Review: Niner RKT 9 RDO

The Niner RKT 9 RDO is an unashamed cross-country race bike with 90 millimetres of rear travel and the option of 100-120 millimetres up front. The RKT platform is based on that of its bigger, older brother, the JET 9, which originally found its feet as the brand’s definitive cross-country and marathon bike, and has since grown into something more trail focussed.

Niner RKT 9 RDO-15.jpg

 

If you are a Niner fan you may have heard the rumblings in the market that the brand was in trouble financially, and it was toward the end of 2017 when they filed for bankruptcy in the US. To the rejoice of Niner enthusiasts everywhere, in March 2018 the company was acquired by Hong Kong-based UWHK who has committed to invest more into R&D while retaining and bolstering the existing team. Following similar moves made by other boutique brands moving under the wing of “big bike” corporations in recent years, it’ll be interesting to follow Niner’s growth.

 

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The frame


First released in late 2015, the RKT 9 uses Niner’s CVA (Constant Varying Arc) linkage design, touted for its pedalling efficiency while allowing the suspension to remain active. The front and rear triangles are both full carbon and are constructed using Niner’s RDO (Race Day Optimised) techniques. In short, Niner spent a lot of time ensuring that the carbon layup and moulding process produces a frame suitably stiff, strong and light to match the demands of mountain bike racing (or riding).

 

The front triangle and one-piece asymmetric carbon rear triangle are connected by the lightweight aluminium linkage. Cables are internally routed through the front triangle and externally on the rear. The frame features one bottle cage mount within the front triangle and another below the down tube. On the rear, it has 148x12 boost spacing which comfortably allows for a 29x2.4 tyre. And, should you want one, there is the option to mount a front derailleur.

 

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The build


Since our test bike was a custom build, we’ve kept the focus on the RKT platform (frame, shock and fork) rather than the specific componentry. This build was decked out with some seriously top end bits, but we expect would be a good proxy for the weight and feel of the five star Niner build.

 

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Specifications (custom build as tested)


  • FrameNiner RKT 9 RDO blue/green
  • ForkFOX 32 SC Factory Kashima 100mm
  • HandlebarsNiner flat top RDO, 780MM
  • StemNiner RDO stem
  • GripsESI Chunky
  • SaddlePRO Griffon
  • SeatpostNiner RDO Seat Post, 370MM
  • BrakesFormula R1R
  • RotorsFormula R1R
  • Shift LeversSRAM XX1 Eagle Gripshift
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM XX1 Eagle
  • CassetteSRAM XX1 Eagle
  • CranksetCannondale SiSL2 (w/ Stages power meter)
  • ChainringWolf Tooth Components 34T
  • Bottom Brackete*thirteen
  • ChainSRAM
  • WheelsSouth Industries Carbon Rims, Tune hubs
  • TyresVittoria Mezcal 2.35 ®, Vittoria Barzo 2.35 (F)
  • Weight10.5kg
  • PriceR99 000.00 *for a Niner 5 star factory spec build

 

Niner RKT 9 RDO-18.jpg

 

On the trail


Clipping in for the first ride, it’s immediately evident that the bike pedals well on the flats and early climbs. The CVA certainly does what it says on the tin and there is no unwanted bob or overly active suspension under pedalling load. So good in fact, that I initially had to stop to ensure that the lockout wasn’t stuck.

 

This naturally translates well when climbing, especially on bumpier surfaces and more technical trail where there is a good balance of traction and efficiency in power transfer through the pedals. The low stack up front and sharper head angle make for a very capable and comfortable climber. Particularly so on lower speed technical trails where the responsive, precise handling comes into its own. And sure, the feathery weight of this build didn’t hurt its performance on the ups.

 

On paper that relatively steep head angle at 70/71 degrees (with a 120/100mm fork) did prompt some assumptions about how the bike would handle on rougher terrain and steeper descents. With recent releases from competitors in this class sporting head angles typically in the 68.5 to 70.0 degrees range the RKT certainly falls on the aggressive end of the spectrum. This will no doubt raise a few eyebrows and incite mumbles of “is it slack/long/low enough?”.

 

Niner RKT 9 RDO-11.jpg

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It’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers, though, and while these often give some good clues, it’s ultimately about how the bike feels and how that fits with the kind of riding you do. Admittedly the RKT 9 did feel quite twitchy and at times skittish on the front for the first ride or two. Coming straight off an extended period on the slackest of the RKT’s competitors, there was a noticeable difference in the responsiveness. However, by the third ride, I’d dialled in my own response and quickly began to enjoy the more nimble, snappy feel of the controls on fast flowy sections and flatter, technical trails.

