You‘re in the market for a new mountain bike and you know there are no shortage of options. Each bike magazine has a review of this and a review of that. There‘s no shortage of info on the intrawebs. So how do you choose? And what are all these categories? Cross country, trail, all mountain, enduro downhill.
For this article, we‘re going to do our best to offer a general definition of one category – the “trail” category. For Niner, it‘s the category where the JET 9 and RIP 9 families reside.
Why focus on trail bikes?
They‘re the most versatile. Depending on their travel, trail bikes can play a lot of positions. They can zip along cross country trails, take a detour and handle technical, aggressive downhills. Depending on travel, each bike will be better suited for one side of the category but will be able to handle most everything that gets thrown at it. To help, when we sit down to design bikes, like the JET 9 and the RIP 9, we try to define the “ideal” rider for each bike – one rider who would prefer a little less travel and one rider who would like a bit more. The following breaks down where we think each one of our trail bikes excels.
SHORT TRAVEL BIKES GOT A LOT OF REASONS
Once upon a time a mountain bike like the JET 9 with 120 mm of travel out back wouldn‘t have been considered “short”. These days, it is. Here‘s a bit more detail about the intended uses of a shorter travel trail bike and how it may be configured.
- Designed to run 120 – 140 mm fork.
- Designed with 115-130 mm of rear travel.
- Designed to climb efficiently.
- Designed to run tires up to 2.4” in width and/or have boost spacing so the rider has the option to run 27.5 plus tires.
- Head tube angle is more slack than a x-country bike which keeps handling sharp but steeper than a longer travel trail bike
- Ability to run either a 1x or 2x drivetrain (1x11 or 12, 2x10 or 11)
- Shorter wheelbase gives it a playful feel. Bunny hop it, ride some wheelies and/or corner it around switchbacks without having to muscle it around.
- Designed more as the “daily driver” bike with the ability to hop into a cross country race or a longer endurance race.
- Can handle most technical trails – up or down - but the shorter suspension may get overwhelmed when the terrain becomes more aggressive.
WHO RIDES A BIKE LIKE THIS?
The do-it-all rider who wants one bike that can handle most trail scenarios. This is someone who may want to compete in cross country races as well as longer races once or twice a season. This person may also take a trip or two to a riding destination like Moab and wants a bike that can be pointed downhill and handle technical trails. This someone requires the bike to be light and efficient for climbing as well as have an efficient pedaling platform. Niner‘s carbon JET 9 RDO and aluminum JET 9 fit this description and come in a variety of build kits.
LONG TRAVEL DOESN‘T HAVE TO BE INEFFICIENTMost companies today offer at least two trail bike models, if not more. And it used to be that the longer travel trail bikes were less efficient, didn‘t climb well, were more specialized. This isn‘t necessarily the case any longer. You might be surprised at how capable a 150-170 mm aggressive trail bike can be these days. Take the reimagined RIP 9 RDO for example. It shares the same rear suspension platform, Niner‘s patented CVA linkage, which allows it to stiffen up and pedal well. But, point it downhill and hang on. Overall, when compared to a shorter travel trail bike, these longer travel trail bikes are designed for more aggressive riding and will be more at home, and competent, on more technical downhill trails and/or at the bike park. Here are a few differences:
- Designed to run 150-170 mm fork
- Designed with 140-170 mm of rear travel
- Designed to run tires up to 2.4” in width and/or have boost spacing so the rider has the option to run 29, 27.5 and 27.5 plus tires.
- May accept a coil shock instead of an air shock
- May allow for a 1x drivetrain only eliminating the need for a chain guide as well as the front derailleur
- Be built on a burlier frame in order to handle bigger jumps, drops and more aggressive riding.
- Be able to climb efficiently. Probably won‘t rocket uphill but won‘t make you feel like you‘re dragging an anchor.
- A slightly longer wheelbase helps increase stability at high speeds while still offering a playful ridiing experience.
- Can handle a day at the bike park or on the enduro race course.
WHO RIDES A BIKE LIKE THIS ONE?
The aggressive rider who enjoys having the wheels leave the ground. This someone may also like to ride super technical, rocky and fast downhill sections that will use all of the bike‘s travel. This rider‘s probably not someone who‘s going to ride a long endurance race, but the bike pedals well enough that they shouldn‘t feel like they can‘t. The enduro racer who needs a bike that can climb uphill but still be confidently pointed downhill. And then again, this rider may just want a bike that pedals efficiently and has more travel because going out and having fun is what‘s important and more travel often means more fun.
Niner‘s redesigned RIP 9 family was designed with this rider in mind and is now available in both 29" and 27.5" in wheelsizes. (Yes, we did say 27.5").
WHICH RIDER ARE YOU?
So what‘s it going to be? A shorter travel trail bike or the longer one? Don‘t forget to consider the terrain you ride most of the time, who you generally ride with and how you ride. When it comes down to it, it‘s tough to make the wrong decision if you really put some consideration into it. And with all bike buying decisions, Niner recommends that you always ride before you buy.(By the way, if you don‘t believe a trail bike is the right category for you, consider a cross country bike like Niner's carbon AIR 9 RDO or AIR 9 aluminum hardtail, or the RKT 9 RDO full suspension race bike.)