2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

This isn’t just a new bike. The Niner RKT9 is the culmination of the past five years of component, tech and rider changes. Bear with me – the development story for it does more than just explain why the RKT9 came to be.

Spec options and standards have changed rapidly over the past couple years, making it both exciting and vexing for anyone looking to upgrade their bike or major components like suspension forks or wheels.

Take suspension forks, which have trickled big fork stiffness to weights of traditionally less stiff XC forks. Think RS-1, or using a Fox 34 and Rockshox Pike with just 120mm travel. Out back, the new Fox DPS shocks have added actual, discernible change to its compression damping.

And 1x drivetrains have simply taken over thanks to wide range cassettes, clutch rear derailleurs and narrow/wide chainrings making them work exceptionally well for a wide range of conditions and riders. It’s also let frame builders to do things they simply couldn’t do with double or triple chainrings.

Even more than 1x drivetrains, Boost 148 opens up a lot of options on the frame, letting designers use shorter chainstays and bigger tire clearance. It also means drastically stiffer wheels, making 29er wheel deflection equal to a 26” wheel.

Put it all together and you get something that represents the future of Niner’s mountain bikes…

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

Niner is always quick to adopt new technologies and parts thanks to their build-on-demand warehouse system. But they’re also quick to adopt technologies that’ll make their bikes better…like all the things mentioned above. But to say they’re excited about Boost 148 is an understatement.

The development cycle isn’t just dictated by what new tech and spec is available. Those are helpful for making the existing bikes better, but what if an existing bike doesn’t serve the needs of customers? Then you look at the way your customers are using your bikes and pay attention to the fringes. The ROS9 came about after they saw EMD9 frames being built with Angleset headsets and huge tires. And freeride and enduro led to the WFO9.

Fast forward to today and they’re seeing the JET9 being turned into more of a light trail bike, with riders putting 120mm forks and wider bars and tires on it. As that became more common, they thought there might just be room for a more pure bred race machine. A real race rocket for XC and marathon, and so the RKT9 was born.

The short of it: Race geometry with a 100mm fork and 90mm of CVA suspension in the rear, which splits the difference between the original 80mm alloy JET9 and the current 100mm design. And Boost 148 rear spacing.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

The RKT9 has modern race geometry that lets you get lower on the front end of the bike. Headtube is 10mm shorter than the JET9, and standover height is the lowest of any of their bikes.

2016 Fox FLOAT 32 FIT4 suspension fork with Boost 110mm spacing first ride review

They liked the way the JET9 handled with a 120mm fork, which put the head angle at 70.5º, so they came close to that at 71º with a 100mm fork on the RKT9. (note: head angle has been updated/corrected since post first went live – info here is accurate.)

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

The cable ports on the headtube use their new style that insert behind the steerer rather than through the head badge, which makes setup much easier. Shift cable routing runs internally through the downtube, with a double-sized port on the driveside to work with both rear derailleur and Sideswing front Shimano derailleurs.

2016-Niner-RKT9-Rocket-9-race-full-suspension-29er-mtb24

The front derailleur mount replaces the lower shock nut by incorporating a thread capture for the shock bolt while holding a low direct mount FD. Remove it and put the anodized color-matched nut back in place and you’d never know it could fit a front derailleur. Between the two is the Di2 wire port, making the frame compatible with any modern drivetrain.

Even though it’s designed as an XC/marathon race bike, there’s routing for a stealth or standard dropper post, too, and complete bikes will come with a remote lockout Fox shock. Titanium plates and clear laminate sheets protect high impact areas from rock strikes and chain drops.

 

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

The shock’s eye-to-eye distance is shorter, so it uses a smaller, lighter shock. And the upper rocker arms are 6066 alloy, which they say ended up being lighter and stiffer than the carbon ones the new alloy linkages – 81g with bearing compared to 100g for the carbon linkages with bearing. That’s 19g savings, or simple math, 19% lighter! And they’re easier to produce.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

Linkages pivot on Enduro Black Oxide bearings like all of their RDO models.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

Chainstays are 439mm (17.28”), compared to 455mm (17.91″) on the JET 9.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

 

The Boost 148 rear end is fitted with either Niner or Stan’s rear hubs and the latest (more durable!) Maxle.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

Besides the stiffer wheels and shorter chainstays a Boost system allows for, it also makes room for up to 2.4″ tires. These pics show clearance with a 29×2.25. On the other side of the stays, it’ll clear a 1x crankset with up to a 38-tooth chainring or a standard double or triple crankset.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

Post mount brakes for 160-180mm rotors in the rear.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike carbon molding process

The frame is claimed at 4.5lb (2.04kg) with shock, size medium. That’s half a pound lighter than the JET9 RDO. Besides being a slightly smaller frame and the new rocker arms, weight savings come from using their new RDO carbon compaction method…

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike carbon molding process

…which uses a hard EPS mold through the main tubes and firm flexible joint piece. Having a hard inner mold, as opposed to an inflatable bladder, lets them apply higher pressure to squeeze out more excess resin. After molding and curing, the foam is melted and broken up, then pulled out. The joint molds are then pulled out, too, leaving a smooth inner surface.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike actual weights

Actual weight for the XTR bike is 23.3lb (10.57kg) and the X01 is 23.24lb (10.54kg), both with RS-1 forks.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike

Color options are Black/Red and Green/Greener. Prices and builds are (click to enlarge):

2016-Niner-RKT9-z-pricing-and-spec-list

It’s likely an XTR Di2 build will be offered as a limited edition model at some point.

