2012 Niner Bikes AIR9 29er mountain bike in Vanna White gets totally new fatter shaped tubes and a tapered headtube

Niner’s done gone changin’ things in a big way. The vaunted AIR9 frame departs from its round Scandium tubesets in favor of a lighter, stronger and more shapely hydroformed 6000-series alloy. It also gets a tapered head tube, and it has a new anodized color option.

The EMD 9 gets the same frame updates and remains Niner’s most affordable frame option.

The AIR9, shown above in Vanna, is designed around an 80mm to 100mm fork (or Niner’s rigid carbon fork) and updates to a PressFit BB30 bottom bracket, something the EMD doesn’t do this time ’round. Click on through for lots of pics and info, including a tubeset comparison from old to new!

2012 Niner Bikes AIR9 new hydroformed tube shape comparisonNiner admits some loyalists may balk at the idea of moving away from Scandium. The reason is Scandium works great for round tubes, but it just couldn’t be hydroformed into the shapes they wanted. The new AIR9 uses hydroformed tubes for every tube and stay except the seat tube. Niner says this let them fine tune the strength, stiffness and ride characteristics of their top-end alloy racing hardtail.

2012 Niner Bikes AIR9 29er mountain bike in Licorice gets totally new fatter shaped tubes and a tapered headtube

Niner’s hydroforming process is done in two stages to reduce stress on the metal and better control wall thicknesses in certain areas. The full explanation is here, but the elevator pitch is this: First, they bend the tubes into the desired geometry, then they’re put into molds and pressurized with hydraulic fluid to expand the tube into the desired shape.

The result is a frame with larger tubes – much larger, look at the diagram above – that allows for larger welds and contact patches at major junctions like HT/DT and DT/BB, making the bike much stiffer.

Combine that with the new PFBB30 and you get a frame that’s stronger, stiffer and 112g lighter (size med., anodized frame). The exact weight savings for the frame is described as follows:


Moving to a tapered headset let them switch to a more versatile integrated standard which makes that area stiffer while retaining the same overall stack height.

2012 Niner Bikes AIR9 29er mountain bike in Tang gets totally new fatter shaped tubes and a tapered headtube

Thanks to the switch to alloy, the anodized black option (two photos up) is completely new for the AIR9. Their popular Tang continues on, albeit with a gloss black duotone. MSRP is $849 for the frame.

2012 Niner Bikes EMD9 29er mountain bike in Tamale gets totally new fatter shaped tubes and a tapered headtube

EMD uses the same 6000-series alloy but it gets less hydroforming and manipulation. That results in a slightly heavier frame that’s not quite as tuned, but still has the generally well regarded Niner geometry. Actual frame weight isn’t official yet, but Niner’s brand manager Carla Hukee says it’s “not bad” (read: not much heavier). UPDATE: New EMD9 frame weight is 1690g.

2012 Niner Bikes EMD9 29er mountain bike in Tamale gets totally new fatter shaped tubes and a tapered headtube

The EMD9 is designed to offer most of the performance of their AIR9 but designed to be more approachable for people making their first switch to a hand-picked 29er frame. That’s why it keeps the standard bottom bracket, making it easier to swap parts from an existing ride to this one. Other than that, it gets the ZeroStack internal headset in the tapered headtube, oversized hydroformed tubes and updated look of the AIR9.

The EMD9’s frame finish details also match the AIR9’s – stainless steel Niner headbadge, reamed and faced headtube and bottom bracket, chased BB threads and faced disc brake mount tabs. MSRP is $549 for the frame, and it’s available in the Tamale red shown here and ano’d matte black.

Unrelated: About those new Jet 9 RDO frames, Niner says they’re shipping and orders are being filled worldwide, but there are back orders. If you’re on the order books, the frames are moving down the line, don’t worry. If you’re getting ready to place an order, it might be about three to four months from the date of order as of now, but they expect that to shorten over the next 12 four months.


  1. Interesting that they list it as being a 112g weight savings, but rather than comparing bare frame to bare frame they add in parts like an external headset (King weighs 126g) vs internal (Cane Creek starts at 33g), and I think we all know the PF30BB is going to be lighter than traditional GXP thread-in cups. Also, comparing an anodized frame to a painted one should save quite a bit of weight – some of the old bass-boat Schwinn Homegrowns had almost a full pound of paint on them. Seems to me like they might be trying to mask some weight gains in the new frames. Additional weight isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if it improves the quality of the ride. Heavier bikes need lovin’ too. I also think it’s a good thing Niner is chasing the threads on the press-fit BB :-/ . That must be a typo.

  2. If they made one of these in Kermit green, I’d buy it in a second…. does anyone know if all the color options are shown above?

  3. Hey Shreddie, I think the comparison isn’t meant to be misleading as to the weight savings over the bare frames. I think that the comparison is actually pretty practical in that Niner is showing the overall weight savings while not implying that it is solely in the metal, so to speak.

  4. Does Giant build Niner frames? These certainly look similar to the XTC hardtail, and the Jet has always looked like a Giant built frame. Not bashing or anything, Giant builds dang good frames, just curious.

  5. @Shreddie: I think it can be a good comparison doing it that way, though if they are going full-bore why not throw in the weight savings of let’s say an XX BB30 crankset on the new bike vs. the standard GXP you’d have to use on the old one? Make it even more attractive.

  6. Yes, Giant builds Niner’s bikes.

    I think these frames represent a progression in the frame technology and engineering Niner is using. They’re going from being a tiny niche brand to more of a mainstream mid-sized company…

    The new Air 9 looks AWESOME. I love the new color options along with the PF30 and tapered head tube. I also like the transition back to Aluminum. No more chronic cracking.

  7. Joshua,

    Just to dispel any rumors that may get out of hand, Giant does not build Niner frames, nor have they ever. Just wanted to clear that up. The new Air 9 is awesome and super fun to ride (and really, if you put them side to side, nothing like a Giant)!


  8. As far as I can tell, Niner has never said who in Taiwan does manufacture their frames. Giant is one of the top two frame manufacturers in Taiwan so it wouldn’t be surprising if they were building Niner’s frames to their spec… which would be a direct manufacturing relationship with Giant rather than something funneled through GIant Bicycles.

    Regardless, like carbon frames, hydroframes do all seem to look alike.

  9. Pacific Cycles made some or makes some Niner frames. http://www.pacific-cycles.com/

    This is NOT the same as Pacific Cycle that makes Mongoose, Schwinn, and other department store bikes. That is pacific-cycle.com

    Pacific Cycles makes some pretty legit bikes (look under their business partners)

  10. Topmounter, you didn’t read all the comments…did you?

    Steve already pointed out that Giant does not and has not built frames for Niner. If you know how Steve is you would realize he actually knows this to be a fact.

  11. Apologies for the misinformation. It is, in fact Pacific Cycles that manufactures Niner’s bikes, not Giant. Either way, though, both Giant and Pacific make some of the best bikes in the world. Furthermore, Pacific simply builds the bike; Niner designs the bike. These aren’t cheesy, re-branded Taiwanese frames.

    I apologize if someone misunderstood my previous comment as insinuating that Niner was less involved in the design process then they claim to be, or that the bikes are anything less than high quality. From what I’ve seen, Niners unique, high-quality bikes. In fact, I’m really excited by these new frames. The Air 9 is still unique and classic, but has the modern amenities to contend with the most revered names in the industry… of which Niner is becoming.

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