 

There is no getting away from the numbers in other areas, and where the steep head angle does come into play is on steeper, more technical descents. It does require the rider to do some of the work in getting squarely behind the saddle to find the degree of comfort and confidence you’d want. That said, with a moderate skill level and rider position matched to the more aggressive stance of the bike it’s impressively capable and would quite comfortably soak up the sort of terrain a typical South African stage race may throw at you.

 

Niner RKT 9 RDO-17.jpg

 

In the end


The Niner RKT 9 was bred to go fast on marathon and cross-country tracks and it doesn’t disappoint as a performance race bike. The superbly efficient suspension platform and climbing capabilities are a sure recipe for speed on the flats and climbs. While the sharper geometry does demand a degree of rider skill to reach full potential on technical descents, it’s well suited to the demands of typical South African marathon or stage race courses.

 

It is worth noting that the 120mm fork option does taper off the aggressive stance by a full degree and will offer a more confident feel better suited to those not aiming at a podium spot.

 




27 Comments

Grease_Monkey, Aug 03 2018 06:17

Geo straight out of the 90s. Dunno why companies still go this route with the direction the sport is heading. With options like the Epic Evo, SC Blur, Intense Sniper this would fall completely off the radar for most riders with the exception of very few specific riders.

Nick, Aug 03 2018 08:03

Geo straight out of the 90s. Dunno why companies still go this route with the direction the sport is heading. With options like the Epic Evo, SC Blur, Intense Sniper this would fall completely off the radar for most riders with the exception of very few specific riders.

 

Going against the trend is usually unpopular but I'll say it: the modern geometry is better and everyone should ride it narrative is tiring me.

 

Not all riders have the same needs, riding styles, and aspirations. There are a significant number of riders who will benefit little from a modern geo bike while at the same time large portions will. A market that can cater to all tastes is a good thing in my mind.

Hilton., Aug 03 2018 08:10

No man, the "5 star build" referenced for the price is very different from the build specced above. How can you detail a spec including a Sram XX1 Eagle groupset, C'dale SiSL2 crankset and Tune/South Industries wheelset, and show a price of R99000*?

 

The "5 star build" that is linked above has a mixed Sram GX/XO1 Eagle groupset, an X1 crankset and Niner in-house carbon rims on DT 350s hubs. Huge difference. I see the review is focused on the frame, but still ..

Admin, Aug 03 2018 08:21

No man, the "5 star build" referenced for the price is very different from the build specced above. How can you detail a spec including a Sram XX1 Eagle groupset, C'dale SiSL2 crankset and Tune/South Industries wheelset, and show a price of R99000*?

The "5 star build" that is linked above has a mixed Sram GX/XO1 Eagle groupset, an X1 crankset and Niner in-house carbon rims on DT 350s hubs. Huge difference. I see the review is focused on the frame, but still ..

Fair point, we should rather list the factory spec and price since the review is focussed more on the platform rather than the build itself.

stefmeister, Aug 03 2018 08:30

Going against the trend is usually unpopular but I'll say it: the modern geometry is better and everyone should ride it narrative is tiring me.

 

Not all riders have the same needs, riding styles, and aspirations. There are a significant number of riders who will benefit little from a modern geo bike while at the same time large portions will. A market that can cater to all tastes is a good thing in my mind.

Exactly, Niners and geo like that is for ou ballies holding up everyone on -1% gradients.

TheJ, Aug 03 2018 08:42

I have a 2012 model hardtail with "old" geo, and a 2018 "trail bike" with "modern" geo. And then a 2014 Cube dual sus with what is probably "in between" geo. And you know what... if you pedal them they all go forward. Within reason, the geo isn't going to make any bike unridable or worlds better than another bike. You climb on and within a minute you'll adjust to the bike and off you go.

 

Give me any bike with angles back to 1994's 71/73 degrees and I'll go just as fast and have as much fun vs what "modern" geo dictates.

DieselnDust, Aug 03 2018 09:04

Geo straight out of the 90s. Dunno why companies still go this route with the direction the sport is heading. With options like the Epic Evo, SC Blur, Intense Sniper this would fall completely off the radar for most riders with the exception of very few specific riders.


