Written by Damian Groves
Don't forget to check out the video at the end of the bike check.
Without a doubt, one of the best days for any mountain biker is new bike day.
This one was no exception for me. Not only a new bike but a reiteration of a bike I already loved. So much so, I was a bit nervous it wasn’t going to live up to the one I was already riding. I was on the previous RIP 9 RDO frame for over 2 years and I had the setup dialed. It was exactly how I wanted it, with the 170mm travel fork up front and the coil shock outback, I was confident I could throw myself into any situation on track and as long as I had the minerals to hang on the bike would do the rest. After reading the new bike had slightly less travel I was slightly unsure. Despite the geometry on the new bike being better and the suspension tweaked to give a more supple ride at the top of the travel, I still couldn’t shake the idea that less travel is still less travel and the new bike would be less capable in some way. Well, I was definitely proven wrong.
The new RIP literally RIPS! This bike put a smile on my face immediately.
I was fortunate enough to travel over to Colorado to collect my bike from Niner headquarters, meaning I got the chance to ride my new bike on the legendary Matterhorn trail in the sun. Getting home and back to the slimy loose rock and mud would be the true indicator of how good the new RIP 9 RDO really is.
She didn’t disappoint. The new geometry got me thinking of how I could adapt some of my base settings to better suit the new longer and lower bike, and how I like to ride. The first thing I did was change from a 50mm reach stem to a 42mm. The longer top tube and shorter offset forks meant I could do this without making the cockpit feel cramped and keep that sharp handling for our twisty UK tracks. Next up were the cranks. My bike came with a 175mm length crankset but I like to run my bike in full descent mode and run the flip chips in the low position, so I swapped the cranks for a Race Face Next R carbon - 170 length. (When the bottom bracket is low every 5mm helps!)
In addition to the shorter cranks, I also had the fork put up to 160 travel from the stock 150. The extra bit of travel gave me back some ground clearance to go with my new shorter crank, and some extra confidence when making those adrenaline fuelled snap decisions on the trail.
I also made a small change to the handlebars. I like the bars cut at 780mm wide rather than the stock 800. That width just suits my size I better I find. Also, I like to have some good stopping power on hand so I swapped out the front 185 disc rotor for 203 and the rear aggressor tyre for a Maxxis Minion DHF to match the front. Those tyres are an old favourite for me.
Now that’s the tech talk over, lets talk trail! Our trails here in the UK are often described as punchy and nearly always wet, slippery or muddy. For the most part I’d have to agree but we do have plenty of the fast stuff. Usually, it’ll join sections of the more technical trail to make the most of our small steep hillsides so a well balanced all round bike that can swap from a steep, twisty trail to a ‘hold it wide and let it slide’ situation is the goal when setting up your ride. For me, the new bike set up is as close to perfection as I’ve ever ridden. Alongside the lower bottom bracket height and the longer top tube, the new bike boasts a shorter chainstay but longer wheelbase. This means a more agile bike for swapping back and forth between trees and ruts, but also a more stable ride when the speed picks up and the turns get flat. Whether it's holding a drift or holding a line neither matter. It’s planted and confidence inspiring.
The rejigged CVA suspension platform makes the beginning of the travel much more supple meaning plenty of traction over those sniper like roots. The middle of the travel has way more support making it feel bottomless.
The seat tube is steeper, too, so it climbs better allowing you to save more energy for the fun stuff. The lower standover means throwing shapes is easier than ever too.
To conclude, the new RIP9RDO is a well balanced, trail shredding machine - poised for action no matter the trail. It’s light enough for a long day exploring, capable enough for tackling the gnarliest of trails, and pretty enough to make all your friends jealous. Don’t be fooled by the slightly less travel. What’s 10mm between friends anyway? Luckily, in this case, at least, LESS IS MORE.