only 2.2 tires can provide. Lighter tires and wheels could make the Jet even faster, no doubt (maybe I’ll have time for that in the Spring).
Onto the ride quality. I mentioned that the Jet 9 can feel like a capable trailbike and I can say that it does help soothe the departure of my RIP 9 just a bit. What I love about all Niner’s is their trail manners. Without question, the Jet 9 can be pushed as hard as your legs and lungs can go, but it does so without making the bike feel twitchy at speed. I thoroughly enjoy pushing the Jet 9 hard on my local loops and find it to be a hoot to ride.
Stepping on the gas, the Jet responds. On extended climbs, the Jet continues to track straight and true with excellent traction in all conditions. In technical sections where standing may be necessary, you don’t just blow through the travel and waste your energy — this bike simply steps up to the plate with extra traction and stiffness to take all you can dish. The CVA Suspension is efficient and smooth without kickback or feedback at any time. Honestly, I’ve found little use for the ProPedal lever on the Fox RP23 as I preferred how it pedaled uphill in full squish mode — even on extended climbs.
When the terrain points downward, the Jet 9 rewards you with confident handling. I absolutely love descending on the Jet 9, but I do admittedly miss the extra travel that my RIP 9 provided. As you would expect, the Jet 9 soaks up as much as it can, but in rocky, technical terrain, you do get bounced around. This is as you’d expect and definitely not a jab at the Jet… just pointing to its intended use as an XC marathon bike.
One of my favorite downhill rides is Ghost Falls trail in Draper, Utah’s Corner Canyon. This trail features swooping, banked corners and twisty-turny singletrack that dances around maple trees with rollers galore. I can push the Jet 9 very hard, catch air and angulate in the corners like bikes with more of a downhill pedigree.
While the Jet 9 Al is a race-worthy XC steed, I’ve continued to be blown away by just how capable this bike really is. With the RockShox SID, the Jet feels very racy, but with the Fox 32 Float 29, I got extra-smooth dampening and efficiency at a mere 100 gram weight penalty — well worth it. Select the fork to match your riding style and go for it. I prefer the Fox — primarily due to the super-slippery Kashima (definitely worth it, in my opinion).
If you look at the various configurations I’ve had with my Jet (3 different forks, 2 different cockpits, 2 different rear shocks), let me share some thoughts about riser bars, flat bars, etc. My favorite bars on this bike have been the Truvativ Noir T30 flat bars with an inverted Truvativ AKA 70mm stem. The low-rise Easton EC70’s were also great on this bike, but the Truvativ’s were wider and well, flatter (hence lower).
Over the past few weeks, I’ve still been able to ride regularly and have honestly felt more and more connected to the Jet 9 than I have with any other bike this year. Niner knows how to build 29ers that are fun to ride and will take your riding to the next level. While I may still miss the extra travel, I’ve not lost one ounce of trail enjoyment by dropping down from my RIP 9.
Good Jet 9 Al
- Fun and playful on the trail
- Niner just “gets it” when it comes to 29er geometry
- Amazingly-responsive when pushed hard in the corners
- Pedals forward with CVA efficiency
- Suspension design really makes 80mm feel like more
- I continue to achieve personal bests on TT climbs
- Front-end tracks straight and true on steep climbs
- You can dress it like a trailbike, or pimp it like an XC racer
Bad Jet 9 Al
- 68mm BB shell requires shims
- Heavy on paper (goes away on the trail)
- No RP23 Kashima option (NOTE: I did recently obtain a RP23 Kashima for testing with this bike, but you’ll have to go Jet 9 RDO to get some of that action. Don’t even try to ask them as this is not an option on this bike from Niner — sorry.)
Bottom Line: Niner Jet 9 Al
When I parted ways with my RIP 9, I was wondering just how much I would miss it. Honestly, I do still miss my RIP, but the Jet 9 soothes the loss with lightning-quick responsiveness, lateral stiffness and outright efficient all-mountain prowess. Add a dose of Kashima up front and you’ll be soaking up rough terrain and flying around corners with laser-guided accuracy.
More Info: Niner Jet 9 at CompetitiveCyclist