With the cycling world abuzz over yet another wheel size, it seems like suddenly everyone has forgotten Big Billy Goat Gruff in the race to find that perfect balance between flickability and rollability (those are the, uh, technical terms).
Luckily, the engineers at Niner Bikes have kept steadily grinding gears because the new WFO 9 is a revelation. Just last year, popular convention held that a long travel 29er wasn’t possible and yet nearly a year after the world was set to end – we have several great long travel options available.
So what sets the Niner WFO 9 apart?
For starters, this is a big bike. With big wheels, a 160mm fork, and 150mm of rear travel, you could almost get away with racing this downhill.
But the WFO has always been a big bike, just not necessarily one with a particular mission. In order to make this bike truly modern and enduro worthy, Niner slackened the headtube out to 67°, cut the chainstays to 17.4″, decreased the top tube length across all sizes by 20mm, and ditched the front derailleur for good. On paper, my rowdy inner downhiller already likes where this is going.
Our demo bike was built up with the higher tier 4 Star X1 Spec and featured an X01 11-speed drivetrain, Elixir 9 brakes, Rockshox Pike, Monarch Plus rear shock, and a Niner branded finishing kit. We applaud the company’s choice to spec more mid level drivetrain and braking components, in order to squeeze in Rockshock’s highest end suspension products at this bike’s $5K pricepoint.
The only thing I personally would nitpick is the choice to spec Schwalbe Nobby Nics front and rear. While they’re an incredibly lightweight, high-volume tire, in my past experience, the tires wear quickly and are looser than Bill O’Reilly’s mouth.
One thing to note is that while this demo bike came equipped with a dropper post, Niner’s stock build comes with a branded carbon seatpost according to their website. On our scale, that build comes in at 28.35 lbs.
On the trail, this bike was a huge surprise. I’m not a devoted worshiper of any wheel size, but at just under 5’8, I’m not your typical 29er rider. Yet out on the ragged technical terrain in the Vegas desert, this bike was the perfect ride for a couple of compelling reasons.
Anyone who has ever ridden a 29er can testify to their ability to roll over rocks and the WFO lived up to the reputation. Between the nearly 6″ of travel and the large wheels, even the ugliest rock sections were a mere point-and-shoot away from cleaning. Pointed uphill, the patented CVA suspension exhibited little bob but provided lots of traction.
The downside is that due to the large wheelbase, the bike is a bit of a handful to double, but the front end pops up easily and is very neutral in the air. Cruising through the canyon boosting every rock in sight, I was impressed by how incredibly well the suspension performed. Rockshox has really upped their game.
Inevitably, some of you will probably be curious about a direct comparison between the 150mm WFO 9 and 155mm travel Specialized Enduro 29er, and while I have ridden both bikes, that’s like asking me to pick a favorite beer. Like every good ale, there’s an occasion for each, and the decision ultimately comes down to what your local trail network and riding style are like. The WFO 9 is a whole lot of bike and it’s not quite as rowdy descending, but it is the perfect ride for someone with both technical climbing and challenging descents in their backyard.