2016-Niner-RKT9-z-geometry-sizing-chart

Click image to enlarge.

FIRST RIDE REVIEW

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike first ride review

Niner invited us to ride the new RKT9 at their dealer event this summer, taking to the trails around their Fort Collins, CO, headquarters. There were plenty of long and steep climbing, fast and technical descents and flowing singletrack cutting across the mountain sides.

During the presentations, they hammered home the point that they wanted the lateral stiffness of this bike to be very high. The Boost designs and wheels help, as do oversized pivot bearings throughout the linkages. On the trail, it was obvious the plans worked, but since it’s a completely new model, there’s no way of telling how much comes from the Boost wheels and how much is the frame. My test bike had the 2016 Fox 32 FIT4 Boost fork, which I reviewed here. The point is, as a system, it works incredibly well.

I’d be lying if I said I wished it hadn’t. That Boost was just a bunch of marketing hype, but this bike proves it’s not. There are simply too many benefits to ignore, and they all come to fruition here.

Short chainstays and ultra stiff wheels meant I could throw the bike through complicated drops strewn with rocks, off-angle ledges and tight corners with ease. And high speed cornering and sweeping turns were impressively easy to control. It’s like the difference between riding lightweight alloy wheels and lightweight carbon wheels…there’s a drastic difference in stiffness, and it’s immediately apparent.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike first ride review 2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike first ride review

Climbing, whether seated and spinning, standing and sprinting, or delicately picking through precarious rock-and-root sections with certain death off to the right were all handled without drama. Again I credit the overall stiffness and short chainstays. There’s no guessing what the bike will do, it simply moves where you tell it to, and power transfer is quick and efficient. I’ve been a fan of Niner’s CVA suspension since my first ride, and it’s as good as ever here, keeping the rear wheel on the ground even when sprinting over ruts, roots and rocks without bobbing outta control on every pedal stroke.

2016 Niner RKT 9 rocket 29er race full suspension mountain bike first ride review

Where the bike may surprise some is with its downhill prowess. We rode through fast rolling descents that switchbacked down a mountainside and over a few steep rocky sections that’d be perfectly at home on a DH course. On both, the short travel kept up. Which is good, because XC courses are becoming more technical, and this bike seems up to the task. Even with the low front end and slightly shorter (by 5mm) top tube than what I’m used to on my JET9, I never felt like I was in danger of going over the bars. It’s no trail bike, but it’ll rip through a World Cup XC course.

Are there downsides? Hard to say from just one half-day ride. My experience was good, and the dealers on the ride all seemed impressed. Beyond XC, there’s a big market for marathon full suspension bikes throughout the world, and the RKT9 hits that segment’s sweet spot for weight, travel and the fact that it’ll hold two water bottle cages on all but the XS and S sizes. If you wanna ride your own, they’re available starting October 1, and Niner will have demos at Outerbike in Moab. As for me, I’m very much looking forward to getting a long term test bike in this fall…

NinerBikes.com

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Stewart
Stewart
6 years ago

Wow, love it. One think that Niner has really dialed is their XC race bikes. Nice to see the revised cable routing, it is the only down side of the JET9 RDO. CVA suspension is the real deal!

wildbill14
wildbill14
6 years ago

I am curious how Boost148 allows for shorter chainstays. I appreciate the input.

DAVID FRENCH
DAVID FRENCH
6 years ago

Having not had the chance to really look at or test an XC or trail bike with Boost 148 yet, my question would be: How’s the heel clearance? If it’s a case of the crank has a wider Q-Factor than normal to allow Boost to work, what happened to all the interest in narrow Q-Factors from a few years back?

feldy
feldy
6 years ago

@wildbill14 by pushing the chainring out 3mm so the chainstays can be wider closer to the BB.

PK
PK
6 years ago

think of the chainstays as a long isosceles triangle that have to clear a fat wide tire by the skinny end. By widening the rear of the chainstay triangle it opens up the angle at the skinny end thus providing more clearance for the tires and open space to move the wheel closer.

TheFunkyMonkey
TheFunkyMonkey
6 years ago

Plenty of other companies are getting shorter chainstays and more tire clearance without Boost – Phantom, Riot and Process 111 come to mind immediately. Yes, Boost is good for Niner and the CVA suspension design but their approach to geometry is nothing new and certainly is not innovative.

matt
matt
6 years ago

@wildbill14, Boost 148 not only increases the spoke bracing angle with the wider hub flanges, but also widens the BB. This allows the stays to be shortened as there’s more room for the wheel to tuck into. Q-factor remains the same, @davidfrench. Pardon the heresy, but I’ve ridden Boost and I thought the combination of stiffer rear wheel and stiffer BB was quite noticeable. I like it.