OK OK OK it's Friday and you had to get in there first chapeau!!

However, clearly you haven't ridden a Niner RKT nor a Jet.
If you had you would be wondering what all the fuss about "modern geometry" as preached by geometrofiles across the Internet is all about.
If you have ridden one you would be thinking that the above review doesn't really bring home how surefooted and stable whilst being nimble the Niner RKT is. How it allows the rider to pedal across terrain a LLS bike would get hung up on. How it steers through tight twisty single track up and down maintaining traction where an LLS bike rider needs to time pedal downstrokes to not smack the pedals and lose ground.
You would also know that when screaming down a loose rocky descent the Niner holds a line better than most longer bikes by virtue of its laterally stiff frame.
But you you have consulted the God Geometron and his paper word hath decreed that LLS on paper is better than slightly shorter and steeper...
Really? Pull me another one man. I invite you to get off your bum and go ride the bike

Odinson, Aug 03 2018 10:02

OK OK OK it's Friday and you had to get in there first chapeau!! However, clearly you haven't ridden a Niner RKT nor a Jet. If you had you would be wondering what all the fuss about "modern geometry" as preached by geometrofiles across the Internet is all about. If you have ridden one you would be thinking that the above review doesn't really bring home how surefooted and stable whilst being nimble the Niner RKT is. How it allows the rider to pedal across terrain a LLS bike would get hung up on. How it steers through tight twisty single track up and down maintaining traction where an LLS bike rider needs to time pedal downstrokes to not smack the pedals and lose ground. You would also know that when screaming down a loose rocky descent the Niner holds a line better than most longer bikes by virtue of its laterally stiff frame. But you you have consulted the God Geometron and his paper word hath decreed that LLS on paper is better than slightly shorter and steeper... Really? Pull me another one man. I invite you to get off your bum and go ride the bike

 

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Odinson, Aug 03 2018 10:02

Matt, how f*cking long are your legs? 

Odinson, Aug 03 2018 10:38

Man, I really wish I had a R100k to spend on a mid-tier bike from a dead bike brand. 'Coz f*ck logic! 

Grease_Monkey, Aug 03 2018 11:00

OK OK OK it's Friday and you had to get in there first chapeau!!

However, clearly you haven't ridden a Niner RKT nor a Jet.
If you had you would be wondering what all the fuss about "modern geometry" as preached by geometrofiles across the Internet is all about.
If you have ridden one you would be thinking that the above review doesn't really bring home how surefooted and stable whilst being nimble the Niner RKT is. How it allows the rider to pedal across terrain a LLS bike would get hung up on. How it steers through tight twisty single track up and down maintaining traction where an LLS bike rider needs to time pedal downstrokes to not smack the pedals and lose ground.
You would also know that when screaming down a loose rocky descent the Niner holds a line better than most longer bikes by virtue of its laterally stiff frame.
But you you have consulted the God Geometron and his paper word hath decreed that LLS on paper is better than slightly shorter and steeper...
Really? Pull me another one man. I invite you to get off your bum and go ride the bike


Geezlike, talk about making assumptions. I have in fact ridden a Jet - I do like the bikes - not my favourite but nothing wrong with it. I'm by no means advocating 67 degree head angles for XC bikes, nor did I mention anything about how long or low it is - but let's be honest, a 71 degree HA is extreme to say the least, and Niner will as a result lose a few clients.

I invite you to not get so offended by a simple comment on an internet forum (I say coming back from a ride this morning). This isn't the PinkBike comment section bud.

DieselnDust, Aug 03 2018 11:11

Bro Bro, I'm not offended man. It's Friday!

 

 

Seriously, Oaks spend way too much time looking at how fashionable a bikes geometry is in relation to what the internet Geometrons are vomiting out.

LLS is great for smooth manicured east coast trails. And trust me, the oke who was slow with a 71 degree head angle is going to be slow with a 65 degree head angle and anything inbetween! Simply because he/she hasn't learned how to ride the bike properly anyway.

Nothing extreme about 71 degrees bro its only 4degrees steeper than 67. Me thinks correct sizing and bike fit will have a far greater impact on how the bike feels than the headangle schmangdangle

Grease_Monkey, Aug 03 2018 11:30

Bro Bro, I'm not offended man. It's Friday!
 