Nitpickler
Nitpickler
6 years ago

Niners site lists 71 deg head tube angle… I’m going to assume their number is correct however can you confirm?

dingo
dingo
6 years ago

Likewise.

JoeP
JoeP
6 years ago

Not gonna lie one more standard…blah blah blah. OK Got that out of the way.

However since Boost is likely here to stay having a stronger wheel, however its achieved, is something I am always interested in. At 240lbs I will take a few extra ounces and little more strength everyday of the week. Having a slightly wider BB also fits to my body type better as well as I tend to place my feet on the outer portions of my predals (flats) when pedaling.

nightfend
6 years ago

I like everything about this bike except the 1x drivetrain. Would rather have XT/XTR and two front rings.

Luke
Luke
6 years ago

@nightfend – you can build the bike bike up with 2x on your own, or there appears to be a stock 2x XT bike in the 3 star build as one of the 6 complete bike build options.

A XTR 2x DI2 RKT 9 bike would be SICK!

Jdog
Jdog
6 years ago

I hope the other brands are watching. 29 is still kicking hard and as much as 27.5 seems to be the darling of the media, 29ers still are a ton of fun to ride. I will save 27.5 for my DH bike.

Chader
Chader
6 years ago

@matt,
Can you provide link to info about wider BB as a result of Boost? That is NOT part of the whole Boost equation based on anything I have read. In fact, most of the text I have read brags about the ability to maintain Q-factor and compatibility with existing cranks.

The only real change in the BB area is the 3mm shift to the outside for the chainring which provides for more tire clearance via wider chainline.

Mac
Mac
6 years ago

Nice, but I want an updated Rip 9 RDO with Boost, 27.5+ compatible, and 140mm travel?

Brendan
Brendan
6 years ago

@Chader,
BB stays the same. Crank Q-factor stays the same (although extra-narrow-Q cranks are not supported). The chainrings get spaced 3mm outboard by a different chainring spider. This extra space can be used to build a thicker chainstay on the drive side, more tire clearance, shorter chainstays, or any combination of those 3.

JBikes
JBikes
6 years ago

Jdog – agree. Niner’s WFO-9 shows you can go big too (not DH big although I think we will see it at some point, for certain runs)

Josh
Josh
6 years ago

Odd that a technology which reduces material costs, layup costs, bladder costs, and press time increases frame pricing. Notice in Tennis when this tech was used himod racket prices.

It’s going to take some re-shoring of tech to knock these asia carbon sourcing companies off their margin horse.

I’m game.

the other Andy
the other Andy
6 years ago

Am I the only one that, at first glance, read the new model name as “Rickety 9”? Given what seem to be a lot of warranty replacements of late, I thought it was quite humorous.

Oscar
Oscar
6 years ago

“…it’ll hold two water bottle cages…”

I can see the bolts for 1 bottle cage in the diagonal tube. Where are the other 2 bolts??

Mark
Mark
6 years ago

Yeah I thought $3000 for the frame only was a lot until I saw the Yeti SB4.5c frame only is $3400.

duder
duder
6 years ago

meh, their “modern race geometry” is still too short and steep for me. Even pure bred race machines like Scott Spark have sub 70 degree HA and TT designed around 70mm stems these days.

Stewart
Stewart
6 years ago

duder – I had a Scott Spark for a season. The biggest down side IMHO was it was too long and slack for me. I’d love to give this a try and maybe replace my Epic. I think steeper than 70 degrees is best for racing bikes. Thank God Niner is not trying to “enduro” their racing line like everyone else is.

duder
duder
6 years ago

Last time I checked Scott won the world champs and Niner didn’t. I have an older 29er XC race bike with a 71 ha and it handles obxniously when you point it down. I think I might try the new Cdale Habbit. More travel than I need for XC racing, but the right geo and weight.

the other Andy
the other Andy
6 years ago

@duder: The Scott that won the WC XCO race had a 71 degree HA, too. Nino isn’t racing a production, off-the-rack Spark or Scale, ever.

But, thanks for trying?

Stu
Stu
6 years ago

I had a JET9 RDO for 2 seasons and the bike was amazing for racing. The only downside I hated the cable routing. This bike seems to have addressed all of those issues and reduce weight. Will have to give it a demo.

Dave
6 years ago

Can I put a 120mm fork on this bike? Niner can you reply?

Zach
Zach
6 years ago

I personally wouldn’t buy one of these bikes. @the other Andy – Rickety 9 is right. I’ve had my rip 9 rdo warrantied about 6 times in the 800 miles I have put on it…

Mxxmikexx
Mxxmikexx
5 years ago
Reply to  Zach

@zach
6xs? For what issues?