 
Seriously, Oaks spend way too much time looking at how fashionable a bikes geometry is in relation to what the internet Geometrons are vomiting out.
LLS is great for smooth manicured east coast trails. And trust me, the oke who was slow with a 71 degree head angle is going to be slow with a 65 degree head angle and anything inbetween! Simply because he/she hasn't learned how to ride the bike properly anyway.
Nothing extreme about 71 degrees bro its only 4degrees steeper than 67. Me thinks correct sizing and bike fit will have a far greater impact on how the bike feels than the headangle schmangdangle


Yeah, people do spend toi much time consulting geo charts - and although it doesn't matter as much as the internet makes it out to matter, it still makes a difference to how a bike rides.

And HA for me has nothing to do with speed, it's about how the bike handles, and those less skilled arguably have more to gain from a bike with geo that helps them out a bit, of which HA probably plays the biggest role (I like medium length bikes, not too crazy about excessively low). I just don't get why anyone would willingly buy a bike that is twitchy (especially less confident riders) and when there are so many options around that climb like mountain goats and descend in a bit more of a stable fashion.

Each to their own, but one thing is certain, Niner is taking themselves out of the market with that HA.

DieselnDust, Aug 03 2018 12:00

Niner bikes are not twitchy; they're pretty stable actually. Surely fork trail plays a bigger role than just Head angle?  HA is just internet noise IMO. Bikes like Cannondale's first Scalpel 29 had a short front end, steep head angle and short trail and rode like a pitch pole; unstable it was yes. The Niner RKT is a lot more stable than the numbers suggest. It feels very much like a Trrek Top Fuel There's more to stability than you see on the geometry chart.

Look at said Trek's Top Fuel. Its only half a degree slacker and no one complains about its handling. Heck owners even run 100m stems with 70mm bars on those and still manage to not kill themselves.

Not everyone wants to steer a coal train down the trail.

Most XC bikes HA are around 69.5degrees now and sagged are often steeper due to the rising rates to generate "midstroke support" allowing the rear of the bike to not sag as much as the front. In motion the RKT HA is probably comparable to other XC bikes.

 

Don't fall for the hype bro. Nobody rides a bike on paper....ok maybe a few internet experts do but that's beside the point. Life's too sort to only ride slack bikes. Don't be a slacker, don't be that guy. You're way to smart to get suckered into this hype. Deep down you know I speak the truth. Enjoy the lunch time beer :)

stefmeister, Aug 03 2018 12:07

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Bizkit031, Aug 03 2018 12:27

Only cater for the people with money

Eldron, Aug 03 2018 12:30

Mmmm Niner.

 

There is no hiding the fact that I am a complete Ninerphile.

 

That out the way - the JET and RKT are the fastest bikes I have ridden (based on me loving XCO and XCM).

 

I have ridden tons and tons and tons of bikes and the old JET/new RKT still claims top spot. I agree with the trend of modern bikes but there are many more aspects to how a bikes feels that how steep the HA is.

 

The only way to make a sensible call on a bike is to ride it. Catalogue shopping just doesn't work.

Grease_Monkey, Aug 03 2018 12:31

Niner bikes are not twitchy; they're pretty stable actually. Surely fork trail plays a bigger role than just Head angle?  HA is just internet noise IMO. Bikes like Cannondale's first Scalpel 29 had a short front end, steep head angle and short trail and rode like a pitch pole; unstable it was yes. The Niner RKT is a lot more stable than the numbers suggest. It feels very much like a Trrek Top Fuel There's more to stability than you see on the geometry chart.
Look at said Trek's Top Fuel. Its only half a degree slacker and no one complains about its handling. Heck owners even run 100m stems with 70mm bars on those and still manage to not kill themselves.
Not everyone wants to steer a coal train down the trail.
Most XC bikes HA are around 69.5degrees now and sagged are often steeper due to the rising rates to generate "midstroke support" allowing the rear of the bike to not sag as much as the front. In motion the RKT HA is probably comparable to other XC bikes.
 
Don't fall for the hype bro. Nobody rides a bike on paper....ok maybe a few internet experts do but that's beside the point. Life's too sort to only ride slack bikes. Don't be a slacker, don't be that guy. You're way to smart to get suckered into this hype. Deep down you know I speak the truth. Enjoy the lunch time beer :)


HA aint hype... it makes a big difference. Ridden enough bikes over the last 12/13 years to know that. Once again, maybe the difference marketing teams make it out to be - but a difference non the less. There are other factors like the fork, agreed. But don't discount geo just to be say you won't buy into "hype".

Anyway, off for lunch. No use debating this more.

Bike Mob, Aug 03 2018 12:37

DieselInDust you are absolutely right. While the head angle is only one component you can't judge the whole bike on only one factor as they are superbly stable even with a 100mm fork. The front centre and chassis have a lot to do with this. I find the bike tracks better at speed and follows the front wheel perfectly. I like nimble bikes. I have also never gone over the bars and have never run a dropper. If you want it slacker, run 120mm for a 70 deg.

 

We welcome test rides and I urge anyone looking at spending cash on a bike to ride one first. They're light, climb exceedingly well, are super easy to maintain and the suspension travel feels longer than it says on the tin. Niner say 90mm rear, its actual travel is 97mm,

 

PS. The Brand is not dead, never was. With. bigger cash injection its only getting better.

TheJ, Aug 03 2018 03:09

What I find funny was that earlier this week when Momsen launched their new Vipa Ultra, people were giving them all sorts of grief for having bottle cage mounts below the downtube. This bike also has it and people are bitching about the angles.

BaGearA, Aug 03 2018 06:47

OK OK OK it's Friday and you had to get in there first chapeau!! However, clearly you haven't ridden a Niner RKT nor a Jet. If you had you would be wondering what all the fuss about "modern geometry" as preached by geometrofiles across the Internet is all about. If you have ridden one you would be thinking that the above review doesn't really bring home how surefooted and stable whilst being nimble the Niner RKT is. How it allows the rider to pedal across terrain a LLS bike would get hung up on. How it steers through tight twisty single track up and down maintaining traction where an LLS bike rider needs to time pedal downstrokes to not smack the pedals and lose ground. You would also know that when screaming down a loose rocky descent the Niner holds a line better than most longer bikes by virtue of its laterally stiff frame. But you you have consulted the God Geometron and his paper word hath decreed that LLS on paper is better than slightly shorter and steeper... Really? Pull me another one man. I invite you to get off your bum and go ride the bike

I did all that on A steel hardtail 

BaGearA, Aug 03 2018 06:47

What I find funny was that earlier this week when Momsen launched their new Vipa Ultra, people were giving them all sorts of grief for having bottle cage mounts below the downtube. This bike also has it and people are bitching about the angles.

I can stomach this bike atleast , that momsen is god-awful-ugly 

Headshot, Aug 06 2018 12:28

Going against the trend is usually unpopular but I'll say it: the modern geometry is better and everyone should ride it narrative is tiring me.

 

Not all riders have the same needs, riding styles, and aspirations. There are a significant number of riders who will benefit little from a modern geo bike while at the same time large portions will. A market that can cater to all tastes is a good thing in my mind.

You're right about riders having differing needs, but I'd argue that those needs can easily be met by a bike with more modern geometry while probably meeting some needs that said riders hadn't thought of, but would improve their overall riding experience. I don't think anybody is saying the thing should be an enduro bike, just a little less like a road bike :-) 

Headshot, Aug 06 2018 12:48

Niner bikes are not twitchy; they're pretty stable actually. Surely fork trail plays a bigger role than just Head angle?  HA is just internet noise IMO. Bikes like Cannondale's first Scalpel 29 had a short front end, steep head angle and short trail and rode like a pitch pole; unstable it was yes. The Niner RKT is a lot more stable than the numbers suggest. It feels very much like a Trrek Top Fuel There's more to stability than you see on the geometry chart.

Look at said Trek's Top Fuel. Its only half a degree slacker and no one complains about its handling. Heck owners even run 100m stems with 70mm bars on those and still manage to not kill themselves.

Not everyone wants to steer a coal train down the trail.

Most XC bikes HA are around 69.5degrees now and sagged are often steeper due to the rising rates to generate "midstroke support" allowing the rear of the bike to not sag as much as the front. In motion the RKT HA is probably comparable to other XC bikes.

 

Don't fall for the hype bro. Nobody rides a bike on paper....ok maybe a few internet experts do but that's beside the point. Life's too sort to only ride slack bikes. Don't be a slacker, don't be that guy. You're way to smart to get suckered into this hype. Deep down you know I speak the truth. Enjoy the lunch time beer :)

Ok, so we have #Enduro Bro's and then we have a new breed, the #XC Bro's. Both groups need to stick to the facts and not sprout "Bronsense" 

shaper, Aug 06 2018 02:01

I still ride a Jet 9 and is a very stable and versatile bike, no matter the terrain!!